Last Week in Politics

Top 10 Stories: Initiative 1639, Smoky Skies, and Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Grace Madigan August 28, 2018

1. Seattle last week ranked as one of the cities with the worst air pollution worldwide, according to an air quality monitor. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency executive director Craig Kenworthy said climate change increases the chances that it won't be the last time we'll experience a smoky summer. 

2. The King County Sheriff's office found that the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Tommy Le was justifiedLe, a Vietnamese American student, was shot in the back by a sheriff's deputy in June 2017.

It took more than a week for the county to correct that Le wasn't carrying a knife, as officials originally told press, but a pen. The sheriff's Use of Force Review Board concluded that even though officers weren't sure if it was a knife, it may not have mattered because a pen can be used as a weapon. 

3. Crosscut reported that mayor Jenny Durkan is considering developing an app aimed to help the homeless find shelter, but the idea doesn't have everyone excited. Durkan introduced a new Innovation Advisory Council—a group of tech-giant representatives—and suggested the group might bring their tech expertise to the homeless crisis by developing an app that could easily identify available shelter space. Critics opposing the app say that the city needs more shelter and more resources, not a better way to connect people. 

4. The day after primary election results were certified, Central Washington University released findings from its investigation on state representative Matt Manweller, who faces allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior from his students.

The university fired Manweller as a professor after its investigation earlier this month. Manweller in response said no woman ever filed "an actual complaint" against him in an attempt to discredit the findings. You can read the full report here.

5. New data reveals that nearly all indigenous women living in Seattle have been sexually assaulted. The Seattle Times reported that in 2016, Abigail Eco-Hawk—the director of the Urban Indian Health Institute—found a survey done by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 regarding sexual violence experienced by indigenous women in Seattle. Of the 148 women surveyed, 94 percent said they have been raped and 53 percent lacked permanent housing. 

The survey's results were kept under wraps because of the fear of the negative image the public would have of the community. Research shows that indigenous peoples experience homelessness more frequently, and those who are homeless experience sexual violence more often. The indigenous community met on Wednesday to discuss the results and figure out how to move forward. 

6. The state Supreme Court ruled that Initiative 1639—which would implement sweeping gun regulations—can appear on November's ballot. Earlier this month a Thurston County judge ruled that the initiative's campaign failed to format the text of the initiative to show how it would change the current gun laws, disqualifying it from being on the November ballot. 

But the Supreme Court reversed the decision, concluding that "state law does not allow for pre-election judicial review of the form, process, substance, or constitutionality of an initiative petition.” 

7. Hunger strikes are occurring across the country in prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement denies such a strike at the Northwest Detention Center. Detainees at the center sent a letter to Northwest Detention Center Resistance saying that they would participate and demanding an end to family separations, minimum wage, and closure of detention centers. 

ICE officials said not eating provided meals is "not a stand-alone factor in the determination of a detainee's suspected or announced hunger strike action."

8. Two girls were hit by a car while crossing Rainier Avenue South on August 9, the incident has resurfaced a conversation about the southern Rainier corridor where a crash per day occurs. Since the accident, the city has adjusted intersection signals, giving pedestrians an extra three- to seven-second head start. A provisional "curb bulb" was also added.

These safety improvements were planned already but instituted more quickly after the incident. SDOT is exploring options to make the Rainier-Henderson junction safer.

9. The Seattle Times reported on the shortfalls of the "Move Seattle" tax levy, which was supposed to fund transportation projects. The Seattle Department of Transportation overestimated the amount of state and federal money it could get and underestimated the cost of the projects they planned as part of the $930 million tax levy.

After reviewing finances, SDOT has a better idea of what may actually become reality. All the new bus upgrades won't be delivered, bike lanes are iffy, design for future bridge replacements will be scaled down. But the commitment to build 250 blocks of new sidewalks looks promising. More than 60 percent of the $312 million needed for the seven projects remains unsecured. 

10. The South Seattle Emerald reported that people of color, especially children are more likely to be kicked out of Seattle public libraries than others. Based on a report obtained by the South Seattle Emerald, between January and July 2018, more than a third of those who received "exclusions"—a notice that they can't return to the library for a certain amount of time—were African American.

The report also found that the majority of juvenile exclusions were contained to just five branches where the neighborhoods are more low-income. The exclusions highlight a bigger issue—that librarians are frequently finding themselves at the frontlines of dealing with people struggling with addiction, homelessness, and mental illnesses. 

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