Letter from the ‘hood: No more homeless camps here, please!

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)

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.


According to the terms of the City’s master encampments contract, a sanctioned homeless camp can stay in a given location for a maximum of two years, and the contract has to be renewed after the first year. The annual renewal for Second Chance came up in March of 2018 and was quietly granted by HSD. On June 8, 2018, a neighborhood group, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC), wrote a letter to HSD interim director Jason Johnson saying it was disappointed about the renewal and noting that since the camp had already been at that spot (illegally) for several months when it was first permitted, another renewal full renewal would mean that the camp will have actually been there for well over two years by the time the contract expires.

The entrance to Camp Second Chance in 2017. Photo by David Preston

The letter implies that Camp Second Chance management and HSD have failed to live up to their commitment to the neighborhood and urges the City to implement HPAC’s “Suggested Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments” which the group says it had already sent to the City several times. The protocols, which are attached as an appendix in the letter (see below), include such requests as: (a) assign a single contact person at the City to respond to neighborhood issues with the camp, (b) provide a timeline and plan for removing illegal camps and RVs nearby, and (c) give local community groups representation on the “advisory councils” that supposedly oversee the camps. The group implies that crime around the camp is a growing problem and says that more police are needed to address it.

But the gist of HPAC’s plea is that the community around the camp is already disadvantaged and it is therefore unfair for the city to impose any additional burdens on it:

Like most Seattleites, residents of our neighborhoods are compassionate and wish to address the homelessness crisis with empathy. However, in as much as the City claims to promote equity, we ask that neighborhoods like ours not continue to be overwhelmed with the responsibility of shouldering the burden of the City’s homelessness policies while wealthier, less diverse neighborhoods remain largely unscathed.

The document is six pages. You can page through it using the up and down arrows that appear when you mouse over the image.

HPAC-JohnsonC2CPermitRenewalResponse

A squatter delivers building supplies to the greenbelt across the road from Camp Second Chance. Squatters are an ongoing problem in the neighborhoods around Seattle’s sanctioned homeless camps. Photo by Pamela Staeheli

Despite the many problems evident with the sanctioned homeless camp approach, the City of Seattle is determined to expand the program. It started three years ago with a single camp. Now there are eight, besides Second Chance. With two more in planning.

The camps share a number of common characteristics and patterns:

► They often appear in a neighborhood with little to no notice to the people living there. In some cases, like Camp Second Chance, they are created illegally and then approved retroactively by the City. They’re plagued by infighting and rebellions, which sometimes leads to the creation of new “breakaway camps” that are unsanctioned and completely out of the City’s control.

► The camps create problems for the neighborhoods in which they’re placed, problems like squatters, RV campers, and panhandling. The camp operator claims that since it’s not their residents causing problems, they bear no responsibility. For its part the City accepts the operator’s argument and treats the increased squalor as part of the general problem of homelessness in Seattle. They don’t provide the affected neighborhoods with any additional police services or trash pick-up. And they don’t remove the squatters.

► Regardless of their performance or neighbor feedback, the camps always get their permits extended for a second year, but despite that, they typically overstay their maximum permitted time of two years. The operators claim that it’s on the City to find them another place when their time at one location is up. Otherwise, they say, they’re not obligated to leave, contract or no contract.

► They are all run jointly by two organizations (SHARE and the LIHI) that have powerful friends at City Hall. Despite the optimistic claims made for them on the City’s web page, support services offered residents at the camps are minimal to non-existent. The camps have all failed to demonstrate that they have a higher rate of placing homeless people in permanent housing than evidence-based indoor housing programs like the Lutheran Compass Center and Mary’s Place.

► These camps cost Seattle taxpayers a lot of money ($700K per year for one camp, according to one estimate from the City) yet the most people any camp holds is a few dozen. All the camps together don’t make a dent in Seattle’s estimated total of 4500 (and growing) unsheltered people.

“Nickelsville” ~The same group that now runs Camp Second Chance ran a tent camp in Highland Park from the winter of 2011 to the fall of 2013. That camp was the subject of numerous public health complaints, and when it was finally evicted, it left a huge mess for the City to clean up. Photo by Kevin McClintic

Summary

I know the story of Second Chance because I live in this neighborhood and I have worked with the Highland Park Action Committee to keep SHARE/LIHI and the City from turning this struggling neighborhood into a permanent homeless camp. Everything the group says in their letter to Human Services is true: since 2011, we have been the site of a more-or-less continuous homeless camp, complete with all the attendant problems, but with none of the added support we need to address those problems. If nothing else, this is an equity issue. It’s not equitable for one neighborhood to make all the sacrifices while receiving no benefits in return.


Looking Ahead

In their letter to the City, the Highland Park Action Committee asked to meet with HSD Director Jason Johnson and Mayor Jenny Durkan. The group tells me that both have agreed to be at their September 26 meeting. Camp Second Chance’s contract expires in March of 2019. When that date rolls around, the City should do the right thing and either close the camp permanently or move it to another spot far away from this part of Seattle. In the meantime, the City should do the right thing and work with the neighborhood on their concerns. Squatters across the road from Camp Second Chance should be removed immediately, and police patrols in the area increased.

–David Preston

*Recall that SHARE was the group the original Second Chance campers said they were trying to get away from. Since it was first awarded a contract to operate a homeless camp in 2015, SHARE has been steadily expanding the number of sanctioned camps it manages for pay around Seattle. A thorough investigation would likely reveal that SHARE was involved with the creation of Camp Second Chance and that City employees had told the original campers that they wouldn’t be evicted if they occupied the land.

**From December 2011 to September of 2013, SHARE ran another homeless camp called Nickelsville just down the hill from Second Chance. When that camp was finally evicted by the City, it left a huge mess for the taxpayers to clean up. As the HPAC letter also points out, Highland Park has been the “staging area” for RV campers and there is a large squatter encampment just across the road from Camp Second Chance.

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Banned on Facebook: Sex in the Cemetery

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

* * *

WARNING!
Some of the material below violates Facebook’s community standards.

* * *

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

Click on photos to enlarge

 

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We the Living

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 . . .


Related image

Ari Hoffman

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.

Thank you for reading this.

–Ari Hoffman

 

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The Seattle Head Tax: What we’ve been missing

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.

Who ARE these guys?

So who was on there to grab that cash with both hands and make a stash? Let’s take a look…

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.

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There Was a Crooked Trail

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

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No Excuses: How Seattle’s activist judges endanger our citizens

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:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

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.

–David Preston

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Preventable Tragedies

February 19, 2018 ~ This is a downloadable 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. Note that the victims include both housed and unhoused people.

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 use the arrow icons on the image below to navigate through it. You can also download the document here.

Preventable_Tragedies_5_14_18

–David Preston

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The Swindle Cycle

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.

And so the swindle continues…

–David Preston and Joe

Also see my article “Anatomy of a Swindle” for more background on this.

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Taking Care of (Homeless) Business

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.

Continue reading

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Back to the Middle: Post-election Analysis of the Seattle 2017 Races

November 10, 2017 

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
● Money
● 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

City Attorney

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.

–David Preston

Disclosure: I was a candidate in the Position 9 city council race. I also managed mayoral candidate Harley Lever. –Editor

 

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Recalling Mike O’Brien: The Basics

November 14, 2018 

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.

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The Ins and Outs of Recall Elections

November 12, 2017

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.

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Ethics Evasion Commission

November 7, 2017 

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

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Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 4: Where was Lorena?

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.]

Continue reading

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The New Witch Hunters

September 28, 2017 

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.

Trump’s America

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

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

September 8, 2017

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

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

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Activating a space to discourage camping

September 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

–David Preston

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Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 2

August 17, 2017

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

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

The document below is four pages, including attachments.

Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Complaint Against Lorena Gonzalez 8.17.17 redacted

.

–by David Preston

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

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Democracy Slouchers ~ Part 1

July 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–David Preston

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

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Ghostwriter

June 5, 2017

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


A serious problem

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

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Speaking Truth to Power

June 1, 2017

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

–David Preston

Here is the article to which the woman is referring:

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

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

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

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Puff Piece

April 29, 2017

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

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

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

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Call Me Reverend

April 11, 2017

Call Me Reverend:
The Bill Kirlin-Hackett Story

Mr. Mild

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

 

Continue reading

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The Margin Dwellers

April 4, 2017

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

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

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

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Encampment Complaints: A suspicious pattern

March 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm…..

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

–David Preston

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

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The Thin Veneer

March 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

He leaned over and gave me a knowing grin.

“Jungle law.”

–David Preston

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The tarnished halo of Rob Ferguson

March 12, 2017

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

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

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

Oh, Rob. You sly devil you.


 

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

March 10, 2017

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

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

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Hello this is my daughter…

March 6, 2017

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

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HOMELESS IN DWNTWN PORTLAND
Please help my ill daughter

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

–By David Preston

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