Morning Crank: Voluntary or Involuntary

1. In an agreement that allowed both sides to declare a partial victory, city council member Lorena Gonzalez announced this morning that she had accepted a proposal from Mayor Ed Murray to appoint a joint committee that will oversee the transition between Murray and the next mayor, whoever that will be—and whether that transition is “voluntary or involuntary,” as Gonzalez put it in a letter this morning.

Murray has said he has no plans to resign in light of recent revelations in the Seattle Tiems about allegations that he sexually abused his foster son in Oregon three decades ago. Although Gonzalez said last week that she would move to impeach Murray if he had not stepped down by today, it quickly became clear that most of her colleagues had no stomach for forcing the mayor out of office, which would require a finding that he had neglected his duties as mayor or committed an offense involving “moral turpitude” while in office.

Creating a transition committee, Gonzalez said Monday morning, “provides us with the opportunity to have assurances and an independent understanding of whether the mayor is continuing to be effective in his role as mayor, given his position that he will not resign.”

2. At the same meeting, Gonzalez suggested that the best way to stop Seattle police from disproportionately targeting black pedestrians for jaywalking tickets might be to decriminalize jaywalking altogether, especially if jaywalking tickets do nothing to discourage jaywalking, as Gonzalez believes research suggests.

“I don’t think having jaywalking ordinances actually deters people from jaywalking, and … I have a lot of questions about whether we should be criminalizing jaywalking at all,” Gonzalez said. “We are now hearing for the second or third time that this is a type of infraction that has disproportionate policing impacts on the black community, and I’m not sure what the public safety goal is that we hope to accomplish by having this infraction.”

3. Working Families for Teresa, the union-backed independent expenditure group working on behalf of City Council Position 8 candidate Terese Mosqueda, has received $100,000 in the past week from the political arms of five state unions—UFCW 21, the grocery workers’ union; SEIU 775, which represents low-paid health care workers; the AFL-CIO; the Washington State Labor Council; and the AFL-CIO-affiliated Washington State Labor Council, where Mosqueda works as political and strategic campaign director.

The pro-Mosqueda IE has not reported precisely where all the money is going, although SEIU 775 reports contributing some of its staff time toward a radio ad campaign.

Sara Nelson, a business-backed candidate for Position 8, also has an independent expenditure campaign working on her behalf—People for Sara Nelson, which is funded by the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Hospitality Association, which represents the hotel and restaurant industry, Bellevue investor Jeffrey Gow, and Seattle developer Greg Smith and his wife, Monica Smith. People for Sara Nelson has raised about $82,000 (plus a $10,000 pledge from the real estate group NAIOP) and spent roughly $75,000 on online ads on Facebook, the Seattle Times, Geekwire, and elsewhere.

 

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

 

The C Is for Crank Endorses: Teresa Mosqueda

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Teresa Mosqueda is an experienced leader with a mile-long resume and an incredible track record fighting successfully for equitable health care, fair wages, and paid sick and family leave. Of several qualified candidates running for this citywide position, Mosqueda stands out as the overachiever brimming with enthusiasm, ambition, and ideas.

As the campaign chairwoman for Raise Up Washington, Mosqueda helped draft and lead the successful campaign last year for Initiative 1433, which increases the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 an hour and requires employers to provide paid sick leave. As legislative director for the Children’s Alliance, she fought for implementation of Apple Health for Kids, the state’s Medicaid program. And as campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, she was deeply involved in this year’s paid family leave negotiations, which resulted in a bill that will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who take time off to care for a new or newly adopted child, to recover from a serious illness, or to take care of a sick family member. Mosqueda continued to work on family leave even after she declared her candidacy—a reflection both of her strong commitment to women and families and the fact that she, unlike some of her opponents, can’t afford to quit her job to run for office full-time. If she wins, she’ll also be the only renter on the city council. (No wonder the Seattle Times didn’t endorse her.)

Much of Mosqueda’s work has been behind the scenes—the kind of efforts that tend to go unnoticed but have lasting and important consequences. As the head of the state’s largest health care advocacy coalition, the Healthy Washington Coalition, Mosqueda served on the state’s health insurance exchange board, where she fought to require insurance companies to disclose what services they provide, including reproductive health care. She also insisted that the state of Washington provide information about voter registration to people buying plans on the exchange, an ACA requirement the state tried to circumvent. These issues aren’t flashy. They don’t make headlines. But they matter.

Contrast Mosqueda with Jon Grant, the former Tenants Union director who is seeking this seat for a second time. Grant deserves credit for turning the financially struggling Tenants Union around—and he takes it: “In just a few years time and tireless hours of work, Jon was able to… transform the organization into one of our region’s leading forces for housing justice,” his campaign website says. Grant also claims credit for his work on the statewide minimum wage campaign, which Mosqueda led; Grant worked briefly as an organizer for the group. And he used an anti-pipeline protest at Chase Bank as a photo opportunity for his campaign, which ran a photo of him being handcuffed with the caption, “Four activists arrested at Wedgwood Chase, including Jon!” (If the arrest was a ploy, it worked: The photo and story of Grant’s arrest has been mentioned by nearly every organization that has endorsed him.)  Try to imagine a low-income candidate of color being that sanguine about getting thrown in jail. The most effective city council members aren’t the ones who grandstand and take credit; they’re the ones who do the unglamorous, nose-to-the-grindstone work of drafting legislation and rounding up support. It’s appropriate that Grant—who recently declared his conversion to socialism, earning him a coveted endorsement from the Stranger as well as the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America—is supported by the council’s grandstander-in-chief, Kshama Sawant, who holds frequent rallies to place public pressure on her colleagues but has never set up a district office.

Grant’s time at the Tenants Union wasn’t without blemish. Before he resigned in 2015, a group of his employees wrote a letter to the Tenants Union board accusing him of “oppressive and tokenizing treatment” of people of color at the organization. The letter, which surfaced in an unfair labor practice complaint against the organization, accuses Grant of failing to show up to appointments with staffers, soliciting campaign contributions at a staff meeting, and delegating low-profile, menial, and administrative tasks to women of color.  (In response to my questions about the complaint, Grant said that while “I tried in every situation to empower my staff … I want to take responsibility for that as a person with both white privilege and positional authority, it is clear I did not meet the expectations of these staff members to support them as people of color within the organization. I take that feedback seriously and always strive to do better.” He also denied asking for campaign contributions at a staff meeting.)

Grant agrees with Mosqueda on many issues, including safe streets (he supports road rechannelizations like the one on Rainier Avenue), Sound Transit (he wants to speed up implementation so people in Ballard and West Seattle don’t have to wait until 2035 to get service) and homeless encampments (he opposes the current strategy of sweeping homeless people from place to place.)

But his views on housing are  in line with anti-growth groups like the Seattle Displacement Coalition, which has endorsed him. For example, he supports an unworkable plan to require developers to make 25 percent of new units affordable—a proposal that would condemn Seattle to San Francisco-style underdevelopment at a time when tens of thousands of new workers are moving here every year. He wants rent control, which would also suppress housing development at a time when our rents keep rising specifically because the city doesn’t have enough housing to accommodate everyone. He believes police union negotiations should be open to the public, which—however reprehensible the city’s police union may be—would only politicize and stalemate the bargaining process. The Stranger slammed Mosqueda for opposing public union negotiations, but her position is more nuanced and actually workable: She wants a community representative at the table, but argues, correctly, that if the union’s collective bargaining process happened in public, both sides would grandstand and dig in their heels instead of negotiating in good faith.

Mosqueda has been criticized as too polished, too connected to the unions, and too “mainstream.” This is a familiar, sexist refrain. Female candidates—too often targets of condescending comments about their appearance, tone, and youth (or lack thereof)—are often held to a suspect double standard, told to wait their turn, or treated like they’re running for middle school class president.

But take notice: Mosqueda is running for Seattle City Council. And voters shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to elect her, a smart, engaged, driven woman of color with a track record of fighting and delivering on issues that matter to all of us.

The C Is for Crank endorses Teresa Mosqueda.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Morning Crank: Endless Appeals Are a Common Tactic

1. Depending on your perspective, a meeting tomorrow night to discuss efforts to prevent displacement and gentrification in light of a proposed upzone in the Chinatown/International District is either: a) A “special meeting” of the city council’s planning and land use committee, with a “focus on Chinatown/International District” (the city’s version) or b) a “town hall” to “Save the Chinatown – ID—Stop Displacement Now” (the Interim Community Development Association’s version). “WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED! Come and make your voice heard to City Council!” Interim’s announcement urges—and if that use of a Civil Rights-era slogan didn’t put a fine enough point on what the activists think is at stake in the upzone, these flyers, which appeared around the neighborhood in the past week, certainly did:

And here’s the source material:

The second poster is a notice posted during World War II, when the US rounded up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. The (very slightly) coded message is that if the city upzones the Chinatown/ID, the gentrification and displacement that result will have a similar impact on its residents as the forced removal of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

2. The Chinatown/ID meeting will actually be the second contentious meeting in one day for the land use committee. Tuesday morning, they’ll take up a proposal related to the design review process—ostensibly a process to consider the design of proposed new buildings; in reality an opportunity for anti-density activists to stall projects they don’t like—that could make it easier for development opponents to file appeals. (In August, the council will consider more sweeping changes to design review that could streamline the process for developers.)

The proposed change would remove one step in the process that opponents of new projects must go through before filing a formal appeal to stop a proposed development. The step, called a land-use interpretation, costs $3,150 and is required before a project can go before the city’s hearing examiner, the judicial official who ultimately decides whether contested projects can move forward. According to a council staff analysis, removing the interpretation step could “facilitate judicial appeals of land use decisions for projects that may be considered locally undesirable by near-neighbors, such as low-income housing projects, work-release centers, and homeless shelters.” According to the Livable Phinney website, the group “with other activists in West Seattle and Council member Lisa Herbold” to eliminate the interpretation requirement.

Endless appeals are a common tactic used by neighborhood groups to prevent new housing near single-family areas. For example, a group of Phinney Ridge homeowners has successfully stalled a four-story, 57-unit studio apartment building on a commercial stretch of Greenwood Avenue for more than a year by filing appeal after appeal; although previous complaints have involved everything from the lack of air conditioning and washer/dryer units in the apartments to the size of the units, they’re now arguing that Metro’s Route 5, which runs along Greenwood, is inadequate to serve the 57 new residents. Ultimately, like many such battles, this argument comes down to parking—the opponents believe the new residents will all own cars, which will make it harder for existing Phinney Ridge homeowners to park their cars on the street.

3. Just weeks after issuing a statement denouncing “the politics of personal destruction” after a man who had accused Mayor Ed Murray of sexual abuse in the 1980s withdrew his lawsuit, mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell reversed course, saying last night that the mayor should resign instead of serving out his term. Farrell said newly disclosed information in a separate sexual abuse case “severely undermines our confidence in his ability to carry out the duties of his office,” according to Seattle Times reporter Daniel Beekman. On Sunday, the Times reported that an investigator with Oregon’s Child Protective Services concluded that Murray had sexually abused his foster son in the early 1980s. Murray denied the allegations, noting that the case was withdrawn and no charges were ever filed.

Farrell’s dramatic reversal (dramatic in part because there was no reason she had to weigh in at all) makes more sense in light of events that transpired after she defended Murray the first time. Back then, Farrell was still seeking the mayor’s endorsement, and believed she had a real shot at getting it. Since then, Murray has endorsed Jenny Durkan, saying the former federal prosecutor “has the best chance of winning.” While Farrell may be relieved that she lost Murray’s endorsement to Durkan, the snub had to sting—and it’s hardly a stretch to see Farrell’s denunciation as payback.

4. If you still aren’t sure which mayoral candidate you prefer, there are at least two more chances to see the candidates debate before you fill out your ballot. The first, a live debate sponsored by CityClub, KING 5, GeekWire, and KUOW, is sold out, but a viewing party from 6:30 to 9pm at the nearby Flatstick Pub will also offer a post-debate opportunity to meet the candidates. And on Tuesday, LGBTQ Allyship will sponsor its own debate, featuring candidates for mayor and council positions 8 and 9, focusing on LGBTQ issues. That forum will be held at the Southside Commons in Columbia City from 6 to 9 pm.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

The Pushback Against ‘Privatizing’ Green Lake Community Center

On Monday, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled Cranking. In the meantime, here’s my latest piece for Seattle Magazine, on the ongoing controversy over a proposed public-private partnership to replace the Green Lake Community Center. 

Image Credit:  Hayley Young

To the casual visitor, the problems plaguing Green Lake Community Center don’t immediately present themselves. Sure, there are a few big plastic buckets scattered to catch the drips that leak from the roof on rainy days, and some of the sagging ceiling tiles are held in place by painter’s tape. But what old building doesn’t have its share of minor issues?

Look closer, however, and the cracks start to show. Some are literal—in the deck and shell of the circa 1955 Evans Pool—and others are metaphorical, like the tiny preschool room that’s bursting at the seams with toys, kids’ bean sprout experiments and child-size chairs. The floor of the gym (which has no wheelchair access) is buckled and sagging because of water damage from the leaking roof, and the upstairs kitchen has been closed for months because there’s no money to pay for the repairs required to bring it up to code.

This litany of issues has led the city to conclude that Green Lake—along with Lake City Community Center, also in North Seattle—should be replaced rather than repaired at an estimated cost of $25 million for Green Lake alone—and Seattle Parks and Recreation says it doesn’t have that kind of money. In fact, the parks department says that replacing Lake City and Green Lake community centers, and repairing six others requiring immediate maintenance, would cost about $62 million, or about 18 times the department’s current budget for such fixes.

To fill the gap, Jesús Aguirre, superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, says the department is considering a public-private partnership with a nonprofit, such as the Associated Recreation Council of Seattle (ARC) or the YMCA, to build and run a new community center at Green Lake. But that idea has run into a wall of opposition from a new group of Green Lake community activists, who say the city should either use current funds to fix the community center or figure out another way to replace it.

Oh, and they have another word for public-private partnerships: privatization.

“Providing recreational facilities is a core mission of the city,” argues Susan Helf, head of the newly formed Save Evans Pool and Green Lake Community Center group. “It’s inappropriate for the city to transfer that over to a private organization that would result in no transparency, union busting, lower pay and higher fees.” (Parks superintendent Aguirre says the city has had no formal conversations with the YMCA, and denies that his department would ever partner with any organization that charges Seattle residents more for less.)

“This is the trend now in recreation and parks, [but] it has no place in an extremely rich city like Seattle, where money is pouring in,” Helf says.

Whether public-private partnerships are ever appropriate and exactly what existing city funds should pay for are at the heart of the Green Lake discussion. Are our community centers really for everyone if they’re run by private nonprofit groups? What responsibility does the city have to come up with the money to keep its recreational facilities from falling apart? And given that voters approved a new property tax in 2014 to pay for parks maintenance, why isn’t there enough money to pay for everything?

To the first, parks superintendent Aguirre points out that the city is no stranger to such arrangements. “We’ve got dozens and dozens of them at this point,” he says. This kind of arrangement is frequently used to maintain and expand popular but expensive programs. Think of the zoo, for example, or the downtown aquarium, both of which are operated by private nonprofit groups. Or, for that matter, the recreational and preschool programs at community centers such as Green Lake’s, which are run by the ARC, a private nonprofit organization.

Aguirre bristles at the notion that partnering with an outside group such the ARC or YMCA constitutes “privatization.” He prefers the term “public benefit partnership.”

“Privatization would be ‘Let’s give them the keys and they can build a restaurant, they can do whatever they want, as long as they give us some money,’” Aguirre says. “We’re talking about some kind of operating agreement where we’d identify an organization that shares our values and continues to provide the same services that we’re providing, but does it better.”

Trying to subsist on current resources will result in the city’s parks and community centers falling into disrepair, Aguirre says.

Not everyone agrees with that assessment, including Helf, who believes the parks department can come up with more funds. One avenue is the 2014 metropolitan park district levy, which gave the city the authority to levy as much as 75 cents per $1,000 on homeowners’ assessed property values. Currently, the city levies just 33 cents of the 75-cent-per-$1,000 maximum. Helf says if the park district is serious about fixing crumbling community centers like Green Lake’s, it could increase the tax, or find the money elsewhere. “I’d certainly pay another $30 a year to get a pool and community center that works,” Helf says.

But other parks advocates say it isn’t that simple. Michael Maddux, one member of the committee that came up with the metropolitan park district proposal, says the plan voters approved in 2014 was designed to backfill about $267 million in deferred maintenance to the city’s parks system, not to fund large capital projects like new community centers. Although the Park District Governing Board (composed of all nine members of the City Council) could direct dollars in a different direction after the current six-year levy cycle runs out, replacing pools and community centers would require additional funding, and “it was made very clear during the campaign that going up to the [levy] cap was not an option, because that would be such a dramatic increase,” Maddux says. Meanwhile, city officials say other potential revenue sources, such as real estate excise taxes, are already earmarked for other purposes.

Aguirre says there is another important issue as well. As the city grows and its population centers shift, it won’t be enough just to maintain our current parks and community centers. The city will have to decide how, and where, to expand the parks system to meet future demand, and how to fund that expansion. That may mean adding new community centers in parts of the city where there are gaps, like Wallingford and South Lake Union, or upgrading services in areas like Rainier Beach, which just received a new community center in 2013.

“We’re going to have to ask, what do the community center needs of the future look like?” Aguirre says. “And it may mean—and these are harder conversations to have—that Green Lake may not be the biggest challenge…. It’s one of 27 community centers, and it’s one of hundreds of amenities that the parks and recreation agency provides for its residents.”

Helf says Green Lake is different, because—unlike other neighborhood parks and community centers—it draws people from all over the city. “There’s some very disturbing language” in the 2016 Community Center Strategic Plan, Helf says, “which says that Green Lake is too white, it’s too wealthy, and it has too many homeowners” to merit immediate investment. “These conclusions that Parks reached are really inaccurate.”

City Council member Mike O’Brien, whose council district includes the Green Lake neighborhood, met with members of Helf’s group during his office hours at the Ballard branch library in April, where they showed up demanding that he pledge to oppose privatizing the community center. Although O’Brien didn’t go that far, he did say that he wouldn’t support any partnership that the community doesn’t want. “If the community is flatly opposed to it, I’m fine with that—we won’t do it,” O’Brien says. But, he cautions, “that money is not just going to magically appear to pay for this, so I would argue that we should stay flexible.”

District 5 City Council member Debora Juarez, who heads up the council’s parks committee, says Helf and her group’s protests are “not falling on deaf ears. Nothing is going to get built or done without community input, and if [a proposed partnership] doesn’t fit with that community and their needs, no one will impose something on them that they don’t want.” In fact, while there are plans underway to develop a process to come up with a long-term vision for the city’s parks system—and a discussion of public-private partnership is expected to be part of that—at press time, there was no timeline.

“If I were still in the private sector, I could think of 10 ways to fund this,” Juarez, a former private attorney, says.

That kind of creativity Juarez alludes to—whether it means privatization or some other funding mechanism—may be needed if what Aguirre asserts is true. “The reality is that we are never going to have the level of resources to meet the demands that are going to be placed on us. There’s always going to be a gap. My challenge is, how do I try to bridge that gap in creative and innovative ways?”

In Defense of Talking About Misogyny In a City That Hasn’t Had a Female Mayor in 92 Years

The other night, I went to a play that has been universally praised by critics for its bold portrayal of racial divisions in America, and the complicity we all share, liberals and conservatives, Southerners and West-Coast elites, in perpetuating racism, racial disparities and race-based violence in America. (In the play, a diverse group of kids at Berkeley decide to go to a small town Georgia where one of them grew up and stage a fake lynching—and things go about as badly as possible).

What none of the reviews I read mentioned was that the chief villain of the show—the person at the center of every bad decision that leads to a disaster—is a dingbat white feminist who personifies cultural appropriation, wearing her blonde hair in dreadlocks (the show includes numerous references to “Medusa” if you didn’t get the point) and claiming to be “one-eighth Native American.” Candace is the one who comes up the lynching idea, the one who eggs the guys on when they want to drop out (the one who does participate is trying to impress her), and flees the scene when things go bad—showing back up so, ahem, hysterical that she can’t manage to explain what happened to her, setting off another cascade of calamities. In the end, the three male friends are complicated, flawed—and ultimately redeemable. The lone woman, having served her role as the foil for male redemption, is unredeemed.

After I came home, I started thinking about “Get Out,” a movie I loved with one massive caveat—its reliance on a lazy, misogynistic trope about white women seducing men of color with the intent to harm them. (It’s the same reason many of Spike Lee’s movies are hard to love). Few of the raves I read mentioned the thread of misogyny that ran through that storyline, either.

And then I got to thinking about all the other ways in which women are expected to ignore misogyny in discussions of other kinds of oppression, as if a person’s gender has nothing to do with how they experience the US economy, or job opportunities, or racism, ageism, disablism, and homophobia. (Why are you whining that Bernie doesn’t talk about abortion? All those women’s issues will be taken care of when he fixes the economy!)

And then I saw on Facebook that a white female candidate, Jessyn Farrell, had been asked for at least the second time if she planned to step aside for another candidate. In this case, the candidate was Nikkita Oliver, a woman of color; in the other, it was Mayor Ed Murray, who was contemplating a write-in run. Oliver and Farrell’s platforms are about as far apart as Kshama Sawant’s and Tim Burgess’, at least on issues like density, HALA, and rent control. Imagine, for a moment, someone posing this question to Mike McGinn: “There’s another man in this race. He has a completely different platform than you and your policy positions are diametrically opposed, but have you considered stepping aside to help him win?” No one asks this question of men. Men are unique, each with their own individual platform and set of beliefs that makes them fundamentally different than all the other men seeking the same position. Women, on the other hand—women are fungible. And there can be too many of them.

And then, while marveling at the fact that we’re asking whether there are too many women in the race when Seattle hasn’t elected a female mayor in 92 years, I remembered that the King County Democrats endorsed an all-male slate of candidates in a year when four of the top six candidates for Seattle mayor are women.

And then I thought about another conversation I had in the last couple of days, this one on Facebook, about the ways in which women’s unpaid labor often goes uncredited and unthanked in “progressive” political communities, even as men sign their names to their work and take the credit and bask in the spotlight.

And then I heard an appalling work story from a friend that convinced me we have so much more than we even imagined, right here in Seattle, to address misogyny and negative assumptions about ambitious women who work in fields where women don’t “belong.”

And then I thought about all the women I’ve known over the years, but especially young women, who are discouraged from running from office because they’re “too young” or “aren’t ready,” or who just decide those things themselves, because of all the training we all get, starting at birth, that we have to work twice as hard for half the credit, and that even then the worst thing for a woman to be is ambitious.

And then someone pointed out to me that in its profile of Jessyn Farrell, the Stranger interviewed her father (and did not interview the fathers of the male candidates for mayor). His quote is about what she was like in middle school.

And then of a specific female candidate who was asked to drop out more than 10 years ago, by women, which reminded me once again that misogyny doesn’t come only from men; it can also be internalized.

And then I asked on Twitter: Why is it okay for men to repeatedly ask women, and only women, to step aside?

I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

“Fair Chance Housing” is “Ban the Box” for Tenants—with Exceptions

Mayor Ed Murray and city council member Lisa Herbold released a draft of legislation earlier today aimed at making it easier for people with criminal records to find housing by barring landlords from requesting information about most kinds of criminal convictions. The legislation, which is certain to be challenged by the city’s vocal landlord lobby, is aimed at addressing one of the key challenges people with criminal histories face when trying to rebuild their lives—many landlords use criminal records to weed out applicants—one reason, Herbold said, that an average of 85 people exit jail directly into homelessness in Washington State every month.

“This is about addressing a homelessness crisis that we have partially created ourselves,” Herbold said.

And yet, the bill undermines those premises in a couple of ways. First, it exempts small landlords—those with four units or fewer, including backyard cottages or basement apartments—if they live on the premises. This suggests that, despite all those whereases, that people with criminal histories are somehow dangerous—after all, the legislation explicitly protects landlords from having to live next to them.

The legislation would prohibit landlords from advertising that they don’t accept tenants with criminal records, and would bar them from asking prospective tenants about convictions that are more than two years old, juvenile records, convictions that have been expunged, criminal charges that did not result in a conviction, or pending charges. It would allow landlords to refuse to rent to someone on the state sex-offender registry.

“Fair-chance” housing legislation was one of the recommendations proposed as part of the the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) back in 2015, and is of a piece with other proposals to reduce recidivism and homelessness among people, primarily men of color, who have served their sentences. “Ban the Box” legislation that passed in 2013 prohibits employers from asking prospective hires about their criminal records during their initial employment screening.

The proposal includes nearly five pages of “whereas” clauses enumerating the reasons for the bill, including the fact that nearly one in three adults in the US has a criminal record; studies showing that people with stable housing are less likely to reoffend; the existence of persistent racial bias in both criminal justice and housing; and the fact that “there is no sociological research establishing a relationship between a criminal record and an unsuccessful tenancy.”

And yet, the bill undermines those premises in a couple of ways. First, it exempts small landlords—those with four units or fewer, including backyard cottages or basement apartments—if they live on the premises. This suggests that, despite all those whereases, that people with criminal histories are somehow dangerous—after all, the legislation explicitly protects landlords from having to live next to them.

Second, by requiring prospective tenants to run out a two-year clock before they can benefit from the bill’s protections, the legislation could set up some people with recent criminal history to fail (and reoffend); after all, as one of those “whereas” clauses says, “research shows higher recidivism occurs within the first two years of release and is mitigated when individuals have access to safe and affordable housing and employment.”

When I asked Murray why the bill includes so many exemptions, he said, “There are disagreements over the number of years, how far you should go back, that we have not been able to reach agreement with landlords on. There’s some challenges for us to meet all of their concerns.” Then he kicked the question over to Office for Civil Rights policy manager Brenda Anibarro, who said, “that two-year [exemption] was an attempt to address some of [landlords’] concerns … We had participated in [the outreach] process for a straight year. We wanted to give them something on that. So that’s where that two year lookback comes from, and the same with the exemptions.”

One issue the legislation does not address is how people coming out of prison will be able to afford housing in Seattle even if they are no longer hindered by their criminal history. Advocates are trying to convince King County to add another three cents to the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy, on the countywide ballot in November, to fund affordable housing for people with criminal convictions as well as active drug users.

Herbold was the only council member present at today’s press conference, which was held on Murray’s turf—the 7th-floor Norm B. Rice conference room on the 7th floor of City Hall. Asked whether she had the votes to pass the “fair-chance” legislation, Herbold said she hadn’t done a vote count yet; “I would not let having five votes be a prerequisite for the mayor sending the bill down,” she said.

Herbold’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee will hold a public hearing on the legislation at City Hall on July 13 at 5pm.

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Pete Holmes

Pete in front of City Hall

Image via holmesforseattle.com.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, including this series of interviews with the candidates for mayor, city attorney, and (later this summer) city council and Port, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

City attorney Pete Holmes was first elected in 2009 as a reformer. A bankruptcy attorney who advocated for marijuana legalization and was one of the original members of the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the body that reviewed disciplinary decisions in police misconduct cases, he challenged then-incumbent Tom Carr from the left, assailing Carr for cracking down on minor crimes like pot possession and waging war against bars and clubs while letting DUI and domestic violence cases molder. Now, Holmes’ challenger, Scott Lindsay, is ripping some pages from the city attorney’s own playbook, accusing him of going soft on police accountability, ignoring the consequences of the opiate epidemic, and ignoring problems in homeless encampments. I sat down with Holmes to discuss his record, his path to reelection, and the case his opponent laid out against him at a Starbucks across the street from City Hall.

Erica C. Barnett [ECB]: Your opponent, Scott Lindsay, got in the race late, and only after his boss, Mayor Ed Murray, was accused of sexual abuse. Were you surprised that he decided to run against you, and how do you respond to his statement that you have little to show for your two terms in office?

Pete Holmes [PH]: [When I ran], I was at that point in my legal career that I finally felt that I just maybe had enough experience in the law to be the city’s lawyer. Back in ’09, when I ran, I had made partner at a major downtown firm; I knew my way in and out of court; I advised big and little clients businesses and individuals; and I really had a sense of what the law was about. All of that readied me for the challenges that lay ahead at the city of Seattle.

“I think Scott wants a job, and I would just urge him not to give up on that ambition, but learn what it’s like to be a lawyer first.”

A candidate for office told me recently that from their perspective, I was a candidate that ran for a specific office with a specific mission and that was absolutely right. It was no surprise to [then-city attorney] Tom [Carr] that I was going to run against him. I had spent the previous three or four years at that point debating with him, trying to get him to do the right thing on transparency and police accountability, trying to work with him, and finally realizing that, you know what, I can’t complain. I need to step up and say, ‘Here’s my vision, and it’s different from yours.’  We had big difference of opinion on police reform, drug policy, things like that, and it was only at that point in my career that I felt like, I know what the practice of law is all about, I feel secure in the knowledge that I’ve learned my craft, and maybe, just maybe, I could presume to be the city’s attorney.

I think Scott wants a job, and I would just urge him not to give up on that ambition, but learn what it’s like to be a lawyer first.

ECB: Lindsay received some surprising early endorsements from two members of the Community Police Commission who had been your allies, Lisa Daugaard and Harriett Walden, who both argued that you had hindered the group’s efforts to increase civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department. Daugaard criticized you, specifically, for opposing the CPC’s request that it be allowed to refer complaints directly to the city’s Inspector General for investigation, and for your request to delay submitting police reform legislation to the council. Without getting too far in the weeds, what was your issue with the way that the CPC wanted to implement civilian oversight, and why did you seek to start the process over?

PH: The sheer size and scope of the CPC is, I think, the biggest concern. A budget that’s probably close to $2 million annually is something I’m not sure the city can afford. But the really fundamental question I have is, why we have allowed ourselves to forget the fundamental purpose of civilian oversight? It’s to hear what the community thinks about policing services as delivered where they live. I think Lisa would say her theory is that the CPC should be a commission of subject-matter experts—her, term not mine—and my counter to that is, I want all of my expertise, my academic and practical expertise, to be in my command staff and especially my chief of police and my professional overseers, like the [Office of Police Accountability, formerly the Office of Professional Accountability] director, who’s investigating individual misconduct cases, and the inspector general, who’s looking more broadly at policy.

“We’ve had all of these reform efforts that end up with a blue ribbon panel pontificating about the need to get community involvement and things are smoothed over for a little while. So the fact that we’re under federal oversight is our best opportunity and maybe our last opportunity.”

So what role does the CPC serve? It’s to say how well all this expertise is translating into the streets. Is the chief managing appropriately? Is the inspector general managing broad policy themes that need attention? Is the OPA director holding people accountable for the thoroughness of investigations? At the end of the day, we need to know how the guys who have a gun and a badge are interacting with our fellow residents here in the city, and if you’ve got a committee of subject matter experts that are studying established practices and doing all those kinds of things things that I hope the IG and the OPA director and the chief of police are doing, then who’s taking the time to listen to the community?

There’s one person that you ultimately hold accountable for holding your cops accountable, among many safeguards, and that’s your chief of police. So number one, if you have taken all of these policy areas away from the chief, then the chief will say, ‘You know what, I’m sorry that our department is not delivering services to, say, an African-American community the way you think they should, but you took all that power from me and you gave it to this commission of subject matter experts.’ And it’s already difficult enough under our current contracts for discipline to stick. All of the major discipline decisions, all the firings [Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole] has done, with very few exceptions, have been contested, and my office has to defend all those things. So what I worry about is not only would your existing chief finally say, ‘You know, look, I give up,’ but when you have to replace Chief O’Toole, who’s going to come to a city that is so heavily laden with politics and procedure? It’s like, ‘Can I run my department, please?’ It might scare away a good candidate.

ECB: Do you expect that the ongoing effort to comply with the federal consent decree that’s currently still in place at SPD will remain on track, given that Attorney General Sessions has suggested that he wants to pull back on police reform?

PH: What we have to remember is that we would not have made the progress we’ve made to date, including the CPC, but for the federal intervention. We’ve tried over the decades to do reform and have only gotten a little bit of window dressing, and then it goes away. The unions retain their power through a collective bargaining agreement and mayors routinely get worn out and say, ‘Oh, God, please just get it done so I can move on to the next thing,’ and we’ve all inherited decades of that. We’ve had all of these reform efforts that end up with a blue ribbon panel pontificating about the need to get community involvement and things are smoothed over for a little while. So the fact that we’re under federal oversight is our best opportunity and maybe our last opportunity.

Fortunately, we’ve got that so-called judge [federal judge James Robart, whom Trump called a “so-called judge” when he refused to enforce the original travel ban]. I really think Judge Robart is nothing but a no-nonsense judge and he is not going to say his order has been met fulfilled until he believes the order has been fulfilled. Jeff Sessions is not going to tell him when it’s been fulfilled, and for that matter, no one of us city officials is going to do that. I do think that at some point, I’d like to see the unions in front of Judge Robart bringing forth all their concerns so that we can really have comprehensive contract-based reform.

And by the way, it’s not about the size and scope of the CPC that I first broke with Lisa [Daugaard]. They lobbied hard to make me appeal Judge Robart’s decision  [delaying the city’s police reform legislation in 2016] and make them a party to the lawsuit and at some point I just said no.

“At some point, the city has got to be able to negotiate its contracts. It’s got to be able to hire and fire officers. It’s got to be able to appoint chiefs. The [CPC’s] approach is going  to actually confound the ultimate goal of having a well-disciplined, well-trained, and community-respected police force.”

If [the CPC is] telling the council that Judge Robart is stopping [them] from doing [their] work and that the city attorney is letting him get away with it, it’s really hard to go back to the council and explain that we would not be where we are but for Judge Robart and this consent decree. It’s the same pitch that I couldn’t get [former mayor] Mike McGinn to fully appreciate. I remember telling him, ‘Mike, no one’s going to blame you for the police department you inherited, and nobody’s going to forgive you if you let this opportunity go away. So you can either treat DOJ as an invading force or the wind in your sails for reform.’ And we never quite got on the same page, but it’s kind of the same theme that was playing this time around, with the CPC wanting to be permanent, full-throated advocates in front of the judge. At some point, the city has got to be able to negotiate its contracts. It’s got to be able to hire and fire officers. It’s got to be able to appoint chiefs. The [CPC’s] approach is going  to actually confound the ultimate goal of having a well-disciplined, well-trained, and community-respected police force. That’s my concern, and you can’t explain that in a sound bite.

ECB: It seems to me that there’s a fair amount of bad blood between you and Lisa Daugaard.

PH: It’s not bad blood. I believe she sincerely believes in what she’s doing, but she cannot be chief of police and Inspector General and OPA director all in one fell swoop, and you can’t make the Community Police Commission into those bodies. I think fundamentally, who represents the community is really the question. Just because the Community Police Commission has ‘community’ in its name doesn’t mean they own the community.

“When you get to the point where you’ve exhausted a housing-first services approach and you’ve still got someone who says, ‘I like being here stealing bicycles or dealing drugs’ or whatever, then you’ve reached a point where you say that’s not an option. You’re going to be arrested and Pete’s going to prosecute you.”

ECB: Will you extend the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program [which gives low-level offenders the opportunity to avoid charges if they accept services and participate in a structured diversion program] to the rest of the city, and is there anything you would like to change or improve about the program?

PH: Intuitively, I am convinced that LEAD is a correct approach. A correct approach—not the correct approach. Because LEAD addresses one small element of the overall population that we need to address. The danger with elevating something like LEAD as the answer, the silver bullet, is that if you’re looking a 360 degree [range of offenders and solutions], LEAD represents only about ten degrees of that arc.

You remember in 2013, when I got that letter from SPD about 28 or so of the so-called hardcore offenders downtown, and they demanded I issue warrants for all of them? I said, ‘No, because you did none of the background work to tell me what their issue is. You can’t just tell me you issued three tickets to them and they didn’t respond. I want to know, are they homeless? Are they drug addicted? What have you done to address their issues?’ And if you’ve done all of that and they’re resisting, they’re just simply refusing our offer, then you’re right. Then we’ll intervene. But you’ve got to show that it’s a credible threat.

Same thing with homelessness. I’ll work with you nine ways to Sunday to figure out what are your obligations when dealing with the homeless encampments, but I’ve got to tell you that when you get to the point where you’ve exhausted a housing-first services approach and you’ve still got someone who says, ‘I like being here stealing bicycles or dealing drugs’ or whatever, then you’ve reached a point where you say that’s not an option. You’re going to be arrested and Pete’s going to prosecute you.

ECB: Since you brought it up, let’s talk about sweeps. How do you think the city’s new Navigation Team, which your opponent takes credit for setting up, is doing at getting people living in encampments into shelter, housing, and services?

PH: I think that the Navigation Team is learning that if they don’t have actual, real resources, they won’t succeed. I don’t mean the Taj Mahal. But the shelters don’t work for a variety of circumstances. We’ve got to meet people where they are. If we’re providing housing that addresses all those areas and it’s refused, then you have to act. You have to say, ‘You can’t stay here,’ and you’re going to make an arrest at some point.

It’s interesting how all our labels are conclusory. If it’s bad, it’s a sweep. If it’s good, it’s an encampment cleanup.

ECB: I would say ‘sweep’ is fairly accurate. I’m not calling it a ‘purge.’

PH: If you’re not, as a practical matter, addressing human needs, if you’re not dealing with their personal effects, then yeah, I guess it is a sweep. But if you are doing that and you’re simply doing a cleanup, that’s a positive sweep. That’s sweeping up the detritus, the non-valuable property left behind that’s just from living and the human condition.

“If you want to avoid the guy passed out on your store or doorstep, if you want to deal with that compassionately and effectively of course we’ve got to have this. And maybe it’s going to be next to [someone’s] home in Laurelhurst.”

ECB: Scott seems to blame you for ending some of the specialty courts that were once available as alternatives to the regular court system, like mental health court and community court. Why were those courts eliminated, what were they replaced with, and how do you think the current system is working?

PH: I think that the defense bar recognized that by opting into community court, they were basically agreeing to a much longer [period of] supervision and interference than if you just simply said, ‘No, I’ll take my chances at regular court.” The defense bar was advising clients not to accept the community court offer because there were too many conditions attached to it. So what the municipal court did was to say that instead of community court being the one place where you opt in [to alternatives to incarceration that include access to services],  we want to make sure that all of those resources are available to all judges in all cases so that they can fashion remedies. In some ways, the municipal court may have expanded community court rather than disbanded it. So Scott doesn’t have the full story. It is in transition. I believe the defense bar would prefer to be working with us, because when we, both prosecutor and defender, see someone who is in the throes of an addiction and of course is making life miserable for everyone around him as well as himself, the last thing we want to do is just throw him in jail.

ECB: How will you support the creation of a supervised drug consumption site in Seattle, and how likely do you think it is that Seattle will accept it?

PH: We got to a state with marijuana where people are finally saying, ‘This actually works pretty well.’ Like the holdout cities that were saying, ‘No way are we gonna allow pot use in our city’—they’re starting to see that Seattle went from over 150 unlicensed, troublesome [medical marijuana] dispensaries to 50 well-lit, well-regulated legal dispensaries. And now they’re saying, ‘I want some of that in my town.’ It’s going to be the same thing with these medical sites We made the decision, wrongfully, to say, we’re going to put public health problems in the criminal justice system. So my role has been to try and slowly release those tentacles and get medical and health care professionals to get responsibility for it. When people say, ‘Where should they be?’ I say, I don’t know, but that’s why I want to hear form the medical professionals. And then I’ll help you with the land use issues and the criminal jurisdiction issues.

ECB: The answer to the question of where a safe consumption site will be located is purely political, though—it’s wherever people will accept it.

PH: I’d say that’s the cynical political answer. I think at some point, once we have helped switch this bad course that we went down of criminalizing public health problems, then I think we’re going to start seeing people get it. If you want to avoid the guy passed out on your store or doorstep, if you want to deal with that compassionately and effectively of course we’ve got to have this. And maybe it’s going to be next to [someone’s] home in Laurelhurst.

In some ways, opioid addiction might even be easier than marijuana legalization, because it cuts across all demographic groups. So what I think you’re discounting is that for every person who says, ‘I don’t want to step over them anymore,’ there’s also going to be a person whose brother is the person being stepped over. We showed a better approach [to marijuana use] than prohibition, and opioids is going to be a tougher one—it’s definitely going to need the medical community more involved—but I get so passionate about it, because you can just see how wrongheaded our traditional approach has been. And I could say, ‘Let’s do this’ and get reelected and start looking at the next office, or I can say, ‘How can I fundamentally change a bad policy?’ That’s not a small order. That’s a long haul.

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Scott Lindsay

Image result for scott lindsay seattle

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Scott Lindsay, Mayor Ed Murray’s onetime public safety advisor and a former senior counsel to US Rep. Elijah Cummings in Washington, D.C., was best known, until recently, as the guy the mayor sent to neighborhood and city council meetings to defend his encampment removal policies. Since he announced he would challenge incumbent city attorney Pete Holmes in April, however, Lindsay has won some surprising endorsements from erstwhile Holmes supporters like Harriet Walden and Lisa Daugaard, two members of the Community Police Commission and longtime advocates for police accountability and reform. The CPC soured on Holmes when he proposed delaying police reform legislation earlier this year, on the grounds that it created a CPC that was too large and sprawling to pass muster with the federal judge overseeing the consent decree between Seattle and the federal Department of Justice. Daugaard told me in April that she also felt Holmes had not done enough to advocate for defendants who “serve long sentences on cases with excessive probation, are held in lieu of bail because they are poor, and are made to give up their trial rights to get services.”

I sat down with Lindsay at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square last month.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: As a political unknown running for a fairly obscure office in a mayoral-election year, you’re going to have to make a compelling case against the incumbent. So, lay out the argument against Pete.

Scott Lindsay (SL): The best thing going for Pete Holmes is that he’s kept such a low profile for that office. But when you actually dig under the surface, there’s deep dysfunction in our criminal justice system. The King County Jail is filled with misdemeanor defendants whose underlying issue is homelessness and addiction. Words that have never come out of Pete Holmes’ mouth are in any way talking about heroin or the effects of substance use disorders on the defendant population in the criminal justice system, or actual ways that he could provide leadership to fundamentally start to change the way that we engage with that population. How do we actually change outcomes instead of just going through these cycles of arrest and release? Because the outcomes that we’re getting now have been terrible for defendants stuck in the cycle, and terrible for neighborhoods, and terrible for those who are actually stuck with the consequences of the failures of our criminal justice system.

“Words that have never come out of Pete Holmes’ mouth are in any way talking about heroin or the effects of substance use disorders on the defendant population.”

Let me give you a couple specific examples. So while these were imperfect, at least we used to have specialty courts—mental health court, drug court, which is at Superior Court, and community court. Now, those started with imperfect designs, but rather than provide any leadership about how to really fix them, those courts, in effect, have died on the vine. Referrals into mental health court are way down, and it’s vastly underutilized and may shut down because of underutilization, and community court has been shut down, and Pete Holmes has done nothing to replace it. So now everybody’s just going mainstream. Where are the innovations? Where’s the vision? Where’s the leadership?

Pete has had eight years to lead on a lot of these things, and he’s no longer a leader on many criminal justice issues. He does not have a vision, and after eight years has not articulated a vision, for how we can use our criminal justice system to help address the real public safety issues and social issues and public health issues that we have in the city. We invest a lot of money in our criminal justice system and in the city attorney’s office, and they have more [contact with] people struggling with homelessness and substance use disorders, practically, than our human services department. Our criminal justice system is in effect, by default, one of the largest social service organizations that we have. We just don’t think of it in that way, and it’s not actually producing outcomes that anybody can be proud of.

“The Navigation Team was my idea, and I worked to get that created over the course of a year against a lot of institutional reluctance to do things in very different ways.”

ECB: Until you declared your candidacy with a platform focused on police oversight and accountability, I think it’s fair to say that you were viewed as one of the more conservative members of the mayor’s staff, especially by neighborhood activists who wanted the mayor to do more to clean up homeless camps.

SL: I think I have a reputation as a guy who actually listens, tries to figure out what’s going on, and then tries to come up with innovations and creative resolutions. But I am willing to take on the tough and controversial issues. I’ve been the leader within the [mayor’s] office on supervised consumption—not exactly a law and order topic. I was the leader on the heroin epidemic and asking how we can get more prevention, more user health care, more treatment options. I was the leader on, how do we get much better services to our homeless population and shift from a two-decade-old sweeps policy to a more compassionate approach?

But I also believe, absolutely, that we have some very real public safety challenges in this city, and it doesn’t help anyone to not talk about that in open ways. Up in the north end, we have  a lot of public safety complaints about what’s going on in Mineral Springs Park—needles and drug dealing and tents and other issues—so it’s obviously a real struggle for the neighborhood. At the same time, we had a lot of real people suffering and living in conditions that were tragic for them. We have to have a discussion about how we resolve both of those things and tie them together, rather than talk about homelessness in ways that don’ t actually connect to a lot of what’s happening on the ground.

“It’s the responsibility of the city to step in and intervene and separate out the really bad actors who prey on the weak and vulnerable from people who are struggling with public health diseases.”

ECB: The city has organized a “Navigation Team” made up of cops, outreach workers, and service providers to offer services to people living in encampments before they remove them. The numbers the city released recently show that about 160 people entered an “alternative living arrangement,” which is a big jump from where we were before but a drop in the bucket relative to the total number who need help. What’s your assessment of those results?

SL: The Navigation Team was my idea, and I worked to get that created over the course of a year against a lot of institutional reluctance to do things in very different ways. The idea of taking police officers and having them have a really social service focus, I think, is radical. It took a lot of work to convince all the powers that be that that was the right way to go, and I will absolutely say that 160 people sleeping indoors is an incredible number in 11 weeks, as compared to the success that we historically have gotten out of plain outreach efforts. I would be very surprised if we got 150 people indoors in all of 2016, coming in from hardened, really unsafe situations.

ECB: But not all are indoors—in fact, about half of them were simply moved to other encampments.

SL: Of course, and absolutely, authorized encampments are only a temporary solution, but we have to find some better options. And if you look a little bit deeper at what’s going on at some of the unauthorized encampments, where they’re at a critical mass, you have real predatory behavior and people who are taking advantage of the homeless people, who are the most vulnerable in our city, and exploiting them in terrible ways. That’s exploiting teenage girls, it’s exploiting people with mental illnesses, it’s exploiting people with substance use disorders, and as a result, terrible things happen to those people. It’s the responsibility of the city to step in and intervene and separate out the really bad actors who prey on the weak and vulnerable from people who are struggling with public health diseases, and that’s very often mental illness and most often substance use disorders. As a city, we are absolutely getting crushed by the heroin epidemic, and it is tragic and terrible, and a lot of the folks who are falling into that trap are really young people. If you go and you talk to Youthcare [an organization that works to get homeless kids off the streets], six years ago, they say one in five of the people who came into Orion Center [a youth shelter and drop-in center] were IV drug users. Today, it’s four in five. That’s almost an entire generation that either will be lost, or we have to find ways to help them out of that and break that cycle.

“If you ask SPD about, say, property crime in the north end, they will say that it would be difficult to find one person among 300 [for whom] the underlying cause of their criminal behavior was not a heroin addiction. They would say easily 99 percent if not 100 percent.”

ECB: When the city decided to locate the new low-barrier Navigation Center shelter in the Chinatown International District, they got a lot of pushback from the community, who said they hadn’t been consulted on the decision, and ultimately, the opening was postponed. What did you think of how your boss at the time, Mayor Murray, handled the outreach for the Navigation Center?

SL: It very obviously did not go well. I wasn’t involved intimately in the siting decisions, but that did not go well. I think when you dig into that, I’ve spent more time working on issues within Chinatown and the International District than any other neighborhood in the city, and they have very real issues with street safety and low level crimes associated with people who are struggling with substance use disorders, and we have not, as a city, figured out how to provide them with support. Ultimately, the Navigation Center will be part of that, but we also have to be very clear and articulate what we’re doing to provide relief to that community, which is under a lot of strain. There are a lot of mom and pop business with very slim margins that are open early in the morning and late at night. and they feel under real duress from what’s happening in their neighborhood, and they’re very unhappy about it.

ECB: Do you think the Law Enforcement-Assisted Diversion program, which provides pre-booking diversion for low-level offenders in  part of the center city, should be expanded citywide?

SL: LEAD is exactly the type of innovative program that is addressing people who are struggling with substance use disorder, and most often most of their clients are struggling with homelessness, and the idea is break them out of the criminal justice system, which is completely failing to address the root causes of their behavior, and try and have interventions that can actually break them out of the cycle. Let’s take that in contrast to the rest of our criminal justice system right now. The King County jail, today, is filled with misdemeanant defendants who who are struggling with substance use disorder, many of whom have mental illness, and most of whom are also homeless. We are doing nothing at the misdemeanor level to effectively intervene to break them out of the cycle. We know that incarceration alone as a strategy to change their behavior does not work. We know that not incarcerating them, not taking any action, does not change behavior. So we need to radically rethink what we’re doing to come up with new solutions to intervene, and LEAD is one fantastic example of that strategy, which is, get them at the front end. Get them out of the criminal justice system and intervene with significant behavioral health interventions.

ECB: As I recall, you’ve said before that we need to prosecute drug offenders more, and argued that we’ve effectively legalized heroin in Seattle. Can you speak to that?

SL: Just as a fact right now, the city makes very few drug arrests and our filing standards related to drug arrests are fairly low, so almost no one in the city is being prosecuted for simple possession of heroin or crack or anything else. And I’m okay with that. But if we are going to make that policy decision, then we also have to figure out what are the ways we address actually changing their behavior. When you look at crime maps of Seattle, there is an absolute correlation between where we have major hubs of drug activity—open-air drug markets—and where we have the most criminal activity, from car prowl to burglary to assaults to shootings. So we can say we’re not going to arrest somebody for possession of heroin, and I think that’s right, but at the same time we’re arresting them for property crimes where the underlying root cause of why they’re engaging in property crimes is because they have a heroin addiction. So we’re still interfacing with the same crowd through our criminal justice system, we’re just doing it through different mechanisms. And what hasn’t’ changed, and what’s very frustrating to me, is that our criminal justice systems at the misdemeanor level, but also at the felony level, have not really reoriented or adjusted to focus on public health solutions to these public safety challenges. That is, you have to address the substance use if you’re going to break the cycle of the behavior, and if you’re going to address the substance use, you have to address the homelessness.

Literally right now, just based on King County jail data for repeat offenders in the municipal system, we know that 60-plus percent of them are struggling with substance use disorders. And I swear that that is a significant underreporting, because there are a whole bunch of incentives not to admit to your substance use issues during intake into King County Jail. If you ask SPD about, say, property crime in the north end, they will say that it would be difficult to find one person among 300 [for whom] the underlying cause of their criminal behavior was not a heroin addiction. They would say easily 99 percent if not 100 percent.

ECB: So what’s your policy solution for those problems?

SL: The radical rethink here is to, in effect, focus intense resources through both diversion and/or using the criminal justice system to get people who are struggling with substance use disorders and homelessness the actual help and solutions they need. So how do we do that? One, citywide expansion of LEAD. Two is, we actually need to get defendants who are in the King County Jail the drug treatment that they need, and then when they’re exiting that system, they need to exit into something that is not just reentry back into the system. Right now, our system takes them in, holds them in for a few days, spits them out, waits for them not to show up back in court, and then issues a bench warrant for them. And that goes on and on and on until they have lots of outstanding bench warrants and are never getting the treatment that they need. We need buprenorphine induction available on demand to anybody who wants it in the King County Jail. And then next, we need to make sure that they’re not exiting straight back in to homelessness. And then a third part of the reform piece is simply bail reform. Our system right now is still a money-based bail system. That doesn’t make sense when most of our misdemeanor defendants—non-DUI, non-domestic violence misdemeanor —are impoverished and/or homeless and don’t have the resources to be able to work t through our bail system.

I’ve got a lot of respect for Pete Holmes’ history as an advocate for police reform going back to his days on the police review board in the mid-2000s. He was an early leader. And I also have a lot of respect for the approach he took in insisting on the consent decree as the model for achieving police reform here in Seattle. But Holmes disappeared for a long time from the kind of heart of the discussion, [including] police reform, the consent decree, and the larger civilian oversight and [Community Police Commission] discussion. And when he was absent from those, that’s when I was right in the middle of it as special assistant for police reform to the mayor,  working sometimes until 1 in the morning with CPC leaders, with Lisa Daugaard, with the ACLU, with Harriett, with many others. We hammered out some really significant civil oversight legislative proposals and a detailed plan, and at that point, Holmes came back in and he decided that he wanted  to redo that process, and they started over, and here we are a year and a half later and we’re basically at the same point where we were when I departed. And I departed from this issue because after negotiating in good faith for a year and a half with the CPC, I felt that the rug was being pulled out from beneath us. From my perspective, speaking separately from the mayor’s office, I thought it was particularly unfair for him to have been absent from much of the hard work of those discussions and then come back in and say, ‘Let’s start over and I am going to run a new process and that process is going to look like this.’  I thought that rhere were ways to get to the result that we’re at today faster, and frankly, I think if you go and ask the CPC members—Lisa and Harriett are only two, but I think there are plenty of others—there’s a lot of frustration with the way that Holmes has actually handled police reform over the last two years.

City Lets Seattle Decide How to Spend $2 Million, But Not Everyone’s Happy

This story originally ran at Seattle Magazine.

Ever noticed a new curb cut on your corner and wonder how it got there, or stopped at a brightly painted new crosswalk and wished an intersection in your neighborhood had gotten one, too?

Until recently, the process for choosing which of these small projects got funded could be a mystery to anyone who didn’t belong to their neighborhood district council—the groups which submit projects for possible funding under Seattle’s Neighborhood Park and Street Fund. In previous years, each of the 13 districts received an annual lump sum to pay for small (up to $90,000) improvements—everything from new sidewalks to lighting upgrades. The district councils, whose members had to represent established community organizations, would brainstorm a list of projects to submit to the city, which approve or reject them.

“There was very little outreach done around when the projects were being built, what the projects were, and how they got funded, and they would just kind of show up in the neighborhood,” says Jenny Frankl, a strategic advisor at the city’s Department of Neighborhoods (DON). “It was a mysterious process.”

That changed last year, when Mayor Ed Murray cut ties with the district councils—which, according to a 2009 audit, had long been unrepresentative of an increasingly diverse city made up largely of young renters. Instead, the city opted to expand an existing “participatory budgeting” project called “Youth Vote, Youth Voice,” in which 3,000 Seattle youth decided how to spend $700,000 in neighborhood funds. The new “Your Voice, Your Choice” invited neighborhood residents, including those unaffiliated with any formal group, to nominate projects online. After it was determined which projects were doable, residents would vote on how to spend a total of $2 million in city funding—$285,000 per city council district.

More than 900 suggestions poured in across the city, compared to 150 or so in a typical year under the old system. They ranged from benches and tables at Wallingford’s Meridian Park to a “duck crossing” sign at Denny Blaine Park in Madrona.

Although many were deemed “not feasible”—DON rejected the duck crossing “due to unpredictable nature of [duck] habitat locations”—volunteer “project development teams” considered around two thirds of them before choosing a final list of 10 projects per district that will go to a citywide vote June 3.

DON spokeswoman Lois Maag adds that Your Voice, Your Choice is “much more transparent” than the old district council-led process. “Not only are people able to provide their idea, but then they get to vote for that idea,” she says. “Before, it was a much smaller group of people making the decisions.”

But the process has its discontents, such as Dan Sanchez, chair of the Central Area District Council. An outspoken opponent of the new Murray-backed process, Sanchez says the city failed to achieve its goal of increasing diversity and inclusion, making “participatory budgeting” anything but. By Sanchez’s count, gleaned from sign-in sheets at the Your Voice, Your Choice development team meetings, it was mostly white homeowners (many 55 and over) who attended. Only two African-Americans came out, he says. “Our last district council meeting had seven African-Americans at it, for crying out loud, and citywide they got two?” Sanchez says. “Something’s wrong with that picture.”

Maag points out that during the 2009 district council meetings used to gauge diversity, staff encouraged attendees to fill out sign-in sheets, which asked for race and age. “Most of the [project development team] meetings did not have” those, she says. However, Maag concedes that the city “didn’t meet our diversity goals in this project development phase.”

For Sanchez, the groups’ lack of diversity is proof of “what we had been saying along—you can’t force people to participate.” DON had a similar experience when it organized focus groups to provide feedback on the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda—although turnout was high in the early days, many people dropped out over time, especially those who did shift work or had childcare issues.

Frankl acknowledges that participation was sometimes low—one meeting drew just four participants to review dozens of potential projects—and says the city plans to do more to increase participation next time. She admits “it was not a perfect process” and pledges to improve outreach next time.

“I would not characterize all of the meetings as a homogenous group of participants,” Frankl says. “However, there’s a lot of room to do a better job of pulling in different voices and different people.”

That could mean staggering meeting times (5:30 p.m. starts were a barrier for some) or allowing people to comment online.

Seattle residents can vote online for their preferred projects until June 30, and the city hopes to make paper ballots available at libraries or community centers. The city will fund the top vote-getters after polls close at the end of the month.

Morning Crank: Net Worth

1. Money remains a significant factor in which candidates become frontrunners in Seattle’s mayoral, council, and city attorney races, despite the fact that both council and city attorney candidates can now benefit from public funding through democracy vouchers—those $25 certificates that showed up in your mailbox earlier this year.

Most of the frontrunners in the mayoral race—with the exception of educator and attorney Nikkita Oliver, whose disclosure form did not list her net worth (but whose job at the nonprofit Creative Justice is not exactly a six-figure gig) and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa—have a net worth between the high hundreds of thousands and several million dollars. And before you say, “Well, of course they’re worth a lot—they’re all homeowners!”, keep in mind that net worth only includes the portion of a candidate’s house that’s paid off; the rest shows up on the ledger as debt. All net worth numbers are estimates provided by the candidates; all documents were obtained through a records request. (Oliver is a renter.)

Former US attorney Durkan2, a partner in the white-shoe law firm Quinn Emanual Urquhart & Sullivan, who holds large accounts at both Wells Fargo and Chase, two banks that have been targeted recently by anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activists: $5.75 million.

People’s Waterfront Coalition Founder Cary Moon, whose family owned a manufacturing plant in Michigan: $4.1 million.

Former state legislator Jessyn Farrell, who owns a house in Wallingford and whose husband runs a real estate investment company: $2.8 million.

Ex-Mayor Mike McGinn, who owns a house in Greenwood: $800,000.

State legislator Bob Hasegawa: $250,000

I also requested the financial disclosure statements for both candidates for city attorney. Incumbent Pete Holmes is worth $1.5 million, and challenger Scott Lindsay, who’s married to Microsoft attorney and Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire, has a net worth of $875,000.

Finally, here’s a rundown of the frontrunning candidates for Position 8, several of whom haven’t yet reported their net worth. Compared to the mayoral candidates, the leading council contenders (with one exception) have relatively modest wealth, suggesting that city council remains a more accessible position than mayor, at least from a personal financial perspective.

Sara Nelson, CEO of Fremont Brewing Company: $2 million.

Former Tenants Union director Jon Grant: $150,000.

Washington State Labor Council lobbyist Teresa Mosqueda, who will be the only renter on the city council if she wins: $134,328.

Attorney and NAACP chair Sheley Secrest: -$120,940.

I’ll update this post with additional information about the mayoral candidates when I receive it.

2. Last night, the King County Young Democrats gave Jessyn Farrell their sole endorsement in the mayor’s race, in a competition that, unlike other Democratic organizational endorsements, allowed candidates from other political parties—like Oliver, who’s representing the new People’s Party—to seek endorsement. Betsy Walker, past chair of the Young Democrats, received the group’s sole endorsement to replace Farrell as 46th District state representative; Farrell resigned her seat last week.

3. In exchange for an agreement from the city council not to tax diet sodas, the American Beverage Association—which spent millions of dollars on an initiative to roll back a statewide soda tax in 2010—has reportedly agreed not to finance a campaign against the proposed soda tax. Mayor Ed Murray proposed taxing all sodas, including artificially-sweetened ones, on the grounds that diet sodas are disproportionately consumed by white, wealthier people (the inverse is true of sugar-sweetened drinks). Last week, lefty council members Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, and Mike O’Brien backed a version of the mayor’s more equitable soda tax proposal, supporting an amendment, sponsored by Herbold, that would have lowered the tax from 1.75 cents an ounce to 1 cent and levied the tax on both sugar- and artificially-sweetened sodas. The full council will vote on the soda tax this afternoon.

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