The Great Enablers

January 12, 2017

Quick: What do you call a Detox Center, without the “De-” part? You’d call it a Tox Center, of course. And that’s just what it would be: a place where addicts could keep poisoning their bodies, free from the medical intervention that is a hospital’s reason for being. And yet the harm reduction crowd see Tox Centers as a good thing. Let addicts keep poisoning themselves if they want to, they say . . . ‘cuz withdrawal hurts.

Click for New York Times Editorial

Local officials are pushing for drug consumption sites in Seattle and King County. But we know it won’t stop there, any more than sanctioned tent camps stopped with sanctioned tent camps. You’ll notice we often talk about those two things – tent camps and drug addiction – in tandem, and there’s a reason for that. Sanctioned drugging and camping are part of the same long-term plan to normalize self- and socially destructive behavior.

The next thing the drug site advocates will want is for addicts to be allowed to use inside hospitals, just as the NYT writer is calling for. From there it leads quite logically to the taxpayers being asked to buy the heroin and needles and to pay for nurses to administer the drug to users, to “reduce the harm” of using street drugs. To get the rest of us to go along, the drug site advocates will claim that subsidizing heroin would cut down on crime. And they’d be right! Yes. In a city where police have been ordered not to hassle addicts or make a strong response to drug-related property crime, government-supplied opioids would look like a great thing. The pharmaceutical companies would be on board with it too, of course. Do you ever get the feeling we’re living in a George Orwell novel?

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Harm is Harm Reduction

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Ballard Bridge Status: 1/10/2017

The Ballard Bridge spans Salmon Bay to connect Seattle’s historic Ballard neighborhood with points south. The bridge and surrounding environs have been a long-term site of homeless camps at both ends. These camps, particularly the one on the north end, have been the cause of much strife between local residents and Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien who represents the Ballard area. O’Brien has taken a hands-off approach to the camps, and this has filtered down to Seattle police, who have repeatedly told residents that there’s nothing they can do, that their “hands are tied.” In recent months, Ballard residents have taken to social media with their complaints, using the Safe Seattle Facebook page* to post dozens of still shots, videos, and personal stories illustrating the danger the bridge situation poses to the community. The posts are then shared around on the Internet – along with CM O’Brien’s contact information.

Click for Google Map View

The social media blitz seems to be paying off, but there’s still a long way to go. In the past week, the north end of the bridge and vicinity has been subject to a major clean-up effort, but there is a challenge, because often, as soon as crews move homeless campers out of one area, they will resettle in the closest available space. This is the result of the fact that, while City officials are required to offer various kinds of services (including, naturally, shelter) to homeless campers, the campers are not required to accept them. Meanwhile, there’s no sanction if the campers don’t accept them. Their tents and possessions can be removed after sufficient notice has been given, but they cannot be arrested for vagrancy, littering, public intoxication, and so forth, because CM O’Brien, with support from the ACLU, has determined that camping in public is a Constitutional right – if campers have nowhere else to go. Or even if they simply don’t want to go anywhere else.

A Safe Seattle reader who wants to stay anonymous sent the following photos yesterday, along with the attached descriptions of what has been happening at the bridge lately. You can click to enlarge any of the photos. –David Preston

Above: Two SPD community police team officers in vehicle, monitoring clean-up of encampment at 49th and 14th NW, around 1 pm, Tuesday, Jan 10. This is after two large pick-up loads of material had been removed and several large shelters dismantled. Many bikes, parts, etc. Two workers were helping inhabitants move material.

Some of the inhabitants were moving material around the corner and re-settling under the Ballard Bridge, just above Leary Way. This area was fully cleaned last week, by numerous clean-up workers and SPD (At what cost? Is anyone tracking site-specific budgets and neighborhood impacts?) It was resettled within less than 24 hours and is seeing additional activity today.

At 1 pm, Tuesday, January 10, SDOT crews were hard at work cleaning the area under the south side of the bridge at Leary Way, where a large encampment fire happened last month. This is the second day crews were at work there, as well as previous clean-up stints immediately after the fire. When I thanked him as I passed by, one of the SDOT crew cheerfully told me it’s great work, except when the weather’s really cold. His face was completely black with wet soot/mud from power-washing, and he was smiling. Impressive. The portable toilet is a fairly new appearance. There is also a new one on the sidewalk in front of Stone Way Hardware. (Thank you, Mike O’Brien?!)

This is the area one block south under the Ballard Bridge at NW 46th St and 15th Ave NW, right by Trader Joe’s and LA Fitness. Note the mom with baby in stroller passing underneath. It is a route needed by pedestrians for reaching neighborhood amenities, with heavy vehicle traffic passing under the bridge, as well. The pile of gleaming trash bags just to the left of the stroller were freshly unloaded by men who appeared to have just left the encampment being cleared at 14th and 49th. I jogged back and told the CPT police team there that the sidewalk was again being impeded on both sides of this route. This area was fully cleared just a week ago but is already becoming impassable. This is the same intersection where a woman’s body was found dumped in a shopping cart in November 2015. Drug use/dealing and crime are a big problem still, with little enforcement.

*Disclosure: The Blog Quixotic regularly collaborates with Safe Seattle on stories relating to homelessness and public safety.

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Squatters | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Hidden Persuaders

Dedicated to Larry Kaminsky

December 27, 2016

Even as Seattle voters enact a flurry of laws designed to “get money out of politics,” the insinuation of paid political advocates into local government continues apace. This article looks at how that works with one politician: Mike O’Brien. But what goes for O’Brien goes for many others. The piece is part of a series on how advocates use – and get used by – politicians in the Emerald City.

The Crusader

In May 2015, Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien and dozens of other “kayaktivists” paddled their armada across Elliott Bay to do battle with an oil rig they didn’t want hanging around their city, even for repairs. The kayaktivists won the day: the oil rig skulked back out of the harbor, and O’Brien had another jewel in his crown of largely symbolic actions against the global menace of fossil fuel. Meanwhile, in O’Brien’s backyard, there was rising a two-headed monster that makes an oil rig look like a wind-up Godzilla toy. That monster is homelessness and addiction. But instead of confronting the beast head-on, as he did with the oil rig, O’Brien is trying to appease it.

Slaying dragons: Seattle District 6 Councilmember Mike O’Brien gets ready for the Paddle in Seattle. Photo: KUOW

In mid-October, O’Brien, after consulting with the ACLU, introduced an ordinance that would have allowed homeless people to camp in parks and public spaces indefinitely. Dubbed “pitch-a-tent” by critics, the bill failed to gain the Council’s approval. However, it has since been implemented de facto in O’Brien’s District 6, where hundreds of squatters – some of them surly, many of them actively psychotic – live under bridges, in parks, and along sidewalks, unmolested by the police. When residents contact SPD with complaints, the response they hear is: We’re sorry but our hands are tied [by CM O’Brien and the ACLU].

Top photo shows a man who has been living under the Ballard Bridge and may have been involved in a fire there. Police reports have been filed on the man for threatening passersby. Bottom shows trash from people living under the Magnolia Bridge a mile to the south. [Photos: David Preston / City of Seattle]

The rate of opioid addiction among the homeless has been rising in Seattle and nationally, and authorities have been studying how to deal with the attendant rise in overdoses. In September, a city-county task force recommended creating a series of “safe injection sites” around the city that would allow heroin users to consume drugs under medical supervision and without fear of arrest. Although the proposal has been highly controversial, O’Brien quickly came out in favor.

O’Brien has broad support in the district for his environmental activism. And he knows it. However, he might have sensed that people were not up to speed with him on his social policy proposals. He held two community meetings over the summer – called “Safe and Healthy Communities” forums – apparently to persuade his constituents to get on board with him. Property crime was supposed to be one of the headline issues, but, as it turned out, the meetings were largely devoted to homelessness and addiction. People who attended told me that crime was downplayed, and, to the extent it was even mentioned, people were discouraged from associating the increasing crime rate with homeless people or drug addicts. This story is about how Councilmember O’Brien set these meetings up such that they would either give him the mandate he wanted for his radical policies or, failing that, would give him the cover he needed to plausibly claim that his constituents were behind him.

A Bright and Shining Lie

On his blog last summer, O’Brien posted a piece entitled “Do No Harm and Do the Most Good” wherein he outlines his view that homelessness and addiction are social problems rather than crimes. That view has some merit, but people who espouse it often make optimistic assumptions about homeless and drug addicted people. For example, they hold that addicts are self-directed and will decide to get clean if only they can only get into stable housing. (What evidence is there for that theory? I haven’t seen any.) The Do No Harm school also seems to hold that the problems attendant on homelessness (property damage, trash) don’t constitute harm of a kind that needs to be factored into the calculus. Instead of pushing for more law enforcement or drug courts to deal with addiction, O’Brien wants safe injection sites and catch-and-release type diversions; instead of compelling people on the street to get into a shelter or get psychiatric help, O’Brien thinks they should be allowed to live indefinitely in public spaces, or to live out of their cars, getting treatment and other help only if and when they choose to.

In his post, O’Brien recaps the first of his two Safe and Healthy Community meetings, characterizing the response as positive:

On July 27, in what felt like one of our warmest evenings of the summer, I joined almost 200 neighbors and community members in Ballard to have a conversation about the issues I’ve been hearing most about in recent months – homelessness, property crime, and drug addiction. The Safe and Healthy Communities Public Forum was an opportunity for community to come together to give feedback on solutions to these challenges from a public health and public safety perspective.

He goes on to discuss how he “framed the discussion” :

Before breaking up into small group table discussions, the event kicked off with Assistant Chief Steve Wilske from the Seattle Police Department, Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness, and Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association. These speakers helped us to frame the discussion and challenged us to find solutions that would “do no harm”, as Lisa Daugaard stated, and “do the most good,” as Alison Eisinger described.

It so happens that two of the three discussion framers, Alison Eisinger and Lisa Daugaard, are closely associated with the “solutions” that O’Brien said the community members endorsed. Daugaard created an experimental program called LEAD (Law Enforcement Assistance and Diversion) that offers heroin and crack users a shield from arrest while they make up their mind about whether they want to get treatment. Eisinger is the director of a group that has been advocating an end to the removal of illegal encampments from city parks and other public spaces.

There were other discussion framers present at the meeting. I’ll get to them in a bit.

Alison Eisinger leads the Seattle-King Co. Coalition on Homelessness, an advocacy group that pushes for relaxed law enforcement and more government spending on tent camps. She helps CM Mike O’Brien “frame the discussion” on homelessness. Photo: Andrew Haskell/THE FALCON [Click to enlarge]

To read O’Brien’s blog, one would think that the people of D6 were all of a like mind with him:

The vast majority of comments that I heard from the tables underscores a basic truth: everyone needs support at different moments of their life – and that support happens through different methods, including family, friends, faith-based organizations, and government and community resources. Many people suggested that providing that support, and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, will actually increase the health and safety of all of our communities.

However, when I talked to someone who was there, a woman I’ll call Shirley, I got a very different impression of how the meeting came off:

I know many people who attended [the July meeting] and were very disappointed by the approach. The outcomes were assumed from the start and they were very tightly managed to assure it. Mike states as his mission online that he wants to bring “open and collaborative, value-driven leadership” to the city council level and throughout the city. His sense of these terms is different from many of his constituents, I guess.

Shirley told me that O’Brien was glossing over the impact of his policies, that crime and street people had increased in the district, in spite of his assurances that they wouldn’t:

It felt very disingenuous to have speakers solely focused on crime and homelessness when less than a year prior [O’Brien] was insisting that bringing additional homeless services to the neighborhood wouldn’t cause any issues with crime. “Can’t equate crime with poverty” … “don’t’ criminalize homelessness” … lots of other language like that when the urban rest stop and tent camp were being planned/implemented in Ballard, but never a mention of the opiate epidemic or percentage of homeless with severe substance abuse and/or mental illness and the impacts that brings to a community, especially without proper community policing or social service resources.

Attendees were discouraged from challenging O’Brien’s worldview, Shirley said. People who had concerns about his direction or wanted to offer alternative suggestions were characterized as NIMBYs:

Ballard has always been a live and let live kind of place, so it was bizarre to see my neighborhood skewered as anti-homeless — he really polarized any productive questions, squelching any pragmatic dialogue. People weren’t scared of or trying to prevent solutions for our local homeless; many were worried about things like the Belltown/Jungle/U-district crowd moving here and that’s exactly what happened.

Lisa Daugaard created an experimental “diversion” program to keep drug users on the streets while they decide if they want treatment. Photo: Crosscut

O’Brien held his second Safe and Health Communities forum on September 29. A man whom I’ll call Larry went to that meeting and told me about an interesting thing that happened. As the meeting was getting started, O’Brien’s aides handed out what were supposed to be discussion guides, but then they abruptly stopped, said there’d been a mistake, and asked people to give them back. Larry tucked his into a folder and kept it, and when he read it at home that night, he understood why it wasn’t meant for public consumption. The document was a step-by-step guide on how the facilitators were supposed to deflect dissonant comments, rephrase people’s ideas, and generally guide the discussion into channels that Councilmember O’Brien approved of.

Read the Facilitator’s Guide here

On pages 3 to 5 of the Guide, facilitators are instructed to remind people that any solutions they propose to public safety issues in District 6 must conform to the “Do No Harm” principle. Considerations of obeying/enforcing the law are not to be entertained:

If that doesn’t do the trick, there are specific things they can do to control the discussion:

*If the conversation immediately goes towards arresting people or criminalizing homeless people, simply acknowledge the answer, say okay, and reframe “If we were to apply the ‘reflection toolkit’ to that solution, what would those results actually look like?” [ . . . ]

*If the proposed encampment removal process dominates the conversation, remember to refer to the information included in the Homeless Encampments Legislation, and attempt to reframe and ask if there are other solutions or ideas people wish to discuss.

If the reframing fails catastrophically, ask ’em to step outside:

*If there is an individual or multiple people who are problematically dominating the conversation, please grab Jesse [Perrin’s] attention and he will help address the situation by offering to speak to the person outside.

Note O’Brien’s objection to community members dominating the conversation. (!)

On page 5 of the Guide we find this:

So it would seem that the concept of individual responsibility, which is the basis of our democratic tradition, is now a “challenging world view.”

The Facilitator’s Guide has two pages’ worth of examples of how the facilitators can counter various “myths” about homelessness. Here’s a typical exercise:

Click to enlarge

The claim that homeless people as a class are less likely to perpetrate violent crime might be true. However, that comes as small comfort to District 6 residents who live near the north end of Ballard Bridge, where homeless drug addicts, untreated psychotics, and plain old thugs have carved out a permanent squatter’s camp. (See a video I produced on that situation here.) It will also be cold comfort to anyone worried about sex offenders living under the Magnolia Bridge, which is also in O’Brien’s turf. See that story here.

Here’s another reframing how-to:

Click to enlarge

O’Brien claims that up to 90% of homeless people in King County are from King County. No one can check the accuracy of that figure, of course, because the All Home source O’Brien uses doesn’t make the underlying data public. Depending on how one defines “homeless” this claim could be true; however, even if it is true, one can see how the figure could easily be used to mislead people or squelch their comments. Are 90% of the homeless people in Ballard from Ballard? Are 90% of the people living in the local park from the neighborhood where they’re living? –Doubtful. So why is it even relevant for O’Brien to say that 90% of the total homeless population in the region are from the region? It’s not. But that’s how O’Brien’s kind of persuasion works: an ounce of evidence and a pound of conclusion.

Perhaps the handiest tool in O’Brien’s No Harm toolkit is this term “reframe.” In the common understanding of that word, to reframe an idea means to modify it slightly or add context in a way that adds explanatory value and helps the parties come to an honest agreement. But O’Brien isn’t telling facilitators to reframe things that way. He’s telling them to contradict and nullify people’s views. To make them feel ignorant, or just plain wrong. He’s also explaining to the facilitators how they can reprogram people, how to take the wrong ideas out of their heads and replace them with his right ones.

I asked Larry about his sense of the September 29 meeting and got an answer almost identical to what Shirley told me about the July meeting: Outcomes were assumed,  problems were downplayed, people were managed.

Some animals are more equal

After seeing a copy of Facilitator’s Guide, I filed a public disclosure request (PDR) to see else what I could find out about how the Safe and Healthy Communities meeting had been managed. In the PDR response package were dozens of e-mails between O’Brien staffer Jesse Perrin and paid policy advocate groups, who had been sent special invitations to the meeting at O’Brien’s request. (Here is a copy of the invitation.) Bear in mind that most of the people on the TO list don’t even live in O’Brien’s district. If they do live there, it’s a coincidence, because O’Brien is inviting them not for their connection to his district but to his policies. In a word: they’re cheerleaders. And they have every reason to be, since the programs they’re connected with are funded and otherwise supported by the City, with help from Mike O’Brien.

Perrin doesn’t want the advocates to be wallflowers, either. He wants them to turn out other people [read: their members] as well . . . to “ensure our community conversations are productive and meaningful.” [editor’s emphasis]

Click to enlarge

At the top of one e-mail chain is an exchange between another of O’Brien’s aides, Susie Levy, and a woman named Kelly Rider.

Click to enlarge

Rider is the “Government Relations and Policy Director” for a Seattle non-profit advocacy group called the Housing Development Consortium. In other words, she’s a lobbyist. And Ms. Levy is laying it on the line for Rider here: The more [District 6] advocates in the room, the better. –But of course, the part about D6 is a misnomer. Rider’s office isn’t located in O’Brien’s district; it’s in downtown Seattle, and presumably the membership is spread out all over King County. There’s nothing in the e-mail about people needing to live in O’Brien’s district in order to attend, so if Rider or anyone else from her group who showed up actually lived in the district, that would have been coincidental.

O’Brien could have sent out an e-mail announcing the September 29 meeting through his constituent mailing list, of course. He could have sent a special invite to bona fide community groups, like PTSAs, Block Watch, or the Chamber of Commerce. But he didn’t. Instead, the meeting was announced, sotto voce, on a handful of social media and news sites. Of the attendees I talked to, none had gotten a special invite by O’Brien. They heard about the meeting either through social media or through word of mouth.

A few of the advocates on the invite list I recognized, having seen them around at various public meetings. They are mostly funded either by government and/or by private foundations. These foundations have a social engineering objective, which means that they are dedicated to changing people’s behavior, either through moral suasion or legislation.

The black arrow shows Mike O’Brien’s northwest Seattle district. O’Brien’s staff sent out invitations to dozens of advocates who supported his policies but had no organic connection to the district. Image:

For a partial list of invitees and their affiliations, go here.

Some of the advocates invited to the September 29 meeting were asked to be facilitators as well. Below is a draft list of those:

Note: MOB = Mike O’Brien staffer

Note that there is not one facilitator representing small business or other neighborhood groups. With the lone exception of Jen Muzia of the Ballard Food Bank, all the facilitators who don’t work directly for O’Brien are connected with one or more of his controversial policies (law enforcement diversion, sanctioned homeless encampments, homeless camping in parks), which you can quickly verify by doing a Google search on their organizations.

The Unpersuaded

Not all the special invitees responded to the invitation, which is a good thing, because if every group that had got an invitation had sent out a handful of members, as Mr. Perrin asked, there wouldn’t have been any room for actual community members. Still, enough advocates showed up to give the meeting a packed feeling. One attendee, whom I’ll call Andrea, put it this way:

My husband and I attended this as our first District Council Meeting. We arrived early and there were a bunch of tables set up. Lots of people who seemed to be setting up and working, but not a lot of neighbors. As the time to start neared, more people sat down. We identified our names and where we lived generally by cross streets, e.g., NW Market and 24th, and discussed briefly how the neighborhood had changed so dramatically over the past year. One female neighbor living on Market had been assaulted on her way to the bus that very morning. Everyone was very friendly and familiar with the neighborhood and our particular issues.

I’m quoting Andrea at length because her comments describe how the advocates controlled the meeting:

We sat down at an empty table, then saw some boards over to the side where neighbors could leave comments on various issues with Post-its. I did a bunch, probably a dozen stating No to Safe Injection Sites, No to public camping, Yes to rehab/social service outreach, and several other Post-its about needing more law enforcement in the area and clean up of our parks.

There was a brief intro by Mike O’Brien during which various “table leaders” were sent to be discussion guides. I immediately recognized Jesse Perrin from Mike O’Brien’s office from his picture on the website. We were handed out discussion guides, but none of the points listed for discussion really addressed neighborhood concerns. Even the law enforcement did not address my concern about the need for more police officers. Most of it focused on public toilets, housing, etc. Nothing about neighborhood crime or safety.

O’Brien stated that we were an affluent city and not doing enough to help the homeless. He stated this meeting was to hear from those in the community, so he would just pop around and listen in on conversations. Each table had a topic. During his intro, we had two more additions to our table, one an older woman. The other was a nicely dressed female in her mid-30s who cited laws and decisions, studies, etc.

When the group discussions began on safety issues, homelessness, and supervised injection sites, the two latest additions to our table started interrupting people and talking over them., repeatedly telling us we were “not informed.” Jesse did not stop them, but when someone interrupted one of them, he would say, “Let her speak now.” It became clear very soon after that all three were basically there to tell us why our thoughts were wrong. I looked up younger woman who had a name tag using my smart phone. Ann LoGerfo, it turned out, was an attorney from Columbia Legal Services. The older woman made it clear she lived in Ballard and had been a homeless volunteer and advocate for years. When Ms. LoGerfo advised the group that it was not illegal to set up camp anywhere because of a DOJ decision, I then asked Ms. LoGerfo if she lived in District 6. She said no, but stated she was from the Pioneer Square area and had a right to be there. She did not add that she was with Columbia Legal. I responded that I thought this was a meeting for District 6 neighbors to discuss their concerns.

Jesse didn’t know any areas neighbors discussed, so I asked him if he lived in District 6. He admitted that he did not. The other lady said she was from Ballard and was very angry with me for asking this of people. Everyone else had already mentioned that they were from the neighborhood. When I advised the table that LoGerfo was with the attorneys who had drafted the LEAD ordinance, they were upset, and Jesse really couldn’t do much about that except to insist that she had a right to speak.

Ann LoGerfo is a registered lobbyist and a champion of a “catch and release” diversion program for drug users. She does not live in District 6 but attended the meeting by invitation and spoke as a member of the community. Photo: Columbia Legal Services

Andrea continued:

When the tables broke up, no one really moved around much. I tried to join one other table, but it was full. We then went to a table on Law Enforcement and joined in an active communication. There were two males there. I’m pretty certain one was Yurij Rudensky from Columbia Legal Services and the other may have been from the ACLU. When I suggested more police officers were needed to make first contact and direct homeless people to services they needed, he interrupted me and said it wouldn’t make a difference if there were a thousand more officers. He interrupted two other people within the next few minutes, and my husband and I decided to leave. We were super upset, disgusted, and frustrated.

If O’Brien posts a summary of the second meeting on his blog, he should post the comment cards that actual community members filled out. Including the one below, in which the writer states that he’s not happy with the plan and suggests a different approach. In fact, most comment card writers expressed some level of disapproval for O’Brien’s policies:

Safe [drug] consumption sites. Wait. Create treatment beds and outpatient treatment facilities before you experiment with society. Make housing available for people in early stages of recovery, separate from users.

After I looked through all the PDR materials, I got back to O’Brien’s aide Jesse Perrin and asked him why he had invited so many advocates to a so-called community meeting. Here’s what he said:

The invites included in the attachments to your email were aimed at increasing outreach. With some experience in community organizing, the way to do turn out effectively is to delegate outreach by engaging with people who have community relationships.

He went on to explain that some of the people he’d invited were trained facilitators. And that was true: there were a couple people on his list who had facilitator experience. That was maybe two . . . out of two dozen. I asked Perrin specifically about a man named Josh Castle, who was asked to facilitate at the September 29th meeting. Castle is an employee of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which operates four sanctioned homeless encampments in Seattle, two of which are in District 6. (Castle’s boss at LIHI, Sharon Lee, is a registered lobbyist. You can see a story another TBQ article on Lee here.)

LIHI is a multi-million dollar enterprise and is already well represented at City Hall. A typical month’s sign-in log shows several meetings between LIHI representatives and councilmembers. (This sheet shows different LIHI people meeting with different CMs twice in a single day.) So why was LIHI tapped to provide a facilitator for the September meeting? According to Perrin, there’s a perfectly logical explanation:

For the LIHI question, [Perrin told me] yes LIHI does participate in advocacy and has been provided contracts for managing the City’s sanctioned encampments. Josh Castle is an employee with LIHI. He also lives in the Greenwood neighborhood, which qualifies him as a community member and District 6 resident. In addition, my facilitator request to him was also based on previous times I worked with him when he facilitated conversations and meetings. Also part of his role at LIHI is doing work in Ballard at the City-sanctioned encampment, the Urban Rest Stop, and with local businesses and neighbors.

Somehow I don’t find any of that reassuring.

What about Mr. Perrin himself? He was the emcee at the September meeting. How would he help community members frame their discussion? A glance at his Facebook page should give us an idea . . .

Click to enlarge

“Disarm cops. Arm feminists.” Is that a satiric message? I don’t know about the arming feminists part, but it’s a fair bet that Perrin really means the part about disarming cops. Let’s put that statement in the context of Andrea’s comments about wanting more police:

When I suggested more police officers were needed to make first contact and direct homeless people to services they needed [the advocate] interrupted me and said it wouldn’t make a difference if there were a thousand more officers.

Below we see Perrin with a message supporting safe consumption sites, which is another name for for safe injection sites. Or drug-taking sites, depending on how you want to spin it:

Judging by the comment cards and the feedback I got from people who had been at the meeting, most District 6 residents are not in favor of drug-taking sites. But Perrin and O’Brien clearly are. And that’s what matters

Here’s Perrin again, disparagingly his homeland (“the dirty South”) and telling his readers that it’s time to “challenge capitalism.” I’m sure the Ballard Chamber of Commerce would be interested to hear more about that. Perhaps another “community meeting” should be arranged so local businesses could learn how they might “do no harm.”

Here’s an excerpt from a resume that Perrin provided to the Capitol Hill Blog when he was running for a community council seat there in June 2015:

Jesse is Southern-born and raised and recent transplant to Seattle. Jesse has extensive experience in community organizing and movement building to eradicate inequities facing multi-communities. Soon, he will be graduating with a Masters in Policy and Administration from the School of Social Work with recent experience working in the Seattle Mayor’s policy shop.

It would be fair, I think, to characterize Perrin as a social justice warrior. Or an ideologue at the least. While there is nothing wrong with taking a stand on issues, one needs to step back from ideology if one is organizing a community discussion that seeks to gather and evaluate feedback from a variety of perspectives. Did Mr. Perrin check his ideology at the door here? Did he create a space in which District 6 constituents of all persuasions would feel free to express their opinions, regardless of whether they gibed with his and O’Brien’s? What do you think?

Who are the Persuaders?

The advocates O’Brien invited to his meetings span the spectrum from eccentric social justice types whose groups consist of little more than a Facebook page to PR smoothies who work for multi-million dollar enterprises. Their influence in Seattle politics can be gauged by two factors: (1) the current ideological climate and (2) the amount of business they do with the city. Of these, the second is by more important, but for now let’s get down to cases and look at some of the people who were asked to either speak or facilitate at one of O’Brien’s meetings: Alison Eisinger, Lisa Daugaard, and Josh Castle.

Alison Eisinger heads a group called the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness. Though you’d think this is a large outfit (it’s a coalition, right?) it’s actually a storefront with Eisinger and two other PR-type people who do little beyond getting themselves on task forces and speaking at government hearings. The group does not evaluate different approaches to homelessness or offer any evidence-based research of its own, nor does it find people housing. You can think of it as an echo chamber that reflects back to O’Brien and other elected officials what they say in public and wish to hear confirmed by people with professional sounding titles. And Eisinger provides. If the City Council is currently liking shelter programs, Eisinger’s right there with her flip chart, touting shelter programs on the public hearing circuit. If they’re liking tent camps instead, she can talk those up as well. Given this, one can easily see how Eisinger fits into O’Brien’s plans for District 6.

Lisa Daugaard created an innovative program to cut recidivism (i.e., trips to jail) for certain classes of non-violent drug offenders. The LEAD program allows cops to gently steer drug addicts toward services and treatment programs rather than jail on the theory that the addicts will be more likely to get with the program (and get off drugs) when they’re not being hassled by cops and judges. LEAD is not the same thing as O’Brien’s “safe injection sites,” but the concepts dovetail nicely, along with camping in parks, under the “do no harm” umbrella. Daugaard is a sincere and intelligent person, but her program is being oversold in Seattle and, increasingly, across the country. Her role is more principled than Eisenger’s, certainly. But in a sense she, too, is just telling O’Brien what he already believes. And what he wants his constituents to believe as well.

Josh Castle works for LIHI in a public relations capacity. He might have been at the meeting as a persuader, or he might have been there to snoop around and get a sense of what neighbors were saying about his tent camps. Although Castle’s public profile is the lowest of the three people in this group, his influence on City policy – or rather LIHI’s influence – dwarfs that of the others, because it derives not from public presentations but rather from the billions of dollars (yes, billions) in real estate that is controlled by the group and its allies, and by its structural influence at all levels of government. LIHI was co-founded by Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, who still controls the group indirectly, along with a handful of other behind-the-scenes actors.* LIHI has close a association with billionaire Paul Allen. If you look at City Council sign-in sheets, you’ll see regular visits from people like Pearl Leung, who represents both LIHI and Allen’s Vulcan development company in their dealings with the City. And these are just the visits we know about:

Click to see the whole sign-in sheet

Digging Deeper

Allen controls so much Seattle property that the city could be called Allentown. He’s behind the massive South Lake Union redevelopment, for example, and owns several newer landmark buildings around downtown, with more being built all the time. And these shiny megaliths are being erected even as public housing units in the area are being torn down and redeveloped as condos by . . . guess who. Meanwhile, in Ballard, residents are being told by CM O’Brien to suck it up while “sanctioned” tent camps are put up in their neighborhoods – on city property and at taxpayer expense – by Vulcan’s non-profit LIHI partner.

If O’Brien wants to keep his job, he needs to do as much as he can for Allen and other big shots, while keeping the public from looking too closely at what they’re doing. And that’s where the hidden persuasion comes in again. If O’Brien can convince his constituents and the media that there’s a permanent crisis of homelessness and addiction – or at least give the appearance of convincing them – he will not just create a useful distraction from what Allen and the others are doing but will also create new opportunities for them to profit, by placing large chunks of public land and money under their control.

Josh Castle works for a non-profit housing group runs tent camps and does deals with real estate tycoons at the same time. O’Brien tapped him to help “reframe” constituents’ ideas about homelessness.

Readers can disagree with my interpretation of O’Brien’s motives. What is undeniable is that he packed a community meeting with people from outside the community. He held the meeting not to listen to what his constituents had to say, as he claimed, but to bring them around to his point of view. Or, failing that, to make it appear, at least, that the people were with him, so he could move forward with his program. In the long run, it is perhaps not so important just why O’Brien has been packing meetings as that he has been packing them. Whatever the reason, he needs to stop.

A New Birth of Freedom

Advocacy groups have a right to exist, of course. At their best, they are a legitimate expression of popular opinion, and they should be given a place at the table accordingly. But they should never be allowed to shove aside individual citizens. If anything, advocates should be seated last at the table, because of their penchant for gluttony. Here are some simple steps O’Brien and the other politicians can take to keep the influence of advocates at bay if he chooses to:

  • Equal Time: For every private meeting a councilmember (CM) has with an advocate, they should have one with an ordinary citizen or group that will argue an opposing or alternative position. This should apply to public meetings as well.
  • Full Disclosure: If a CM holds a public meeting, the participation of advocates should be publicly known and strictly limited. Advocates should be few in number and should be clearly identified as advocates at the beginning of the meeting. It should be disclosed who funds them, how much money they get, and what their objectives are. This should be carried over into any literature or blog or Facebook post sent out by the CM afterward.
  • Wall of Separation: Advocates should not be moderators or discussion facilitators, even if they do happen to live in the district. They should remove themselves during any activity designed to take the sense of the meeting. CMs should avoid hiring advocates to staff their offices, unless steps are be taken to ensure that any advocate hired can maintain their neutrality in performing the job. An aide’s first loyalty should be to district residents, not to their personal ideology or interest group.

. . . and NEVER should an advocate be allowed to shush a citizen.

As a final bit of advice for Mr. O’Brien, I offer this: If he wants to lead the people of District 6, instead of just bossing them around, maybe he should quit trying to reframe them and reframe himself instead.

By David Preston, with contributions from the Safe Seattle Research Team

*LIHI was co-founded by Scott Morrow, who also directs the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE). Morrow still controls the operations of LIHI in certain areas, particularly the management of sanctioned homeless camps around Seattle. In early 2016 one of the tent camps Morrow co-managed along with LIHI was in the news when the campers rose up against Morrow’s authoritarian rule. The camp was ultimately shut down and the rebellious campers evicted from the private property the camp was one when Morrow and LIHI boss Sharon Lee complained to the City that it had gotten out of control. Subsequently, I learned that the the state Department of Revenue had granted the property owner (a wealthy developer) an $80,000 tax break in exchange for a promise from Lee that her group would provide case management services to the homeless campers. According to campers that I talked to, LIHI never sent a single case manager to the camp in the two years plus that it was there.  When I asked Ms. Lee about this, she did not respond. In May of 2016, I contacted O’Brien’s aide Jesse Perrin and asked him to put some pressure on Lee to produce records, based on the fact that the City had ongoing contracts with Lee to provide case management service at various camps. Perrin told me that Mike O’Brien had no influence with Lee or her organization. See more on that episode here.
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C is for Vengeance: A blogger and politician team up to punish critics

December 21, 2016

Have you ever written an angry letter or e-mail to a government official? Most of us have at one time or other. God knows I have. But did you ever think, when you dropped that letter in the mailbox (or hit the SEND button) that the person you were writing it to would hand it over to someone who would use it to threaten you? Well, that’s what happened to north Seattle resident Jennifer Aspelund. On December 13, Aspelund sent this two-page e-mail to the Seattle City Council (press the PAGE DOWN button at the bottom to see second page): Continue reading

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Seattle Burnin’ Down

December 11, 2016

Last month I began collaborating with Harley Lever on his Safe Seattle Facebook page. The Blog Quixotic and Safe Seattle share many concerns about public safety, but Safe Seattle has a much wider audience and is more of a news-and-analysis outlet, whereas TBQ is more into investigative journalism. The focus is the same, but the presentation is different.

Here’s a video I made for Safe Seattle using materials that I gathered myself and some that were provided by Safe Seattle readers. I hope you enjoy it. If you live in or around Seattle and are on Facebook, please visit the page. Thanks.

–David Preston

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Audit This! ~ Bringing Seattle’s Human Services Department to heel

December 7, 2016

The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) dispenses city, state, and federal money to a hundred-odd contractors that provide various services to Seattle’s poor and homeless. HSD has regulations requiring the contractors to track and submit financial tracking data, and the level of scrutiny goes up with the amount of money involved. Contractors getting above $300,000 per year, for example, are expected to submit annual audited financial statements prepared by a CPA. One contractor, the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, or SHARE, gets well over $300,000 annually but has not been submitting audited financial statements to HSD. This is troublesome in light of SHARE’s history of questionable expenditures and accounting practices. See a long investigation of SHARE’s practices here.  HSD has made no effort to bring SHARE into compliance, and when I and other citizens asked HSD to explain why they failed at this basic task, they simply refused to answer.

Continue reading

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Kshama Town

November 25, 2016

Photos of anti-Trump protests in Chicago and Seattle tell two very different stories about political culture. The Chicago crowd (above) is large, varied, and rowdy. The placards there are hand-made, and each one bears a different message, unique to its creator. Chicago is typical of the country, as you’ll see if you read this story in the Atlantic.

Now check out the Seattle “anti-Trump” crowd (below).

The Seattle folks are much more disciplined, and you can see at a glance that most everyone is carrying a slick pre-fabricated placard. Though there are several different messages on the Seattle signs, they all come from the same source: Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party. The signs, while purporting to be about Donald Trump, racism, or whatever, are really nothing more than ads for Ms. Sawant. And that’s what the whole rally is, really. Just one big ad for Sawant.

Sawant was portrayed on local TV as the chief organizer of Seattle’s rally, which also speaks to her influence on the local scene, which is huge. Since getting on the City Council three years ago, she has pushed the Mayor and other councilmembers decidedly to the left. If local politicians dare cross her in public, she denounces them on social media, in press conferences, and even right from the Council bench!

The same people toting the Sawant signs in this picture can be counted on to turn up at public meetings to “testify” in favor of Sawant’s legislative program – just as if they were honest-to-God concerned citizens instead of party hacks. And of course, during their “testimony,” they never fail to put in a plug for Ms. Sawant and her party.

It was never like this when I was growing up in politics here, in the ’80s and ’90s. Back then we had dozens of parties and movements on the left. Now we’ve just got Kshama. You can either line up behind her, or get out. This is Kshama Town now.

–David Preston


Photos ~ Chicago: Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters  |  Seattle: Ted S. Warren / AP

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Sex, Lies, and the Seattle City Council

November 21, 2016

The presence of transient sex offenders in Seattle points up why the city’s current approach to illegal encampments is so dangerous. In 1998, the man pictured below was convicted of sexual assault on a child. (Reference RCW 9A.44.083). Since then, he’s been convicted of violent felonies, in addition to failing to report his whereabouts. In November 2015, “Washington’s Most Wanted” showed him classified as a LEVEL II sex offender. Curiously, since then, he got bumped down from a LEVEL II to a TRANSIENT LEVEL 1.

Click to Enlarge

Continue reading

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Anatomy of a Failure: Why Seattle isn’t solving its homeless crisis

November 18, 2016

Seattle’s disastrous homeless policy has resulted from a combination of three things:

-Paid advocacy
-Lack of accountability Continue reading

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Childhood’s End: Rape at a homeless camp

November 3, 2016

Warning: Disturbing content.


In late 2012, a just-turned-16-year-old girl whom I’ll call Angel was staying at the Nickelsville homeless camp in Seattle’s Highland Park neighborhood, along with her mother and two younger siblings. One evening, she and two older male campers went across the road to a convenience store where one of the men bought some beer. The three of them then went under a nearby bridge to drink it. Angel soon got drunk, and one of the men then forced her to perform oral sex on him. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to vaginally rape her. Shortly afterwards, Angel returned to camp, still in an intoxicated condition and covered with dirt from being forced onto the ground by the man who’d assaulted her. Continue reading

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Homeless Policy Questions for the WA Gubernatorial Candidates

November 3, 2016

Below is a list of ten questions that I and my friend Harley Lever of  Safe Seattle devised for Washington gubernatorial race candidates Bill Bryant and Jay Inslee. The document format is QUESTION followed by ANSWER from Bryant and then ANSWER from Inslee. The Q & A was also sponsored by the Neighborhood Safety Alliance. The Blog Quixotic does not endorse political candidates or parties. I am posting this information to promote voter awareness of the candidates’ stands on homeless policy issues.

The document is eight pages long. You may find it easier to read the document by clicking on this link for a PDF version.





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Tunnel? What Tunnel?

October 28, 2016

A friend whom I’ll call Sally is into good government. Like me, Sally is bafffled by the unending Tragedy of Errors that is Seattle’s Deep Bore Tunnel (aka the Alaskan Way Replacement Project). Sally recently sent a concise list of questions to Seattle government officials relating to why the project is taking so long and how much it’s going to cost when (and if) it’s finally done.

This is a letter the Seattle Times should have sent, not some housewife. (Oh, excuse me. I meant homemaker.) Local media should be charging hard on this. It’s the story of the year, worthy of an investigative series, a Pulitzer maybe. Instead, they’re virtually ignoring it. Oh, they’ll cover once every few months, whenever there’s some new glitch or announcement of a delay. But that’s it.

I’m telling you, it’s wrong. Ol’ Man Tunnel, dat Ol’ Man Tunnel . . . he must know somethin’, but don’t say nothin’. He just keeps stoppin’ – he keeps on stoppin’ – along.

And nobody learns a thing. Continue reading

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What’s the matter with Kshama Sawant?

October 21, 2016

Meet Kshama Sawant: Seattle councilmember. Socialist firebrand. Enfant terrible. For as big a hit as she’s been in Seattle, I’ve never felt that she really got this town. Oh she gets a part of it, all right. The young part, certainly. The tech part. The hip part.

But not the human part. Not the part that’s who we really ARE.

She says she’s for The People. She keeps using that word. I do not think that word means what she thinks it means. The People is not some big blob that always acts or thinks or feels a certain way or can be predicted according to some theory. It’s not even a bunch of blobs. Ultimately, it’s just a collection of more or less like-minded individuals, each of whom has his own worldview and his own unique set of needs, abilities, and aspirations.

But when Sawant she says she’s The People’s Councilmember, she doesn’t mean “people” as in the actual human beings living in District 3, or even in Seattle generally. What she means is The Poor and Downtrodden People. You know. The Wretched of the Earth-type people – as she defines them. In a word: The Masses. That’s her demographic. Don’t believe me? Google her. Or ask her yourself. Her phone number is 206-684-8587 and her e-mail is

In Sawant’s universe – that is, the socialist universe – politicians represent the socioeconomic class from which they come, whether they acknowledge that fact or not. That’s not merely the way it is, that’s the way it has to be. At least for now. The socialist model holds that until we arrive at a classless society – which is what all socialist fantasize about – the rich and poor must keep slugging it out. Whether the slugging takes place in the halls of government or behind the barricades doesn’t matter: The class struggle must go on! Continue reading

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Seattle Shelter Contracts

October 18, 2016 – The document below is a summary report of Seattle’s homeless shelter and outreach contract payments for 2015. It was sent to me by one of my readers (Thanks, Deena!) who got it from Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) through an informal public disclosure request. What it shows is a vendor-by-vendor, program-by-program list of monies that City of Seattle paid for specific services related to homeless services. Have a look!


You can also download the original Microsoft Excel spreadsheet document here. The Excel document has more data and is also in a different format that the report above. Note: You must have MS Excel to view this document on your computer. Continue reading

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If you see something, trash something.

October 10, 2016

IRONY ALERT! This ad on a Seattle bus tells people to call in if they see trash dumped on the street or sidewalk. I’ve called the number myself, many times; however, the trash I called in about wasn’t taken care of until several weeks later, after I’d followed up with calls directly to the mayor’s office. Meanwhile, the city council is debating legislation that will effectively prevent the City from removing homeless camps from public land. These camps are already the #1 source of trash piles on city streets, and this is certain to get worse if the legislation passes.

Photo: Pamela Staeheli

Below is a sample of photos taken by government clean-up crews as they moved about the city this past year. There’s already a months-long backlog on clean-ups, and the problem is getting worse by the week.

You can find many more such pictures here.

Six months ago, Seattle councilmember Lisa Herbold – who happens to be a good friend of Mr. Scott Morrow of SHARE fame – came up with the idea for the city to distribute trash bags to homeless camps. (More on that story here.)

The assumption was that campers really want to be tidy and that they would gladly pick up their own trash if only they had some bags to put it in. When the bags filled up, campers could just set them out on the curb and trash trucks would pick them up on a regular schedule, just like they do on residential streets. This seemed like a good idea to me, but I guess it didn’t pan out. At the start I saw that a few bags had been filled up and set out on the curb, and the areas where this was happening were cleaner for a while. Things soon got back to the way they were before, though, and I haven’t heard much about the program since then. So I guess we can scratch that idea . . .

–David Preston


Posted in Complaints, Crime, Homelessness, Photos (Stuff), Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Risky Business: Is Seattle’s Encampment Bill un-Constitutional?

October 7, 2016

A hot mess gets hotter

In each of the past several years, ever greater numbers of homeless people have been camping out on publicly owned land in Seattle. Conditions around the encampment areas have steadily deteriorated, and in February of 2016, the situation reached a head when five people were shot (two fatally) in a no-man’s land area around downtown Seattle known as “the Jungle.” In response to the Jungle shooting, Mayor Ed Murray began stepping up removal of the camps. In August, the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), worried about the campers’ rights, threatened a lawsuit. The ACLU and some self-styled progressives on the City Council then proposed a bill that, if passed, could effectively tie the Mayor’s hands. See the text of the bill here.

Continue reading

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Ask the Experts

September 24, 2016

Seattle’s Task Force on Homeless Encampment Clean-up had one of its weekly meeings at City Hall Wednesday. I attended at the invitation of a friend who’s on the task force. It was not encouraging. But it was enlightening.


This summer Mayor Ed Murray directed Seattle police and sanitation workers to begin “sweeping” a group of homeless encampments along the I-5 corridor, collectively known as the Jungle. In response, homeless advocates, backed by the ACLU, appealed to the City Council to make him stop. The Council sees encampments not so much as a matter of law as a human rights issue, so their collective arm didn’t need much twisting on this. They proposed legislation requiring the City to provide 30 days of social service “outreach” before it could remove any camp of five or more people, and after the 30-day outreach period, the City would have to provide “adequate housing” to campers before moving them.

There are a couple of concessions to common sense in the ordinance, such as that camps will not be allowed at public schools or on sidewalks. Also, if conditions at a camp are found to be unsafe the camp can be cleared immediately, subject to the “adequate housing” provision.

Send in the Experts

Continue reading

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Anatomy of a Swindle: How a Rogue Non-profit Captured the Emerald City

September 13, 2016

The Set-up

For four years I’ve been investigating a publicly supported non-profit homeless group in Seattle called SHARE. SHARE runs 14 indoor shelters around Seattle, for which it annually gets several hundred thousand dollars from Seattle’s Human Services Department. Most of these shelters are owned by churches. Besides the shelters, SHARE operates a network of homeless camps known as “tent cities.” The group says that “up to 450 people each night find safety, shelter, dignity, and respect” its “self-managed” shelters and camps, but it has never provided any documentation for that figure. The group resists attempts to monitor its numbers or performance as an “invasion of privacy.” SHARE views homelessness as a valid lifestyle – a lifestyle of choice – and while it does get a number of people off the street temporarily, it makes no claim of getting them into jobs, permanent housing, or addiction treatment programs. “We are not a social service organization,” they declare. “We are a self-help group.”

Together, SHARE and WHEEL educate our community about the causes and effects of homelessness, build bridges with homed people to address those issues, and actively lobby to change policies that oppress homeless people.

–from the About Us page on SHARE’s Web site (9/10/16)

If you visit a SHARE tent camp or shelter you will meet people who have been homeless for years. As a rule, these people do not have caseworkers, and many/most have no definite plan for transitioning into an apartment. When they leave one tent camp or shelter, they simply find another. Or they go back to the streets. Or they move to another state. You might ask how an organization that has nothing to do with getting people into housing, could bite out such a big chunk of the city’s housing budget each year. How could it enjoy the continuing patronage of a government that’s trying to end homelessness? There seems to be a contradiction there, but it goes away when you understand that politics is the art not of doing but of seeming. And SHARE gives local politicians an easy way to seem to be doing something about homelessness, even as the problem worsens. SHARE is to the government as the corner panhandler is to the average citizen. Deep down, we know that handing the guy a buck won’t make a difference in his life. But that doesn’t matter, because it still makes in a difference in ours. Continue reading

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Media, Nickelsville, SHARE, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Tell the whole story please, Mr. B

September 5, 2016

On August 24, the Seattle Times ran a piece by columnist Daniel Beekman about the struggle between Mayor Murray and the city council over homeless folks collecting in hot spots around the city. In this post, I look at one aspect of how Mr. Beekman covered this story. Or rather, how he covered it up.

Beekman is usually a keen observer, but in this case he’s left out an obvious, and important, aspect of the homeless camp he visited. And in doing so, he misrepresented the story, not just for that camp, but for homeless camps generally. You can read the full article here; the part I’m concerned about is this:

The proposed ordinance could prevent officials from shutting down operations similar to Camp Second Chance. Since late July, about 20 people have been living together in tents on vacant city property near White Center.

The campers weren’t authorized to set up on the Myers Way South site, but their area is tidy, they’re out of the way and they have portable toilets.

Continue reading

Posted in General, Homelessness, Media, Photos (Stuff), Politics, Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I’m voting ‘no’ on the Housing Levy

July 29, 2016

Proposition 1 is a tax levy on the August 2016 primary ballot for Seattle voters. The levy would double the total amount currently levied for “affordable housing.” See the King County Voter’s Guide description on this item here.

Untested Assumptions 

The assumption underlying Prop 1 is that homelessness exists because governments (read: taxpayers) aren’t doing enough to create affordable housing. It’s a classic let’s-throw-more-money-at-it approach.

Unfortunately, there is little to no research on the root causes of homelessness in this city and what the homeless demographic actually looks like. Among the many factors contributing to the problem – housing prices, unemployment, financial self-discipline, drug addiction, mental illness, government policy – no one knows how they interact to cause homelessness. In fact, nobody knows if it’s even possible to end homelessness in a place like Seattle, because it’s never been done under similar conditions. Seattle isn’t Spokane after all. Or Salt Lake City. This city is a magnet for people around the country. Lured here by the promise of good jobs, mild weather – or maybe even just cheap heroin – poor people are rushing here along with the “tech bros” and rich retirees, even as rents are zooming through the stratosphere.

Basic Questions Continue reading

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The True Cost of Eco-Babble

Someone chucked an empty FIJI water bottle in my yard this morning. Before recycling it, I took a minute to read the label. The packaging is clearly targeted at the “green” demographic. Can you see how? The wording wraps around an image of Planet Earth, tinted in blue and green. The word “earth” is used three times in the blurb and the word “nature/natural” twice. But the money word is “sustainable” (as in sustainable aquifer).

In fact, there is nothing sustainable about drinking water from a throw-away plastic bottle – especially when that water has been shipped half-way across the world. According to the article linked below, it takes a seven gallons of water and quarter of a gallon of fuel to produce and ship a bottle of FIJI water to the U.S. How is that sustainable? It’s not, obviously. But no matter. As long as they’ve got a picture of the planet in there along with the right wording, we’re good, right? Continue reading

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Rest Easy, Devin

At 2 AM on April 7, 2016 an unknown 16-year-old was whizzing downhill on Highland Park Way SW in a stolen car. The cops were on his tail. The odds were not in the kid’s favor, but he may have figured: What have I got to lose? The worst they can do is throw me in Juvey for a few months. A year tops.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Devin Francis was driving uphill on the same long stretch of road. The 16-year-old swerved into his path, there was a crash, and both young people were killed instantly.

Devin’s people had a special gathering at this spot on what would’ve been his 22nd birthday a few weeks later, and when I stopped by a few days after that, I found all kinds of poignant little signs of how much people were hurting over this. Don’t know if anyone did a shrine for the other kid.

All photos by David Preston. Click to enlarge.

Continue reading

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Operation Blazing Sword

July 15, 2016

In the wake of last month’s mass shooting at an Orlando Florida gay nightclub, Erin Palette, a Daytona Beach-based transgender woman, founded the LGBTQ gun advocacy group Operation Blazing Sword. I contacted her through the organization’s page on Facebook, and she agreed to answer a few questions.

TBQ: How big is your operation and what do you do, exactly?

EP: Operation Blazing Sword is, at the moment, a database of firearms enthusiasts who are willing to teach the basics of firearm operations and safety to members of the LGBTQ community in the wake of the Orlando Pulse murders. Right now, if someone wants training, they go to our map, search for their hometown, find an instructor closest to them and make contact. We have plans to expand our remit once we become a 501c3 charity, but until then we are basically a matchmaking service between instructors and the gun-curious. Continue reading

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We are not amused: How politics kills our language and clouds our judgment

June 29, 2016

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

A front page Seattle Times story published on June 24, 2016  decries an attack on “transgender” activist Michael Volz that happened in Seattle two days earlier. Such attacks are a serious matter, deserving of coverage. However, the Times’ handling of this relatively minor story, at the same time they were neglecting a much ore important one, is evidence of a worrying new confluence of politics and journalism in the Emerald City.

New English

The attack victim, one Michael Volz – whom I’ll take to be a male because he has a male name and looks like a guy to me – announced to reporters that he has abandoned gender-specific pronouns in reference to himself . . . Continue reading

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Jungle Boogie, continued (and continued?)

June 29, 2016

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said today that there might not be enough people left in the Jungle to bother with kicking them out. Which is an understandable (if not exactly courageous) stance, given the amount of crap he’s gotten from the left just for threatening to kick them out. Six weeks ago, when Murray announced that Seattle police would be “sweeping” the Jungle, there were estimated to be over 300 people living there. But no large-scale sweep was undertaken and now, according to a staffer at the Union Gospel Mission, which was helping the Mayor find shelter for Jungle residents, there are only about 100 people left. Some of them are hold-outs who refused to work with Union Gospel, but many others are (ruh-roh) new arrivals. (See story here.)

In the meantime, one of my street-level informants sent me a federal search warrant application from April of last year. That document describes an Asian drug ring that operated in and around Seattle and used the Jungle as a transit point for drugs and weapons. In the 7-page extract below, I’ve highlighted references to the Jungle: Continue reading

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Can’t Buy Me Likes

Followers of this blog will recall that I have penned a handful of articles on Seattle’s own Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) and its director, Sharon Lee. Ms. Lee runs a $50 million taxpayer-funded operation and hobnobs with the Mayor and City Council. Yet she refuses to respond to simple questions about just what LIHI does with the money. Naturally that makes me suspicious. Doesn’t that make you suspicious too?

May, 2016: Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray signs a tax levy proposal that will put tens of millions of dollars into LIHI coffers. Source: City of Seattle

I was suspicioning around the Internet the other day when I came across a tasty morsel about LIHI in the June 6, 2013 issue of Seattle’s Northwest Asian News. It’s all about a Facebook popularity contest that nearly scored LIHI a $250,000 prize from Home Depot. Unfortunately, it seems that somebody “sabotaged” the vote, which forced Home Depot to kick LIHI out of the contest: Continue reading

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No Strings Attached

June 18, 2016

A recent Facebook post from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is at once a study in courage and a window onto the political nightmare that is homeless policy in Seattle. Murray is currently getting skewered by the church-lady left for evicting the scattered homeless camps along the I-5 corridor downtown, collectively known as the Jungle. In local parlance, these short-order ejections by cop are known as “sweeps.”

Where are the 400-ish Jungle residents supposed to go after they’re swept? Shelters will take some, with the Mayor’s encouragement, but many others – perhaps even a majority – will pack up and move to assorted hidey holes around the city, where they may be even less safe than they were in the Jungle. (But hey, at least they won’t be trotting down the freeway auditioning for Mad Max.) Still others will end up blowing town for good. At that point, they will no longer be the Mayor’s problem.

Of course this wasn’t anybody’s happy ending, but realistically, the Mayor was all out of options. The Jungle had been getting bigger, wilder, and dirtier by the week. The violent murders last January showed that it was beginning to pose a threat to civil order as well. Continue reading

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Another SPD Accountability Fail

Seattle police detective Leslie Smith let several rape cases languish because she was “overworked.” As a result, an accused child rapist was allowed to stay on the streets. Ms. Smith has not been fired for incompetence but was instead promoted. Meanwhile, her supervisor and the union are making excuses for her:

Capt. Deanna Nollette said [Detective Smith’s] unsolved cases were reassigned to other detectives in January. “If I were going to fault the detective for anything, I think it would be for having unrealistic expectations of herself,” said Nollette, who now heads the unit where Smith was assigned. “I think, frankly, we mishandled our detective. “If there was any failing, it would be on the part of the supervision that put the detective in this position.”

Read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer story here.

Deanna Nollette

Sorry, Capt. Nollette, but that doesn’t cut it. Having “unrealistic expectations” imposed on you by yourself or others doesn’t let you off the hook for not protecting the public. Especially where a child is concerned. Being a cop is about using good judgment, thinking on your feet, and getting your priorities straight. Both Detective Smith and her supervisors should be getting disciplined for this, but it’s looking like nobody will be punished for these screw ups. Unless you count the kids who got raped and their families.

–David Preston



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“Dear Scott . . .” Will SHARE ever fire Boss Morrow? Can they?

June 4, 2016

Today I got a nice surprise in my mailbox. It’s a letter from someone who claims to represent some two dozen Scott Morrow critics: disaffected homeless campers, SHARE insiders, volunteers. The letter is being circulated ahead of today’s “Power Lunch” planning meeting, to be held at one of SHARE’s two direct action protest camps located at the King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle. The camps were established when SHARE closed 15 indoor homeless shelters to protest recent funding cuts from King County and Seattle human services departments. According to SHARE there are 200 people staying there.


[You can also see the letter here.]

I have not had time to authenticate this letter and I do not vouch for any specific claim it makes. With those caveats, I’ve decided to publish it anyway, on the theory that it may be timely and on the assumption that it represents at least one SHARE insider’s true feelings.

Continue reading

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The Doney Clinic

May 29, 2016

Every second and fourth Saturday, the Union Gospel Mission in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle hosts the Doney Memorial Pet Clinic. The clinic provides veterinary care and hands out donated pet food and supplies to homeless and very low-income people in the area. Yesterday I was there with my new friend Ruth. We spoke with folks in line to see if any of them lived in any of the soon-to-be-evicted Jungle camps, and, if so, whether they’d be interested in getting their pet spayed or neutered at a mobile clinic that will be visiting the area soon. We didn’t find any takers, but I did get a chance to speak with a handful folks about what their pets meant to them.

This is Samuel, an amiable guy. He was there with his girlfriend’s dog Baby, and told me he had two more back at the homeless camp where he’s staying.

What do your animals mean to you? I asked. Everything, he said.

Continue reading

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