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Jim Boldt on the Seattle City Council: The Problem of Ear Plugs, Small Tables and Never Looking Past Your Porch 

Last weekend Seattle was still all abuzz about a week of push backs on a socialists leader by her brothers, (Union Iron Workers) and an obligatory meeting at a little church in Ballard for city council members and part of the Homeless Industrial Complex. I spend a long weekend in Seattle (Ballard) almost every month and have felt the breeze start to change. The blind, undying sympathy for public vagrants, drug users,  public vomiting, urination and defecation is waning. Neighborhood parks full of trash, and used needles have parents up in arms. Seattle has over-stepped, out-driven their headlights. The policy crews at the City and County are down to just a few adults, and are suffering a terminal disease of reading and believing their own headlines.

As King County Executive, Dow Constantine runs around the state sampling his Gubernatorial chances, his kingdom burns. The Seattle City Council is feeling loud, organized opposition to its latest of wacky ideas to solve serious urban problems. Citizens, fresh from writing their 25% increased property tax payments to the same kingdom are on the march. It’s about time. Without some realistic focus on the tens of thousand of folks who are “homeless,”  they will never get the assistance they need.

Amazon has finally said, “enough.” The fact that Amazon had to announce a shutdown of growth planning is an indicator of how little Seattle City Council members understand urban economics, coalition building and general basic business. Thank you Amazon.

Although it is difficult to believe, there is even a credible recall effort beginning to rid the council of the member from the northwest territories, Mike O’Brien.  O’Brien, the star of the meeting last week at the Ballard church lost even more traction for his crazy taxing plan when he announced the citizens in the room would not get a chance to talk at the meeting. He actually didn’t even get a chance to finish his dictatorial meeting statement, he was shouted down. Folks are mad.

 

The Problems:

Yes, there are more and more “homeless” people on the streets of Seattle. Yes, most of the them need some form of assistance to get back on their feet. No, the City and County Council are not evaluating and working on the problem.

The City Council paid $75,000 to a consultant to get a report they ignored. In their report, Focus Strategies opined, “We believe homelessness in King County can be dramatically reduced using existing resources.” An additional $102,000 was paid to Barbara Poppe, another member of the Homeless Industrial Complex. Ms. Poppe’s report was also ignored. Poppe wrote, “Homelessness has been increasing despite increasing investment in programs. This trend is expected to continue unless a new approach is adopted.” She went on to say that the city has a  “culture block;” there is little accountability around Seattle. “I understand there are members of the city council and members of the public who are trying to maintain the status quo, non-competitive results basis for funding,” she said.

“I guess the question is whether your members of the city council could be, themselves, held accountable to awarding funds that are focused on results instead of long-standing relationships with the nonprofit sector,” Poppe said (see lawsuits below).

Each consultation, in their own way, essentially reported that it’s not a money issue in Seattle. Homelessness explosion is a policy and management problem.

If not their originally valued consultants, just who is the City Council listening to when they ignore their own laws and regulations (camping in parks)? Who whispers in their ears that employers will have no objection to $500 a year head tax raising $75 million more to throw away? In the meantime the “homeless” populations increase.

 

The Citizens Are Restless: Speak Out Seattle

 It was a small jazz venue in Ballard. It’s a place where they usually tolerate giving up their tax paid-for streets to non-paying bicycles.  The before-show chatter is usually oriented toward music, performers and Trump-bashing. Not Saturday night. I sat at a table with two woman, one an architect, the other a labor leader. After introducing myself I over heard some people at the next table talking about the council member Mike O’Brien shouting match the Wednesday before. So I asked my seatmates if they had heard about it. It is a good thing we only had ten minutes before the show started. This could have gone on all night.

The two admitted they were at the church, that they had had enough, they were all in on the O’Brien recall and directed me to Speak Out Seattle.com (SOS). When a professional and a union leader join forces, watch out.  Speak Out Seattle is impressive. I was told and later read that the group is founded on evidence based solutions. That’s the opposite of what the City council does, remember? They pay for, receive and ignore reports from “experts” and then tax more and spend more.

Speak Out Seattle is growing. Even though Crosscut and Publicola continue to publish the party line, groups like Speak Out Seattle are thriving and should receive more coverage and respect. SOS has a simple goal, it’s on their website of course, “We believe that we need to be at the same table with the same data.” How refreshing, data-driven program development.

SOS encourages its members or participants too, well, speak out. The group sponsors events that are not controlled by the one way protocol of City Council forums. They encourage and assist members to contact elected officials, including legislators. They provide resources, yes real data.

 

Wednesday, D-Day for Durkan: Or Yet Another Postponement

Rumors are swirling that The Finance and Neighborhoods Committee meeting will either be canceled or the agenda item of the head tax will be postponed. As of Tuesday morning, The Finance and Neighborhoods Regular Committee 2 pm meeting scheduled for May 9, 2018 has been canceled. A Special Finance and Neighborhoods Committee Meeting has been scheduled for May 9, 2018 at 9:30 am that will have a planned recess at 11:30 am, and reconvene at 2:00 pm to continue discussion on remaining agenda items, according to the committee website. The committee will take up the tax, and then a resolution to spend the money, a budget, kind-of. Five of the nine city oracles claim they are still liking the supposed progressive tax.

Oh, and Bernie Sanders has weighed in. Writing on Twitter, Sanders claimed, “This is what corporate power and oligarchy is all about.”

They should all stop. They should not put Mayor Durkan in a veto/no veto position. Once they move the tax along, it becomes a confrontational environment. “You win or I win.” That’s not good for Seattle. There needs to be a summit of new faces, caring faces who want to maximize the hundreds of millions we spend ever year. Centralized planning and execution has been a call for a few years now…and nothing but the same old same old comes out of the policy grinder.

 

Why Should State Legislators and Washington Citizens Care About Seattle?

Part II of this little series is going to explore Seattle’s “Homeless Industrial Complex.” Where does all the money go, what do they do with it, what does it really fund? How much? In 2017 city and county expenditures (with some federal dollars) were at $200,000,000.00, and that’s only the government money. This does not count private, or private non-profit groups like Union Gospel Mission and others.   Yes, that’s $200 million dollars, going somewhere. What kind of a political/economic coalition forms around that much money? What is their impact on policy? What does or could this mean on a state-wide basis? Are we facing a Homeless McCleary? If the legislature of Washington caves in to the courts like they have with McCleary and recently relinquishing policy formation over the use-of-deadly-force issue (when they knew better), we could face a Homeless McCleary case. This case will be brought by a person or persons, backed by the Homeless Industrial Complex.

There are already a few similar cases working their way through the public coffers. In Orange County California, The Legal Aid Society of Orange County filed a federal lawsuit  in February against the County of Orange on behalf of seven homeless individuals with disabilities, who lawyers say have not been able to access the county’s housing and case management programs. In 2015 a case was filed in the City of Fullerton, and in 2017 two homeless men were awarded money. But more importantly the settlement with the city included provisions aimed at helping other homeless people, including a $1 million commitment toward housing for people with extremely low incomes, installation of portable toilets at the transit center and zoning rules that could enable homeless shelters to be built in more locations around the city.

It is time to “Speak Out Seattle.”  There is unrest in the northwest territories, and it’s growing. Seattle’s own consultant wrote: “Homelessness can truly become rare, brief, and one-time.”

Not with this batch of council members.