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Hacks & Wonks

Feb 18, 2022

On today’s week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm. They discuss the death of the missing middle housing bill in the legislature and why creating affordable housing requires creating more housing, the legislative worker sickout in response to their Democratic bosses failing to pass legislation allowing them to unionize, Mayor Harrell’s State of the City address and the Partnership for Zero plan to address homelessness in downtown Seattle, the end of Seattle’s eviction moratorium and what that means 10,000 tenants at risk of eviction, and the end of vaccine requirements in King County.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Doug Trumm, at @dmtrumm. More info is available at



"Why Washington state's missing middle housing bill died” by Joshua McNichols for KOUW:


“Over 100 Washington Legislative Workers Call Out Sick in Protest of Working Conditions” by Rich Smith for The Stranger: 


“Harrell Pledges SPD Staffing Surge in State of City Speech” by Doug Trumm for The Urbanist: 


“Mayor Bruce Harrell Made a Bunch of Promises in His First State of the City Address” by Hannah Krieg for The Stranger:


“Private Donations Will Fund “Peer Navigators,” Launch Plan to “Dramatically Reduce” Downtown Homelessness” by Erica C. Barnett for Publicola: 


“Seattle’s eviction moratorium to end” by Ashley Archibald for Real Change News: 


“Warning of ‘wave of evictions,’ Sawant calls for extension of Seattle eviction moratorium” by Nick Bowman for MyNorthwest: 


“King County will close rent assistance program to new applicants as money dries up” by Heidi Groover for The Seattle Times: 


“King County to drop COVID vaccination requirements for bars, restaurants on March 1” by KING 5 Staff for KING 5: 



[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes. Today we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program today's co-host, Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm. How are you doing, Doug?

[00:00:51] Doug Trumm: Great. Thanks so much for having me. It's always fun to be on this podcast - it's the best podcast in town, I think.

[00:00:57] Crystal Fincher: Well, thank you so much and I am a huge fan and always informed by The Urbanist - so great work, you and the entire team. I wanted to start off talking about where we're at in Olympia and in particular, some things that did not go very well - some bills that were really widely supported, certainly that I was a fan of, dying. The first being the middle housing bill that did not make it past cutoff. It looked like it might have had the votes, but it did not ultimately get a floor vote. What happened here?

[00:01:39] Doug Trumm: Yeah, that one really hurt. We got pretty invested in that and hoping this would finally be here. And we knew it'd be uphill since they've tried before and it's failed, but having the governor behind it, it seemed like there was a little extra energy this year. But it totally just crapped out in the finish line. We kind of had a proxy vote for the Accessory Dwelling Unit reform bill that did make it through and it's going onto the Senate. So we kind of have a good sense of which Democrats jumped ship - we can lose some of them, we have a big enough majority. Republicans tend to oppose this kind of stuff - even though they like markets, they don't like cities, so it kind of cancels out. And they don't really like markets when it counts.

So this one - a lot of the legislators on the Eastside - they didn't vote for the ADU bill, the Accessory Dwelling unit bill - so it's likely they didn't vote for the missing middle bill because that was even more density in single family zones. Even though there was all these measures to make it measured - whether it had originally started at the half mile of major transit for most of the changes - and that got watered down, it wasn't enough - watered down to a quarter mile. Just between some of those more, I guess, wealthy suburban legislators and then you had Association of Washington Cities banging the drum against it and really turning up the heat against it. It seemed like they put enough headwinds to stop it. And of course The Seattle Times deserves a shout out on this one as well - they hate anything that might offer more affordability to people who are don't already own homes.

[00:03:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And this was so important because it was key to the discussion of housing affordability. And also conversations about housing affordability are also tied to those with homelessness. We don't have enough housing for the people who have moved here and continue to move here. What we can't do, even though oddly sometimes people seem to suggest it, is just turn off the spigot of new people entering into our communities. People move here, businesses start, they hire people, they create jobs, which lots of people talk about as a wonderful thing. Jobs for the people who are here - plentiful jobs is a great thing.

But for people to move and live near where they work, they need housing near where they work. And we have been behind on keeping up with the amount of housing that we have, in comparison to the people moving here. That makes housing more expensive. We can't have a conversation about making housing more affordable without also making it more plentiful. All types of housing - this particularly addressed middle housing, so just market rate as - and market rate doesn't specify a price point, it basically means not subsidized - just as any to developer would build. It was so important to get moving on this - had a ton of momentum. You talked about a number of people who had advocated against it. There was also a piece that Joshua McNichols from KUOW wrote yesterday, talking about what went wrong and a lot of people are looking at Representative Gerry Pollet -

[00:05:03] Doug Trumm: Rightfully so.

[00:05:04] Crystal Fincher: - from Seattle's 46th legislative district, in North Seattle - and attributing the failure to his insistence on the watering down that you talked about. And basically saying, there was an agreed upon framework that did seem to have broad support and potentially the votes. But once his insistence on watering it down happened, the coalition that had been carefully brought together, and everything had been stakeholdered, and some broad agreements that were previously made were broken - and everything fell apart. In this article, it says Pollet, his changes, "took all the air out of the room ... Once you start amending what had already been agreed upon, it throws a wrench into it, and all of a sudden, this person doesn't like it, this person's not going to vote for it, and it just becomes a mess."

Certainly, lots of people, lots of entities who are invested in high property values and exclusionary zoning, advocated against it. But it really is unfortunate to see that it didn't make it this year and that every city is on its own to try and address this affordability problem. And it would've been so much better to have the opportunity to spend the next year with a unified approach across the state to get more people able to afford more housing in more places - it really does benefit us all.

[00:06:36] Doug Trumm: And it's really bad out there - I don't know if people who own homes have - I guess maybe they're checking their value on their home occasionally for kind of investment purposes. But we've seen home prices go up 20, 25, 30% in one year - that's insane - that kind of pace - we're going to be San Francisco very quickly. I don't think that's what we want to be - a place where only rich people can live. It really was - the timing was right, I think - and hopefully next year they can pick up where they left off. But I don't know what these legislators are looking at that they don't see this as a crisis. Because there's just not many options for people who don't own homes.

[00:07:21] Crystal Fincher: There really is not. Another major issue in Olympia that seemed to have broad support - a bill with a ton of co-sponsors - you would assume given how much Democrats have talked about the importance of supporting workers, supporting unions, about workers having protections, about that being a core Democratic value and one of the things that sets Democrats apart from so many others. And so many legislators just continually talking about how important that is - that the bill to allow legislative workers to unionize would be a sure thing, would be no problem. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. And that bill, which seemed to have enough votes to pass, was prevented from making it to the floor and therefore appears to have died. Unless Speaker Jinkins brings it back by designating it Necessary to Implement the Budget - without legislative workers, I think, they would have a hard time getting out the budget and implementing it.

[00:08:30] Doug Trumm: That's a good point. That's a good point.

[00:08:32] Crystal Fincher: But unfortunately, as it stands now, the speaker has not indicated any desire to do that and the rhetoric has been, from the legislators - it's so close, there are just a couple things that need to be ironed out, and this year we just didn't have the time to do it, and we'll get to it next year. Which is odd because Joe Fitzgibbon was also talking about being a leader in initially introducing legislation similar to this in 2012, so if it's been worked on since 2012 -

[00:09:06] Doug Trumm: 10 years now.

[00:09:07] Crystal Fincher: Why is it not already ready? What is going to happen in the next year that hasn't happened in the last 10? And how are you looking your workers in the eye after talking about how important it is to allow workers to unionize, how important unions are in protecting workers and building strong families and communities, and making sure everyone has a livable wage and working conditions that are not hostile - that if bad things happen, there's fair recourse and a process that people can follow. And just say, "But not you. Not when it comes to us." This is infuriating, personally. If you follow me on Twitter, it is just hard to see how this doesn't look hypocritical. Just absolutely hypocritical. And in response, a hundred workers called out sick in protest of those working conditions. We'll see where that goes, but my goodness. How did you read this?

[00:10:16] Doug Trumm: I mean, I knew that they weren't well paid, but it was shocking to me looking again at what they're listing these jobs at - still - in the year 2022. They're listing these jobs at like $42,000 to start or something like that. These are people who have to split time between Olympia - and the example they gave was someone going back to Bellingham - that's not a cheap place to live. There aren't many cheap places to live in this state. It's been expecting people to live off of $42,000 and they work insane hours all year long because when they're not in session - and when they're in session, they're expected to be at beck and call basically - but when they're not in session, they're expected to do constituent services. So it's a full gig for them even if the legislators themselves have their side hustles and their jobs they go back to.

I just think it's a basic fairness principle and so many government workers do get the benefit from unions. But the people really in the trenches of making our government work better, hopefully - but they're the ones who would do it if we can - they're not getting those benefits. And it sort of reminds me of the same principle we just talked about in the housing bill, where they're for progressive things so long as it's not in their backyard. And once it's in their backyard, they kind of walk away from that. I really want to see people just start leading where it matters the most to them - start being the change they want to see in their backyard.

[00:11:57] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. This is another issue where - yeah, Republicans aren't in favor of it - they're not at the front of the union parade, certainly. But Democrats have majority in the legislature. And so this is an issue where if Democrats are aligned, it happens. So who is the Democrat, or Democrats, who are opposing this? That has been opaque. And what is the party's - if not responsibility, but just kind of obligation and stance on an anti-union Democratic legislator? Should they be a Democratic legislator? Is that consistent with values? What does that say for where the party is? Lots of talk about big tents - but parties are based on values and built on coalitions around values. And some things may differ, but there are things in the party platform for a reason.

There is a statement of value and principles to say - anyone can sign up if you agree with what we stand for - these principles. Certainly, allowing workers to unionize is one of them. To your point, legislative staffers work really, really hard. There are lots of stories about working 20 hours of uncompensated overtime a week, especially during session. They are working to death. If your model is based on exploiting workers - having them work for more hours than originally bargained for, in a way that turns out to be not a living wage, when you look at the hours that they're putting in and the demands of the job - why are you allowing that? That is actually completely in your control. It is not good for policy - to have policy making rely on the exploitation or the reliance on paying workers less than they deserve, less than they need to afford the basics of life. These are kind of the core basic things that we talk about and it's just -

[00:14:16] Doug Trumm: Yeah, and there's a huge amount of turnover - Rich Smith's article in The Stranger pointed that out. And that's not good for policy making either. These are jobs where - if you can - in your first year, I'm sure you're just learning the ropes. If you can get someone who's been there for a handful of years, they're going to be able to really do a lot more with the position, really. Because they're the people really writing the laws and digging into these pieces of legislation, so it's just such an important position to treat like such a throwaway - like intern out of college kind of job or something - that's just an afterthought. We wonder why union rates are dropping. If Democrats aren't willing to stand up for stuff like this, what hope is there to sort of defend our rights in the private market and everywhere? This sort of erosion of unionization is sort of something we have to fight on a lot of fronts. And this is just an easy one that should be a gimme.

[00:15:20] Crystal Fincher: Should be a gimme. Should have been an automatic. But for some reason we are having a challenging time with that. Next up, we will pivot to the City of Seattle - Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech this week and unveiled plans in a number of areas, including a surge in police staffing that he's planning. What did you take away from that element and from the rest of his speech?

[00:15:50] Doug Trumm: In a way, there was some that was refreshing at this speech - I'll start with the good. Mayor Durkan's last speech was 6 minutes long and as you could expect, didn't hit on much. This speech was 32 minutes long, so in length, he wins. And he mentioned 8 Councilmembers by name. He's really trying to sort of, at least symbolically, repair some of the relationships with Council that Durkan really ran into the ground. And sometimes Council was an equal partner - they would spar on issues - but oftentimes there was some real strange hills that were died on that [inaudible]. So Harrell, at one level, just looks like an improvement over Durkan, but that's a low bar or thing.

The amount of actual policy detail in the speech was low and that's not completely abnormal. But this is also a mayor who ran on how ready he was to hit the ground running and I haven't seen a lot of that yet. He teased his announcement yesterday of "Partnership to Zero" in that speech. And we now know what that announcement was - it's a $10 million donation from different corporations and rich people to run their peer navigator program. But it's only for one year, so I don't know. As far as the whole scale of the homelessness crisis, that's not a big deal really. I mean, it's a little help, but this is a billion dollar problem with a $10 million donation. He said he was going to basically bring everyone inside within a couple years, and that's not the pace that we're on right now.

Really the biggest focus of his speech was giving SPD more funding and staffing them up. There was a lot of big rhetoric about how important that would be - response times going down - but the factor remains that there's really constraints that he has on how quickly he can staff up. So netting an additional 35 officers like Mayor Durkan aimed to do, and that was hoping that attrition rates slowed down - that's not going to lead to a dramatic difference in response times. Especially if there's also all this hotspot policing and all this other stuff going on as well - that all takes resources. They're pulling the same lever, but there's only so far that that can take them. I think there's some definite potential holes in his plans emerging. But it's still too early to tell with the scant amount of details exactly where he is headed and how that might kind of come apart.

[00:18:43] Crystal Fincher: At least rhetorically, there's some attempt to identify issues with each councilmember that they can work on together. Coalitions are really important in politics - you don't pass policy without them. And coalitions are often around issues, and some issues you may agree with and some you don't. If you can work together with a councilmember, and it's not just friction for friction's sake, or berating out of grudges, certainly it is good to find ways to accomplish - there's so much that needs to be done. There was a lot of talk about not needing to - looking at parks and encampments of parks and the stress that we don't need to choose between treating people with compassion - compassion is becoming a word that is one of those words that's so overused - but treating unhoused people with compassion and finding them housing and clearing out parks so that regular people, people in neighborhoods with houses and resources, can enjoy them.

Which is always interesting rhetoric, but that set up up with a number of these things - that we can make more people in this city feel more safe and take on issues of police reform, and have more cops and do the surge. These issues and tensions - that have been tensions for a reason, because at the end of the day, there are some choices that are very clearly made and others that aren't - but upfront saying, we can try and do this all together. Certainly, with the announcement on the $10 million for the Vision to Zero - the response to get people, particularly in downtown Seattle, housed. If you just say that as a goal, it's wonderful.

One thing that we know we all need, are people to work with the population. And so funding folks who can meaningfully connect people who are out on the street with the services that they need is great. The most important thing that unhoused people need is housing. They also need all the other services to stay in that housing. But there is no solution to homelessness without housing. He had brought up that they're relying on the 2,000-3,000 units of supportive housing that's supposed to come online in the next year to two years. He also had a caveat in there that that timeline might be put in jeopardy by concrete companies not coming to an agreement with their workers and so that's got to be taken care of. We had a conversation last week on this show where - I think it was last week - Heather Weiner pointed out that, instead of just saying this may be delayed, and you guys should get back to the table and figure something out - as if they hadn't been kind of doing that the whole time. Back in the McGinn administration, he said, "Hey, either work gets done on time or we're fining you according to the contract that is there. You have an obligation to have a workforce that is prepared to work on this project. That was part of the deal. Come to a fair agreement and get to work." And putting pressure on the companies who are most in a position to make that happen. Harrell has chosen not to go that route - and just to say, get back to the table - and if it doesn't go well, has basically put an asterisk by a number of the things that they're trying to accomplish. And say if it doesn't, looks like that's going to be what I'm going to point to as the reason why.

We'll see how that progresses. We'll see if we're going to do something different this time than we did before. And I think there is a recognition in some of the rhetoric that I heard from him that - like Durkan's peer navigator program was kind of a farce - in that, the term "offering services" actually didn't technically mean offering services. It means that they kind of went down a checklists and, do you need this? Do you want housing? Do you want to go to a shelter? Oh, well, the shelter may not accept their pet, their shelter doesn't let them enter after 8:00 PM, but they have a job that lasts beyond there so they can't go. The services may not fit what they need at all - they're not services available to them, but that could still qualify as offering and refusing services. I hope we see something different this time. I hope we have a bigger conversation about philanthropy not being a reliable or effective way to fund basic necessities in society. And that looking at the JumpStart Tax - is a much more effective solution. If these companies would just pay the taxes that they would fairly owe, we'd have more than enough money to address this. This is actually a tiny drop in the bucket.

[00:23:50] Doug Trumm: I'm sure some of that $10 million came from corporations that were a part of that lawsuit to try to block JumpStart, so it's sort of - they're going to give you some crumbs and they try to take back the loaf. It's definitely frustrating and it seems like some of these issues - we just need a firmer stand, it can't be mealy-mouthed on it. If he wants this concrete strike to end, like you said, take a stand and do what McGinn did. I'm sure we could have the strike done a little quicker if there was pressure of fines. And on homelessness, I don't know where these encampments are supposed to go, because we know we don't have enough shelter to bring everyone inside at once and WSDOT wants them off there right-of-way, as we saw in that announcement and Harrell was excited about that. We want them out of parks and we want them out of downtown, so basically the three main places where encampments are. They're going to need a lot of shelter and housing if all three of those plans are going to be realistic, because that encompasses the majority of encampments.

[00:25:04] Crystal Fincher: There are a number of organizations involved in this. A number of people in orgs who do have experience both lived and professional on how to address this - I hope they are listened to as this takes shape. There's going to be work done on how specifically all the funds are going to be allocated, there are some broad strokes - around 30 navigators pointing towards this amount of housing, in this year timeframe. We'll see how that unfolds and we'll definitely be following it as it does. But -

[00:25:38] Doug Trumm: And sweeps are definitely happening, and what those folks tell us is that - that damages their relationships, especially when they're last minute. We were hearing of a lot of a last minute sweeps where they say, "Oh, this is sidewalk, so we can clear you at any time - one hour's notice." That's what I hear from Real Change and other folks that are doing that work, is that the pace of sweeps - we can call them removals if Mayor Harrell prefers, that's his preferred term - but to hire all these peer navigators and say, "Good luck. We just shuffled everyone around. Go find them." I don't know. That doesn't seem like the most efficient way to do that.

[00:26:17] Crystal Fincher: We will keep following it. The other significant news which arrived earlier was that Mayor Harrell announced that he is going to end the eviction moratorium in Seattle at the end of February. And after that, the tsunami of evictions can once again resume and folks can be evicted for nonpayment of rent. As we know, lots of people - through no fault of their own, through no fault of their company - wound up out of a job for an extended period of time because of the pandemic. This was a widespread problem that necessitated a widespread solution. The goal of the moratorium was to - one, as lawmakers were trying to figure out, Hey, how do we get out of this solution? No, we can't leave landlords, especially small landlords, just holding the bag for potentially a couple years of unpaid rent. But it really is damaging to our entire society to allow people to lose their housing, and all of the problems become more expensive for us to handle when a person does that. The consequences to society when a person does that are much more expensive than just publicly doing what it takes to keep them in their homes.

A solution was made. Funds were provided and distributed at the county level. Unfortunately, the county started to distribute that - and even with a slow start, the eviction moratorium was extended to help the county catch up with the problem. Unfortunately, they caught up and they ran out of money. There are over 10,000 tenants in King County who are on the list who qualified for assistance, but unfortunately, they just ran out. There has been no appropriation from anyone to backfill that. We know that we're dealing with around 10,000 tenants, who as of March 1st, can be evicted. We're doing this at a time when we're just trying to get our arms around, as we just discussed, the problem that already exists. It feels like we're trying to mop without turning off the faucet. We're just going to increase the pressure of the faucet while not doing much more mopping. It would be great if we just turned the faucet off. It'd be great if we just stopped the possibility of people being evicted and figure out how to backfill this funding, so we can maintain the stability of our regional economy, of our neighborhood businesses, and all the rest. How do you see this?

[00:29:12] Doug Trumm: Yeah, I was also kind of flabbergasted that they didn't at least try to top up that eviction protection rental assistance program, as they ended the moratorium. I was hoping there would be more of a seamless hand off. But that program being out of money as they end the moratorium just seems like a bad idea. I don't know what the urgency to end the moratorium is - it's been in place for almost two years. We have a lot of data that it's been very effective in slowing the pace of evictions, in the time of great upheaval and economic turmoil and public health turmoil. I don't know why landlords suddenly need to be doing this. I mean, certainly there's been this program that was helping them too - as far as the eviction protection rental assistance program - gave them their income back.

Putting more money in that would've been a win-win. But I don't know. Yeah. It's certainly likely to lead to displacement and likely homelessness. Just digging yourself in deeper, like you said. I hope that they may reconsider. I know, Councilmember Sawant's already introduced legislation. Morales sounded pretty concerned about this decision to end the moratorium so soon. There are programs in place like the Winter Eviction Moratorium that help a little bit, but not as extensive as the full eviction moratorium under the mayor's ruling. I don't know. It's going to - I guess we're just deciding the pandemic's over, as we're seeing with mask mandates and then other stuff. I know people emotionally are ready, but I don't know - this whole follow the science stuff - I'm not sure if that's exactly what's happening right now.

[00:31:12] Crystal Fincher: Well, I mean, lots of people have talked about - there is a difference in between the statements - the number of cases are falling, is not the same as the number of cases are low. In fact, we still have caseload that is much higher than most other points during this pandemic. Spread is not low. It is lower than it has been. We have fallen off of our most recent peak, which is the highest peak we have had so far. We still have a lot of people in our community - people under five, immunocompromised people, just people who are vulnerable - who are relying on the rest of us still being protected, and providing protection, and providing accommodations to make sure we keep everyone safe. That has seemed to fall out of the conversation. Just kind of - it's time and if you don't like it, if you don't feel safe, then just stay home. As many people point out, especially for people who are disabled, who have chronic illness - sometimes they're relying on home health aides coming into their homes. They don't have to be masked if they've been exposed other places. You can't even stay home and avoid the risk. But we actually shouldn't be encouraging a society where some people are not allowed to participate in it.

And the conversation just about living with the pandemic, as now it's endemic, does not mean you just throw up your hands and do nothing. It means that you take the precautions and the preparations to say, okay, this is a thing and let's figure out how we can operate safely for all of us. Let's make sure that we're preparing for this next variant - there's already news about a B2 variant of Omicron that may be more transmissible and more dangerous healthwise than the original - because we're doing nothing to stop the creation of all of these variants. I feel for people in that position, I feel for people in our community. I still am not in the place where I am comfortable just throwing caution to the wind and saying, "Everything is fine. We don't need any precautions anywhere." Removing the vaccine mandates -

[00:33:43] Doug Trumm: Yeah, that was shocking.

[00:33:45] Crystal Fincher: - from restaurants and different places. I feel for our frontline workers and retail workers, who now are going to be in a really difficult position once again - having to weigh their own safety, the safety of family, or people that they may live with or be in constant contact with, and an increasingly hostile public to public safety measures. And the onus being put on them to negotiate that, while making low wages. We're just asking so much of them. It just puts even more pressure and stress on it. We will continue to talk about this and pay attention to what's going on - and just try and be good community members and make sure all of us have the opportunity to participate in society and thrive. With that, we have arrived at our time today.

Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7FM on this Friday, February 18th. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng and our wonderful co-host today was Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm. You can find Doug on Twitter @dmtrumm, that's D-M-T-R-U-M-M. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks & Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.