Being a collection of images related to the taking of candidate Ari Hoffman’s yard signs in the 2019 District 2 Seattle City Council race.
August 6, 2019. Election eve. A self-styled comedian and Morales supporter named Brett Hamil boasts about stealing one of Hoffman’s signs and then urinating on it. Is his claim a truthful one? It’s hard to tell. But the sign in the picture was definitely removed from some place. Hamil has a history of making intimidating statements against candidates and public figures he doesn’t like.
August 3, 2019. Three days before the election. The woman below was photographed acting with an accomplice to remove several signs (some of them on private property) in the vicinity of South Morgan and Martin Luther King Way South in the Hillman City neighborhood of southeast Seattle.
Click to enlarge the image below
Date: August 3, 2019 ~ CLICK to ENLARGE this IMAGE
This man, “Goldy” (real name: David Goldstein) is a former writer for the left-wing Stranger newspaper. writer and is a current senior fellow at Nick Hanauer’s Civic Ventures think tank. He is also an associate of a man named Matt “Spek” Watson, whose tweets you will see below. Goldstein and Watson have kept up an ongoing sarcastic banter about the two of them taking Hoffman’s yard signs, implying that Hoffman was imagining it all.
(In June, Watson got a visit from the Secret Service (or so he claims) who were acting on a series of social media posts he made menacing President Trump and ICE agents. Watson claimed his threats weren’t intended to be taken seriously.)
The city of Seattle has rules on where political yard signs may not be placed, but these rules are typically not enforced. Meanwhile, the city makes it clear that citizens are not allowed to pull yard signs on their own.
August 5, 2019 This person implied, in a comment on the Safe Seattle Facebook page, that citizens were justified in removing Hoffman’s yard signs on their own if they had determined that they were illegally placed. He implies (without any evidence) that people who support Ari Hoffman are criminals. Or perhaps he implies that putting yard signs in a public place makes one a criminal.
August 5, 2019. The man below, Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, Jr., is a political correspondent for Crosscut online magazine and has worked as a campaign consultant for Hoffman’s opponent, Tammy Morales. He claims that posting the photo of the woman taking the signs above constitutes “cyber bullying.” Meanwhile, he claims to have been witness to people removing Hoffman’s signs.
One day earlier, on August 4, 2019, Hawkins had shared one of “Spek” Watson’s tweets on the sign stealing woman above and claimed that he would taking more of Hoffman’s signs himself. The “blackmail” Watson mentions in his tweet refers to a demand made by Safe Seattle that Hoffman’s opponent Tammy Morales denounce the sign stealing.
Late May 2019 The epidemic of sign theft apparently started when a woman named Dana Math who posts on the Columbia City Facebook page claimed to have taken some Hoffman signs she found in traffic roundabouts. The “Bruce” she refers to is District 2 incumbent Bruce Harrell who vacated the seat Hoffman is running for.
Hoffman reported that his signs were also being pulled from private property in his neighborhood at the same time….
Soon after Ms. Math posted her comments on Facebook, Hoffman started getting a rash of tweets from people who were also claiming to be pulling his signs. Sometimes they would add a note about how the signs were being pulled only from public property, but this is still illegal, even if the signs have been placed on public property illegally in the first place.
Meanwhile, Hoffman was reporting that people were pulling his signs from private as well as public property. After Hoffman reported the thefts to Seattle police, “Spek” Watson illegally obtained a copy of Hoffman’s 911 call and published it on his Twitter page, ridiculing Hoffman as he did.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets a death threat: “Spek” Watson and Anti-Semitism in the District 2 Race
Seattle is a very liberal city, and although Ari Hoffman has broad support within his District 2 community, he can fairly be described as a center-right candidate. He runs a business in the industrial sector of south Seattle and as a candidate he has been vocal about enforcing the laws against the public camping and drug use that plague the local neighborhoods. This had led some people, particularly those on the far left, to characterize Hoffman as a “homeless hater.”
“Spek” Watson is a paradoxical character. He’s a white man who performs hip-hop music, a privileged stay-at-home dad who has an outsize persona as an all-purpose wiseguy and online social justice warrior. Over the years, he’s amassed a large following on social media, where he emits a daily stream of ridicule against those whom he considers enemies of the people.
Soon after after Hoffman declared for the District 2 seat, Watson and his friends began publicly accusing him, without evidence, of supporting vigilante actions against homeless people, proposing to round them up and put them in work camps, and so on. Leftist news outlets like The Stranger, looking to turn up the heat and paint District 2 as an ideological battleground, began quoting Watson in their coverage, which spurred him to new heights of invective.
Watson has connections with the local Antifa group (Emerald City Antifa). He’s also a supporter of the controversial BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction Israel) movement – a phenomenon considered by many supporters of Israel to be motivated by anti-Semitism – and has a history of borderline anti-Semitic statements against Israel (see below).
In the context of the District 2 race, Watson’s background takes on special significance, since Hoffman is an Orthodox Jew with a strong affinity for Israel. Given Watson’s considerable reach on social media, his known position on Israel, and his daily slams against Hoffman, a visibly Jewish man, it is not just possible but likely that his comments would be picked up by those who had an even darker view Hoffman than he did. In early June, as Hoffman’s campaign began picking up steam, an alt-right online group calling itself 8Chan began making detailed threats against Hoffman and his family, couching them in classically anti-Semitic terms.
That prompted an FBI investigation, and soon after, 8Chan was shut down. Since then, the most virulent attacks against Hoffman have subsided, but meanwhile, the sign stealing and public ridicule, spearheaded by Watson and his friends, goes on.
>>Hello Safe Seattle. I just stumbled upon your FB group. I was researching a few people running for my council District 2, which brought me to your page. Anyhow… If I wanted to post something anonymously. How would I do that? I saw some social media posts by someone running for D2, and I think this information should be more public. But, with that being said, I’d like to remain anonymous, as I don’t need the backlash from friends, family or anyone that doesn’t agree with my thoughts.
I live in D2 and was upset after I went through some candidate profiles for my district. First, I was unhappy that two candidates, Tammy Morales and Christopher Peguero, did not attend the Speak Out Seattle forum several weeks ago. Then I wanted to learn more and went through their FB profile. It seems to me that voters should know more about the rhetoric of this Peguero person. He is very prejudiced with the comments he makes. I find it to be very frustrating, especially being that, like him, I’m of Hispanic background, too. He doesn’t speak for me, and I want to let others know that.
Here are some screen shots of things he’s said:
Blog Quixotic note: Peguero must have gotten some push back on his haircut posts, because he later edited one of them. Unfortunately, the edit just made it worse:
Blog Quixotic: “Faschy” is short for “fascist.” Peguero is referring to a hairstyle that has recently become popular among young white males. The style – a modified mullet cut – has a shock of hair combed back or to the side with the hair on the temples shaved clean. Self-styled social justice activists have likened it to haircuts favored by Nazi party members in the 1930s, implying that people who sport the hair style are signaling their sympathy with fascist ideals. There is no support for this claim, though.
Bloq Quixotic: Black Panther is a groundbreaking film about a black superhero. It was the subject of controversy over whether white people should be “allowed” to celebrate (read: appropriate) its black protagonist.
Safe Seattle reader: I feel that a council member should be all inclusive. not anti white or anti anyone. I have about 30 more images of slamming of white people. This rhetoric does not help our end result of coming together. But then again, that is just my opinion.
Blog Quixotic: Peguero works for Seattle City Light as some sort of “race and social justice” advisor. Why a city utility needs such a position is unclear. His salary is listed below the screenshot.
Note: Kirsten Harris-Talley is a former Seattle councilmember and is a social justice activist, like Peguero.
Blog Quixotic note: In the post above, Peguero speaks of anti-Semitism, but in his district race there was an Orthodox Jewish man, Ari Hoffman, who had been the subject of vicious anti-Semitic attacks that Peguero was slow to condemn and condemned only weakly. One of Peguero’s supporters, a man named Matt “Spek” Watson, has a history of making borderline anti-Semitic comments on social media. Watson has been a fierce of critic of Hoffman’s. See Watson’s tweets here.
Below: In April 2019 the Safe Seattle Facebook page began posting screenshots of Peguero’s comments, accompanied by critical analysis. On April 26, Peguero responded on his own page. Note how, in the same breath that he refers to Safe Seattle as “racist,” he claims that he will not fight back against their criticism of him.
Peguero was one of seven candidates in the District 2 race, and it’s fair to say that he was the most left-leaning among them. He boycotted the first public forum of the campaign season because it was sponsored by the neighborhood group Speak Out Seattle, whom he considered too conservative. He was joined in the boycott by another social justice activist candidate named Tammy Morales, whom our source mentioned above.
Washington is a “Top 2” primary state. Peguero was eliminated in the August 6th primary election.
For a scientist devoted to social justice, where does science end and advocacy begin? Does the scientist have a right to shape her study results to support a cause she knows to be worthy? Universities take money from corporations and military all the time to fund research that fuels big business and war. Why can’t an individual, socially conscious academic do a similar good turn for her comrades fighting the war on poverty?
Dr. Amy Hagopian is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She’s also an enthusiastic participant in a number of local political causes, including military counter-recruiting, the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement, and homeless rights advocacy. Her involvement with the homeless rights issue led Hagopian, several years ago, to begin collaborating with a non-profit group called the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort or SHARE and its charismatic leader, Scott Morrow. This is the story of how her connection with that group compromised her objectivity and cast doubt upon the credibility of her department.
I first met Ms. Hagopian in 2008, when I was in the peace movement and was, like her, involved in military counter-recruiting. The next time I saw her was on March 26, 2018, when she appeared at a community meeting at North Seattle. Hagopian was there defending a City of Seattle-sponsored homeless encampment known as Licton Springs Village. Hagopian had been invited by the manager of the camp, SHARE, to present an “executive summary report” of a study she and her School of Public Health students had done on the camp’s effectiveness and its impact on the neighborhood. The introduction claimed that the study was commissioned by SHARE.
In her remarks to the audience, Hagopian claimed that the camp was moving significant numbers of homeless people into permanent housing. She also said that crime had not gone up in the surrounding area in the year the camp had been there. Hagopian and her students took turns at the mic, extolling the camp’s effect on the homeless people who lived there and contradicting the neighbors’ claims about increased crime and squalor they said had followed the camp’s arrival. Neither Hagopian nor any of her students lived in the Licton Springs neighborhood.
Hagopian finished by recommending that the camp be repermitted for another year. For a transcript of her remarks and more on what happened at the meeting, go here.
After digging into Hagopian’s report later, I discovered a number of problems with it. I also discovered that the relationship between Hagopian and SHARE was much closer than I’d thought. So close, in fact, that it called into question Hagopian’s ability to produce a scientifically rigorous study on any project SHARE was involved with.
(For a point-by-comparison between what Hagopian’s summary report and what was reported at the Community Advisory Council and elsewhere, see Appendix A.)
In late October, I sent Hagopian a certified letter challenging her on various aspects of her report and her relationship with Morrow and SHARE and asking her to respond. Salient questions included:
How much did SHARE pay to have the study done?
Did Hagopian submit a study design for review or publish her findings?
Why didn’t she disclose her and one of her student’s relationships to SHARE to the community meeting where she presented the report?
Why were there discrepancies between what Hagopian’s study found in terms of “exits to housing” from Licton Springs Village and what the Human Services Department’s Lisa Gustaveson reported?
Would Hagopian go back and update her study report based on crime data published by the Seattle Police Department that contradicts her own claim that crime around the camp was stable during its first year of operation?
Here’s a copy of the letter, including the two attachments. It contains several specific items challenging the accuracy of Hagopian’s evaluation:
I didn’t get a return card from the UW showing they’d received the letter, so after two weeks, I e-mailed Hagopian a copy of it asking her to respond. She got back to me by e-mail and we exchanged messages over a period of days. The entire e-mail chain is here:
Dr. Hagopian was not responsive to most of the points in my letter, but she did give me at least some useful information. Here’s what I gleaned from her responses, or lack thereof:
Hagopian was not, in fact, commissioned to do the report. By SHARE or anyone else. She volunteered to produce the report for SHARE, at taxpayer expense.
Students spent an estimated 1,440 hours on the report (8 students x 18 hours per week x 10 weeks). The value of this work, estimated conservatively at $15 per hour, would be $21,000. That does not include whatever time Hagopian herself put into it, nor does it include the cost to the School of Public Health to print copies of the glossy brochure that were handed out at the meeting.
Dr. Hagopian told me that she didn’t consider her report or the underlying study to be research, and that’s why it was not reviewed by anyone. She didn’t keep any of the survey instruments or the audiorecorded interviews.
She gave no explanation for the discrepancy between her numbers on homeless exists and Ms. Gustaveson’s, and she didn’t answer my question about the updated Seattle Police Department crime data. She merely claims that she talked with SPD and an unnamed “big data” guy.
Hagopian didn’t answer my questions about why she didn’t identify her and one of her student’s relationships to SHARE to the public either in her public remarks or in the summary report itself. She merely said that she “maintain(s) relationships with several community-based organizations so as to provide opportunities for my students to do projects.”
Let’s take a look at the relationship she’s maintained with Scott Morrow and SHARE over the years. There’s no shortage of material out there attesting that it was a close one.
◄◄◄ In this post on Facebook, Hagopian tags SHARE employee Marvin Futrell and praises SHARE and its subsidiary, Nickelsville, referring to them as her “clients.” Futrell has been a controversial figure within SHARE and has been described as an “enforcer” by SHARE staff and camp residents. He’s the subject of a underground comic, Bossman, which was produced by SHARE board member Stu Tanquist (now deceased) and distributed widely in homeless advocacy circles in 2016.
In the top row of images below, Hagopian is cheering SHARE’s lobbying efforts at City Hall. In the bottom one, she is shown judging a pet show at one of the Nickelsville homeless camps run by SHARE. That photo was posted on a Facebook page called “Nickelsville Works” which is run by Peggy Hotes of the SHARE organization. The Nickelsville non-profit corporation is an arm of SHARE. ▼▼▼
In the image below, Dr. Hagopian is on the left in red. In the center of the group stands SHARE enforcer Marvin Futrell. On the right is SHARE boss Scott Morrow. In the blurb, Hagopian appears to be referring to SHARE staff as her colleagues. ▼▼▼
The Facebook posts below, created over two years apart, show Hagopian again lobbying on SHARE’s behalf. Note: The Strangereditorial that Hagopian approved with a “Yep.” was written by Katie Wilson, director of a group called the Transit Riders Union. The TRU, which isn’t a union and doesn’t have that much to do with transit, could be considered another SHARE front group, since it is present at every pro-SHARE rally at City Hall and has been a number of City Council committees tasked with finding more money for homeless programs. ▼▼▼
Which side are you on?
In late March 2019, SHARE became involved in a power struggle with one of its spin-off groups (the Low Income Housing Institute or LIHI) and the Human Services Department (HSD) over control of three “sanctioned” (i.e. city-permitted) homeless encampments it had been operating under the aegis of LIHI but with no direct financial support from the City. LIHI had recently been forced by HSD to close another camp it had run jointly with SHARE because of deteriorating conditions, and, now, wary of the public relations damage it was sustaining because of its alliance with SHARE, LIHI decided to oust SHARE from the remaining three camps it managed. In protest, SHARE staged rallies at each of these camps. Photos taken at the Georgetown camp rally and posted on SHARE’s “Nickelsville Works” Facebook page show Dr. Hagopian in attendance, along with several other SHARE stalwarts. In this photo Hagopian is shown applauding as socialist firebrand Councilmember Kshama Sawant lambastes LIHI and HSD.
Two weeks later, HSD interim director Jason Johnson released this statement supporting LIHI’s decision to take over the SHARE camps. The “CAC letter” he refers to is a letter sent by one of the “Community Advisory Councils” to HSD, asking Director Johnson to clarify HSD’s position on the camps. In his response, Johnson expresses his disapproval of SHARE’s misrepresentation of the City’s position and its threats to cut off food from the camps if LIHI took aggressive measures to retake the camp. This was particularly worrisome, Johnson said, in view of the fact that there were children living at the camps.
And this was the organization, SHARE, that Hagopian was supporting at Sawant’s rally. An organization that would cut off food to homeless children to spite a government agency.
In case there was any doubt about what Hagopian’s presence at the Nickelsville Georgetown signified, here she is two weeks later, describing her visit to SHARE boss Scott Morrow, who was still holed up in the kitchen at the Othello Street Nickelsville, supposedly resisting the LIHI takeover. Hagopian wishes there was some “good journalism” in Seattle, by which she presumably means pro-SHARE, pro-Morrow journalism. Just like her good evaluation of the Licton Springs Village. ▼▼▼
SHARE has been in the news quite a bit lately, as the subject of numerous complaints by residents, complaints of the type that have been discussed and documented by this page a number of times over the years but which, until recently, have not been picked up by mainstream media. The group had setbacks at City Hall as the pro-SHARE head tax was defeated and two SHARE-friendly councilmembers (Bagshaw and O’Brien) decided to retire. In January, Mayor Jenny Durkan nominated SHARE nemesis Jason Johnson to be head of Human Services, and so worried is SHARE about a Johnson regime at HSD that the group has held anti-Johnson rallies at City Hall. Meanwhile, SHARE’s strongest remaining ally on the Council, Kshama Sawant, has tried, unsuccessfully, to get her colleagues to reject Johnson. It looks like Johnson will be confirmed, though, and when he is, he’s likely to call for an audit of SHARE as a condition of the HSD doing any more business with the group. Rather than submit to an audit, SHARE will disengage from HSD and may even close its shelters and whatever tiny house villages it has left. At that point, the SHARE era will come to an end. At least in Seattle.
What did she know and when did she know it?
We can expect many more stories of SHARE abuses to come out in the wake of the group’s collapse. As that happens, some of SHARE’s more respectable allies, like Dr. Hagopian, will be asked how they could have given the group such uncritical support over the years. Will Hagopian be let off the hook? Considering the closeness of her relationship to Mr. Morrow and his group, it’s doubtful. How could she NOT have known what was going on?
Let’s go back to Licton Springs Village Hagopian produced an evaluation report purporting to show that the homeless camp was (a) successful at getting homeless people into permanent housing and (b) not a burden on the surrounding neighborhood. However, just one month after Hagopian presented that study, HSD demanded that the camp’s sponsor, LIHI, submit an “improvement plan,” * and one month after that, the agency announced it was closing the camp for good, for reasons that contradicted Hagopian’s findings. In contrast to what Hagopian’s evaluation claimed, HSD found the village wasn’t, in fact, getting residents into housing and that it was having a profound and negative impact on the neighborhood. Although SHARE was managing the daily operations of the project, the Low Income Housing Institute was in charge, and one of the first things LIHI did was to remove SHARE from the project and hire another non-profit, Lifelong, to do what SHARE was supposed to be doing but wasn’t. When Lifelong came in, it discovered that SHARE had not even been keeping records on who was there. According to a woman named Nosilla Duke, who attended meetings of the Community Advisory Council during this period, the City’s contract stated a program goal that 50% of camp residents would be moved into housing, yet by 18 months into the program only 20% of the total number of residents up to that point had actually been moved into permanent housing. When SHARE left in October of 2018, they did not provide a list of remaining residents, and at the October meeting of the CAC, a Lifelong representative said they weren’t even sure was supposed to be living at Licton Springs Village (see Appendix A, October minutes). There was no operations manual, Lifelong reported, nor any specific documentation on any of the residents or their needs.
Dr. Hagopian claims that her students spent 1,440 hours working on the project, and that’s in addition to the considerable number of hours she spent on site at the Village herself. Is it possible that, during all that time, she and her students wouldn’t have observed what was actually going on at the camp? Or did she see what was happening and choose not to include it in her evaluation, because that would have reflected badly on SHARE and her friend Scott Morrow?
A Hagopian/SHARE Timeline
Let’s review Dr. Hagopian’s relationship to SHARE over time. This list includes just those things one can easily find on the Internet. There are likely many more items that aren’t a part of the public record:
Spring 2009: Hagopian teaches two courses (that involve a collaboration with Scott Morrow, whom Hagopian lists in the syllabus as “supporting faculty” for the course. (Note that the reading materials include Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and an interview with Alinsky from Playboy magazine.) She still teaches one of these courses (HServ572) today, though the name has changed from “Community Development for Health” to “Planning, Advocacy, and Leadership.” (With emphasis on the advocacy.)
April 2009: Scott Morrow gets a “community partner” award from Dean Patricia Wahl at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. The article on SPH’s Web page says this: SHARE and WHEEL are self-organized, grassroots organizations of homeless and formerly homeless individuals. SHARE supports the operation of Tent City, whose residents have welcomed our students’ visits and support for several years. Morrow has enhanced the learning experiences by connecting students with residents who participate in the Department of Health Services’ Community Development for Health course. Tent City residents also served on a panel organized by Students for Equal Health and have agreed to be subjects for a thesis project.
November 2010: Hagopian is appointed by Mayor Mike McGinn to his “Encampments Task Force,” which is charged with finding public land on which SHARE can locate their tent cities.
Winter 2017-2018: Hagopian, on behalf of the UW School of Public Health, accepts a “commission” to evaluate the LIHI/SHARE Licton Springs Village city-funded homeless camp, though it would be more accurate to say she offered the evaluation to SHARE free of charge. Hagopian and her class spend an estimated 1,440 hours taking surveys, analyzing data, and producing a summary report.
March 26, 2018: Hagopian and her students present their evaluation at a community meeting in north Seattle. By this time, Licton Springs Village has been in operation for a year, and the purpose of the meeting is to take community input on whether it should be permitted for another year. Despite the general feeling of the neighbors in attendance that the Village should not be permitted for another year, Hagopian’s report strongly recommends that the project should be continued and that funding to SHARE be increased. Neither Hagopian nor her student Shaina Coogan disclosed to the audience their relationship to SHARE.
September 26, 2018: Seattle’s Human Services Department announces its plan to close Licton Springs Village in March 2019 after two years of operation. Technically, the camp isn’t being closed early, but it’s the first time the City has closed any SHARE camp that was operating at taxpayer expense. In a Seattle Times article, HSD spokesman Will Lemke noted that the residents “weren’t getting into housing at the rate we wanted” and that the City had instituted a “performance improvement plan” for the site – a plan that did not envision SHARE’s continued involvement. To my knowledge, Dr. Hagopian had no comment on the City’s announcement.
October 2018: SHARE is removed from the management of Licton Springs Village and replaced with Lifelong (formerly Lifelong AIDS Alliance). Lifelong reports to the Village’s Community Advisory Council on conditions at the camp, confirming HSD’s assessment that SHARE hadn’t been moving people into permanent housing and that SHARE had not kept adequate records of the camp’s operation.
October 27, 2018: I send Dr. Hagopian a letter questioning the rigor of her Licton Springs Village evaluation study and the possibility for bias given her close relationship to SHARE. Her response is superficial and ignores key points I had raised, but she confirms, indirectly, that her study was not peer-reviewed or published. She doesn’t answer my question about getting (human subjects) review board approval but says that she followed “UW standard ethical protocols.” In terms of the study’s rigor, she says that her students used “systematic, conventional survey/evaluation methods, with continual faculty oversight.” She does not address the question of bias but says she is grateful to the folks at SHARE and LIHI for offering (!) the Licton Springs Village site so that her students could have a “hands-on learning opportunity.”
March 31, 2019: Licton Springs Village closes for good. The remaining eight residents who couldn’t be placed are moved to another LIHI encampment. (Source: A Lake Union Village Community Advisory Council member.)
When I asked her about her about SHARE, Dr. Hagopian responded (by e-mail) that it was one of several community-based organizations she maintains a relationship with “so as to provide opportunities for my students to do projects.” But her relationship to SHARE clearly goes beyond what she needs in order to continue using them as a study subject. By her own admission, Hagopian is an advocate for SHARE, and her Licton Springs Village report was calculated to help an organization that she perceives as being on the side of the poor and oppressed. It was not designed to illuminate the truth, and it was certainly not in accordance with the School of Public Health’s standards of academic excellence. Consider this section from SPH’s Mission Statement page (captured in October 2018):
The first value listed under the Our Values section is Integrity, which SPH defines as adhering to “the highest standards of objectivity, professional integrity, and scientific rigor.” Has Dr. Hagopian followed that standard in her relation to SHARE? Did she follow it in producing her evaluation report or presenting it to a community meeting in the Licton Spring neighborhood?
The second item is Collaboration, which SPH defines as “nurtur[ing] creative, team-based, and interdisciplinary approaches to advancing scientific research and knowledge, and improving population health.” Has Hagopian followed that mandate? Did her evaluation advanced scientific knowledge or improve population health?
Diversity, another core principle, is defined as “embrac[ing] and build[ing] on diverse perspectives, beliefs, and cultures to promote public health. Hagopian can check that box. She has embraced “diverse perspectives” on truth.
Then there’s Equity, which SPH understands as a directive to “promote equity and social justice [whatever those may mean] in defining and addressing health and health care. We’ll give her that one, too.
Is it possible for these apparently conflicting principles to be reconciled, or do some have to compromised to satisfy others? Was that what Dr. Hagopian was doing in aligning herself with SHARE? What happens when the data you’ve gathered casts doubt on an organization that’s aligned with your social justice aspirations? Do you go with the data and let the chips fall where they may, or do you cull some of it to support your predetermined social justice conclusion?
As an academic, Hagopian’s not alone in her left-leaning worldview. She is part of broad turn toward the left in academia – and particularly within the social sciences – that is described in this Aero magazine article by Phil Magness:
Starting in the mid-1990s, the number of college professors who self-identified as conservatives or even moderates began to rapidly decline. In 1998, moderates made up 37% of the academy and conservatives made up 18%. In the most recent survey from 2013, moderates and conservatives dropped to 27% and 12% respectively. Meanwhile, self-identified liberals exploded in number. They sat at 45% in 1998, and have grown to 60% in the most recent survey. That’s a shift of over 15 percentage points away from conservatives and moderates and toward self-identified liberals. [ . . . ]As a recent article by political scientist Sam Abrams documented, some disciplines skew substantially further to the left than academia as a whole. While roughly 60% of all professors self-identify as liberals, that number tops 80% among English professors. History, political science, fine arts, and the other humanities and social sciences are all substantially more liberal than the academy as a whole. They have also shifted further left with the overall trends seen in the chart above.
And of course, a liberal swing for American academia as a whole will only be accelerated further in a “left coast” city like Seattle.
Hagopian’s dean and peers at the School of Public Health might not have known of her relationship to SHARE or how it would have compromised her research, but even if they did, it’s unlikely that they would have confronted her on it. Hagopian has become a force to be reckoned with at left-leaning UW. Her activities with BDS and military counter-recruiting are well known on campus. To our knowledge, she has never been censured by the University for her involvement in these causes. If she has, it hasn’t diminished her activism.
Conclusion: Soon, a reckoning?
Given the cloud of doubt growing around Scott Morrow and SHARE, Dr. Hagopian’s role in promoting the organization is increasingly troubling. If the worst allegations against SHARE turn out to be true, will Hagopian acknowledge her part? Or will she claim, like a Good German, that she didn’t know what was really going on inside the camps? How plausible would such a denial be, given that she and her students visited these camps often over the course of years? And what will the Hagopian’s colleagues at the School of Public Health say? Can they claim that they didn’t know what Hagopian was up to, even as she brought Scott Morrow and his tents onto University property? Perhaps they’ve all got equity blinders on.
Welcome to Seattle…
–By David Preston
*The improvement plan was never published.
The author wishes to thank the following people for their research, encouragement, and advice: Nosilla Duke, Chad Smith, Christopher Rufo, Janice Richardson, and Amber Matthai. Special thanks to a person I’ll refer to only as The Marlboro Man.
Do you like this kind of independent journalism? Then please reward it!
Afterword: They can do better
Regardless of what becomes of SHARE, the UW School of Public Health needs to review Dr. Hagopian’s activities, censure her, and tighten things up generally. Hagopian made several errors in judgment with the Licton Springs Village evaluation that could have been corrected with some timely oversight from her school’s dean or the dean of research at UW. Here’s an outline for an improvement plan:
Hagopian should have included a bold disclaimer in the summary report itself, backed up by an oral statement at the meeting, that her Licton Springs Village Evaluation had not had a design review, did not include scientific controls, and was therefore not in the manner of a rigorous research study. She presented her evaluation to a lay audience (the North Seattle Licton Springs community meeting) knowing that that audience would give it greater weight than it deserved.
She should not have claimed that the evaluation was “commissioned” by SHARE, since it was not commissioned in any sense that a lay audience would infer. SHARE didn’t pay for the study, and they might not have even asked for it as a donation. What probably happened is that Hagopian volunteered hers (and the School’s) resources to SHARE to help ensure that Licton Springs Village would be permitted another year while also giving her a safe class project whose conditions could be controlled and whose results would be more or less predictable. If Hagopian didn’t want to mention that, she should have left the question of how the project came about to the audience’s discretion.
The Executive Summary report should have sourced the crime data and other secondary data sources it relied on. The authors should have attended CAC meetings and talked with neighbors who were critical of the project so they could get a better sense of what crime data they should have been looking at and how to reconcile neighbors’ accounts with Seattle Police Department data. In a “limitations” section, they could have acknowledged that the crime data reporting was still underdeveloped and was in dispute. Dr. Hagopian’s comment to me that she was working with an unnamed “‘big data’ expert” was insufficient.
De-identified interview samples should have been saved and transcribed. Otherwise, there is no evidence that any of the surveys were ever don or what they contained. Contact information for Hagopian or her department should have been included on the report with an invitation to readers to contact her if they had questions.
Hagopian should have disclosed her longstanding relationship to Scott Morrow and SHARE as a disclaimer on the report itself and in an oral statement to the audience at the start of her remarks. She should have disclosed her student Shaina Coogan’s relationship to SHARE as well. At a minimum, Hagopian should have admitted that she had, in the past, petitioned the City Council to give money to SHARE and had been instrumental in bringing one of the groups “tent cities” onto campus.
Appendix A CAC meeting minutes tell a different story
Every city-funded “tiny house village” in Seattle has an advisory body called a “Community Advisory Council” attached to it. These groups, which meet monthly near the village they’re connected with, are made up of 8 to 12 people recruited by the contracted operator, LIHI, to document the village’s progress at moving people into housing and to troubleshoot issues with the neighbors. If anything, CACs are sympathetic to SHARE’s interests and are generally willing to help the group put a happy face on any problems that arise. For instance, when crime goes up in the neighborhood around a village, as it inevitably does, the CAC can be relied on to assure neighbors it’s not the villagers’ fault and these are people coming in from elsewhere. CACs are not reliable sources of information about SHARE encampments; nevertheless, the meeting minutes of the Licton Springs Village CAC are useful for the discrepancies they reveal between Dr. Hagopian’s findings and what the camp staff themselves were reporting.
I’ve compiled all the 20 of the Licton Springs Village CAC’s extant monthly meeting minutes into a single document going backward from March 2019, the camp’s last month of operation. You can see that document here. You can also see the minutes posted separately by month on Seattle’s Homelessness.gov page here. I’ve highlighted sections of the minutes that cast doubt on Hagopian’s sunny evaluation or that are interesting for other reasons. Here are some examples:
► CAC Minutes for July, 2017. Note that it wasn’t until three months after the camp started operations, that the minutes record someone saying that “an accurate roster exists” (page 46 of the document). That suggests that for at least two months, SHARE didn’t even have a record of who was IN the camp. And this issue will come up later. In the same month, July 2017, the minutes speak of hunger in the camp: The impact of the shortage of food is that Licton Springs Village residents are “starving.” Individuals who are older, lack proper nutrition and who also may have medical issues and dietary needs are particularly vulnerable. The difficulty dealing with residents and providing other services when the resident is confronting hunger was mentioned. (Page 45.)
► August 2017. Nearly every month has complaints from the neighborhood residents or businesses about people camping and loitering in the vicinity of the Village. This comment is typical: A lengthy discussion followed regarding the dilemma of the outside encampment street people, as they are not seeking, nor are interested in receiving assistance. They just want to “hang.” The major complaint within the neighboring community is not about the tiny houses. Justifiably, the problem is the complaints from neighbors about the street people predominately on Nesbit Street between 85th and 90th. (See pages 38 and 40.)
► November 2017. There’s a note that a group of UW students will be doing a study on the camp (page 34.). The minutes don’t mention Dr. Hagopian by name or her relationship to SHARE director Scott Morrow. Perhaps no one at the CAC knows about Hagopian’s involvement.
► January 2018. Here we learn that Seattle’s former “homelessness czar” George Scarola “never specified what the [Licton Springs Village] benchmarks were beyond exits to permanent housing,” although he was “solid in recognition that the village has exceeded expectations.” (Page 32.) Hagopian’s evaluation is mentioned for the second time, on page 31, but is referred to as a study by the “UW Department of Health”.
► March 2018. The sloppy method by which exits to housing are tracked is evident here. In the Report on Village Operations section (page 29) it’s recorded that there are “not many exits to housing.” How many is “not many”? What was the target? –We’re not told. Under the Case Management Report section of the same month (page 30) it says that “a few residents have exited into housing recently” but again, it doesn’t say how many or what is meant by recently. Nor does it specify what type of housing the residents exited into or how long they would be tracked following that. Presumably this “information” was provided by the two professional case managers from LIHI who were in attendance at the meeting, Sherry Sternhagen and Charlie Johnson. ►Elsewhere in the March 2018 minutes, it states that Hagopian’s study is nearing completion. And there is a preview. Hagopian’s “#1 finding,” which was shared with someone from the CAC in advance, is that the City should give more money to SHARE. The #2 finding was that there was no change in “crime statistics” for the neighborhood. The results must have been pleasing to Ms. Hagopian’s friend Scott Morrow, though they surely weren’t a surprise.
Nowhere in the any of the meeting minutes that speak of this study is Dr. Hagopian’s name used, and nowhere is it mentioned that Hagopian is an old friend of Mr. Morrow’s. It’s always just the “UW Study.”
► April 2018. On March 26, 2018, there was a community meeting to discuss Licton Springs Village. This was the meeting at which Dr. Hagopian presented her report. At the meeting were CAC members, SHARE staff, LIHI staff and Licton Springs Village residents. But there were also news reporters and a number of neighbors who were critical of the Village. This was a watershed moment for the Village and meeting minutes in subsequent months show a marked change. There’s more discussion about whether the village is succeeding at getting people into housing, about the crime rate (or perceived crime rate) in the neighborhood, and about the relationship between SHARE and LIHI. At the April 2018 CAC meeting, LIHI’s Josh Castle mentions a second target for the camp: “number of homeless individuals who had their emergency or immediate shelter needs met.” The target was 75, according to Castle, and claimed that Licton Springs Village had exceeded that target by four homeless individuals (page 27). Castle also mentions exits to housing, which he claims were 13 out of 27 total exits (or 48%) for 2017, which was “very close” to the target of 50%. He goes on to say that the camp is underfunded by the city to the tune of $191, 758. This echoes the Hagopian study’s “#1 finding” that the City should be ponying up more money. ► There’s an interesting note from the same meeting on page 25: Crime was discussed in context of recent news articles and information being presented by the public. The crime studies and reports are conflicting and often are being prepared and/or interpreted to support a particular narrative, whether for or against the encampment. –Here, someone (we don’t know who) is saying that there are conflicting crime studies and reports and that Ms. Hagopian’s study is not necessarily definitive but may have been prepared to support a pro-encampment narrative. ►On page 24, Michelle Marchand, co-director of SHARE, announces that the City has asked LIHI to give them a “performance improvement plan” for the Village, due in two weeks. Among the key items mentioned in the City’s letter were security, improved opportunities for village residents during day hours, aesthetics (e.g. village cleanliness and property perimeter), and professional staff service provision.) The City’s view of the camp’s performance clearly does not correspond to Dr. Hagopian’s. Nowhere does it suggest that the City is considering giving more money to the camp’s operator, as Dr. Hagopian recommended.
► May 2018. Another reference to “not a lot of exits lately” (page 23). In other words, people aren’t moving out of the camp into permanent housing. Some discussion about whether the camp’s permit will be renewed for another year. Someone wonders: Who here understands the process by which the renewal is continued? And later: Between the two organizations [SHARE and LIHI] doesn’t someone know about the exact legal process?
► June 2018. As time goes on, it becomes clearer that the camp is operating without benchmarks or metrics. A community member named Sharon Holt spoke of frustration in getting information from the city and from LIHI about Village effectiveness. She and other neighbors would like to see numbers that show the accountability of the Village. It is hard to get quantitative data on numbers served and the results of their stay in the Village. It was suggested that Josh Castle attend the next meeting and come with data (page 21). Meanwhile, former Homelessness Czar George Scarola is focused on damage control (He has a special focus on neighborhood relations with a goal of creating a more positive image of Licton Springs in order to ease the way to open more encampments) and two CAC members, Elizabeth Dahl and Marni Campbell, principal of the nearby Robert Eagle Staff Middle School are writing an op-ed piece to be sent to local media in order to “address misconceptions” about the Village (page 20).
► July 2018. More talk about difficulties with “pop-up” homeless encampments around Licton Springs Village. LIHI’s Josh Castle suggests that CAC members go to an upcoming King County Council meeting to advocate for affordable housing programs that will ostensibly benefit LIHI. Although there are no Licton Springs Village residents at this meeting, they will likely have been encouraged to attend this meeting too. Compulsory political activism has been a frequent charge against SHARE. (See also here.) Since Castle represents a City contractor, his remarks may have violated City policies about conflict of interest as well.
► August 2018. Six people exited to hotels. No one exited to housing. Information from Seattle Police Department representatives: Increase in calls near village, on views (seen by SPD), and [in SPD’s opinion this is] due to increase in homelessness overall. (Page 16.) Also: N precinct sergeants: neighborhood has changed, increase in calls around the village. Trying to have officers nearby more often. SPD working with the village to address village issues. (Page 15.)
► September 2018. SHARE’s Michele Marchand announces the City’s intention to close Licton Springs Village and direct LIHI to subcontract with someone other than SHARE to manage the Village in the interim, an outomce she considers “unacceptable” (page 12.) ► Much discussion of the failure of SHARE and LIHI to provide case management services. LIHI has never had an “on-site point person” at Licton Springs Village (page 13.) There has been a lack of case management. The city is holding LIHI accountable for the gaps (page 13). ► Discussion of who is more to blame for the problems, LIHI or SHARE, though all involved saw the lack of provision of case management as missing from the start along with a lack of funding. The model provided by LSV works when it is fully funded. Case management should be made a priority. (Page 13.) Note that while Dr. Hagopian’s study did call for more funding, it did not conclude there was a “lack of provision of case management.” ► One resident is expected to get into housing but isn’t there yet (page 14). This is the last item on the agenda and it is a brief one. It seems like an afterthought.
► October 2018. Lifelong takes over direct management of the camp and reveals that SHARE was mismanaging the operation. From page 10: One concern the City is finding is matching the Village Roster with who physically lives there. The City is still trying to answer the question of who really lives in the Village. [ . . . ] Lifelong was also finding that residents thought the encampment was a permanent place to reside. The residents were told previously by SHARE/WHEEL that they did not need to leave the encampment and that they did not need to be engaged. [ . . . ] LIHI mentioned that it really tried to engage with SHARE/WHEEL but it was really difficult to do so. –So we have two non-profit organizations (LIHI and Lifelong) and the City of Seattle who are saying that SHARE was not getting residents into housing and may not have even known who was living at the camp. How does that square with Ms. Hagopian’s evaluation?
November 2018. Apparently the City still doesn’t know how many people are moving from the camp into permanent housing. There is a need to report transitional and bridge housing, in addition to permanent housing, to City Council in order for them to have a clearer picture of the successes in placement of homeless individuals. (Page 7.)
There was no CAC meeting in December. The minutes from January through March of 2019, when the camp closed describe an orderly process of Licton Springs Village winding down.
Appendix B: An activist’s activist
A Google search on Amy Hagopian + Seattle + activist produces thousands of hits. Here are just a few articles on political movements Dr. Hagopian is involved with. Some of them are about her. Some are by her. With the exception of her connection to SHARE, there’s no apparent conflict between Hagopian’s duty as a researcher and her private life, though we might expect her to be a little extra mindful in her relations with her Jewish students or those employed by the U.S. military. A clear conflict arises in regard to her work with SHARE, however, and while university professors shouldn’t be required to check their social conscience at the door, they should at least seek guidance and supervision wherever a potential ethical conflict might affect the integrity of their teaching or research. Did Hagopian do that? Apparently not.
Last August, a Ballard woman named Bevin Armstrong, who died last year while living in a van, was memorialized in a solemn ceremony by a local homeless activist group. The group, know as Women In Black, is connected to a non-profit organization that contracts with the City of Seattle to run a network of homeless shelters and organized shanty towns it calls “tiny house village” around the city. In addition to advocating for more shelters, both these groups advocate for people to be allowed to live in cars and RVs, in tent camps, and under bridges indefinitely, rather than being “forced” into shelters or other transitional housing. That doesn’t seem to make sense, until you look closely at the group’s business model.
If you follow this blog, you’ll recognize the group I’m talking about. It’s SHARE. You’ll also know that this outfit has an astonishing level of influence at City Hall. And that it’s also corrupt. SHARE is good at convincing its friends on the City Council to dole out money for it to maintain a few hundred shelter beds at its network of shack villages and church shelters. But they’re not so good at complying with City requirements to provide audited financial statements. (If you’re not familiar with this story, you might want to read this article first.)
SHARE promotes itself to the City by holding these memorials and also by staging angry demonstrations and protest tent camps at City Hall, using homeless people whom the group claims are there by choice. SHARE also cultivates good relations with the media and makes itself available to supply a quote on homelessness or a soft-focus picture of a homeless waif whenever some busy reporter needs one. Take this story from the Wall Street Journal, for example. Or this piece from the online journal Crosscut. There are hundreds of such SHARE-friendly pieces online. Collectively, these articles make it look like SHARE is doing something to tackle a crisis that government can’t. That gives SHARE leverage at City Hall during budget season, but it also helps the group in another way. Homeless people outside Seattle read about SHARE’s wonderfully “democratically self-managed” shelter network and they come here thinking that SHARE will find a place for them, too. But for every person SHARE finds a bed or tent for, they attract several more for whom there’s no bed, and these people end up living on the street or in vehicles, like Bevin Armstrong. And thus the homeless crisis gets worse in Seattle
You might think a net gain in homeless people over time would create a PR problem for the group, but the opposite is true. SHARE simply points to the new arrivals as evidence of an expanding nationwide crisis, and they demand even more money to build even more shacks and tent camps… which will then turn draw still more homeless people to the city, perpetuating the cycle and guaranteeing that SHARE will stay in business forever. See how that works?
None of SHARE’s facilities have drug treatment programs attached – indeed some of them allow active drug users to live there – and such case management services as they do have are scant. The group doesn’t offer a pathway to housing; instead their camps and church shelters are essentially warehouses for chronically homeless transients and drug addicts, and the folks who pass through them often exit right back to the street or to other homeless camps. Many of SHARE’s shelter residents – or participants as the group calls them – have been homeless for years, in fact, and without some intensive mentoring and case management services, they’ll stay that way. And that’s all right with SHARE. They don’t claim to be about getting homeless people into housing. They’re about “ending oppression” of homeless people, or so they say, and that oppression includes telling people they can’t camp on public land or forcing them to get into shelters when they’d prefer to live on the street. Naturally, this makes SHARE quite popular with a certain element of the homeless population, and those are the ones most likely to show up here in response to SHARE’s PR blitz.
Of course SHARE doesn’t want the City “forcing” any of the people living on the street into legitimate transitional housing or treatment programs, because then these folks would be out of sight and lost as a marketing tool. So instead, they say homeless people should be left to live on on the street or, like Bevin Armstrong, in vehicles, until there are enough SHARE shelters to house all of them. Which will be never of course.
To assure that people would be allowed to live outside unmolested, SHARE joined forces with American Civil Liberties Union and a host of social justice activists to cause a policy shift at City Hall. Police have been told not to pester homeless people, even when they are doing great harm to themselves or others. Which brings us back to the tragic case of Bevin Armstrong.
Armstrong moved to Seattle in 2014 with a mental disability, no friends, meager resources, and a budding drug addiction. She lived in a Ballard apartment for a few months but she eventually gave that up when her funds ran out and took up with an older man named Richard Rektenwald (who called himself the President of Ballard) who had by then already been living out of a van in the vicinity of the Ballard Commons Park for years. Recktenwald is a drug user and small-time dealer who was apparently pimping Armstrong for her government benefits and abused her sexually and psychologically. As is typical in this kind of relationship, Recktenwald controlled Armstrong’s money and her movements, and witnesses I’ve talked to say he rarely let her out of his sight. Rektenwald described himself as Armstrong’s “caregiver” – but he’s not licensed to provide any kind of health care or services, and his actual treatment of Armstrong, as described by many witnesses, gives the lie to his cynical claim.
Armstrong overdosed or otherwise injured herself a number of times while under Rektenwald’s “care” and had been to the hospital frequently for both ODs and seizures. The couple had been contacted, separately, at least once by the police in connection to a domestic violence complaint. In that case, Armstrong told police that Rektenwald had beaten her and locked her out of his van in the middle of winter because she wouldn’t perform oral sex on him. Although police wanted to move forward and build a case against Rektenwald, the matter was dropped because Armstrong wouldn’t follow through and testify. No domestic violence advocate was called in.
Cops in the area knew the couple well because Armstrong was a “frequent flyer” with local emergency medics. They also knew she was languishing and they wanted to help her, but they felt they couldn’t take action to get her indoors and away from the man who was abusing her, because that would have been harassing homeless people, which was against City policy, as created by SHARE. All people really need in this life is shelter and to be left alone, according to SHARE, and Armstrong had shelter because she was living in the van with Rektenwald. She told the police she didn’t want any help, so it was all good in the City’s eyes.
An autopsy was performed after Armstrong’s death, and although we don’t have the autopsy report in our hands, it’s a good bet that the immediate cause of death was either overdose or organ failure. By the time Rektenwald was through with her, Armstrong was a wreck. Sadly, she looked nothing like the photos I’ve included here, and that’s a good thing, because even though I never knew her, this is how I want to “remember” her: a beautiful young woman full of life and hope. And not in Seattle.
SHARE supporters have placed hundreds of these bronze memorial leaves at high-visibility spots around town. The one for Bevin Armstrong is alongside several others at the Ballard Commons, not too far from where she actually passed. Although the leaves should be sacred, SHARE uses them in the same way it used the homeless individuals they represent. As just another a hustle.
For Bevin and Lois.
Do you appreciate honest journalism? Then reward it.
November 14, 2018 ~ These documents were sent to me by an inside source at the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE). SHARE runs a network of more than a dozen homeless shelter facilities around Seattle and King County. These facilities fall into four categories: roving tent camps (known as tent cities), indoor shelters at churches, SHARE-owned shelter properties, and sanctioned (government-funded) shanty towns called “tiny house villages.” SHARE claims to be sheltering up to 350 homeless individuals daily among all of its shelter programs, excluding the shanty towns, but these numbers are impossible to verify. The comic and supporting documents were created by an unknown author and distributed surreptitiously around the SHARE shelter network in late September of 2016. It went into two revisions and “printings” and was well-received both by SHARE’s homeless residents and by ex-residents, many of whom had been summarily evicted from the camps.
SHARE spokespeople tell the public officials and private donors who fund it that the organization is democratically run and that each facility is self-managed and has its own rules separate from those of the others. In some respects, this is true. Tent camps, shelters, and tiny house shanty towns all have different requirements, so they’re organized and managed differently. Tent camp residents, for example, are required to do security shifts guarding the entrance to the camp, a task that is either not required at indoor shelters or is not as time-consuming. Security duty at a tent camp involves one or two camp residents manning a shack at the camp entrance, running warrant checks on new arrivals, and screening everyone who enters the camp. The shifts typically run two hours and can be scheduled for any time of the day or night, because the camp needs 24-hour coverage. The number of “securities” required per person per week is determined by the number of people in the camp.
Security duty is widely considered the hardest chore residents of the tent camps have to do. Former SHARE residents have told me that this was a constant drain on them and kept homeless people who wanted to find work from being able to get it, either because they were too tired after working so many securities or because the shifts they were assigned to conflicted with appointments. Camp managers take the security duty requirement seriously. No excuses are allowed, and being late for a security shift can get a resident “barred” or evicted from the camp for three days or more. There are other infractions besides missing a security shift and, depending on the nature of the offense, a resident can get barred permanently… and not just barred from one shelter or camp but from any facility in the SHARE network.
The Boss Man comic below is based on a true story that has played out frequently at SHARE homeless camps. A resident is penalized for violating a rule and is then given an arbitrary or unfair punishment by a corrupt camp boss or higher-level SHARE staffer. Appeals of the punishment are summarily dismissed and grievances against management are ignored. Camps often go into a state of rebellion and are either shut down permanently or starved into submission and reorganized, depending on how deep it went. Honest camp managers who take the “democratic self-management” idea seriously or who try to defend their charges from harsh punishments are systematically removed and replaced by ones more subservient to the will of SHARE’s governing board, a clique of eight or nine individuals who are loyal to SHARE boss Scott Morrow. In some cases, a camp will be stripped of support and then allowed to descend into chaos before it is finally closed.
Many of the characters in the comic are composites, but the eponymous anti-hero is based on a real person named Marvin Futrell. When Boss Man was published, Futrell was a paid SHARE staffer whose official job title was “organizer,” but his real job was to be the enforcer of SHARE boss Scott Morrow’s will. If SHARE was a plantation, Futrell would be the overseer, the guy out in the fields cracking his whip over the backs of the slaves, while Morrow would be the planter, rocking gently back and forth on the front porch of the big house, sipping juleps.
This particular story is set in Tent City 3 (TC3), which at that time in 2016, was located at the former St. George’s Episcopal Church in north Seattle. But TC3’s experience was hardly unique. Anyone who’s spent time in SHARE pipeline will relate to Boss Man, because they’ve lived some aspect of it. For everyone else – all my non-homeless readers – I’ve included an explanatory section at the end:
Download the complete Boss Man comic and documents here.
Understanding Boss Man
A frequent bone of contention for SHARE’s shelter and camp residents is SHARE’s claim that its shelters are self-managed and democratic. However, the residents I’ve met – even the ones who are well-disposed to SHARE – tell a much different story. They say that the self-management is just for show and that the SHARE board, dominated by Scott Morrow, regularly overrules camp-level decisions Morrow finds inconvenient or threatening to his position. Some policy decisions are made at the group’s so-called Power Lunch mass meetings, but these confabs can be scheduled on short notice and switched at the last minute so that only Morrow’s people are there.
According to SHARE’s published book of rules and guidelines (The SHARE Book), there are two levels of rules within the SHARE organization: shelter level and SHARE level. SHARE-level rules apply across all SHARE facilities and are theoretically approved by a vote of the whole organization or the board, while shelter-level rules are created and enforced by the residents of a given facility. The Boss Man comic describes how these rules are redefined, reinterpreted, and otherwise manipulated so that Morrow and his underlings can justify any disciplinary action. Grievances against SHARE staff and board-level appeals of staff decisions are allowed, but they are handled behind closed doors, and generally go against the appellant. It’s common for camp-level disciplinary decision to be overruled by the SHARE board.
Being “barred” evicted from a camp or shelter is the most common disciplinary action taken by SHARE staff against a homeless person. And it is certainly the most harsh. A bar can be 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 30 days, or permanent. A person can be barred from a single SHARE shelter or all of them. When someone gets barred, they have a short time to gather their belongings and leave. Depending on the shelter and length of the bar, the formerly homeless person – now homeless again thanks to the bar – might be allowed to store any belongings they can’t carry inside the shelter or camp for the duration, but if they are barred permanently, then they have a limited amount of time (usually a week) to get their things. If the deadline elapses, their possessions are destroyed. SHARE staff are supposed to avoid barring someone at night and they are supposed to accompany the barred person to the nearest bus stop and see them safely aboard, but these courtesies are often bypassed. There have been documented instances of SHARE camp residents, including women and children, being barred at all hours and in all weather conditions, and turned out on the street. People who have been punished this way may appeal, but the process is designed to discourage people from appealing.* And in the meantime, while they’re waiting to hear, they’re on the street.
Panel 18 shows people who have been permanently barred from SHARE shelters now living in the notorious Jungle camp under I-5 in south Seattle. This isn’t merely a comic fantasy; for hundreds of former SHARE residents, it’s a reality. The artist knew what they were was doing by depicting a bar as a painful lump on the head.
The story opens with the Tent City 3 (TC3) camp manager barring a resident for three days for a missed security duty. The manager’s decision is overruled by Boss Man Marvin Futrell, Scott Morrow’s enforcer. Futrell justifies his decision by issuing a series of memos from the SHARE central committee, some of which are contradictory… but all of which support his actions.
The TC3 campers then file an official grievance against Boss Man with the SHARE board. The grievance is denied and Boss Man is exonerated, and another SHARE staff memo is disseminated to all campers stating that the 7-day bar rule is in fact not a SHARE-level rule but applies only to tent cities 3 and 4. In a subsequent memo, that decision is further justified by a bureaucratic sleight-of-hand in which the grievants’ claims that they are a “shelter” (and thus entitled to make their own rules) are used against them. Because they claimed to be autonomous shelters, the tent city residents are told, they will now have to submit to the even more stringent rules that apply to SHARE’s indoor shelters.
Stickin’ it to the Man
In panel 13, the artist fantasizes about using Boss Man’s self-serving logic of “tent camps = shelters” against him. In the fall of 2016, SHARE closed its indoor homeless shelters and forced the ex-residents to encamp at two new tent cities (TC6 and TC7) it had created on the steps of the King County Administration Building. These were protests aimed at pressuring the County’s Community Human and Services department to restore $70,000 in funding it had just cut from SHARE for non-performance. The SHARE board rewarded the protesters with free Metro bus tickets (bought by SHARE from the County at a deep discount) while the rebellious TC3 and TC5 camps, which did not support the protest, had their bus tickets withheld. A County auditor later determined that SHARE violated their agreement with Metro by distributing the tickets to protesters, since the protest camps did not qualify as shelter in their view. The County sent SHARE a stern letter, but took no further action.
The second half of the Boss Man story revolves around tent city residents making direct appeals to the membership at SHARE’s “Power Lunch” mass meetings and filing more grievances against Boss Man Marvin Futrell. The Power Lunch appeals go nowhere, though, because they don’t sway Scott Morrow or the SHARE board, who stand behind Boss Man, and the grievances are all rejected on the grounds that whatever rules Boss Man might have violated, he did so “without malice.” Even when the SHARE board nominally agrees with the grievants that the TC3 campers were mistreated, all that comes of it is a slip of paper in Boss Man’s personnel file. Camp residents ultimately vote to bar Boss Man Futrell from the camp, and bar papers are drawn up and delivered to Futrell in person.
Protest camp at the King Count Administration Building, 2016
The saga ends with Boss Man Futrell being barred from entering the camp, an event that really happened. After Futrell was barred, SHARE boss Scott Morrow determined that the camp was in full rebellion and needed to be taught a lesson, so he cut off the part of their food supplies he controlled, changed their official e-mail addresses, and diverted donors away from the camp and back to the SHARE central office. Within a few months, the rebellious camp leaders cried uncle and left. They were replaced by others who were more compliant and the camp was moved to the University of Washington campus, where it stayed for a year.
Ironically, Futrell was fired at a Power Lunch gathering (for barring a disabled camp resident without cause). The SHARE board didn’t immediately countermand that but Futrell has since been reinstated and now works at one of the city-sanctioned shack villages.
Taken together the incidents described in Boss Man evoke a troubled organization that is part charity, part crime ring, and part personality cult. But whatever else you can say about the SHARE organization, you can’t call it democratic. SHARE is still getting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money annually to run its shelter and shanty town operations in King County and Seattle. Over the years, I have brought my concerns about SHARE’s arbitrary, illegal, and downright cruel treatment of homeless people to the attention of City and County officials many times, using documentation such as that included in the Boss Man comic packet. Like the pleas of the characters in the story, my words have fallen on deaf ears. So I can relate.
SHARE boss Scott Morrow makes a cameo appearance (in panels 9 and 10) as a brownie-munching, sleep-deprived buffoon, but he is otherwise conspicuously absent, as are most other SHARE potentates, including Morrow’s girlfriend Peggy Morrow (who runs SHARE’s PR machine), Michele Marchand (leader of SHARE’s women’s branch (WHEEL)), and long-time Morrow loyalist Anitra Freeman, who serves as SHARE’s public face while Morrow operates in the shadows. Marchand and her “Women in Black” group appear as mice in panel 17. Like the Women in Black who stand vigil for homeless people who’ve died on the streets, the Mice in Black stand vigil for a dead cat. Their signs read, “Without shelter, critters die,” – a play on Marchand’s “Without shelter, people die,” slogan.
The chicken in panel 3 refers to a case of canned chicken that was allegedly pilfered from TC 3’s kitchen by SHARE staffer Sheri Rowe. The camp advisor tried to have Rowe fired for this but was unsuccessful.
The trope of comic book characters meeting on the street (starting in panel 5) is based on the real-life scenario of camp residents and staff being forced to wait outside in the alley outside SHARE’s office at the Josephinum building in downtown Seattle, while the SHARE board meets behind locked doors to decide their fate.
Little Big Men: The real Marvin Futrell and Scott Morrow
Captain Advisor = A play the “Camp Advisor.” The Camp Advisor role was created for Tent City 3 after the camp went into internal “receivership” following a series of corruption scandals in 2016.** At a Power Lunch meeting in early 2016, three receivers were designated to monitor and advocate for the camp, and to help run it independently of direct SHARE control. These were the seeds of rebellion, but given the influence Scott Morrow continued to exercise over the organization as a whole, it was bound to fail. After a few short months in “receivership” the camp was brought back under Morrow’s control. It was then moved to another location.
EC = Executive Committee. Every SHARE tent camp has a managing committee of five residents who are empowered to enforce shelter-level and SHARE-level rules and policies at that particular camp. In Boss Man, the TC3 Executive Committee is represented by a single person, and indeed, when there are no other EC members present at a camp at a given time, a single EC can make act with the authority of the whole Committee. EC positions are elected and run for a term of one month. Being an EC carries some prestige and ECs are relieved from the necessity of doing other camp chores, but this is more than made up for by the EC job duties, which can be onerous.
MSP = Moved, seconded, passed. This is a reference to the Roberts Rules of Order process for democratically enacting a rule or policy. Part of SHARE culture is to reference properly enacted rules by attaching an “MSP” to them.
Power Lunch = Power Lunches are weekly mass-meetings of SHARE staff and clients held at various locations that SHARE controls, such as church shelters, tent cities, storage lockers. Delegates from the various SHARE facilities are there, and the meetings are usually 25 to 30 people. New SHARE-level rules and policies can be enacted at the meetings, but any actions can later be undone by the SHARE board, behind closed doors, or by manipulation of voting at subsequent Power Lunches.
*One ex-SHARE resident told us how it works: “At a camp you can appeal a bar at the next camp meeting, but all the camp can do is find whether there was “cause” for the bar. To get it reversed, you have to take it to “bar committee,” which means you have to go to the SHARE office and put your name in a list that’s taped to the locked door between 1-3 PM every other Tuesday. Then the committee meets every other Wednesday at 7 pm. Each shelter and tent city sends a person, they review your bar and either drop it or uphold it. After that you can take it to Power Lunch. This can take weeks, and in the end, there’s no guarantee. It’s designed so it’s too difficult for people to follow through.”
** According to a former TC3 resident, “People were barred during a move. A couple of the Executive Committee members were systematically getting rid of anyone they didn’t like and making it almost impossible for any outsiders to get into the camp. And the bookkeeper at the time, [name redacted], had created a system he called “done by,” where you could pay someone to do your security shift or go to a required meetings. The going rate was 10 bucks. He was also marking people off as having completed security and then pocketing the cash. That’s how Camp Second Chance [a SHARE offshoot camp in southwest Seattle] started. They split off because of all of Marvin Futrell’s bullshit. TC3 went into receivership on July of 2016 and SHARE was cut out of the picture for a while. The new camp managers ended all the corruption; in three months the camp logged in several thousand dollars in donations. Before the camp went into receivership, they had logged in nothing for several months. It was corrupt.”
September 17, 2018 ~ Last week government officials announced they’d be bringing Seattle’s controversial LEAD drug abatement program to Burien, Washington. LEAD stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and its stated purpose is to lower recidivism (habitual lawbreaking) by using police to “divert” drug offenders away from the courts and into stable housing, drug treatment programs, mental health counseling… and jobs. Whenever a cop arrests a drug user whom they think could be better served by a social worker than by a trip to jail, police can give them a choice: go to jail or get into LEAD. Once an offender is in the program, cops will go easier on them, as long as they’re meeting with their social worker regularly and not ratcheting up their criminal activity. The theory is that the person’s behavior will get better over time, even if they don’t get off drugs and become model citizens.
Started in Seattle in 2011, LEAD has generated gobs of positive media attention and around 40 copycat programs around the country. But for all the hoopla, LEAD hasn’t demonstrated better long-term drug addiction recovery rates than drug court or existing intervention programs. In fact, it hasn’t demonstrated much of anything. This article explains why.
Lisa Daugaard runs a non-profit organization (the Public Defenders Association) that gets money to run the LEAD program for King County. She’s also been involved in Seattle’s “police reform” process and is a critic of drug laws. These factors combine to create a conflict of interest issue that should have ruled her out of any involvement in the LEAD program.
Of all the claims made for it, the only actual result LEAD can demonstrate is a reduction in recidivism. But even that claim is questionable because of the way the pilot project and study were set up. The study purporting to show a decline in recidivism was not scientifically rigorous. It was not vetted by a human subjects review board, for example, and did not have tight controls over how the subjects interacted with each other or the researchers.
Social Desirability Bias
There’s a well-documented tendency of human study subjects to produce results they feel will be pleasing to the researchers. This is known as “social desirability bias.” In the case of LEAD, the most socially desirable result subjects could have produced would be a decrease in recidivism, because that’s the chief result the program was trying to produce. And that’s exactly the result the subjects did produce. A desired result is not necessarily an unscientific one; it depends on whether bias is controlled for (or limited) in the study design. In the case of LEAD, it wasn’t.
To ensure that any observed decline in recidivism was real and not the result of bias, the study authors would have needed to set it up so that once an arresting police officer referred a subject to LEAD, that officer would never again be in a position to decide to either arrest or not arrest that LEAD participant, or to influence any other officer in that regard. The participating officers would have had to be walled off from the non-participating officers somehow, and the non-participating officers would have to have been somehow “blinded” from knowing which drug users they saw on the streets were in the program and which weren’t, so they couldn’t give the LEAD participants preferential treatment when making arrests. (And the same goes, to a lesser extent, for prosecutors and judges, because they too might have had an biased impact on recidivism rates, albeit indirectly.*) If you’re a researcher, and you can’t wall the participants of a study off from each other so they don’t influence each other, and you can’t keep them from knowing and deliberately producing the result you’re looking for, then you haven’t got a rigorous, scientific study.
Brave New World: September 11, 2018. King County Executive Dow Constantine introduces the LEAD program to a group of press and citizens outside the police office in Burien., Washington. Image: King County
Were controls implemented to ensure that officers patrolling the streets of Seattle during the LEAD pilot project were unaware of which drug users they met on the streets were in the program, to prevent them from giving those drug users special treatment? No. And even if there had been such controls, it would have been impossible to keep the study’s other subjects, the drug users, from sharing that information with the police or with each other. What could researchers possibly have done to keep a street drug user from saying to an arresting officer, “Hey I’m in the LEAD program, so leave me alone or you’ll mess everything up.” What could they have done to keep the study subject officers from sharing that info with each other?
Officers participating in the LEAD pilot program gave drug users whom they knew were in the program a break and didn’t arrest them for minor crimes; that’s what they were supposed to do. That was part of the drug users’ reward for participating in the program. But non-participating officers almost certainly heard about the program as well. They might have found out which drug users were in the program, and they may have given them a break to help their buddies in the program, or to help the Police Department if they had the sense that that’s what was “desired.” Once word of the program got out, all cops might have given all drug users a break during the study period, deliberately not arresting them in order to lower recidivism and help the program succeed. Why would so many cops have wanted the program to succeed? I’ll discuss that below.
Other Confounding Factors
Some LEAD participants were apparently removed to other jurisdictions out of Seattle or King County. That means any arrests they picked up after being moved would no longer be trackable, at least if the tracking was limited to King County.
There are other ways in which the subjects could have been manipulated to provide the desired results. For example, drug users could have been given cash payments or other benefits they could then exchange for drugs, relieving them of the necessity to steal in order to support their habit. Just giving a drug user a monthly EBT card (food stamps) will usually result in a decline in criminal behavior, because now, instead of shoplifting or thieving to support his habit, the drug user can take his EBT card to the nearest crooked mini-mart, pawn it for fifty cents on the dollar, and get his fix for the next week or two. The only way to control for this as a factor would be to correlate decreased recidivism with an actual decline in drug use. Was that done for the study? –No. So how do we know users weren’t just getting paid to keep them from stealing to support their habit? –We don’t.
No waiting on Aisle 7: The LEAD Program in Burien comes with the assurance that anyone who wants drug treatment can now get it. Or so says King County Executive Dow Constantine. (See Press Conference document below.)
We also don’t know how much of the decline in recidivism was due to drug users being put indoors and out of sight. An important part of the LEAD program is to get drug users into housing. When you take an addict, put him indoors somewhere, and supply him with drugs, he is less likely to recidivate or attract the attention of police. But is he really any better off? Unfortunately, the LEAD program doesn’t address that question.
Conflict of Interest
The likelihood of patrol officers delivering a socially desirable drop in recidivism was increased substantially by the fact that police reformer (read: anti-cop activist) Lisa Daugaard was in charge of this project. Daugaard manages the Public Defender Association (PDA), which at one time contracted with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to provide free legal defense for indigent clients. Daugaard’s attitude to the justice system is complex, but the overall trend in her thinking is that the law is unfair to people of color and the poor. These days, her PDA is more of a lobbying group than anything, and it has supported such things as heroin injection sites and full-on legalization of narcotics. Daugaard was party to a lawsuit against the City of Seattle in which the plaintiffs, led by the ACLU, sought to enjoin the police from removing homeless camps on public land, unless it could guarantee all the camper a nice place to live. Going from her resume, it would be fair to call Daugaard a social justice warrior, if not an outright socialist.
Shortly before the LEAD program was created, Daugaard was a key player in a high-profile investigation of SPD by the Obama Justice Department. One spin-off of that was the Community Policing Commission (CPC), a brainchild of Daugaard’s. In the CPC, Daugaard envisioned a City-sponsored all-civilian group that would not only keep a watchful eye on police but would have right of review over decisions rendered by the City’s police disciplinary body, the Office of Professional Accountability, which Daugaard and others felt was tilted in the cops’ favor.
By the time LEAD was born, Daugaard was widely known among Seattle police as someone who had the power to hurt their careers if they displeased her, or to embarrass the SPD as organization.
With the Seattle Police Department in her pocket and the backing of other “progressives” at City Hall Daugaard was now in a position to build a project that could prove one of her pet theories, namely that enforcing drug laws was wrong and that we didn’t need to arrest drug users to get them to stop their problematic behavior. And the LEAD program was that project. The only problem with it was that it was so easy to game. Daugaard’s power over the police study subjects and her personal interest in the study outcome should have been a warning to the City and Daugaard’s academic collaborators at the University of Washington not to touch it. But this being Seattle – a town that lives and breaths social justice – no one batted an eye.
OK, but does it work?
Notwithstanding Daugaard’s role, does the LEAD program work? At all? In a word, no. Most Seattleites don’t care about concepts like lowering recidivism rates; they just want their neighborhoods to be free of drug crime and squalor. When they hear public officials singing LEAD’s praises they think, “Oh good. They’re finally doing something about all junkies on the street.” –But getting junkies off the street is not what LEAD does, and perhaps the most troubling thing about the program is that, for all the fanfare, it has not made a visible difference in drug-related crime even in the Belltown neighborhood where it was piloted and has been operating the longest, with the most money spent. As this video shows:
Look Out, Burien
Despite the fact that LEAD wasn’t successful in Seattle, the program is now being expanded around King County, with the intent of making it look like a success. Last week program director Daugaard stood with King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, and other local officials and announced that the LEAD program would be comging to Burien and two other cities to be announced later, with $3.1 million in program funding to be divided among them. (Meanwhile, the program is being discontinued in the Skyway area of King County, though no reason was given for that.)
According to a talking points document sent by the County to Burien officials (see Press Conference, page 5) there is no longer a wait list to get into drug treatment or detox, either inpatient or outpatient. Frankly, this seems too good to be true. The document doesn’t make clear whether that applies just to LEAD participants or to everyone who wants treatment, but this language might have been inserted by lawyers who were worried that the County could be sued for discrimination if they gave preference to LEAD participants in providing County services.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says his office won’t be prosecuting drug possession under 1 gram from now on. Knowing they can’t be arrested or “diverted” from court by police, what motivation do drug users have to get into the LEAD program?
The program is evolving as it expands, and in some telling ways. At the press conference, Prosecutor Satterberg explained that his office will no longer be charging people who are arrested with less than a gram of narcotics on them, regardless of whether they’re in the LEAD program. Meanwhile, Burien City Manager Brian Wilson has said that police won’t even have to wait until they arrest someone to get them into the program now. And referrals will no longer be strictly related to drug use, because now police can refer someone based only on their suspicion that the person has committed a drug- or poverty-related crime. Or that they might commit such a crime at some point.
Wilson’s comments notwithstanding, there is some confusion within the LEAD program staff on whether an arrest must be used as a basis for referral (see Appendix).
As we see, eligibility for the program has expanded. In literature that was sent to Burien officials from the King County Executive, it was noted, at the bottom of page 2, that referrals no longer need come from just law enforcement but can also come from “community leaders” or even just “concerned individuals” – whatever that means. Practically speaking, anyone will now be able to refer a Burien resident to the LEAD program based solely on their judgment that the person appears to be homeless, mentally ill, or drug addicted. Or that they have committed (or might commit) crimes related to poverty. Is this Constitutional? Is it wise? –Inviting police, and even private citizens, to refer other citizens for a crime abatement program based on pure supposition? It sounds like a civil rights violation, like something the ACLU might challenge. But then, it’s not likely ACLU will be taking this one up, because they support Daugaard.
The new Burien version of LEAD is so different from the original as to not even be the same program. If anyone can refer a person to the LEAD program, that means the law enforcement basis of the program – the L and E of LEAD – is no longer there. Moreover, if Prosecutor Satterberg isn’t going to press charges for narcotics possession under a gram** then the D for Diversion is gone as well. Without the threat of arrest, there is now no motivation for someone who is referred to the program to accept it, since nothing will happen to them if they refuse.
Without the key components of law enforcement and diversion, we’re left wondering how the program can still even be called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. Why isn’t it just another government assistance program? It’s great that Burien’s getting some County money to help get needy people off the street and into treatment. But why does it need to come with all the bureaucratic strings attached? Burien already has a social services staff. Why not just give the 500,000 clams to the City of Burien and let them augment their existing assistance programs?
Can any of the officials at the podium answer me that? Or do they think we need another study?
* Supposedly the study considered only repeat arrests as recidivism, as opposed to repeat prosecutions or convictions.
**A gram is more than typical street drug user would have on them for personal use, based on an average total daily dose of 500 mg of a product untainted with Fentanyl. In practical terms, the one-gram threshold has been in place for a long time in King County. In fact it’s unusual for the Prosecutor’s office to file charges for anything less then three grams, and that usually happens only for repeat offenders who are arrested in connection with violent felonies. Recently, Satterberg has pushed to raise the threshold for charging to 10 grams or narcotics, which is an amount above what even most dealers on the street would possess.
This e-mail exchange suggests that even LEAD program director Lisa Daugaard might be confused as to whether you have to commit a crime in order to be referred to the program.
Updated September 25, 2018 ~ This is a list of recent (last 5 years) deaths and injuries that can be reasonably attributed to the inaction of the Seattle City Council on the homelessness crisis. The victims include both housed and unhoused people.
The current casualty count is 57.
If Seattle made a sincere effort to get everyone who’s living outdoors into indoor shelters and treatment programs, this list would undoubtedly be much shorter. But the government is not doing that, and so people are continuing to die. Homeless camps, whether “sanctioned” or otherwise, are not the answer. The answer is getting people into shelters, and moving them from there into permanent housing. I will be presenting this document to the City Council and other City officials as the opportunity permits. I welcome you to send it to them as well.
The document is several pages long. You can also download it here.
September 8, 2018 ~ The biggest gripe a citizen can have is that their government doesn’t listen to them, and that gripe has never been more on-point than when it comes to transients and drug addicts camping in Seattle parks and streets. Seattle residents have been urging City officials to take action on this problem for years. City Hall’s response has been sluggish at best, and when it does act, it makes things worse.
The logical response to people living in tents is to create more indoor shelter space and move people into that preparatory to finding them a permanent, indoor place to live. But Seattle’s response has been to merely “sweep” the worst camps from place to place and to set up a network of “sanctioned” (read: legal) camps that compete with the illegal ones. The sanctioned camps, dubbed “tiny house villages” by their fans, are a cash cow for the group that’s contracted to run them and a PR bonanza for the City. But they’re not getting people into permanent housing, and in the meantime, they’re hell on the neighborhoods.
Sanctioned camps were the brainchild of the non-profit organization that manages them: SHARE. After several years of sparring with the City over its “right” to set up homeless tent camps on public land, SHARE’s director Scott Morrow persuaded his friends on the City Council to stop fighting him and to start paying him instead. Morrow proposed to create a network of camps around town on public and private land. The City agreed in principle and in early 2015 they passed a law that would allow for such camps to be created, but there was still a catch. Camp neighbors and their lawyers were bound to put up a fight if the City tried to do things by the book. How could they get around existing land-use code and public process requirements to get these camps permitted?
On November 2, 2015 Mayor Ed Murray solved that problem by declaring a homeless “state of emergency.” Once homelessness was established as a permanent crisis, due process and other legal protections for citizens could be ignored. And they were.
But what will the neighbors say? In late 2015 Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared homeless “state of emergency” clearing the path for Scott Morrow to build a network of “sanctioned” homeless camps around Seattle, unhindered by land-use codes or neighborhood resistance. [Click to enlarge this image.]
The sanctioned camp program began in 2015 with a small camp in Ballard of about 25 residents. Now there are eight. Each camp houses between 20 and 50 people who were formerly on the street, and the cost to run a camp ranges from $170,000 to $700,000, depending on which City official you talk to. Unfortunately, the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD), which oversees the program, doesn’t publish cost summaries or detailed data on whether the camps are moving residents into permanent housing
At their public meetings, HSD pitches sanctioned camps as a “temporary solution” until the city can raise enough money and fund more shelter beds and indoor programs. People are told they can expect a slight, two-year disruption in the neighborhood. But three years of experience with these camps has shown that once one goes in it can be there for long time. Possibly forever. And if something goes wrong, the neighborhood is stuck with it.
How does it work?
In March of 2015, the City of Seattle passed an ordinance changing city zoning such that non-profit groups could apply to create and manage homeless camps (called transitional housing in the ordinance) on City-owned or private, church-owned land. In the sanctioned camp model, which takes the idea one step further, qualified non-profits can contract with HSD to operate these camps. Under the contract (see here and here for examples), the City pays for much of the camp’s operating expenses. The “tiny houses” in these camps don’t have to meet housing code requirements because they are smaller than the 120 square foot minimum for dwellings. These glorified tool sheds have no plumbing, and many have no insulation or fire protection. But they do have windows, and some are wired with an electrical outlet.
The City treats the camps as a Type I master use permit. Type I covers temporary uses like Christmas tree lots and seasonal carnivals. Since these activities are brief and have minimal impact on a neighborhood they don’t need a public input process or other red tape. Accordingly, once a Type I permit is approved by the Department of Construction and Inspections, the decision can’t be appealed.
Home Sweet Homeless Camp: The Nickelsville Ballard tiny house village overstayed its permit by several months. When the permit expired, the camp operator refused to leave until the City found the camp a bigger place to stay, which the City finally did.
The Type I master use permit wasn’t created with homeless camps in mind, but considering how controversial these camps are, it comes in very handy. The City doesn’t have to consult with a neighborhood before agreeing privately with operators to place a homeless camp there. And once they’ve made their decision, they can announce it as an accomplished fact. Which they do.
According to the sanctioned homeless camp contract, which is slightly more stringent than the land use code, the City agrees to notify property owners within 300 feet that a camp is being planned and hold a public meeting to take questions and comments. But even under the contract, the City isn’t required to consult with neighbors before choosing a spot. So they don’t. Once a camp is announced, neighbors can register their opposition, but that feedback doesn’t factor into whether the camp is going on, because the City and camp operator have already decided on that.
Homeless camps are granted an expedited review process by the City of Seattle. Public comment is not taken prior to the siting of a camp and the City’s decision to permit cannot be appealed.
According to the contract, homeless camp operators must still obtain a master land use permit to set up a sanctioned encampment within the city limits. The initial permit is good for one year and can be renewed once after the first year, which means, theoretically, that homeless camps can be in one spot for a maximum of two years. Before the renewal permit is granted, the City agrees to open a comments period and host at least one public meeting to take live testimony. Citizen input is supposed to be collected and reviewed by someone before the renewal is granted. But as with the initial permit, the decision to re-permit rests entirely with the City. And there is no appeal.
Very disappointing: Testimony from a Licton Springs Village neighbor belies the operator’s claims that the city-sanctioned homeless camp is not correlated with a rise in crime. (This testimony was taken from Page 45 of the transcript below.)
Licton Springs Village
By the early spring of 2017, the City had created four sanctioned homeless encampments, all run jointly by the same two organizations: SHARE and the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). (I have written extensively about both of these troubled organizations.) The camps were originally claimed to be drug- and alcohol-free, but as the network of camps expanded, the City and camp operators said they wanted to try a new model of camp they called “low barrier.” Low-barrier camps were supposed to help hard-to-serve street dwellers who had “barriers” like active drug addiction or lack of ID that would prevent them from using shelters or the original sanctioned camps. The first of these camps was scheduled to be installed in the Licton Springs neighborhood in the early spring of 2017.
The Licton Springs neighborhood in north Seattle runs along what used to be the main traffic route through Seattle: Highway 99, but the motor hotels that were the glory of roadside America have aged into seedy flophouses, and stretches of the road have become havens for drug users and prostitutes. As you can imagine, when the HSD announced it was putting in a camp where people could use drugs without fear of arrest, the neighbors weren’t amused. The camp was supposed to absorb at least some of the existing vagrants. But what if it becomes a magnet for even more of them? the neighbors asked. –That’s why we’re taking your input now, the City said. And that’s why we’ll have another meeting after a year. If the camp doesn’t work out, we won’t renew the permit, and they’ll have to go.
The City didn’t mention that by the time Licton Springs Village was announced, the camp operator had already purchased the lot on which the camp was to be located, and HSD had already agreed with the operator to put the camp there. Given that, and given all the trouble the City would have to go through just to get the camp up and running, how realistic was it to expect that the City would pull the camp’s permit after only a year?
They get around: When the gates to the Licton Springs sanctioned low-barrier encampment in North Seattle are open, you can see dozens of bikes stored inside.
We told you so!
On March 26, 2018, approximately one year after the camp opened, the City of Seattle and the camp operator hosted the promised community meeting to get feedback from the neighbors. That meeting was held on the campus of North Seattle College, and I was in attendance. Some students from the University of Washington School of Public Health spoke in favor of the camp, and a staff person at a nearby shelter for prostitutes spoke in favor of repermitting, as did three residents of the camp. But the balance of public comment – most of it from the camp’s neighbors – was clearly against.
Neighbors said that after the camp went in, they noticed an immediate increase in property and nuisance crime and that this was contributing to a general degradation in the livability of the neighborhood. Accordingly, they did not want the permit renewed.
You can read the transcript below to get a mood of the meeting. Everything through page 35 is from people the City and camp operator had invited there. From page 36 to 66 are the actual public comments, and, as you can see, they’re critical:
Incredible Progress: This woman manages a women’s shelter and recovery program nearby the Licton Springs Village. She said: “I have personally seen people’s health improved. People who are now clean and sober, who were not clean and sober before the village. We’ve seen incredible progress by people and people that have been traditional sprawlers along Aurora, who I’m sure many of you have now seen are now housed in Licton Springs.” She forgot to mention that the Commons had been closed due to a rash of crimes in the area just two months earlier. [Her commentary begins on page 34 of the transcript.]
A tenfold increase in crime: This woman questioned the City’s official statistics. “I’ve seen car prowls, assaults, drug activities, needles. Not only car prowls but going into people’s garages, going into people’s homes, going into their yards, and one woman [ . . . ] even assaulted with a gun as she was getting off the bus walking to her home.” [Page 44 of the transcript]
Going through my bin. This man who’d recent bought a home in the area said: “It all started when my car was prowled. Shortly after we found needles next to our garage. Then we had someone that I would assume was homeless or near that area walk into our yard, start yelling at us for beer while we ate dinner with our family. I did, however, have a nice conversation with a woman who was going through my recycle bin looking for magazines.” [His testimony starts on page 46 of the transcript.”
The report below, from the Seattle Police Department data section, corroborates what the neighbors said about crime increasing around the camp. Comparing totals from 2016-2017 (the year before the camp was there) and 2017-2018 (the year after the camp was there), the report showed there were increases in all areas, with the highest, at about 100% being for overall crime:
Several news outlets have covered this trend as well:
The camp residents at the meeting didn’t question what the neighbors were saying about increased crime, but they said the crimes weren’t being committed by the camp residents themselves. While that might be true, it’s beside the point. Homeless camps – especially the low-barrier ones – attract drug dealers, who supply the users in the camps. And those dealers attract other drug users, who often must resort to crime to support their habit. When word gets around that there’s a homeless camp in the neighborhood, vagrants and petty criminals of all kinds congregate there, because to them, the camp is a beacon of tolerance. Or perhaps of neglect.
For their part, Human Services staff have told people who have complained about Licton Springs Village that the north Hwy 99 corridor was always a high-crime area, but that’s cold comfort. What they hear the City saying is that they should be used to crime by now, so a little more can’t hurt them.
Surprise: The permit was renewed!
Citizens who couldn’t make the March 26 meeting could still submit comments to the City. The public comment period began a week before the meeting and ended about a week after, on April 4. According to the contract, the City was supposed to wait until April 4 and then review comments and decide whether the camp’s permit would be extended for another year. But they didn’t bother to wait. Sometime shortly after March 26 – and possibly even before – the camp’s master use permit was renewed for another year and dated to the 26th. According to the permit record, which is displayed in full in Appendix A, the application was approved and entered into the files on the same day it was submitted: March 26… which was the same day the community meeting was held and eight days before the comment period ended. Also notice that no document review fee was paid by the camp operator. And why would there be, since the City didn’t actually review anything.
A prostitute works the street across from the Licton Springs Village “low-barrier” homeless camp on North Aurora. Though prostitution has been a problem in the area for several years, neighbors report that it’s gotten worse since the camp came in. Some of the camp residents are drug addicted prostitutes.
A suspicious pattern
There are nine sanctioned homeless camps in Seattle, with more on the way. Of those, three have overstayed their maximum permitted time by several months, and one (Othello Village) is apparently intending to stay in the neighborhood indefinitely. After Othello Village’s s two-year permit lapsed, a local church volunteered to “sponsor” the camp by leasing the land from the owner, LIHI. This means the camp is eligible for a conditional use permit allowing it to stay indefinitely as a Constitutionally protected expression of the church members’ religious beliefs. But church sponsorship of homeless camps is just another ruse, as we saw with the Dearborn Nickelsville camp. Church-sponsored camps don’t have to be on church property, and sponsoring church members don’t have to spend any time with the campers. Church sponsorship may become superfluous in any case, because LIHI has said it will push the City to rewrite the contract language to let camps stay beyond the current two-year maximum. And the City will almost certainly acquiesce.
No sanctioned homeless camp has ever been denied an initial permit or a renewal, and there is a sense among Seattle residents living around the camps that everything about the camp permitting process is just a pro forma exercise, a sham of public process. With the possible exception of Camp Second Chance, Licton Springs Village has been the hardest on its host neighborhood, and yet, even though many neighbors complained about a rise in crime, and even the data supported their accounts, the City more or less automatically renewed the camps permit, making the whole public input process a charade.
In her comments at the community meeting, HSD’s Lisa Gustveson told neighbors that the City’s decision on whether to repermit Licton Springs Village would happen after the comment period closed in two weeks. But in fact, the decision had already been made. Click to enlarge this image.
Why even bother with “the process”?
It’s not hard to understand why the City would want to ignore public process on sanctioned homeless camps. Bringing a new camp online or moving an old one takes months and sucks up thousands of City staff hours. Political capital is expended as well, because wherever the City opens a new camp, it costs the councilmember for the district it’s in votes. It’s only natural, then, that City officials are loathe to cancel a permit after one year and take the camp somewhere else. Especially if they had no other place to take it. If the neighbors were unhappy enough, another option would be to turn the campers back out on the streets, but that’s the last thing the City would do, because the camp operator would almost certainly stage a protest, and even if it didn’t, closing a camp would be a reminder that that camp, and the whole camp model, was ultimately a failure. Accordingly, no camp has ever been shut down; just the opposite in fact. Like duckweed in a farm pond, the camp network is always growing, and never shrinking.
The Type 1 permit is for short-lived land uses that have low impact on neighborhoods. The City of Seattle is using them to permit homeless camps that are high impact and can stay in a neighborhood for years.
So why does the City even bother with the pretense of neighborhood involvement? If they’re going to do whatever they want, why don’t they just do it and stop wasting people’s time pretending to care? The answer is: politics. It’s just good public relations for government officials to turn up at a community meeting and let people ramble for a couple hours, even if they spend most of their time complaining. It helps tamp down resistance.
Soon… a reckoning?
The situation with Seattle’s sanctioned homeless camps seems untenable: Other than PR value, they don’t deliver much for the money, and they generate a lot of bad will in the neighborhoods. And yet the City keeps adding camps and lavishing more money on the operators every year. How can they do that? To understand it, you have to understand the political landscape. There are 700,000 people in Seattle, but only ten thousand or so of them live close enough to a homeless camp such that they might make a connection between the camp and increased crime in the neighborhood. Of those living near to a camp, many will be young social justice-minded renters who buy the City’s argument that the camps are doing something about homelessness and any bother they cause is small price for those who are “privileged” to live indoors to bear in order to help out the less fortunate. People who accept that claim likely won’t accept counterclaims that the camps aren’t working and that they might, in fact, be counterproductive. Or at least, they won’t accept it easily. Of the sanctioned camp neighbors who get that there’s a basic problem with them, many will simply leave the area rather than fighting, and that leaves those who stick it out feeling increasingly isolated and powerless. Citizens who speak out consistently against the sanctioned camp system are marginalized and scorned as NIMBYs by Seattle’s left-wing political establishment.
Despite the strongly left-leaning political complexion of Seattle media, the are a handful of relatively non-biased local sources – led by the Seattle Times – that could be doing a better job of exploring this issue. Unfortunately, making “tiny house villages” look bad isn’t a growth industry in a town like Seattle, so they generally leave it alone. Such sanctioned camp stories as the media do produce tend to be either superficial or positively flattering to the camps, like this one by the Wall Street Journal, for example. Once in a while, a thoughtful critique will appear, and when it does, it gets some attention. But the excitement fades in a day or two, and no one follows it up. Meanwhile, no one other than the Blog Quixotic is continually investigating the camp operators or their relationship to local politicians. And no on is asking the tough questions about whether these sanctioned homeless camps are solving homelessness… or making it worse.
There will probably never be enough popular anger at the camp system to shut it down, but in the broader political sense, there’s still much cause for optimism, because with each passing week the City’s failure of leadership on the homeless issue generally is costing it more. Vagrancy has been on a steady upward trend since the first camp opened, with some lurid new case of squalor or crime making the news almost daily. After 10 years of rising taxes and deteriorating conditions on the street, the voters are getting disgusted. In May, a relatively modest City Council scheme to raise $50 million for homeless spending through a head tax on City employers was overturned by voter initiative within month of its passage, and there is now talk of a new crop of outsiders – neighborhood activists – rising to challenge the incumbents in the 2019 City Council elections. I’ve interviewed several of these prospective challengers, and they’re all running on an anti-vagrancy, pro-accountability platform. That’s going to be a problem for the incumbents, because they are all associated in the voters’ minds with both homeless camps and the rise in vagrancy.
So there might yet be hope that the voices of Licton Springs Village neighbors will be heard.
–By David Preston
All pictures are by the author, City of Seattle, or anonymous.
I thank the following people for their support, both moral and editorial, in the creation of this and other articles about the Homeless Industrial Complex:
Do you like this investigative journalism? Then reward me.
~ Postscript ~
Community Advisory Councils: Another brick in the wall
Josh Castle selects members of the Community Advisory Councils and is camp operator LIHI’s man on the scene at community meetings. Here he is at the Licton Springs Repermitting meeting in March.
Another reason why sanctioned camp neighbors don’t trust the input process is because of their experience with the Community Advisory Councils (CAC). As part of the sanctioned encampments contract, each camp is required to establish a CAC of some half a dozen “community members” who will hold monthly meetings, take public input, and advise the City and the neighbors on the operations of the camp. The CAC is marketed to camp neighbors as being their own little camp monitor, but in fact the CACs are as fake as any other part of the facade.
CAC members aren’t chosen by the neighborhood; they’re selected by the camp operator. Accordingly, people who are in any way critical of the sanctioned camp model or the operator are never appointed to be on these things. Only those who can be counted on to cheer for the camp – or at least stay out of the way – are chosen. A typical CAC might include a local pastor whose parishioners bring meals to the camp; a manager at a non-profit that, like the camp operator, depends on the funding from the city; an ex-resident of the camp, a sympathetic local housewife; and one or two social justice activists. CAC members are not required to live near the camp they oversee.
The CACs don’t act as advocates for the communities surrounding the camps, and neighbors who have tried getting satisfaction through them are always frustrated. The response people living around the camps get when they complain about trash or increased crime is the same one they got at the March 26 meeting: “It’s not the people at the camp who are doing these crimes, so it’s not our responsibility.”
And yet another thing…
Apparently, Licton Springs Village was never granted a master use permit for the first year it was in operation, because there is no record of such a permit on file with the City. If you do a Permit and Property Records Search and search on the address 8620 Aurora Ave N, you will see a list of permit-related documents for the camp. The search returns 23 documents, including the 2018 master use permit renewal for that camp, but there is no permit for the property for the time it was being operated between the spring of 2017 and March 26, 2018. There are construction and electrical permits for the camp’s first year, but no land-use permit.
That could be because the paperwork wasn’t scanned and uploaded into the database, but given how important the master use permit is relative to the other documents, that is unlikely.
The Licton Springs Camp Master Use Renewal Permit
This document was prepared by camp operator SHARE to give to Licton Springs Village visitors and the media. It was also handed out at the March 26th community meeting. The camp receives several hundred thousand dollars a year in subsidies, but note that SHARE is asking visitors for basic items like food and blankets:
Testimony and documentation from students at the University of Washington School of Public Health
At the March 26th community meeting, these college students and their adviser praised the Licton Springs camp and presented a report that they claimed showed crime hadn’t increased at the encampment in the first year of its operation. Here’s a transcript of their testimony, along with the report they submitted.
August 11, 2018 ~ Camp Second Chance is a sprawling cluster of tents and shacks located on Myers Way South, in the Highland Park neighborhood of southwest Seattle, just inside the Seattle city line. The camp popped up in the summer of 2016 when a handful of people from SHARE’s Tent City 3 homeless camp in north Seattle broke a lock and illegally occupied a patch of vacant land that had been set aside for a park just months earlier. The founding campers told me they were dissatisfied with SHARE’s management of Tent City 3 and wanted to create a new kind of camp modeled on sobriety and genuine self-management.
Image: Google Maps. (Click to enlarge)
The City of Seattle decided not to evict the campers, and, after being there for a few months, the camp leaders decided they would apply for city funding to pay for services like trash removal, port-a-potty service, and electricity. In other words, they wanted to be a “sanctioned” camp and have a contract with Seattle to run homeless camps, like the ones SHARE had around the city. All sanctioned homeless camps require a sponsor, which can either be a church or a 501(c)3. In early 2017, a Buddhist group called Patacara, whose director, Polly Trout, had participated in the initial occupation of the land, received a contract from Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) to run Camp Second Chance; however, Patacara’s sponsorship of the camp ended a few months later, when camp leader Eric Davis accused Trout of financial mismanagement. The contract to run the camp was then transferred to SHARE* and its partner, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). At the point SHARE/LIHI became, once again, the City’s sole contractor for running sanctioned homeless camps. Continue reading →
June 9, 2018 ~ The note and photos below document criminal activity. They were sent to us by Ari Hoffman, a Jewish man who has been fighting a years-long battle against the desecration of the Bikur Cholim cemetery in Seattle, where members of his family are buried. You can read more about Ari’s saga here.
This material was originally published on the Safe Seattle Facebook page in late May 2018. Because the crimes were alleged rather than proven, faces in the top photo were blurred, but the second photo was left unblurred because the individuals’ faces were not clearly visible. Two weeks after it was published, the second photograph was flagged by someone “brigading” the page and trying to take it down. Facebook removed the photo on the grounds that it violated the company’s mysterious “community standards” and without further explanation or appeal banned the poster from using Facebook for three days, with a warning that they could be booted from the social network permanently if further violations occurred. –David Preston
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WARNING! Some of the material below violates Facebook’s community standards.
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This couple was caught having sex in Seattle’s Bikur Cholim [Jewish] cemetery. No arrest was made, but we filed a report anyway. Saw them wandering the neighborhood later in the day. –Ari Hoffman
June 9, 2018 ~ (Originally published on the Safe Seattle Facebook page)
We’ve been talking with SODO business owner Ari Hoffman about his efforts to get the city to keep the area around the Bikur Cholim Jewish cemetery clean of squatters and trash. It’s been a difficult process. Even with the local media and Jewish communities solidly behind him, Ari is having trouble keeping this sacred place sacred.
At our request, Ari provided us with a timeline of events . . .
Two years ago, the Mayor’s office and City Council squared off when a plan was released showing that the Council was planning on letting green spaces be used as homeless encampments. The Jewish Community was very concerned because we are not allowed to drive on the sabbath or holidays, so we walk everywhere. (Little known Jewish fact: [observant] Jews are required by Jewish law to give 10% of their earnings to charity.) Our synagogues all have at their root the term Bikur Cholim which translates to helping the sick, because that’s what we do: We help people. And we want to KEEP helping people, but the criminal element is not being addressed here, and that’s a problem.
In response to me organizing the Jewish community to speak out to stop this proposal, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle organized a meeting with CM O’Brien prior to election day of 2016. Nothing came of that meeting, however. The highlight was O’Brien saying “Knock on wood, when the right person is elected, we’ll have more resources to deal with homelessness.”
Exactly one month later we had a meeting with CM Tim Burgess. That meeting was slightly more productive; he at least gave me names of contact people who were working on the homeless problem, and I submitted a rough plan to them to take derelict properties and turn them into homeless shelters. They told me they could not implement these plans because they couldn’t change the zoning of these properties.
Things over the next two years continued to get worse for the cemeteries up north and also around my office in SODO. RVs have moved in, and lately we have been finding needles, feces, garbage, meth and other things at both locations. Truckers in SODO are taking advantage of this as well, by parking wherever they want and doing oil changes right in the street. At night, they fight over “their” parking spots, and bullets have come through my office windows. I have found homeless, mentally disturbed people stripping on my loading dock.
At the cemetery, it goes beyond just homeless people living there. Prostitutes and drug dealers have started working the nearby woods. The synagogues that fund the cemetery have had to spend $110,000 installing lights and cameras and clearing an area not due for development for 30 years to address the problem. RVs are parked out front and mourners are ticketed for illegal parking but not the RVs. Groundskeepers are assaulted. Vagrants use [redacted] to break into our chapel rest rooms and set up camp in them. They hack our power. They tap into the cemetery’s water. We have a ritual where we wash our hands after being in a cemetery, which we now cannot do because we have had to lock all the spigots. Every morning we find more and more things on the tombstones. Police almost never respond. If they do it takes 3-5 hours, even when our groundskeepers were being assaulted!
By late April, I’d finally had enough. I started calling the media and the story got picked up. I even caught a man on camera with Q13 letting his dog do its business in the cemetery. Still nothing was done. The RV dwellers got tired of the media attention and moved on, but they didn’t go far. They parked at other cemeteries in the area. Last Thursday, after multiple calls I made, Councilmember Juarez’s office set up a site visit for this Tuesday. On Monday the staff called me to tried to reschedule. I said no.
By that time most of the campers had left because of the bad PR. And then (!) the navigation team finally shows up to deal with the one remaining tent. That’s the guy who was interviewed in King 5 news.
Juarez didn’t show up Tuesday to the cemetery and sent her staff instead. Thirty some community members did show up, though, including all denominations of Judaism, employees of nearby hospitals, cemeteries and neighbors who are all dealing with the same thing. That was covered pretty well on Q13. A new tent appeared that morning and the police came promptly to deal with it in advance of the visit of the staff.
I have sent emails to every councilmember and the Mayor. The Mayor responded saying navigation team was dealing with the problem, even though they had not been. O’Brien’s office finally got back to me this week and said the head tax will fix everything. The back and forth on that was fun.
Despite the fact that the cemeteries are in her district, Juarez’s office has stopped returning my emails. I have been calling Harrell for two weeks and his office finally said to me today he would prefer to work on it with DPD and that he wont take a meeting with us. [Note: Harrell has since agreed to meet with Mr. Hoffman. That’s scheduled for this Thursday.]
I went to the “town hall” meeting sponsored by the SODO BIA, and after the meeting, I confronted Councilmembers Herbold and Gonzalez about the Council issuing a stand-down order to SPD. They claim no such order was given, even though police officers have told me it has been. Additionally, I told the members about Juarez not showing up and Juarez’ comments to the Jewish constituent comparing his comments about vagrants in Seattle to the way Nazi Germany treated the Jews. (That exchange was documented in the Seattle Times.)
Every year our synagogue runs an event before Memorial Day to put flags on the graves of veterans in our cemeteries. I have informed the Council that armed congregants will be protecting the kids who do this and will deal with anyone who should not be on the property. Some of the security I have found for this event are former [Israel Defense Force] soldiers.
The cemeteries are filling out damage forms with the City and may have to litigate if the $110,000 claim is denied. The synagogues have sent formal letters to the city to deal with the issue and no responses have been received. The synagogue has been getting phone calls from all over the world because the story has been picked up nationally and internationally and many people who live elsewhere have people buried in the cemetery.
June 3, 2018 ~ Everyone’s talking about the Head Tax, about how much money it would raise, about how the money will be spent (or misspent), about how it might affect business… Almost no one’s talking about who it was that designed this tax in the first place.
The committee that developed the tax ordinance was called the “Progressive Revenue Task Force.” It was constituted by the City Council and co-chaired by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena Gonzalez, with an assist from substitute CM Kirsten Harris-Talley. –All “progressives” in good standing. Since the idea behind the Task Force was to raise money from big business to create more affordable housing, one would expect it be packed with business people and experts on affordable housing. That wasn’t what happened, though. Truer to its name than to its mission, the Task Force was dominated by ideologues (“progressives”) who wanted to get their hands on some revenue.
The SHARE organization was on the Task Force, in the person of homeless advocate Courtney O’Toole (pictured far right in the photo above, taken by the author). SHARE isn’t a housing provider; they’re a political pressure group that gets city money to keep people in “sanctioned” homeless camps. I have covered this group extensively on this blog. Two years ago, for example, I busted them for using a fake accountant to review their books. That man was fined, and SHARE was ultimately defunded by Seattle’s Human Services Department as a result. Unfortunately, SHARE’s funding was later restored at the insistence of Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Morrow’s other allies on the Council. SHARE stands to get a chunk of Head Tax money through its subsidiary LIHI (see the item on Tom Mathews below); it is therefore an interested party and shouldn’t have had anyone on the Task Force.
Through a Glass Darkly: Peggy Hotes and Scott Morrow, co-directors of the SHARE organization, keep a watchful eye on protege Courtney O’Toole as she represents SHARE’s interests on the Progressive Revenue Task Force. SHARE will be one of the prime beneficiaries of Head Tax proceeds, even though the homeless camps they run aren’t about getting people into “affordable housing.” Photo: David Preston
The Transit Riders Union was there, represented by Katie Wilson. Like SHARE, the Transit Riders Union is a pressure group that has nothing to do with housing. Or with transit riding either. Indeed, the group’s sole function seems to be demonstrating at City Hall in favor of more money for groups like SHARE and against removal of homeless camps. I don’t know how the Transit Riders Union gets funded, but if you follow the Head Tax money to its final destination, you’ll likely find some of it lining TRU’s pockets.
Katie Wilson of the Seattle Transit Riders Union defended the Head Tax at a raucous Ballard Town Hall in May. Wilson’s organization is politically allied with SHARE and other groups that stand to gain from the tax. Photo: David Preston
Lisa Daugaard was on the Task Force. Like the others, Daugaard has nothing to do with affordable housing. She works for the private Public Defender Association and runs a “social justice” project called L.E.A.D., which gets taxpayer money and which will get even more if the Head Tax is imposed on Seattle businesses. L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) is a politically sexy but non-evidence-based program that shields chronic drug users from arrest if they agree to engage with social workers and “accept” benefits. Daugaard is also one of the loudest voices behind heroin injection sites. You can see a video I made about the L.E.A.D. program’s impact in the Belltown neighborhood where it was piloted here.
Ian Eisenberg, owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shops, was there. I know Eisenberg and had hoped he’d be a voice for reason and for business on the Task Force. And he was a voice for business: His. Pot shops were exempted from the Head Tax under the proposal that Eisenberg helped craft. That’s a coincidence, I’m sure.
Ian “Uncle Ike” Eisenberg seemed bored at the January meeting of the Task Force. He got an exemption for pot shops out of his participation, though, so perhaps it was worth the sacrifice. Photo: David Preston
Tom Mathews, board member and former president of Walsh Construction was there. Mathews is the only member who could qualify as an expert on affordable housing.* But there’s a catch. Mathews is also on the board of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which I’ve also written about extensively on this blog. As this article shows, LIHI and Walsh Construction are cozy, which is understandable, since Walsh gets a good chunk of its business from LIHI projects. And here SHARE’s Scott Morrow comes into the picture again. Morrow co-founded LIHI in 1991 and LIHI and SHARE still cooperate, jointly running an archipelago of city-funded homeless encampments around town.
Although Tom Mathews represents a company that provides affordable housing, and therefore technically counts as a housing expert, his indirect connection with SHARE’s Scott Morrow makes his presence on the Task Force questionable. Morrow already had one representative on the Task Force (Courtney O’Toole), and since Mathews is also on the board of LIHI, which is effectively controlled by Morrow, it’s fair to say that SHARE was double-represented . . . or triple represented if you count SHARE’s other ally, Katie Wilson, of the Transit Riders Union. And let’s not forget that CMs Lisa Herbold and Kristen Harris-Tally, are long-time SHARE associates as well. All together, Morrow had at least five people on the Task Force representing his interests!
Tom Mathews of Walsh Construction poses with Sharon Lee of LIHI. Photo: Daily Journal of Commerce
And so it goes. There were 16 members on the Progressive Revenue Task Force, and if you look into it, you will probably find that every one of them had some stake in being there. They all had something to gain. They were all either activists, like Katie Wilson, or outright dependents, like Courtney O’Toole and Tom Mathews, or carpetbaggers, like Ian Eisenberg. There was only one housing provider (the double-agent Mathews) and there were no authentic representatives from any of the businesses that would have had to pay the tax. The few companies, like Bartell’s, who took the Council’s invitation seriously and applied to be on the Task Force were rejected. (See this Stranger article for more info on the also-rans.) Nor was business represented in the audience. The meeting I went to in January was packed with “social justice” advocates from SHARE the Transit Riders Union. Many of the people supporting the tax were familiar faces at Council meetings. There were no voices, besides my own, speaking against it.
Double Duty: Social justice advocate Sally Kinney testifies in favor of the Task Force’s original $150 million package at a meeting in January 2018. Kinney, who regularly speaks for SHARE’s interests at Council meetings, also serves on the City’s Community Involvement Commission. Photo: David Preston
Where was the Balance?
Why didn’t the Council try to bring balance to the Task Force? Maybe they didn’t see the lack of balance as a problem. Indeed, they might have seen a business-free Task Force as a selling point, since the premise of the tax seems to have been that big business is evil and has been shirking its duty to help out with the housing crisis. Given that premise, why would the Council listen to what business says on this?
Maybe the Council was in such a rush to push the Head Tax through that they didn’t want to risk bogging it down with dissonant voices. Or maybe they just needed to pay back some political favors they owed to SHARE and the others, and they thought no one would bother to look closely at the Task Force’s composition anyway, or ask where the members’ real interests lay. But if that’s what they thought, they were wrong.
Oink! Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold co-chaired the Progressive Revenue Task Force. Herbold has long-standing ties to SHARE and LIHI, both of whom were represented on the Task Force and both of whom stand to gain from tax if it’s ultimately implemented. Photo: David Preston
In early May, the Task Force submitted to the Council its proposed ordinance calling for a $500/employee annual tax on businesses grossing over $10 million. The plan was estimated to generate $150 million in revenue. Initial support for that package was not strong, though, and after hundreds of businesses big and small came out publicly against it, and Amazon, a prime target of the tax, stopped construction on two large building projects downtown in protest, Mayor Jenny Durkan suggested that she might veto the bill.
On May 14, the Council voted 9 to 0 for a pared-down package, proposed by Durkan, that is estimated to generate $50 million with a tax of about $275 on businesses grossing over $20 million. It will affect nearly 600 employers in Seattle. That is, if it survives. The Head Tax, even in its diminished form, has generated a surprising amount of controversy. And opposition. A referendum petition is being circulated by a group called “No Tax on Jobs” (FB: NoTaxOnJobs) and it appears to be well on the way to getting the required 18,000 to force a public vote on the tax in November.**
–By David Preston with assistance from Chad Smith
Do you appreciate what this blog does? There’s an easy way to say Thanks…
*Affordable housing is something a misnomer in the Seattle context. If, by affordable, we mean a rent-stabilized apartment pegged to a certain amount of Area Median Income (say 20%) then a city can guarantee to create a certain amount of affordable housing construction, subject only to the amount it can raise in taxes or bonding. But if, by affordable, we mean an apartment that can be built at market rate or significantly below, then Seattle is on a fool’s errand. The price-per-square-foot cost of government-built housing is known to run well above market rates.
**The author has participated in this effort as a volunteer signature gatherer.
May 18, 2018 ~ The closer you look at the way bike lanes and trails are being put in around Seattle, the more disturbing the picture looks. I know what you’re thinking: Bike lanes? Disturbing? Come on, Quixotic. Lighten up.–No really. Hear me out.
Take the Missing Link bike trail project in Ballard, for example. That’s a proposed 1.5 mile path that will connect the main part of the Burke-Gilman Trail, which runs along the west side of Lake Washington, to a stub running along Shilshole Bay on the west edge of Ballard.
The link is missing, and it does need to be put somewhere. But the path the City is proposing for it would take it through an industrial and maritime corridor, and that will disrupt – and possibly destroy – several large businesses in the neighborhood, as well as a spur railroad line that was built in the late 1990s to serve them. Continue reading →
May 13, 2018 ~ In a landmark court case last March, King County superior court judge Catherine Shaffer cited an obscure provision of Washington’s Homestead Act to rule that cities can’t impound vehicles or “excessively fine” their owners when those owners are living on board. If upheld, that ruling will block police from confronting the growing number of criminals running drug operations and doing other sleazy stuff out of their RVs. Packs of RVs have already turned several areas of downtown into “no go” zones, and one of the places impacted, ironically enough, is the King County Courthouse, where Judge Shaffer holds court. Last summer, the Courthouse made headlines when several jurors were assaulted and King County Sheriff John Urquhart was attacked by a psychotic man with a pair of scissors.
After reading the story about Judge Shaffer, one of my readers on the Safe Seattle Facebook page told me she’d been assigned jury duty downtown last fall and had asked to be reassigned to the suburban Kent Regional Justice Center instead because she feared for her safety. Shaffer turned the woman down, telling her that if she felt unsafe, she could use the back entrance to the building. This graphic shows her letter asking to be excused and Judge Shaffer’s response:
Below is some commentary the unexcused juror sent to me, describing the incident:
In my request to be excused, I cited the attack on Sheriff Urquhart that happened a few days prior. The Sheriff was able to defend himself because he has a weapon. I am unable to bring a weapon to court and did not feel safe standing on the street waiting for the bus at the end of the day or walking from the bus to the courthouse. I didn’t ask to be excused all together; I just asked to be assigned to the courthouse in Kent, so I could drive there. Judge Shaffer didn’t address my concern and instead told me to go in the County Administration Building on Fourth Avenue and then walk through the underground tunnel to the Court. That was not helpful to me.
I had to take a bus to downtown Seattle in the middle of winter when it’s dark for much of the day. Luckily, the bus let me off on the safe side of the street, and it was in the 20s that morning, so the street dwellers were tucked away keeping warm. In the end it was a total waste of my time. They had more people then they needed, and 60 of us were sent home after watching the video. Luckily I was one of the them, but still, it was such a waste. There was $600 plus mileage spent just on the first group they sent home. There were close to 200 of us waiting and most were sent home by lunch.
It would appear that Judge Shaffer cares more about the rights of criminals living in RVs than she cares about the safety of the good citizens she compels to appear for jury duty. In this case, there was no reason for Shaffer to compel the juror to come downtown, since the Court had overbooked by about 60 people anyway. Shaffer’s actions make no sense, unless you see them in the context of “progressive” Seattle, where those who obey the law are vilified while those who disobey it are exalted.
February 4, 2018 ~ I have a friend, “Joe,” whose mind zips along at a hundred miles an hour. He’s always analyzing city politics and connecting the dots. On a typical day, he’ll send me a dozen e-mails with various insights and links to news stories he thinks I’ll like.
Today Joe sent me this diagram he made explaining how the Homeless Industrial Complex thrives off the homelessness that is manufactured, in a sense, by its own actions. I like this diagram very much, and I have dubbed it The Swindle Cycle™ in accordance with my theory that Seattle’s homeless “crisis” is in fact nothing more than that: one giant swindle.
Of course Joe’s diagram is an oversimplification; there are many other factors that affect the cycle – things like corrupt politicians, pressure groups, lazy news media, a distracted citizenry – but this diagram captures the process in its essentials.
One caveat I’d add is bear in mind that the Seattle-ites who get priced out of their homes due to tax increases and rent hikes* (center left position on the cycle) are not the same people we see living on the streets. In fact, they are not a significant part of the homeless population at all. A person doesn’t go from living in a pricey studio on Capitol Hill one month to being sprawled out under the viaduct with a needle in his arm the next, just because of a rent hike. But that doesn’t change the equation, because, as with any con game, it’s illusion that drives it and not reality. Yes, people ARE being priced out of Seattle; that’s a given. And yes we ARE seeing more homeless people on the streets than ever. The Homeless Industrial Complex wants us to conflate those two groups, and in the absence of any data proving that they are not the same – and there IS no such data, thanks to the efforts of Homeless, Inc. – people will assume that they ARE the same. Once that illusion has been implanted, Homeless, Inc. and their allies on the City Council can go to the good people of Seattle and say: “You’re doing so well here… but look, others are suffering! It’s your fault these people are on the street, so it’s your moral obligation to give us some of your money, so we can help them.” –Thus begins another round of tax hikes, rent increases, and price outs, and a new, even larger wave of vagrants hits the streets.
Campaign finance laws and the Homeless Industrial Complex
January 12, 2017
Seattle perceives itself as a national leader in the effort to get money out of politics. Initiative 122, approved by voters in 2015, tried to attack the problem in two ways. First, it created a “democracy voucher” program that would give every adult citizen four $25 vouchers to give to the candidate(s) of their choice. Second, it lowered the contribution limit for all candidates. Third, it forbade any companies doing over $250K in business with the city (or their owners) in the two years previous to the election from contributing anything. All these rules and regulations are enforce by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (or SEEC) of whom I have written before.
I’m going to take a look at how that last part of I-122 has been working out, particularly as it regards homeless services contractors. But first, some background on why campaign donations from contractors are a problem.
The following factors had the most influence on the Seattle races, in descending order of importance…
● Low voter turnout
● Low-info voting
● The media
● Labor unions
● National politics
● Local politics
● The candidates
With the exception of Mitzi Johanknecht’s upset win in the King County Sheriff race, there were no surprises, and in fact, the only reason Johanknecht won was because the Seattle Times ran a couple exposes in the weeks before the election. (This is one of the few things the Times has done right lately.)
For races that were not contested by an incumbent (mayor, council Position 8, city attorney) the slightly-less-radical candidates who had machine backing and/or big money behind them won.
The Big One: 2017 Seattle Mayoral finalists Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. Image: KOMO
The candidates who lost will be tempted to blame it on money, but that’s actually near the bottom of the list. Cary Moon didn’t lose because she didn’t have the war chest Jenny Durkan had; she lost because she was too radical for voters. Moon squandered what political capital she had with the middle by leaving the issues behind and trying to court Nikkita Oliver in the last weeks of the campaign. Oliver was clearly bitter about Moon edging her out in the primary and she was never going to requite Moon’s affections. But even if she had, it wouldn’t have closed the gap between Durkan and Moon. I always said Moon shouldn’t have been in the race….
Council Position 8
Like Jenny Durkan, Teresa Mosqueda also benefited from voters turning away from the radical left. Mosqueda presents as a social justice warrior, but her opponent Jon Grant is a sullen, anti-establishment radical of the Kshama Sawant type. And a White male to boot! Labor and Democratic Party bosses needed to keep this character out of City Hall, and Mosqueda was their secret weapon: a sexy, bouncy young Latina who just happened (what luck!) to be an experienced labor organizer and political operative with tons of “progressive” credibility. It just doesn’t get any better than that for the Machine, folks. Between her charisma, the help she got from unions and the Dems, and the public’s disenchantment with radicals like Grant on the other, Mosqueda could have won the election without spending a dime.
City Council Position 8 (citywide) finalists Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant
Council Position 9
Ironically, the same forces that kept an bad candidate out of one seat kept a bad candidate in another one. Lorena Gonzalez was the incumbent, and like any smart incumbent who’s not dealing with a scandal, she sat the election out. Gonzalez made just a handful of public appearances and did not distinguish herself at any of them. She relied on the Stranger, the unions, the Democratic Party machine, and lazy, apathetic voters to do the work for her. As I demonstrated in a series of blog pieces, Gonzalez cheated on the Democracy Voucher Program and in that way she was able to score some extra cash, but she probably would have trounced challenger Pat Murakami anyway. In the end, it didn’t matter that Murakami – a grassroots activist and business owner who had a broad base of support in the neighborhoods – ran a smart and principled campaign, but wasn’t enough to overcome the incumbent’s edge. Especially in a down-ballot race where that incumbent had help from Labor and the Democratic Party bosses.
City Council Position 9 (citywide) finalists Lorena Gonzalez and Pat Murakami
The city attorney race was much like Position 9. On one side you had an incumbent, Pete Holmes, who wasn’t a complete screw-up and who had the backing of the Democratic Party machine, unions, and the hard-left media. Against him was Murray aide Scott Lindsay, who, though he had the advantage of youth and a political pedigree, was cast as not experienced enough AND not left enough. A death sentence in Seattle. This was another down-ballot race that didn’t attract much interest from voters. Despite the blow to his ego, Lindsay’s probably not going to fade away.
City Attorney finalists Scott Lindsay and Pete Holmes
A word about the media…
Increasingly, the press exerts a corrupting influence on American politics, that’s a given, but it had an especially pernicious influence in the Seattle elections this year. You might think that the media’s influence extends no further than the occasional expose or the editors’ picks in voters guides. That’s not the half of it.
The media shape voters’ choices from the earliest stages of the race by helping some candidates while holding back others.
After accused pedophile Ed Murray dropped out of the Seattle mayor race, the field became choked with 21 candidates, many of whom were vanity candidates or outright kooks. Of that number, there were at least 10 viable candidates, some of whom represented a moderate-to-right point of view. Unfortunately, the two main Seattle newspapers, the Seattle Times and the Stranger, immediately sidelined the moderate candidates and selected six left-wing candidates that they considered viable. Other organizations followed their lead, and from that point on, these six “leading” candidates would be the ones who got the interviews and invitations to forums, while the other 15 had to wait in the lobby. The media’s hasty filtering of candidates dumbed down the primary gave us a dumber general election. It never occurred to the voters frustrated with their lack of meaningful choices in November that that had happened back in May, when the Stranger and Times had colluded to keep moderate-to-right candidates off the field.
When you take that kind of media shaping and apply it to an electorate that’s already disengaged and apathetic, it’s a recipe for low voter turnout. And that’s a recipe for a failed city. Which is exactly what Seattle will become, unless we keep heading back. Back to the middle.
Disclosure: I was a candidate in the Position 9 city council race. I also managed mayoral candidate Harley Lever. –Editor
The right to recall an elected official is a constitutional right of the people set forth in our constitution. The procedure is governed by statute. A “typewritten charge” needs to be submitted and it has to allege malfeasance, misfeasance or violation of the oath of office.* That charge has to be specific as to date, location and nature of the act or acts complained of. The charge has to be submitted by a person in the position to know and signed under oath. The prosecutor then writes a ballot synopsis. Then there is a hearing in superior court. The hearing can involve lawyers and testimony.
The court decides whether the factual allegations are sufficient (the court’s role is not to decide whether they are truthful) to move forward and also whether to make changes to the ballot synopsis. The official to be recalled can appeal a sufficiency finding to the supreme court. A sufficient charge can move forward with a petition and there are timelines for gathering signatures, timeline for the above-mentioned hearing, signature requirements (35% of total number of votes cast for the position), form requirements, an opportunity for response, a recall election – majority rules. If the recall is successful, the seat is vacant. What happens next? I believe the City Council can then fill the position until the next election but I would need to read more.
The standard for proving the legal and factual sufficiency of a petition in the superior court is high and there is a well-developed body of cases rejecting petitions based on, essentially, policy or judgment disagreements, among other similar things. There was a recall effort against Kshama Sawant’s predecessor Richard Conlin, but the Recall Conlin petition did not clear this high bar.
(1) “Misfeasance” or “malfeasance” in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty;
(a) Additionally, “misfeasance” in office means the performance of a duty in an improper manner; and
(b) Additionally, “malfeasance” in office means the commission of an unlawful act;
(2) “Violation of the oath of office” means the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.
This article is the first in a series of posts related to removing Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien from office.
A recall election is one option we have for ridding ourselves of bad politicians. Recall elections are difficult to organize and win, and that’s by design. You don’t want them to be too easy to win or you risk intimidating the good guys and undermining the democratic system. But you can’t make them too hard to win, either, or you risk allowing garden-variety oafs and miscreants to morph into downright tyrants.
Recall elections can succeed (or fail) in several ways. If a recall vote succeeds and you remove the offending politician, that is an apparent success. However, a moral defeat can still be snatched from victory’s jaws, because when the bad pol is removed, a successor must then be appointed (not elected) to serve out the rest of the bad guy’s term. If the successor is even worse than the pol who was removed, you can chalk that up as a moral defeat.
Victory can be snatched from defeat’s jaws too. Even if the recall fails, depending on how far it gets and how it’s conducted, it might just weaken the target sufficiently so that he falls in the next election. Or it might discourage him from even running again. Some of you will recall citizen Elizabeth Campbell’s recall complaint against Councilmember Richard Conlin in 2011. Though that complaint didn’t get past the first hurdle (a judge found it “insufficient” to proceed to the petition stage) the resulting bad publicity for Conlin tarnished his image and likely contributed to his loss in the next election.*
And there is yet another risk to be considered here, because the flip side of a tarnished image for the pol is a burnished one for him. Should he survive the recall with a handy margin, he will be stronger than before, and if that happens, then the would-be recallers might actually be lengthening the bad guy’s “hour upon the stage,” rather than shortening it. Something to think about.
Lately I’ve been looking into the matter of recalls, with an eye toward removing CM Mike O’Brien from his perch before his term’s up in 2019. In my next post, I’ll be sharing what I hear from the lawyers.
Thanks for reading and don’t touch that dial. –David Preston
*Conlin lost to Kshama Sawant, which was actually a moral defeat, since Sawant has been, if anything, even worse than Conlin was.
The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission enforces the Seattle Code of Ethics, which was designed to keep Seattle government honest by applying fines and other penalties to elected officials, candidates, and city employees who violated the rules of the Code. Unfortunately, the Commission has few tools at its disposal, and the ones it does have, it uses timidly. Its members are appointed by some of the same officials it is tasked with policing, and in some cases, which I’ll discuss below, it is staffed by these officials as well. The Commission is necessarily a political creature, and it is only as honest as the political culture in which it operates. When that culture is honest and peer pressure works to enforce normative behavior, the Commission appears to be working to keep everyone honest. As the culture degrades and becomes increasingly dishonest, the Commission lowers its standards accordingly. Where it blessed and sanctified an honest culture before, it now does the same for a corrupt one. And what else can it do? By itself it is powerless to change the course of events.
I’ve followed the doings of the Commission for the past two years and have noticed that when it comes to complaints against City employees and candidates, penalties are light, even when the complaint is proven. A complaint I made against City Council candidate Lorena Gonzalez was affirmed at a hearing in early September. The Commission acknowledged that Gonzalez – who was trying to be certified for Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program – had wrongly claimed that she’d attended three public forums during the primary. But they declined to impose any penalty on her, reasoning that since the program was new, and since it was complex in some of its aspects, Gonzalez should be not be held to the letter of the law. A week later, the Commission qualified Gonzalez to participate in the Democracy Voucher Program, thereby entitling her to receive some $140,000 worth of vouchers she’d collected in the taxpayer-funded campaign financing program. Continue reading →
October 1, 2017 ~ News of my complaint to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on Lorena Gonzalez made the Seattle Weekly. Good on them. One correction to their story: Weekly writer Dan Person noted correctly that I was a candidate for Seattle City Council Position 9; however, since I’m not a Democrat, he assumed I’m a Republican. Actually, I ran as an independent. Otherwise, Person got the story right:
[Click on the image below to read the Weekly story.]
In the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy’s “House Un-American Activities Committee” hung like a noose around the liberal establishment’s neck, ready to draw tight at a witness’s refusal to name his associates in the Communist Party. Initially McCarthy went after bona fide party members, but as the Red Scare deepened, HUAC expanded its reach and began going after anyone suspected of being a little too left for comfort. Artists, peace activists, labor organizers, or just anyone who questioned McCarthy’s methods: they were all suspect. Suddenly, there was a communist hiding under every bed.
Ultimately, McCarthy was disgraced and banished from politics, and the word “McCarthyism” entered the lexicon as a word meaning a culture of denunciation and fear, a method of silencing one’s political opponents through public interrogation and guilt-by-association. Perhaps we thought we’d left the witch hunts of those days behind with the Cold War and hula hoops. If so, we were wrong.
November 2016: In the first days after Donald Trumps election, he began receiving unwelcome gestures of support from far-right political figures. They included white supremacist Richard Spencer, who concluded, from some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric on immigration, that a President Trump would be favorable to Spencer’s white identity politics. Trump was perceived as being slow to denounce Spencer and has made a series of political missteps on race since then, culminating with his equivocal remarks following a mass demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12. Continue reading →
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.Continue reading →
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 →
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 →
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.
Here is the article to which the woman is referring:
May 14, 2017 ~ 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 →