Morning Fizz: The Punks Are Now Governing
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring arts, transit, homelessness, and facts over conventional wisdom.
1. In yesterday afternoon's Jolt—longtime director of the city's Office of Film + Music James Keblas sent out a farewell letter announcing that Mayor Ed Murray had decided against re-appointing him—we groused in the headline that Murray had some explaining to do.
We are big Keblas fans and cannot ignore the fact that Seattle's off-the-charts film and music scene, particularly film, has come into play during the last nine years while Keblas, appointed by former Mayor Greg Nickels in 2005, has been the city's arts czar. (We're well aware that there's only so much government can do to nurture and nudge local arts scenes—wonders like Shabazz Palaces, TheeSatisfaction, Macklemore, Lynn Shelton, Ben Kasulke, and the Northwest Film Forum are going to happen no matter what. But a pro-arts government makes a huge difference. And, man, after the news broke about Keblas late yesterday, the film and video community even started a protest petition.)
Having said that, just two hours after Keblas' letter went out, Murray's office did their explaining with the announcement that Murray is appointing Kate Becker to the job.
Two hours after Keblas' letter went out, Murray's office did their explaining with the announcement that Murray is appointing Kate Becker to the job.
We are huge Becker fans as well. From her heavy lifts at Redomond's all-ages Old Fire House music venue to fighting against the Teen Dance Ordinance to leading Vera (Seattle's all-ages arts center), Becker represents the same grunge-era-turned-civic-activist set that Keblas came from. The punks are now governing—Becker has been at the city since mid 2013 in the Department of Finance and Administration working on nightlife and marijuana issues.
Murray, we begrudingly acknowledge given the Keblas news, has appointed a real-deal mover and shaker.
2. Speaking of government support for the arts: Yesterday, we pointed out the irony (we called it a tragicomic coincidence) that state senate ways and means committee chair, Microsoft suburbs Republican Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond), was sponsoring a local option tax increase for King County arts while simultaneously toeing the GOP line by blocking a local option tax increase for King County bus service.
Well, we're not sure what the word for this extra detail on Hill's opera cheerleading and mass transit belittling is, but check it out: In his testimony for the arts funding bill, he cited a similar local-taxes-for-arts program in Denver that has improved the quality of life there (Hill is from Denver and proudly noted that every time he talks to his mom, "she's gone to the opera or the art museum or a play.")
Great. But you know what local tax Denver is even more famous for passing? The FastTracks tax, a regional light rail project. Pointing to Denver—kind of awkward for other reasons—as a model for local projects, only doubles down on Hill's hypocrisy for helping the GOP stonewall on mass transit.
3. Yesterday morning, the city council's housing committee agreed to (in the future) lift a budget proviso—essentially, a rule that says a city department can't spend money on a certain thing until the council gives its OK—on $450,000 for shelter for homeless families. (They also got a briefing on $130,000 in spending for homeless youth, though that money wasn't restricted by a proviso).
The money will go to homeless families with kids who need emergency late-night housing (most shelters close their doors early and are inaccessible to families anyway), giving them access to motel vouchers and, the next day, supportive services.
The city estimates that there are 200 families with kids living in places that aren't "fit for human habitation," such as under bridges or in cars.
Currently, the city estimates that there are 200 families with kids living in places that aren't "fit for human habitation," such as under bridges or in cars.
Somewhat shockingly, according to the Human Services Department's Jason Johnson, the YWCA program that directs families to short-term shelter is accessible only by a single cell phone that moves from employee to employee (or volunteer). The funding, Johnson said, would enable the YWCA, "instead of passing around a cell phone," to have a dedicated call center with a staffer to answer calls from families in need of shelter.
Lifting the proviso, of course, is yet another sign that the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County, now in its ninth year, which focuses on funding for permanent housing instead of short-term shelter, isn't going to "end homelessness" on schedule.
4. Speaking of homeless Seattle residents, Nickelsville—the homeless encampment run by SHARE/WHEEL—has split up once again, with a couple of dozen residents reportedly leaving the camp, alleging ill treatment by SHARE's de facto leader, Scott Morrow.
According to Facebook posts by former Nickelsville residents, some residents were barred from camping out at Nickelsville because they allegedly failed to complete required community service on SHARE's behalf.
In a letter "to the public," a group of Nickelsville residents wrote that "the new camp, which now goes by the name 'Camp Hope' unfortunately has decided to spread rumors and stories that say Nickelsville Central Committee and Scott are cruel and mean and had mistreated them.
"We at the Nickelsville Central Committee want to make it clear that Scott has followed our directions, and we have given them many opportunities to follow the rules and stay with the other neighborhoods. They have chosen not to do so."
Previously, Nickelsville was located in an illegal encampment in SoDo, from which the city eventually evicted them last year.
5. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has released its report summing up the November 2013 elections.
Read the whole thing for yourself here, but here's one major takeaway: Despite the conventional wisdom that he was the populist candidate, with more (but less wealthy) supporters overall, former mayor Mike McGinn actually had about 1,000 fewer donors than now-mayor Ed Murray—2,222 to Murray's 3,224.
And Murray's average donation was only slightly higher than McGinn's—$246.29, to McGinn's average of $208.27.
McGinn groused about the "donor class" during the election, but it simply looks like more average Seattle voters gave to Murray than McGinn.