Morning Fizz

Criminalizing Homelessness

Council hears from homeless advocates, angry neighbors, and Democrats sorta defend Lynn Peterson.

By Josh Feit February 8, 2016

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1. After council member Sally Bagshaw kicked off her roundtable discussion on homelessness Friday morning saying she “didn’t want to conflate homelessness with criminal actions,” ACLU of Washington deputy director Jennifer Shaw told Bagshaw that city policy did just that. “Everybody agrees with you that there isn’t a connection between crime and people who are homeless, except that our city policies actually do create that connection by the very fact that we criminalize a lot of behavior that you and I could do every night. When I go home tonight, I could leave stuff on the floor, I can open a bottle of beer, I could use the bathroom. But if I don’t have a home, all of those acts could draw the attention of the police and a citation and even arrest.”

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Jennifer Shaw, Deputy Director ACLU of Washington

Shaw went on to say all the things that people take for granted on a daily basis “are actually criminalized by our city policies.”

It was hard to miss the contrast to Shaw’s comments when a group of people from the Neighborhood Safety Alliance, a group that came together to protest RV encampments in neighborhoods like Magnolia and North Seattle, testified after the roundtable discussion.

Magnolia resident Gretchen Taylor told the committee that no one should “tie the city’s hands” by tightening the guidelines around how the city removes unauthorized homeless encampments. "The law should be the same for everyone. Equal rights for all citizens of Seattle,” she concluded saying homeless people shouldn't be able to break the law by violating orders to get off city property.

And her colleague from the Magnolia NSA, Cindy Pierce, added: “Needles, human waste, tripping over everything, that is not how we as a city should live. If these illegal encampments do not get cleaned up, we are going to continue to see messes around this city, and the city is going to look like…Casablanca. And you don’t want to see what that city looks like. Continue to let the city clean up the camps. It is a public safety and health hazard for all of you and all of us. ”

While clearly missing the significance of what the ACLU’s Shaw had said, the NSA spokeswomen from Magnolia were responding to council member Lisa Herbold’s comments during the roundtable; Herbold wants clearer protocols around encampment cleanups and sweeps to make sure the goal is actually getting people services and shelter and not just pushing homeless people from spot to spot.

Lisa Daugaard, from the public defenders’ office, who was part of the roundtable discussion, tried to find some common ground. Seizing on another NSA member's (North Seattle's Jennifer Asplund comments) who had said she was advocating "cleaning up not evicting," Daugaard said: "I just wanted to flag the apparent common ground, about when people are saying they're not asking for closure, they're asking for cleanup...there is I think extensive agreement around that across the spectrum. That's an important thing to notice."

2. There was a lot of compelling  testimony from startled Democrats on the state senate floor on Friday afternoon as they tried to prevent the Republicans from ousting transportation department head Lynn Peterson.

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However, this bit from state senator Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds) was a reach (and sort of underscored the GOP's point):

"Constituents in Seattle want to keep Bertha keep moving, and want to  know that there's someone at the agency running it from day to day and know there isn't chaos at the ranks of one of our largest agencies."

3.  Longtime Tim Eyman adversary Andrew Villeneuve is filing an initiative with the secretary of state this morning to rein in what he feels has become an "underground" initiative gathering industry.

"The intent of the initiative," Villeneuve said of his "Petitioning Industry Accountability to require that signature gathering companies pay their fair share in business and occupation taxes to our state."

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