1. The Seattle Times reported yesterday that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg supported "closure" of the Jungle, the longtime, unauthorized homeless encampment on the northern slope of Beacon Hill bound by I-5 on the West and I-90 on the North.
The Times has since removed that interpretation of Satterberg's comments from their article, leaving only his original quote: "It's time to envision Seattle without the jungle."
I gave Satterberg a call looking for clarity.
Given that Mayor Ed Murray and the city are currently conducting an on-the-ground study of the Jungle in the wake of the tragic shooting there last week to decide whether to remove the homeless encampments, I wanted to know if Satterberg had already determined an immediate course of action or whether he was just speaking aspirationally about a future without homelessness.
Satterberg hasn't gotten back to me, but jarred by the potential implication of law enforcement sweeps in the Jungle—Satterberg was also quoted saying crime in the Jungle is "vastly unreported"—Real Change director and homeless advocate Tim Harris told me yesterday:
If we want a city where people don't live in greenbelts and beneath freeways, we need better places for them to go. We have one in three homeless people living outside after the shelters are full. Unless we fix that, we're just shuffling the misery around.
Harris will be part of a round table discussion this morning sponsored by City Council member Sally Bagshaw at today's human services committee meeting; Bagshaw chairs the committee, and she's invited an impressive set of homeless advocates to talk about their work, including Real Change's Harris, Low Income Housing Institute Director Sharon Lee, civil rights leaders Lisa Daugaard and Jennifer Shaw (from the Public Defenders' Association and the ACLU respectively), and Downtown Emergency Services Center Director of housing Nicole Macri among others.
Here's a feature story I wrote for Seattle Met last month on the homelessness crisis.
2. Speaking of Nicole Macri. Learn to trust the Fizz.
Yesterday, Macri officially filed papers to run for the Open State House seat in Seattle's 43rd Legislative District; current State Representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) is giving up his seat to run for U.S. congress.
In an email to supporters yesterday, Macri said: "Olympia needs more advocates and champions for affordable housing and mental health. I have worked for two decades on these issues, and I know the structural changes we need to help our region's most vulnerable."
Macri, who's also currently the Board President of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and a member of the city's housing levy oversight committee, is the second candidate to officially declare that they're running; gay rights activist and nonprofit consultant Thomas Pitchford is also running for the spot.
Transgender rights activist Danni Askini is also reportedly getting ready to run for Walkinshaw's seat. Askini, the head of the Gender Justice League, has been in the news lately for organizing against a republican bill that would overturn longstanding state human rights commission rules that allow trans people to use the bathroom that fits their gender identity.
3. When the King County GOP tweeted out its thanks to state senator Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland) yesterday for a bill that would end tolling on carpool lanes for single occupancy vehicles during non-rush hour, I couldn't resist tweeting back that Hill was ignoring Washington State Department of Transportation data showing the program was a success; it had improved commute times. (The user fee also improves bus commutes by creating a faster transit lane.)
For their part, the KCGOP couldn't resist veering into a non sequitur about the fact that I'm from Seattle, and so I don't have a say in the matter I guess.
I took them up on the Seattle versus the suburbs motif by pointing out that I'm not the only one who prefers the city. Successful corporations are fleeing the suburbs for the city these days.
Meanwhile, Seattle state senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Ballard Queen), got the last word.
Referring to the GOP's traditional preference for user fees over broad based taxes, Carlyle, who joined with Democrats on the senate transportation committee on Wednesday to withhold support for Hill's bill, said:
"Amazing that the GOP is against broad based taxes and in favor of user fees—except when they are in favor of broad based taxes and against user fees. What is their long term strategy as gas tax revenues fizzle?"
The question about transportation revenues should also be put to the batch of suburban Democrats who sided with Hill by sending a letter to the department of transportation earlier this week, seconding the no toll policy.
4. State senate Democrats want to tackle Washington's growing homelessness problem by using $186 million from the state’s “rainy day fund.”
In a bill introduced yesterday and sponsored by senate minority leader, senator Sharon Nelson (D-34, West Seattle, Maury Island), Democrats propose taking $186 million from the roughly $700 million rainy day budget stabilization fund and using about $100 million to leverage extra grants and other revenue sources.
“Homelessness is a crisis in this state. There is no city that is immune,” Nelson said.
The Washington Department of Commerce tabulated 17,775 homeless people in a “snapshot” in 2013; 18,839 in 2014; and 19,418 in 2015. Updated statewide 2016 numbers are still being crunched. However, preliminary indications are that King County's homeless population—at 10,122 in 2015—will go up 19 percent, and Snohomish County's—at 829 in 2015—will go up 54 percent.
Nelson said state law allows moving money out of the rainy day fund for public health and safety crises.
“If this isn’t a public health crisis, I don’t know what is," said Olympia mayor Cheryl Selby at a Thursday press conference on the bill.
The Republicans, who control the Senate, appear unlikely to move Nelson's bill beyond the committee stage. Senator Mark Miloscia, (R-30, Federal Way), said the Democrats’ approach throws money at the problem without the management and policy overhauls to address the underlying causes of homelessness. Miloscia, who used to be a Democratic state rep, but switched parties to run for the senate in 2014 citing his socially conservative views, passed his own bill out of the human services committee Thursday. Miloscia's bill would create a state department of housing and tackle homelessness.
Miloscia, a former labor rights Democrat, said King County’s growing homeless figures skew the picture for the rest of the state. “King County is the poster child for causing this,” he said.
Meanwhile, a KING 5 tweet quoted Republican state senate majority leader Mark Schoesler (R-9, Ritzville) dismissing Nelson’s homelessness push. “It’s her emergency,” Schoesler said
Nelson told PubliCola: “It’s not mine. It’s statewide. If they want to be the party of no, I want them to go down to the Union Gospel missions, to go down and talk to the people.”