Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

Jim Boldt on homelessness in Washington: Homeless McCleary?

Jim Boldt, President of Duckabush Communications/Public Affairs, wrote the following commentary on the state’s role in providing funding to address homelessness. 

One More Time:

The week that the Seattle City Council was churning over how large to make their employee head tax, a tax on workers in the Seattle area, we mentioned here the obscure, seldom-taken-serious proposition that Seattle’s homeless debacle will become a state issue, and legislators will be looking down the barrel of an unending appropriation path not unlike the McCleary situation. Well, get ready.

A Sleeping Giant:

Thousands of Seattle citizens rose up and signed a petition to place repeal of the head tax on the fall ballot. The city council (perhaps illegally) quickly repealed the head tax and told us, “We heard you.”  Why didn’t they hear us the week before adoption of the idea when members of the Homeless Industrial Complex were whispering in their ear, “More money, more money, more money.”

If only more money would help the unruly homeless situation they call a crisis. (Is everything a crisis these days?) This matrix of the homeless social phenomenon is like K-12 funding; there is never enough money as per the advocates most of whom work in the Complex, a major public employee union lies under every rock, and those who actually need help are least likely to speak-up or can’t vote (students).

We never thought we would see it, but at least on this issue a sleeping giant rose up and said, “Enough.” Amazon did not cause this petition and repeal. The last few years saw one bankrupt city council program after another waste money and miss the intended mark; homelessness, street cars, sidewalks cluttered with unused bikes, DOJ investigations into police policy with a parade of chiefs like free agency week, and Magnolia bridge fumbling, just to mention a few.

“There’s blood in the streets.”

Really? Expect The State To Solve This City issue?

Hide your valuables and lock the liquor cabinet, here they come. Right, wrong or otherwise, when Seattle city government fails to handle a problem it becomes a county issue too, and when that fails they spend their time convincing the rest of us that it is a regional (ok) or state-wide issue (no). Oh, there’s precedent for this and it fits with the M.O. of failing progressive policy boards that tax people, create crazy unworkable/untested programs, and watch social issues go unsolved. Pick a state: California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Washington D.C.

The Washington State Budget already includes money for homeless programs, lots of them. The State Department of Commerce seems to catch most of the money. Ironic, or maybe sad that the “commerce” operation, does the homeless work. Is homelessness a commercial venture? So here are the two state level councils and a little about their most recent meeting of April 2018. Looks like they briefed each other, gave reports, had lunch and then “discussed” more housing/homeless items.   This only differs from the January 2018 meeting in that the presenters are different, the items are similar and someone named Theresa Slusher from DSHS, not Commerce, “presented some work in recent years between DSHS’s Economic Services Administration and Commerce to reduce the number of families experiencing homelessness.” We’ve asked what “some work” means.

Washington DSHS seems to have some piece of the existing pie already. In recent years DSHS has reported on their programs; Ending Family Homelessness (EFH) pilot program. OSPI is presently tracking over 19,000 homeless students. So our state has the skeleton of agency structure to receive more money and hopefully help more people. But is it actually a state issue?

Sunday in the Seattle Times, where they opined about the ten things Seattle should learn from the head tax decapitation. The editorial board wrote, “Washington needs similar state-level leadership. That’s the only way to tackle what’s really a state crisis, exacerbated by unforgivable state shortcomings in mental-health care. An effective statewide response might also prevent Seattle’s council from causing further harm to regional prosperity with ideological attacks on job creators and the business climate that jeopardize the entire state’s economic health.”

Read it carefully. Does the editorial actually say that we should pursue a statewide response to homelessness so we can prevent/stop the Seattle City Council from causing further harm? Thus saving the “entire state’s economic health” ???  What?  We, the whole state, have to save ourselves from the Seattle City Council? Amazing.

The Times has openly and rightly disclosed that they would have had to pay the failed head tax if it were implemented. Statewide response? What does that mean? We have another picture of it, as Seattle Mayor Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine meet to regroup a “regional” approach.

By the way: I came across this in the research for this post. See this thorough explanation of local governments that buy one-way bus tickets for their homeless population. Yep, just ship them out. What if the buses are headed for Seattle?

Housing is a Human Right? Says who?

If housing is a right, like a social or human right, how would that work? You saw the signs in the TV and news reports about the meetings on the Seattle head tax.  There are people and groups who think that housing is some form of inalienable right. It must be somewhere in there with the right to “pursue” happiness, not a right to it. Anyway, the movement’s claims and opinion is well rooted in at least west coast cities. Here is the Bible on housing as a right. And why is this important? If you take a look at the legal, convention and constitutional justification (United Nations) for the claim of housing as a right, you see the building of a case for a law suit. Not as tight as McCleary, but just as expensive and socially appealing to the mass population of the metro area in Washington State.

Advocates for more taxing and spending are a litigious bunch. They have already sued claiming the head tax repeal process is in violation of the state Open Meeting Act, and Public Records Act. They will end up at the State Supreme Court sooner or later claiming the state is not meeting its obligation to provide housing for all. You know, since it’s a right. The legislature will cave in to yet another order that usurps the legislature’s separation of powers standing. Money will flow, taxes will go up, the  legislature can blame the court and we will all feel better about throwing more money at twentieth century homeless programs.

You Say, “Oh No?” It Would Not Be The First Time. 1979

Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, declares that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions….” This article was the basis for Callahan v. Carey. On December 5, 1979, the New York State Supreme Court ordered the City and State to provide shelter for homeless men in a landmark decision that cited Article XVII of the New York State Constitution. Notice the ruling was not just against the city, it also forced the state to provide shelter.

Can’t Find Housing Provisions in Washington State Constitution?

Instead, it’s here: 43.185C.220. Most of it is there. Here is our state definition of homeless person: RCW 43.185C.010  Advocates may have to cobble together some loose justifications. But remember, this pleading will go to our State Supreme Court in some fashion and our court is supported by and leaning further left every day.