Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 3: What’s left of the Dream?

September 8, 2017

Remember when the Democracy Voucher Program was proposed? It was supposed to get big money out of politics and get grassroots candidates in. We’re now six months into our first election with the vouchers and where are we on that whole get-money-out-politics thing? Well… let’s see.

¶ In June, someone sued the City over the program, claiming it was compelling taxpayers to pay for someone else’s free speech. That suit is in process and inside sources tell me it’s got legs.

¶ In June, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, which manages the voucher program, determined that spending limits for participating candidates in the could be lifted so that participants can now simply add the Democracy Voucher money onto whatever corporate and PAC money they get and not worry about spending too much.

¶ In August, a complaint was filed on a candidate for allegedly giving money to voters so they could give it back to her and help her qualify for the program. Then someone (me, as it happens) filed a complaint on another candidate for allegedly lying about the number and kind of “public forums” she attended in order to qualify.

The latest news is that labor unions want to get into the act of distributing the vouchers on behalf of their preferred candidates. If the SEEC allows that, it’s all over. Any candidate who has union backing already has a big advantage in Seattle politics. If the SEEC lets Unions distribute the vouchers, they’ll be sealing the doom of any truly grassroots candidate. At the same time they’ll also have to let PACs distribute the vouchers, too. So while you might be getting your vouchers from some AFL-CIO functionary, your neighbor Joe across the street might be getting his from… oh, I dunno…. Monsanto?

Now think back, Seattle. Is this the same Democracy Voucher program you remember reading about in the voters guide a couple years ago?

–David Preston

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Activating a space to discourage camping

September 4, 2017

In a recent public meeting on a homeless encampment in the Ballard, Seattle’s Director of Homelessness George Scarola told neighbors of the camp that they could “activate” public spaces to keep homeless people from camping there. According to a man who was at the meeting and gave me a report, Scarola told the crowd that, “Activation consists of making use of the space the homeless are camping in to make it harder for them to use it. Things like establishing gardens, planters, sticker bushes, a P-patch, and so on.”

I took this before-and-after picture in my White Center neighborhood to illustrate how the activation process works.

In July, a homeless man began camping and hoarding in a planting triangle along Ambaum Boulevard that had been reclaimed from unused pavement just a few years earlier. Although the area is highly visible to sidewalk and street traffic, the trees, the high grass, and the flat ground were all inducements to camping.

After tolerating the man’s presence for a month or more, neighboring businesses worked with police to have him removed from the spot. The area was then plowed up and replanted with plants that will colonize the space and make it inhospitable for camping. Or so it is hoped.

–David Preston

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Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 2

August 17, 2017

Seattle’s new Democracy Voucher Program has a long way yet to go to fix Seattle politics. One could argue that, rather than discouraging corruption, the program is actually rewarding it. The program gives qualifying candidates access to great quantities of taxpayer-funded campaign cash, but to qualify, candidates must attend three or more public debates or forums during the primary and campaign seasons, in addition to gathering signatures and raising a hefty chunk of cash on their own. The requirements are not impossible to meet, but they are steep, as I have discussed in other posts. So steep, in fact, that they are likely discouraging outsiders and self-funded candidates and encouraging everyone who’s left to cheat in order to get their hands on that extra cash.

Below is a complaint I filed today with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). The complaint is against Lorena Gonzalez, who is the incumbent in City Council Position 9, one of two citywide Council positions up for grabs in this year’s election. The gist of the complaint is that Gonzalez misrepresented herself on a self-report form. To qualify for the voucher program, Gonzalez was required to attend three “public forums” during the City Council primary season. Two of the three events Gonzalez claims to have attended were not public forums according by the SEEC’s definition, and Gonzalez apparently wasn’t even at one of the events she was trying to use in order to qualify.

The document below is four pages, including attachments.

Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Complaint Against Lorena Gonzalez 8.17.17 redacted

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–by David Preston

Editor’s note: I was also a candidate in this race. I came in third in a field of seven candidates.

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Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 1

July 4, 2017

I-122, the “Honest Elections” initiative (aka the Democracy Voucher Program) was supposed to get money and corporate influence out of Seattle politics. It looked great on paper.

The PROBLEM: “Wealthy special interests have too much power in Seattle. When these interests spend huge amounts of money on elections, that’s not free speech; that’s buying our candidates.” —Voter’s guide “pro” statement excerpt

The SOLUTION: Give qualifying candidates taxpayer money to campaign and then cap the amount they can raise and spend on the election.

New PROBLEM: Limits on spending amounts don’t apply to PAC ads or other “independent expenditures” done by non-candidate groups. Nor do they apply to any candidate not participating in the voucher program.

New SOLUTION: Raise the contribution and spending limit to allow the Democracy Voucher participants spend as much as they want. As long as they can show that their opponent (or his PAC buddies) are spending more than them.

–Wait… wut? Now we’re back where we were before the Democracy Voucher program, where candidates can raise and spend as much as they want. The only difference is that now some candidates are getting money from taxpayers… including from taxpayers who don’t support them.

Here’s the operative lingo from a memo sent out by Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Wayne Barnett last week:

If a qualified candidate demonstrates to SEEC that he or she has an opponent (whether or not participating in the Program) whose campaign spending has exceeded the Campaign Spending Limit for the position sought as indicated above, where SEEC deems the excess material it shall allow such candidate to choose to be released from the Campaign Spending Limit and campaign contribution limits for the Program, in which case SEEC shall allow such candidate to redeem his or her Democracy Vouchers received theretofore or thereafter up to the amount of the Campaign Spending Limit only, then allow such candidate to engage in campaign fundraising without regard to any Program requirements.

Don’t kid yourselves Social Justice Warriors. Money is just as much a factor as ever in Seattle politics. And so is influence. Whether it flows from the spigot of a giant oil corporation or from the mouths of a hundred casting-call protesters at City Hall. It’s there, alright. All your lofty ideals haven’t changed a thing. Maybe they’ve even made it worse.

–David Preston

See an article about other issues with the Democracy Voucher program here. The City of Seattle was recently sued over the program by a man who claims it’s un-Constitutional. You can read more about that here.

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The Testament of Christian Otto

June 24, 2017

Two months ago, I was contacted by a homeless man named Chris Otto. Mr. Otto claimed he had been in a position of authority at two homeless programs run by SHARE (the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) and had some info he wanted to pass along concerning the group’s operation. This was not the first time I’d been offered an expose by an unhappy SHARE client or employee, and I respond to such offers cautiously, because they typically don’t pan out.

True to the pattern I’d seen with other SHARE exiles, Otto was a bit scattered, as one would expect from a person in his situation. Yet he was considerably more focused than some of the other inside sources I’d worked with, so I stayed in touch with him while I thought about how to handle the information he was giving me. I asked him to summarize his observations in a letter, which he did (see below).  I make no claim as to the accuracy of Mr. Otto’s statements, but they are broadly consistent with what I’ve heard from many others. My own research supports some of his claims.


The Testament

That [SHARE boss] Scott Morrow manipulates the people in SHARE needs to be underlined; there seems to be a level of sadism in his demeanor as well. He monopolizes people’s attention by manipulating them into participating on committees to do various kinds of chores. There’s the finance meetings, communication group, Direct Action Work Group (DAWG), Obtuse Objective Group (OOG), bar committee, screening committee, power lunch, weekly “house” meetings, social media group, grant writing committee, political rallies, plus other stray duties such as Elective Committee* (EC) and security responsibilities. How anyone could be expected to have a life outside of the organization is beyond me. Continue reading

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Ghostwriter

June 5, 2017

What would you think if you discovered automobile executives had written a bill on auto safety and handed it to your senator to sponsor? And what if you learned those same executives had penned pro-industry letters to the editor for your senator to send to the local newspaper under his signature? No self-respecting American would tolerate something like that. But substitute ACLU for “automobile executive” in this scenario, and substitute “a bill on homeless encampments” for “a bill on auto safety” and you’ll have an approximation of what happened at the Seattle City Council last fall.


A serious problem

Homeless encampments on public land have been a troublesome issue in Seattle for several years. Some citizens think the camps need to go, some don’t mind if they stay. However, as the number of camps has grown and expanded across the city, the balance seems to be shifting in the “need to go” direction. After a multiple homicide at one camp in late January 2016, Mayor Ed Murray declared the camps to be a nuisance and said the City would begin “sweeping” them shortly. Continue reading

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Speaking Truth to Power

June 1, 2017

Here’s a video excerpt of a brave Seattle woman confronting the City Council with my “Anatomy of a Swindle” blog article. This took place on October 14, 2016. The context is a discussion about Mike O’Brien’s proposed encampments legislation. The legislation would have allowed homeless campers to hang out on public green spaces indefinitely. Fortunately, the measure was defeated.

–David Preston

Here is the article to which the woman is referring:

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Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program: A Candidate’s View

In 2015, Seattle voters passed an initiative to create a public-finance pool for candidates in city elections. It’s called the Democracy Voucher Program, and it’s funded by a special property tax. Registered voters receive four $25 coupons in the mail, which they can distribute in any combination to various candidates for city office, who can then use them to finance their campaigns, provided they meet certain qualifications. The Voucher Program, which is in its first year in the 2017 races, is run by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

James Passey was running for a city council seat this year, but he recently withdrew, citing the Voucher Program as one of the reasons. When I asked him how the Program had factored into his decision to quit, here’s what he said: Continue reading

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Puff Piece

April 29, 2017

In my years of trying to bring the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to justice, I have been repeatedly frustrated by their slick public relations operation. Here’s an organization that engages in a number of deceptive or dishonest business practices, and yet not a week goes by that I don’t see an op-ed piece by LIHI director Sharon Lee in the Seattle Times or a flattering story about her operation on some national news outlet. A reader of the Safe Seattle Facebook page sent me this piece from the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. It’s an advertisement for LIHI, disguised as a news story on a new low-barrier encampment* in a struggling north Seattle neighborhood.

Here are just a few of the many problems with the video:

¶ Nearly all the time is given to Sharon Lee and a single happy camper. Video footage of squalid tent camps along the road is contrasted with shots of the charming “tiny houses” inside the LIHI camp, as if if those are the only two options: LIHI or the street. Continue reading

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Call Me Reverend

April 11, 2017

Call Me Reverend:
The Bill Kirlin-Hackett Story

Mr. Mild

The first impression one gets of the Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett is of someone we’d expect to find singing kum-ba-ya around the campfire or handing out coffee and hugs at a 12-step meeting. A mild, genial, soft-spoken man in the mellow years, Kirlin-Hackett fits the image of the country parson to a tee. And he uses that impression to great effect, whether he’s meeting in backrooms with legislators or sweet-talking a donation from a church lady. But who is this guy, really?

 

Continue reading

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The Margin Dwellers

April 4, 2017

A word of advice to aspiring reporters: Don’t ever volunteer for the poverty beat. It’ll tear the heart out of you.

Meet Jennifer Allison (on the left). She’s the manager at the Georgian Motel on Aurora Ave N. in Seattle. She’s lived there for ten years, managed the place for seven. On the right is her good friend and tenant, Myrna. On the far right is Myrna’s dog, Nala.

The Georgian is in arrears on power and water, and unless a $20,000 miracle happens by 5 PM on April 5th, Jennifer, Myrna, and the Georgian’s 26 other tenants will have to leave. What will become of them? Some will find other places, maybe. Another motel within their means. A few might leave town for cheaper pastures. The rest will likely wind up on the streets. If not this month, then the next. Continue reading

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Encampment Complaints: A suspicious pattern

March 23, 2017

The document in the link below was produced by Seattle’s Customer Service Bureau (CSB) in response to a public disclosure request from Safe Seattle. The document shows how many citizen complaints the City got in a six-week time period. The report is a whopping 37 pages long with hundreds of individual complaints. And remember: that’s for just six weeks. And this list does not even reflect all the encampments that were in existence around the city at that time; just the ones that one or more complaints came in on.

https://tinyurl.com/illegal-camp-complaints

So, what can we learn from this report? A couple of things jump out. First, we can deduce that the number of complaints reflects the actual situation on the ground — relatively speaking. In other words, there is a correlation between geographical regions and relative numbers of encampments in those regions.

It is clear from a quick scan of the data that the north side of town is bearing the brunt. At 148 complaints, the North has more than twice the number of complaints than the next highest region.

So why should this be? Is it because there are twice as much greenbelt and park acreage on the north side? –Doubtful.

Is it because the population density is twice as high on the north side? – Again, not likely. Yes, the north end is denser than some other parts, but not THAT much denser.

So is there some OTHER reason why those tents are all popping up in the north? Could there be any connection between the mess in the north and the fact that this is encampment advocate Mike O’Brien’s district? Or the fact that there are two large, city-sponsored encampments already there, thanks to CMs Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw?

Hmmm…..

If you’d like to report an illegal encampment or similar issue to the City, you can do that through the Customer Service Bureau, here.

–David Preston

Postscript: It would be interesting to do some longitudinal GIS mapping to see how the illegal encampment clusters in other neighborhoods have developed in relation to the Ballard and Interbay encampments is. I’d also be curious to compare this period to the same time last year, and the year before that, and so on.

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The Thin Veneer

March 13, 2017

In my time, I’ve been in some pretty bad places. Figuratively and literally. I was raised in an affluent home, but as a young man, I traveled to an embattled Third World country because I wanted to see how the other half lived. I was stranded there for a time, and I became so immersed in the poverty – and so shocked by it – that I went into a profound depression, which worsened when I came home to the “shock” of affluence. I later became impoverished myself, living for years in a series of filthy, vermin-infested flophouses in the poorest quarters of town. Even after I came to Seattle, I lived for several more years in the “projects” on the south side, before finally pulling myself out of my funk and moving on to better things.

In the course of my years among the down and out I became a student of misery, sensitive to its many moods and incarnations. I’ve heard Seattle tent camps compared to the slums of Bangalore, and I can tell you that that statement is, in the main, false. But not in the way you might think. In some ways, the Bangaloreans have it better than our homeless. They’ve not fallen as far for one thing, most of them. And they have a sense of community that comes from a universally shared misery. People can maintain social norms there, even amid the despair, simply because there is no better option them. And they know it.

I’ve seen people in our camps trying to recreate that community, telling themselves they’ve got it. It never lasts. These squalid tent camps and corner lots crammed with prettified shacks they call “tiny houses” will never be the stable, self-managing villages that the poverty pimps say they are. The briefest visit will disabuse the outsider of that idea. Drifters and malcontents, damaged souls with a history of anti-social behavior . . . These poor souls can be corralled for a while, kept in line under the whip of a single dominating personality (the camp boss). But left to their own devices they will never do any better than they could under the regime of brute force. And they will usually do worse. Which makes the “sanctioned” camps actually look good in comparison to the unsanctioned ones. Thus, when homelessness and homeless camps are presented to us as an inevitability, and these two options (sanctioned or unsanctioned) are offered to us as the **only** choice, the sanctioned ones suddenly don’t seem so awful any more. And as for the unsanctioned ones, even THEY are better than the street, aren’t they? To my mind there’s little difference, since none of the three options gets people any closer living in a real home. And none is very far above the level of a brute struggle for survival. It’s just a question of whether you spend most of your time fighting the local camp boss . . . or fighting the streets.

I was chatting candidly with the head man of an unsanctioned encampment the other day. This fellow had been there for a year or more, and he was telling me of his aspirations to get sponsored by a willing non-profit and blessed by the city leaders. He was duly frustrated that his efforts weren’t bearing fruit. City officials weren’t leveling with him, he said, but I could see in a trice what the problem was. “We had a lot of stealers in this camp a few months back,” he explained. “But we dealt with ’em, and now we’re good.”

“How did you deal with them?” I replied.

He leaned over and gave me a knowing grin.

“Jungle law.”

–David Preston

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The tarnished halo of Rob Ferguson

March 12, 2017

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is exulting in his successful court challenge to President Trump’s immigration ban. Ferguson obviously cares about immigrant rights, but has he been as diligent in protecting people who already live here? What about homeless people, for example? Or taxpayers? That’s his job, after all. Or it’s supposed to be.

In 2004, when Ferguson was a King County Councilmember, he was cozy with Scott Morrow and SHARE. He even stayed overnight at one of Morrow’s tent camps in Lake City, speaking warm-and-fuzzily of his experience to a Seattle Times reporter afterward. Ferguson naively told the Times that the majority of campers at this camp were getting up early in the morning to scoot off to work. The “working poor” he called them. (They may have been leaving the camp alright, but they were not going to work.)

Ferguson was later instrumental in helping SHARE get their hands on a free County-owned vanpool van, and his office has not responded to requests to investigate the SHARE organization. SHARE’s roots run deep in the political soil of Washington State. And its branches reach to the sky. Given that, how likely is it that any Ferguson or any other government official here would push for an investigation into SHARE’s operation?

Oh, Rob. You sly devil you.


 

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Beyond the Pale: A neighbor’s view of the Ballard Locks homeless camp

March 10, 2017

The Ballard Locks (also known as Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) are a system of mechanically controlled channels that allow watercraft to travel between the inland waterways of Seattle (Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Ship Canal) and Puget Sound. Located on the edge of Seattle’s historic Ballard fishing community, the Locks offer close-up views of both wildlife and marine traffic. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which built and operates the Locks, also manages the adjoining fish ladder and museum, where visitors can spend an hour or two after strolling the spacious, tree-covered grounds. Needless to say, the Locks have been a tourist magnet in the century since they opened. In the last few years, though, their luster has tarnished. Not because of anything the Corps has done on the property, but because of what the City of Seattle is allowing to happen . . . just outside the fence.

U. S. Government Locks – Seattle, Washington. Second largest locks in the world. Both mighty ocean liners and pleasure craft pass through these locks connecting Lake Union with Puget Sound. Color by Cal Harbert.

Continue reading

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Hello this is my daughter…

March 6, 2017

Seen in a Portland shop window in August 2017. It may have been there for some time, given the reference to winter clothes:

Click to Enlarge

HOMELESS IN DWNTWN PORTLAND
Please help my ill daughter

Hello this is my daughter H_______
She is Bipolar, not on meds 🙁
This is her 3rd relapse and the worst yet
She is HOMELESS in downtown Portland
She has no money, no friends or family there
She came from Hawaii, doesn’t even own winter clothes

She hangs in ____ Ave and _____St.
No cellular and VERY vulnerable
In Psychosis, semi-manic and very disoriented
I’m her mother, looking for angels with arms and legs
Looking for anyone who wants to take time to reach out and talk to her
I’m not asking for money, just a human caring heart to help her realize she needs help
She has a membership at _______________

If you go there, you may find her
I can be reached on my cell if you want to hear her story
My name is Bea, her desperate mom, pls call me at __________
I’m praying for you to help today, since I can’t, she rejects me while ill 🙁


I called the number on the flyer and left a message, but it was never returned. I believe the flyer is genuine, but the person who wrote it was probably ill advised to give so much identifying info on her vulnerable daughter. (To be safe, I smudged out the identifying info.)

This family’s tragedy is all too common. A vulnerable, mentally ill person goes off her medications or refuses treatment and winds up on the street in another city where her chances of being harmed or killed are several times greater than they would be if she’d stayed at home. I understand why a young person might refuse treatment or flee a situation where she feels that her family is trying to “control” her, but if mental illness is involved then it will probably not end well.

This situation points up the inadequacy of our “involuntary commitment” laws. Even where you have a loving family that wants to help, it is often not enough.

How many of our homeless folks in Seattle started out like this young woman in the flyer? You might be surprised. Or maybe not.

–By David Preston

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Anything helps. Or does it?

Click to enlarge

February 20, 2017

This snapshot of a Seattle panhandler was sent to me by a reader who inferred that because the woman was sitting in a comfortable chair sipping a pricey coffee, with a dog and a cushion, she’s not genuinely needy but merely lazy.  In fact, we don’t know what this woman’s life is like. If we give her a buck, she might do something good with it, or she might do something bad with it. The money might help tide her over till her housing application comes through. Or it might go toward her next fix. Continue reading

Posted in Homelessness, Panhandling | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Brandie Bright and Dark

February 13, 2017

Oh the irony! Seems that one of the ACLU’s two homeless plaintiffs – a woman who is crying foul over City crews removing her stuff from public land without due notice – is apparently quite the little thief herself. According to court records, Brandie Osborne has broken into people’s homes to steal their things. And she didn’t even given them the same 72-hour notice that she’s demanding of the City. Nor did she store the things she’d stolen so the rightful owners could later claim them.

Below is a picture of Ms. Osborne “speaking out” against the City’s plan to clear out “the Jungle” in the summer of 2016. Before moving ahead with that plan, the City teamed up with Union Gospel Mission to visit every illegal camp site and offer the residents a warm, indoors place to stay, along with adequate food and case management services. Many people accepted the offer. But not Ms. Osborne. It appears that she and the ACLU already had a plan of their own.

Jungle resident Brandie Osborne speaks out against Seattle’s plan to clear the area of illegal homeless encampments. Click to listen to the KUOW radio program about this.

Continue reading

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ACLU vs. the People

*** TBQ Readers, your help is needed. Please read to the end to find out how you can help make us all safer. ***

We were cautiously optimistic when we learned that the Mayor was moving ahead to clear dangerous homeless encampments from city sidewalks and green spaces. Unfortunately, the Washington chapter of the ACLU has also moved forward on its threat to sue the city for a restraining order. Their grounds? –That the clearing operations violate Constitutional prohibitions against due process and “unreasonable search and seizure” of property. This, despite the City’s reasonable, good-faith efforts to notify campers at least 72 hours ahead of time beforehand and to sort out and store their property so they can reclaim it.

Lisa Hooper has been homeless for several years and has been living at many sites around the city. With the help of the ACLU, Hooper and another camper filed a lawsuit against the City for removing her belongings from public spaces. Image: KING 5 [Click the picture to see a news report.]

Continue reading

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Politics, Squatters | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tent Cities: Not a way out but a way to HANG out

February 8, 2017

Except for the misleading headline, this article from Pacific Standard Magazine is a more or less honest view of a SHARE-run tent city. Based on my own experiences, I can say that the interview subjects are a representative cross-section of homelessness, not just in the camps but on the street as well. Of the six homeless people interviewed, only one of them became homeless here in Seattle. One couple came here several years ago, trading a relatively stable situation in Alabama, where they had shelter, for the streets of Seattle. This couple would certainly be counted as “local” by the standards of Seattle politicians. But would that be honest?

Click on the picture to read the Pacific Standard article.

The subjects were probably coached by the camp boss on what to say in the interview, but their comments are no less accurate for all that. The quote below crystallizes the message SHARE wants to broadcast to homeless people around the country. It’s one I’ve heard SHARE people say many times over the years:

Yes, they don’t make us get into housing. They don’t make us get into counseling. That’s our choice. But they do provide us a safe, comfortable place that we can stay where we don’t have to move all of our shit with us every time we go somewhere.

SHARE and it’s confederate organization, LIHI, are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to run their Seattle camps. How does this “they don’t make us get into housing or counseling” line gibe with Seattle’s official motto that homelessness should be a “rare, brief, and one-time occurrence”? Think about it.

–by David Preston

This story originally appeared January 29, 2017 on the Safe Seattle Facebook page.

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Politics and privilege in the Emerald City

January 20, 2017

What do Sally Bagshaw and Donald Trump have in common? More than you might think. I’m not talking money here; I’m talking attitude. See, when you’re rich, you can’t help having one. An attitude, that is.


A friend linked me a blog post from last spring that summarizes reported assets of Seattle councilmembers. Combined assets for the nine CMs are about $25.8 million. (Washington is a joint property state, so assets reported include property owned by the CMs’ spouses.) That works out to about $2.8 million per CM. Salaries are around $120,000, which is half again as much as the median income of $80,000, as reported by the Seattle Times. Continue reading

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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

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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

Continue reading

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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

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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.

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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

horse

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.

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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:

-Ideology
-Paid advocacy
-Lack of accountability Continue reading

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