Morning Crank: Maybe He Meant Because No One Can Afford To Live There

1. I’ve known Mike Fong, Mayor Ed Murray’s chief of staff, since he worked as an aide to city council member Heidi Wills. In fact, he started at the city right around the same time I started covering city hall, in the late spring of 2001.

Back then, he looked like this:

After 16 years working for the city—as a council staffer and, for the past two years, the mayor’s chief of staff—Fong is leaving city hall behind. (Other mayoral staffers surely won’t be far behind him, as the seventh floor of City Hall empties out in anticipation of current Mayor Ed Murray’s departure in December). He isn’t going far, though—just across the street to the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine, where he’ll be chief operating officer, overseeing Constantine’s cabinet.

Fong has been at city hall (and not just THIS city hall—the old one, too) through some of the biggest stories (and transformations) in the city’s history—from Strippergate to the ouster of former City Light director Gary Zarker to the council’s review of then-mayor Greg Nickels’ response to the 2009 snow storm, which ultimately contributed to Nickels’ loss (to Mike McGinn) that year. During that time, the old City Hall itself was razed, Seattle’spopulation grew from around half a million people to more than 700,000, and Amazon’s value rose from $3.6 billion to more than $500 billion. But as far as I can tell, Mike hasn’t changed all that much. He’s the kind of easygoing, no-bullshit staffer journalists love—he doesn’t spin or offer bland talking points, and his grasp on policy is peerless—and the kind of guy I’d want on my side if I was an elected official with aspirations for higher office. I know I don’t speak just for myself when I say he’ll be missed at city hall.

2. Constantine’s office has seen quite a few shakeups recently, including the departure of his longtime chief of staff (and onetime aide to former mayor Greg Nickels) Sung Yang last month. Yang, who also moved to Constantine’s office after a long  career at the city, left to join Pacific Public Affairs, the consulting firm owned by Constantine’s former deputy chief of staff, Joe Woods. Rachel Smith, the county’s government relations director (and another former Nickels staffer), is Constantine’s new chief of staff. Constantine’s campaign manager, Mina Hashemi Mercer, is also reportedly leaving to become the next Director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, where she previously worked for two and a half years.

Constantine is eternally rumored to be considering a run for governor.

3. The city council’s housing and human services committee discussed legislation that would protect some people living in their vehicles from ticketing or towing for certain parking violations and provide them with access to services; in exchange, vehicle residents would register with the city and agree to abide by certain rules. The recommendations are designed to get people into permanent housing faster while recognizing the reality that homeless people don’t have the money to pay fines or get their vehicle out of impoundment. Another reality: Homeless people who lose their vehicles don’t just disappear; usually, they become homeless people living on the street, destabilized and in even more desperate straits.

North end neighborhood activists, including members of the so-called Neighborhood Safety Alliance, made familiar arguments yesterday against people living in RVs, claiming that they were responsible for an E. coli spike in Thornton Creek, accusing them of leaving literal “tons of garbage and human waste” all over neighborhoods, and suggesting that they, the north Seattle homeowners, might just decide to buy an RV and live in it so they, too, could enjoy the good life, exempt from rules and “homeowner taxes.”

One speaker, Phil Cochran, used his public comment time to demand that Mike O’Brien answer a “simple question.” Actually, he had two: “Do you believe that this ordinance will result in more RVs and more homeless junkies in the city of Seattle, yes or no?” and “What happens when some of these rolling meth labs—which we know they are—catch fire? Who should we sue?” Because public comment is not Adults Play High-School Debate time, O’Brien did not respond, except to say that he’d be happy to discuss the issue at literally any other time. And a member of the Interbay Neighborhood Association said the area around W Thorndyke Drive—at the base of Magnolia, near Dravus—was so totally taken over by RVs that that part of Magnolia is now “unlivable.”

Huh.

Maybe he meant “because no one who isn’t wealthy can afford to live there.”

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Attorney: Accuser Should Drop Case Against Murray in Light of “False Information”

It was the press conference everybody wished wasn’t happening.

Members of the press groaned and rolled their eyes in anticipation of a statement today by Mayor Ed Murray’s attorney, Robert Sulkin, confirming that Murray submitted to a medical examination by his personal doctor, Craig Pepin, to prove that he does not have a mole on his scrotum. The reason I had to write that last sentence, and the reason you’re reading it, is because Murray has been accused of sexually assaulting a man, known in his complaint as “D.H.,” when the accuser was a teenager in the 1980s. Sulkin, who prefaced his remarks by saying, “unfortunately, the level of discourse in the lawsuit has been very low,”  argued that the medical report lets “the air out of the balloon” and takes “the feathers out of the pillow” on D.H.’s case. Translation: The description of a mole on the mayor’s scrotum is the linchpin of D.H.’s whole case; without it, it’s just his word against Murray’s.

Sulkin wasn’t done yet. After saying that D.H. had “absolutely no credibility,” Sulkin accused the man of “provid[ing] false information to his attorney” and demanded that his attorneys drop the complaint. (The Seattle Times reports that D.H.’s attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, said the medical exam by Murray’s personal doctor had not been independently verified.) When I asked him why he believed the absence of the purported mole was so important, when the lawsuit also included other details about Murray’s address, phone number, and apartment, Sulkin responded, “What does he have left? That this accuser knows his phone number? Would you say that if someone knows your phone number from 20 years ago, would you agree that you committed [a sex crime] with that person?”

It’s clear that Murray’s camp feels emboldened by yesterday’s announcement. The question that remains is whether they should have made it. The mayor has a reputation for being thin-skinned and taking things personally, and the impulse to fight back by submitting himself to a genital examination—and then subjecting the rest of the city to the results—is certainly in keeping with his tendency to choose fight over flight. This can be admirable when it comes to matters of principle—when fighting a decades-long battle for marriage equality, say, as Murray did in the legislature—but becomes more questionable when the result is that hundreds of thousands of voters are thinking about your junk, rather than your accomplishments.

The filing deadline for the mayoral race is May 15. So far, apart from poet and Black Lives Matter activist Nikkita Oliver, no high-profile or viable challenger has emerged to take Murray on. The mayor’s campaign has reported no contributions since the allegations emerged last week.