1. State senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) added $1 million to the transportation budget to “clean up” and “secure” 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. Tragically, the Jungle was in the headlines in late January when two people were killed there in a drug-related shooting. The shooting came at a moment when unauthorized homeless encampments were at the center of the local debate over how to address homelessness—and the violence in the Jungle seemed to confirm entrenched beliefs on both sides of a heated debate that the encampments were either a sign the city needed to do more to provide help to the homeless or that homelessness was a sign of lawlessness.
The money will be used to clear out encampments and build a fence around the land.
Carlyle said in a statement yesterday: “Our city has unfortunately seen firsthand that the Jungle is dangerous and deadly. It needs to be safely cleaned up, secured, and responsibly fenced off,” said Carlyle. “The partnership between mayor Ed Murray, city leadership, and the state is vital to long-term success of ensuring this dangerous area under I-5 is no longer accessible as an unsanctioned homeless encampment.”
During yesterday’s transportation committee hearing on the money, state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) asked the obvious and ongoing question about this approach: “If we don’t have the services in the city to actually relocate people, get them the services that they need, make sure that they’re accessing those, we are going to have a problem whether it's under the highway or elsewhere.”
She asked WSDOT: If the Jungle is where people are “who can’t get shelter anywhere else, what does that mean for us?”
This year’s annual one-night homeless count in King County found a 19.4 percent increase in the number of homeless with more than half, 2,942 of those people, living in Seattle.
I have a call in to the mayor's office.
UPDATE: Mayor Ed Murray says: “I thank the state senate transportation committee for approving funding to assist the City of Seattle in addressing long-standing health and safety concerns in the area underneath I-5. As I have said time and again, our homelessness crisis will not be solved without help from our state and federal partners. This news is a positive first step in the right direction.”
Asked if they viewed the money as a green light to remove homeless, Murray's office told me Murray, King County executive Dow Constantine, and governor Jay Inslee "expect to receive a list of short-term recommendations on what actions to take next from the interagency group made up of the state, county, and city officials in the next few weeks."
2. The former Seattle Schools super Susan Enfield, who left the spot after the 2011 election signaled an ideological overhaul that frowned on her reform leanings, has emerged as a star in her follow-up gig as superintendent of the Highline School District.
Check out the inspiring email she sent to staff earlier this week:
In recent months the political rhetoric nationwide has become increasingly divisive and disturbing. Some political candidates are being, in my opinion, irresponsible in the things they are saying and are either ignorant or insensitive to the impact their words are having on many, especially our young people.
We in Highline pride ourselves on the diversity of our community, believing that the rich cultures and languages of our students and families are not only an asset, but also an integral part of our shared identity and experience. It is important, therefore, that we remain aware of the toll this national conversation is having on many here in our Highline community. Some of our students feel afraid for their safety because of what they are hearing in the news. Some have been taunted, teased or ridiculed by others who are acting on what they hear. This is unacceptable.
Regardless of our own political affiliation or beliefs, as Highline staff we each have an obligation to our students and families to ensure they feel safe, welcomed and respected at school. We must intervene when we see or hear offensive, bigoted words and actions. We must communicate, daily, to each of our students that our promise of knowing them by name, strength and need means that we will protect, advocate for and value them equally no matter their race, language or ethnicity.
As is so often the case, I have found my greatest role models for tolerance and courage not in those who hold, or aspire to, positions of power, but rather in our very own Highline students. I am including here a Statement of Solidarity from the Highline High School Student International Rescue Committee. These remarkable students inspire and challenge each of us to "respect people the way that we want to be respected [and] strive to live out the promise of the American ideal." I encourage you to read and share this powerful, honest statement with your students, families and colleagues.
Finally, my ask of you is this: be especially mindful of the safety, security and sense of belonging our students feel right now, and let me know personally if you see or hear anything that concerns you. Highline students are brilliant, beautiful and brimming with promise and they need our protection, advocacy and reassurance now more than ever. This is our moral obligation as educators. Thank you for rising with me in solidarity and pride on behalf of our students.
We are Highline—all of us.
3. Speaking of Pramila Jayapal: In the (all important) race for progressive cred in this year's election to replace retiring longtime U.S representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7), Jayapal—who's running for the spot against King County council member Joe McDermott and state representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill)—picked up an endorsement from perhaps Seattle's most lefty union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.
4. A report from the Transportation Futures Task Force, a group you likely haven't heard of, but basically, a group of local transportation bigwigs including King County executive Dow Constantine and mayor Ed Murray, issued a report this month calling for the creation of a regional transportation agency.
The group, convened by the Puget Sound Regional Council—another group you've likely never heard of that coordinates federal planning and transportation dollars—proposes establishing a "central Puget Sound regional transportation authority to plan, raise revenues, set priorities, and allocate funds for regional transportation investments and services that improves the performance of the system. Existing agencies should be used to implement those transportation investments."