Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Hacks & Wonks

Sep 16, 2022

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn! Starting with the local strike news, Seattle teachers ended their strike earlier this week, and Seattle public school students returned to classes on Wednesday morning. The strike was successful in getting district negotiators to the table, and getting some of their concerns accounted for. Beyond pay, teachers were fighting for manageable class sizes, special education and mental health resources, and adequate non-teacher staff like nurses and counselors. 

In strike news on a national scale, the railroad workers strike has been averted by a tentative agreement between unions and railroad companies with the help of the Biden administration. Railroad workers were fighting for better time off policies, to not be penalized for taking sick days, and for reduced workloads, which ballooned due to staffing shortages.

These strikes, and others happening across the country, come at a time when unions have a decades-high approval from US citizens. Inequality has continued to worsen in this country, affecting more and more of us, and our appetite for collective action and unionization has grown as a result.  At the same time, large corporations are engaging in increasingly harsh anti-union tactics.

Also this week, King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay published an op-ed in the Seattle Times about the politicization of crime disguising solutions that actually lower crime. He argues that the push for more police and more arrests won't solve our crime issues, and points out that research shows us that other solutions like Restorative Community Pathways are actually more effective in reducing recidivism. And as hiring bonuses fail to bring the new police the city was expecting, it seems more and more unreasonable to promise that ‘more police’ is the solution we need.

In the police alternatives conversation, the city council is working on a plan for an alternative 911 response pilot program in Seattle, but the Public Safety and Human Resources committee responsible for the plan has felt the need to create a "term sheet" agreement between the council and the Mayor's office. The need for this term sheet shows how frayed the relationship between the mayor and the council in Seattle, a relationship that has been worsening since the Durkan administration.

The business community has been pushing this media narrative that the council inhibits the mayor's ability to tackle issues like crime and homelessness, but this doesn't track. The mayor is the executive, responsible for seeing policy carried out and for helping to craft the policy itself. The mayor leads the city's major departments, and is responsible for coordinating them to solve the city's problems - they should be held primarily responsible for meeting their goals.  

On October 4th at 7:00pm, Crystal will be moderating a debate, run by the South Seattle Emerald, between 37th LD State Representative candidates Chipalo Street and Emijah Smith! for more information, see this link:

A quick reminder: the Seattle Municipal Court will bring court and social services to Rainier Beach Community Center on Monday, September 19th from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Tell your friends! Also next week is the Week Without Driving! Everyone is invited to refrain from driving themselves in any vehicle, for any activity, for a week in order to increase awareness of the needs of non-drivers.

Finally, in eyebrow-raising news, The Royal Esquire Club, where Harrell was board president for six years, received almost $800,000 from the city through the Economic Development Initiative. While Mayor Harrell may not have been involved in this specific decision, it reinforces the concerns people have about his priorities and where he's putting resources after his controversial comments to SPD the other week.

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

Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Mike McGinn, at @mayormcginn. More info is available at



“Seattle Educators Vote to End Strike, Classes Begin for the School Year” from The South Seattle Emerald:


“National Railroads Labor Dispute Affects Northwest Passenger Rail, But Full Shutdown Has Been Averted” by Stephen Fesler from The Urbanist:


“U.S. railroads, workers avert shutdown, but work remains to finalize contract deal” by Lisa Baertlein from Reuters:


"U.S. Approval of Labor Unions at Highest Point Since 1965" by Justin McCarthy from Gallup:


“Public safety is about solving tough problems, not scoring political points” by Girmay Zahilay from The Seattle Times:


“Seattle May Get Its Alternative Response Pilot in 2023 After All” by Amy Sundberg from Notes from the Emerald City:



Seattle Municipal Court Social Services Event: 



“State and Local Leaders to Participate in Week Without Driving Challenge” by Natalie Bicknell Argerious from The Urbanist:


“Harrell Announces Grants that Include $800,000 to Private Men’s Club He Chaired For Years” by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola:



"A Closer Look at City Grant to Social Club Harrell Headed” by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola:



[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks and 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. Full text 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 friend of the show and today's co-host, activist, community leader, former mayor of Seattle, and executive director of America Walks, the popular Mike McGinn.

[00:00:58] Mike McGinn: I appreciate the popular, but I think that's always up for, that's always up for question, how popular I am at any given moment. I've had good days and bad days over time, Crystal

[00:01:09] Crystal Fincher: Popular and increasingly vindicated. We had, we didn't even talk about this before the show, but there was actually a Supreme court, a state Supreme court ruling this week, ruling that insurance companies are not liable for some of the cost overruns on the tunnel. We are still in 2022 talking about the cost overruns that the leaders from 12, 14 years ago swore would not exist.

[00:01:32] Mike McGinn: "There will be no cost overruns," I was repeatedly informed. There will be no cost overruns, right?

[00:01:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And not only were there cost overruns, there were incredible delays and they're still fighting over it. So now it's figuring out who's gonna pay for that. You tried to warn us. You try to warn us.

[00:01:55] Mike McGinn: I did my best. And if you'll- I'll go on one more. We also know that so few cars are actually using the tunnel that they can't pay off the bonds they floated for the tolls to pay for it. So it's, it's- we were also told the economy of the city would collapse without that tunnel and it turns out that nobody actually, very few people are even using it. So much for the economic argument too.

[00:02:22] Crystal Fincher: Yes.

[00:02:23] Mike McGinn: This is, without getting too deep into it, it's one of the things that you just have to look for. Is the project about the public good or is it about sending a bunch of money towards some favored interests in the system? And that one was about sending money towards people who really wanted that money going to their businesses, et cetera. So you really, it's a warning to all of us: what is the program really for here?

[00:02:48] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree. So some big news this week was in the labor realm and the strike realm, one of which is a end to the Seattle teacher strike, which is a really big deal. Seattle public school students return to school on Wednesday, which I'm sure is a big relief to a lot of parents in the district. But finally, after a lot of delays from the district and their negotiators, they did come to the table with the teachers and wound up striking an agreement. So I'm sure everybody is relieved. I don't know if you talked to anyone who had kids out of school, but it was certainly a trial for a number of people, Mike.

[00:03:31] Mike McGinn: My, my kids are beyond that age, but yeah, it's a really big deal. It disrupts everyone's lives and there's so much pressure on the school system from so many different angles right now with both pandemic response, with funding issues from the legislature. And it's been- so this is on top of what I think has been a really unsettling time for parents and kids.

[00:03:56] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:03:57] Mike McGinn: As well as teachers themselves, who've had to work in an, extraordinarily difficult situation.

[00:04:04] Crystal Fincher: Extraordinarily difficult situation. Deal with a range of issues that they probably never anticipated when they took the job, and just the amount of flexibility, and going above and beyond that they've had to do throughout this pandemic and managing remote learning and in-person learning, sometimes a hybrid of the two, it's just a completely different model. And they're trying to do the best that they can. And issues in this teacher strike are not just pay - they certainly deserve the pay - but also issues related to some real fundamental structural issues that are happening in so many districts that are impacting class sizes, which are much larger in many areas, especially in special education, staffing ratios, staff like counselors, that are so important. And as we get more news that, coming out of this pandemic, children and students need more support, mental health support, lots of stuff going on there, but those staffing ratios are so much worse than they used to be. Class sizes are getting larger and larger, school supply lists for parents are getting longer and longer, and less is getting funded. There are fewer teachers there. Teachers are leaving the profession. Educators. There's a bus driver shortage. There are kind of shortages everywhere. And so just managing through this is a difficult thing that's going to take school boards like Seattle Public Schools being very involved. And so this contract, by all accounts, is not perfect. It's certainly an improvement on what would've happened had the teachers not gone on and striked, but, there's still a number of things that need to be handled. Great that everybody is back into school and learning, but what do you see in the long term in addressing these staffing issues?

[00:06:03] Mike McGinn: I think being a school board member's gotta be one of the worse jobs in politics, right? Perhaps even worse than mayor. It's because, at least as mayor, you're in an executive position where you have some types of- where you have taxing authority, where you can actually take actions to balance your budget somewhat. Their money is really derived by the state. And so they're put in the very difficult position of how do you allocate that money. And I'm not trying to let school board off the hook, they have a hard job, but the school board also doesn't have very many staff, right? It's really the school district administration that that staffs this as well. So we just gotta look upstream to the legislature and the emphasis and the dollars that are put into education. I just think is hugely critical to, resolving these issues. And all three of my kids went through Seattle public schools and we saw this period of time where seattle was closing schools, a number of years ago, because they're, declining population. Then we had the reverse, where it, we had to open up more schools and, Lincoln High School was brought back into the rotation after having been closed decades earlier. So that was to me that was a positive sign, because it, it meant that parents were returning to the school district and we were getting a more diverse student body. We're getting a student body that included better off parents as well, who would abandon the school district. And now we're seeing, once again, the decline in enrollment starting in the school. So it's just a real rollercoaster. And maintaining a consistent and high level of investment in the school district is so defining to what neighborhoods are about and what the city is about and we talk about all these things, and we hear about the business community talking about what they need, but really, investing in education, investing in our schools - I think we can extend this up to the higher education system too. The fact that there are so much competition for the spots in the state system and the cost of going to the state system has gotten more and more expensive - so all of these things are things that need to be address.

[00:08:28] Crystal Fincher: Certainly need to be addressed. We have legislative candidates up for elections campaigning right now. And so educational funding is certainly an issue that they should be well-versed in and speaking about and also talking about how they can contribute to solving these issues. In related strike news, it looks like the country may be avoiding a national railway strike. Looks like there is a tentative agreement that has been negotiated by leaders with a lot of intervention from the Biden administration to come to an agreement between railroad companies and a group of unions, whose challenges that they're facing are really tough. And they're absolutely justified in getting to the point where they're like, "look, this is unsustainable. Being on call sometimes seven days a week, 24/7, frequently 24/6." Meaning that there's only one day a week that you can use for personal stuff where you are not obligated to be available immediately to come in. A and as many of the members said that one day a week, sometimes, if their job on the train took them to a distant location, they would spend that day off driving back home, which can take several hours. So even the day off isn't quite a day off. One, it's not sustainable when people don't have days off. It's not sustainable when people work all the time. And then also not being able to have sick days, being penalized for taking sick days, which are all unpaid, anyway. Just a really tough situation. They're also experiencing shortages. Have been experiencing increased workloads while being on call almost all of the time. So they had reached a point where they were going to strike. Obviously that impacts every single thing. Our country runs on rail. Commerce runs on rail. That's how we get goods across the country, largely, once they're coming from ports or within the United States. So this was going to be a very big deal that impacted everything. Everything that we buy, lots of things that people sell. This was gonna be a really big deal. It looks like, a tentative agreement has been reached, but there's still... we'll see if that agreement goes far enough for each individual union to actually ratify this. And those are coming up. Those votes will be between the end of September and mid-October so still to come. I think the news here is that, I think it's a little early for folks to be doing victory laps. It looks like these votes might be closer than a lot of people are assuming. And so let's just make sure that hurdle clears before everyone exhales or lets their foot off the gas or, moves on as if this totally isn't going to be a thing. There certainly is more news to come. How do you see this, Mike?

[00:11:41] Mike McGinn: Workers, if you look at long term trends, we understand how much inequality has been growing in the country, and, income distribution, wealth accumulation, the decline of the ability of a worker to afford housing and college educations, as we mentioned, and other things. It's been really dramatic. So the pressure has been building obviously, to try to reverse that. I think and now we're in a position- in a point of high unemployment, so workers have more leverage than they have had before and high inflation as well, cutting into the wages they already have. I'm also really struck by the fact that Gallup, the Gallup poll, people, have been asking the question of, 'do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?' according to this graph, since at least 1937. And 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it was about evenly divided. Today, 68% of Americans approve of labor unions, 28% disapprove.

You have to go back to the mid sixties to find an approval rating that high. And really you have to go back into the fifties or the great depression to find it higher than that. So it's really, to me, this strike, the Starbucks unionizing efforts, you're just really seeing a public acceptance and support for unions that you just haven't seen before. And that, that also makes a difference in how these things get resolved. Granted, it's a negotiation between the business and the workers, but the context, the public context, that it's operating in and the ability of elected leaders to show approval or disapproval to the companies that are holding out on their workers can make a difference too. So it's quite a change from where we've been in terms of public acceptance of unions and it is at a point in history where workers need to gain some of the wealth and income that's generated by their work that they've not been gaining, as that's all been flowing to the top, when you look at where all of the profits from productivity gains over the last 50 years have gone.

[00:14:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And it has gotten so upside down and inequality has grown so much that this is impacting most families in the lower and middle classes, and even in the upper middle classes, not growing their wealth at the same rate as the über wealthy are. The gains that are made from the labor from workers are predominantly going to the top, not even 1%, but like 0.1%. And it is causing issues is as people face their own struggles, they're going, "okay, why am I sitting here struggling, while, someone is continuing to be enriched and amass more money than they can possibly spend in their lifetime?" Something has got to give. When we have railroad workers who can't take a full day off, who are on call 24/7, who can't take a sick day, who if their kid winds up in the ER, can't take a day off for it, if they do, they get penalized, and paying for that day, hasn't even entered the conversation yet, like that's so backwards and so upside down. Especially when their bosses are swimming in sick days and time off and having a great time. So it is just upside down and unsustainable. We're seeing that right now. And yeah, public opinion has changed and people aren't buying the same lines that we've heard for a long time: "the strikers are making this difficult on you" and using the threat of, "hey, supply chain disruptions. This is gonna make your life harder." I think, what they, what a lot of corporations and business leaders and people like Howard Schultz were not prepared for, is people saying, "okay, I can go without this for a little bit if it means that it's going to materially, improve working conditions for my neighbors and people I care about, people I see every day, people who are serving me my coffee and delivering the goods that I'm counting on. We can take a little hit. It's necessary to do this." Because I think there's also the recognition that an increase in wages and standards in other sectors helps everybody. That spreads. And the more we can standardize these gains, the better. I also think corporations are looking at this, like the Amazons and the Starbucks and the Petcos of the world, and fighting back really hard and really viciously and in many illegal ways. The amount of complaints that these companies have in front of the National Labor Relations Board just continues to seemingly grow by the week. And sustained findings of things that are illegal just keep coming like dominoes. So they're mounting up and fighting hard against any kind of gains from labor using really dirty tactics, sometimes illegal tactics. And so this is going to be a battle that is going to be waged in many sectors, but I think is really important for people to show solidarity for workers here. This helps everyone.

[00:17:33] Mike McGinn: And with regard to public acceptance, the argument from the employer is, "hey, the union will make it harder for you. It'll be better off for you without a union." And when you start seeing that much public acceptance, that argument just isn't flying the same way with the public. So it will make it easier for the union, for the effort, for those working to unionize more places. Is that they're operating an environment that's much more favorable to them.

[00:18:03] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So we will keep our eye on that in the coming weeks. I also wanted to talk, this week, about an op-ed that we saw from King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay that talked about public safety, and I thought was a really excellent op-ed. You'll see it in the show notes to the show. What did you think about this?

[00:18:24] Mike McGinn: His basic point was, if I can really summarize it, is we are politicizing an issue that actually requires us to look hard at what works and what does not work. And the specific example he gave was he was getting emails from members of the public about, "how can you? You should be jailing more people.

If you care about crime, there should be more punishment." And Girmay pointed to the fact that diversion programs are reducing recidivism, doing a better job than the recidivism of those that have been, that have gone to jail. And he points to this as being, "don't we wanna do what works,?" But he doesn't wanna just argue about that point about what's the best course and how do you decide what to apply. But he's really making a plea for, "can we look at what works? Can we have a broader discussion and just not immediately go to more punishment, more jail, more police officers as being the only indicia of whether somebody is tough on crime or working to solve the problem. I'm struck by the way in which those southern governors DeSantis and Abbott are sending immigrants to Kamala Harris's home and Martha's vineyard, just to rile people up, like, using people as paws here. And not look- it's just a horrible thing they're doing. But we're gonna have immigrants, so how do we handle the people that are coming to the border? When do we grant asylum? How do we integrate people into our society? These are real questions. And immediately going to score political points on this stuff means we're gonna be mired in a ridiculous debate and not actually get at the source of it. And I've said this on this show, a number of times: The city cannot possibly hire the number of officers it wants to hire. It has the budget, it has signing bonuses, but it is still losing officers faster than it can hire officers. So if you're gonna stand up as an elected official, or as an advocate, and say, "just hire more officers," you're not talking about the planet we live on, okay? That's not gonna happen for a couple of years. So what's your plan to actually deal with crime? I think this is a really serious issue, and I think Girmay, is really putting his finger on it. There are lots of different ways we can deal with crime. So can we start talking about what actually works and have a rational discussion about that, and not just use this to score political points and try to get your favorite people into office because the other side is insufficiently tough on crime. It's just a ridiculous argument.

[00:21:22] Crystal Fincher: It's a ridiculous argument. It's disingenuous. And it's one we're seeing play out right now in the King County Prosecutor's race and, frankly, and lots of prosecutor races across the country, where you've got, one side - and also some sheriffs races - they're saying, "hey, crime is bad and we're gonna solve it by enforcing the laws. We're gonna take a law and order approach. We're gonna, charge people with crimes. They do. And if they're guilty, we're gonna send them to jail. We need to punish people. And if people understand that they're gonna be punished, that's going to prevent crime." And as we continue to see in study after study and evaluation after evaluation, when you compare that approach, which has been our main approach - which has gotten us where we are today, which you would think would make people question it a little bit - to diversion programs and other programs, it just fails. It does not make us more safe. You talked about the difference between the two. People going through this Restorative Community Pathways program, which is one of the diversion programs, meaning that they focus on, it's not, "hey, go we're not doing anything. It's okay." You committed a violation of some sort, but instead of just sending you to jail, not doing anything to address what may have contributed to making that happen, they say, "okay, so what is it? Is it that you need a job? Is it that there's an education gap? Is it that- What are the root causes of this? And let's actually make sure we address the root causes." And there's accountability tied around addressing those root causes. They have mandatory meetings. They have to do that. And they're making progress. That has resulted in. In almost half the rate, more than half the rate actually, of recidivism than those youth who are traditionally charged and sent to jail. People who are traditionally charged and sent to jail, youth comparable to the ones who were in the diversion program, went on to commit offenses another 20% of the time compared to only 8% of the youth who went through Restorative Community Pathways. So if the goal is keeping people more safe, if the goal is making sure people are no longer victimized, if the goal is reducing crime on the streets, there's a clear winner here. There's something that is clearly working better than the other thing. And to reduce things to soundbites and, "oh, we just gotta lock them up," is not only disingenuous, it's making things less safe. And so if you're seriously interested in this like I, I so appreciate Councilmember Zahilay writing this and continuing to talk about this. We have to push to do what makes us safe. If we actually do care about public safety, and this is critically important, we have to continue to move in the direction of the things that actually reduce crime, that stop people from committing crime, and stop them from doing it again in the future. We would like to move in that direction. A lot of momentum against that direction. And we've gotta fund those programs in that direction. And so a lot of work to do, but we've gotta get real about these conversations that we have and about holding people accountable to discussing facts. And when we hear that misinformation, especially when people in media and people who are talking to elected officials hear that misinformation, following up:

"Oh, we need to enforce laws."

"Okay. How exactly?"

"Oh, we need to send people to jail."

"So the actual professionals who were staffing the jail said, 'hey, we can't take anymore.' So what do you do then?"

"Well we hire more of them."

"Okay, that doesn't happen for another year and a half. So what do you do then? What are you doing now?"

And you find that there actually aren't any answers, there's just rhetoric. We need to understand what people's plans are for now, we need to hold people accountable to plans for now, because we are having a public safety crisis. We've gotta get through.

[00:25:37] Mike McGinn: It's fascinating to watch, and you can probably explain this a little better, but apparently the city has been working to try to stand up some type of alternative response on 911 calls. That sending a police officer is not always the best response to a 911 call. And there's been very little progress made on it. So as I understand it, the city and, excuse me, the city council and the mayor's office, have been negotiating a work plan to help develop the alternative response, whatever they're gonna do in this, and then they're gonna sign what they've been calling a term sheet. Which to me is really fascinating, because it demonstrates, and trust me, I understand something about the challenges of working with the city council and with the city council working with the mayor. They're separate branches of government. They have different roles. And a lot of Councilmembers would like to go on and become mayor. So there's a natural tension built into the system, and it's built into the system for accountability. And you have to accept that no matter what, no matter where you sit in that system. But, to have to publicly negotiate a work plan as to how you're gonna work together, is really a sign of just how broken the relationship has become. That's the type of stuff that should be able to be worked out in conversation and there should be some level of trust in that. I think that the council is a little burned by their relationship with the former mayor, Durkan, who viewed council actions as a suggestion, and budgets as a suggestion, that didn't necessarily have to be followed. And they don't want to go down that road again. But I'd love to hear your take on this Crystal.

[00:27:31] Crystal Fincher: Just getting into kind of the nuts and bolts of the issue real quick and then I'll give you some thoughts on it also. So this term sheet between the mayor and the council, the executive and legislative branches, is about alternative 911 response. And the reason why this is a thing is that, as the city looked at calls to 911 and evaluated them, they found that the majority of them are not actually calls for emergencies that require a police response. You got the cat in the tree, you have maybe a mental health challenge. There, there are lots of things that aren't actually crimes or criminal activity that people are calling 911 for, so to send an appropriate responder out to that, which is important if you're talking about police are short staffed, so don't, you wanna be more efficient with what you do send them to? And if they aren't needed somewhere, then we want to send appropriate tools in that direction. So this is an agreement to deal with that and will allocate money in the 2023 budget for a new alternative response that will be implemented in 2023. So this is a next year thing, they're trying to plan for this right now. A report will be presented on Tuesday, September 27th, from the SPD risk management demand analysis report proposal for special event staffing will be available for analysis in 2022. And the policy document outlining the framework for a permanent response model in the general by the end of 2022. So there is actually a plan that is trying to be moved forward. And to your point, it's unusual to spell things out because the roles and responsibilities of the council and the mayor are different. And this seems to be something that gets confused a lot, even among media sometimes, where the council can't actually implement policy. They're not the ones doing operations. They aren't the ones hiring. They aren't the ones implementing stuff, actually taking the money, and making it work. They allocate the money. They may allocate a framework for that money to be spent in, but it really is up to the executive to take the money and actually do the thing. To implement a plan, to move forward with hiring, to staff, to manage a program, to see through the implementation of stuff. If he has a plan that money is allocated to, he's got to stand that whole thing up. He's doing the hiring, the entire program, that's underneath the purview of the executive. So usually council, "Hey, this money is available for this. And then it goes to the executive, the mayor and the departments, to then make happen." This is unusual, because they're dictating much more upfront then they normally they do. And to your point, I think it is a sign of broken trust. But I think it's a sign of much more recent things. We're in September now, getting ready to head into October, and we're still waiting to hear some public safety plans,

we're still waiting to hear plans around the city's response to homelessness, aside from the regional response. We're waiting for a number of things. I think there was some optimism and eagerness early in the administration. Bruce talked initially saying, "hey, we're gonna be looking at things in the first three months and then like making some rapid determinations and plans and moving forward on a public safety plan." And aside from sweeps and a brief hotspot stint, people are waiting for a lot of things here. We aren't really seeing much. And I guess, to be fair, that the recent park ranger proposal also, that was just announced. So-

[00:31:36] Mike McGinn: No, it's, you raise, you raised some really good points here. And obviously you pointed out the difference in roles of: the council sets the policy and sets the budget, and it really is up to the mayor to implement. And it really shouldn't be a question. Budgets and policies are not a suggestion from the council. They're, indeed, the law. And that was something that I found very troubling. There are times when a mayor discovers that spending the money is difficult for for various reasons or that there needs to be a tweak to the policy, but that's usually done- you report back to the council and you let them know. "Hey, I wasn't able to spend all the money. Here's the reasons why. Let's talk about what to do moving forward." So there's a little bit more of a back and forth and a give and take, because there's gotta be a little bit of flexibility in the system. But what we saw under Durkan was just, money would just be sequestered and not spent and policies wouldn't be followed. And that's extremely challenging because the council cannot run the departments. It can't be done. So this idea that, somehow or another, council is the reason why there are issues is a media narrative that's generated by, it turns out, the business community, which has supported the last three mayors now and has not been happy with the council and has not supported a majority of the Councilmembers for some time now as well. If it were reversed, and by the way, I have an example of when it was


[00:33:10] Crystal Fincher: It was yes.

[00:33:12] Mike McGinn: And guess what? It turned out when I was mayor and most of the Councilmembers were supported by the business community, crime was the mayor's fault. Now that the business community candidates are in the minority on the council and they've held the mayor's office now for three straight terms, it's now the council's fault, not the mayor's fault. So that's a media narrative people really need to look at. I think there's another mayoral responsibility here that go in that list, which is even though council has the job of setting policy, the development of policy is very much an executive branch action because you have all of the agencies and the experienced individuals within the agencies. So if there's a problem you will call - I would, and I'm sure mayors before me and mayors after me - you call in your agency, heads, you call in your policy people. You say, "what could we possibly do? What are the things we're already doing that we might enhance? How much would that cost? How many people would you need for that? How could we, if you have some new ideas, how would we stand that up?" It's a type of operational understanding the workings of the machinery of government and having access to all those resources means that on big policy issues, the mayor really does have to lead. It's much, much harder for the council because they don't have access in the same way. And there's just practical things that you want to hear from the people that have been doing the work about how do we do more of the good stuff and how do we change what we're doing. And so the point you are making of, we're nine months in, and where's the plan, there is a reason that people look to a mayor to develop the plan. The mayor is just in a better position and has the resources to generate a plan, send it to council, and then, go through that accountability of having the legislative process and hearings and hearing from the public about what they think and what should be the final product. But a lot of it starts with the mayor, both in developing policy ideas and proposing a budget to fund it. And I think if you don't have that, you see the council trying to fill that role. But the physics of how the legislative process works and how managing government works, it just doesn't allow council to really fully fill that role. It's just too hard to do from the council. It really does require a mayor. Leaning in and leading.

[00:35:40] Crystal Fincher: It really does. And the council can't hire people. They can't. They can't put people out on the street. Like they, that is solely-

[00:35:52] Mike McGinn: Or the city council can't have nine of them calling in all the department heads one at a time in hearings to try to develop a comprehensive plan. This is a thing where you call the staff in, you call them the heads, you put together a working group, and you get to work. And, and when we do that in the mayor's office, there were times where we would say let's make sure we include this Councilmember and their staff in the process, because we'll want their- that's their committee, we'll want their support when this proposal goes down to council. Like, we want to hear from people, we wanna hear from them too. We don't just wanna spring things on them. And there were times we did spring things on them. We developed things and sent it down, but there were other times where we called them in to work with us. And it's not a, it's not a thing where you should have to negotiate how you're gonna work together before you start working together.

[00:36:44] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And I think the hope was that they could start off doing that. And to be clear, even beyond how things traditionally happen and what the roles are, Mayor Harrell said he was going to be presenting plans for this mayor, Harrell laid out his own path. And I think part of the complication is that what he laid out and what he had communicated to council is a lot different than what we heard recently from him.

[00:37:08] Mike McGinn: Yeah.

[00:37:09] Crystal Fincher: In that meeting with SPD which when we're at a crisis point in terms of homelessness and public safety, and everyone is accountable for getting this solved, it really does make council say, "okay let's get specific then. Since we aren't exactly sure what your intention is, since we seem to be running behind on what your original schedule and plans were for a rollout here, and now that we're getting really mixed signals, let's make sure that we're straight about what this money allocation is going to and come to a defined agreement." Because I think his statements have created a lot of uncertainty. And in the time, since he's made them, he's done nothing to clarify the discrepancy between what he's said to these different groups. So it, this is gonna be interesting to see rollout. We're also not far from budget season and, to your point, the mayor's budget really is a policy proposal for the year. And he's going to be submitting a budget to council. They're gonna do what they do with it. And they'll ultimately come up with a budget for 2023 but we'll see how this continues to proceed. But I think we see it from the council. I think we've seen it from other entities. They're being a bit more careful and intentional and explicit with, "okay. So exactly. What is it that we're doing here?" Because solely relying on the word of Mayor Harrell seems like it may not get people where they want to go or, they don't know where he stands.

[00:38:58] Mike McGinn: Well, and there was obviously there was suspicion generated about what he did or did not support from a policy perspective. And he also said it basically, he was gonna be out there recruiting people to run against the council. So just another level of tension to the mix. But big picture I think what we see is that the council is trying to develop a plan, and they're trying to develop that plan because they're not seeing the plan come from the executive first and that they then respond to. And that's just, I think, a challenging place. But let's hope that they can find a way to find some common ground and start standing up some alternatives to the idea that they're gonna be able to just hire their way out of the problem.

[00:39:44] Crystal Fincher: It'll be interesting to see and follow along. And just a few news tidbits. There's going to be a 37th Legislative District debate, so basically the representatives running in Southeast Seattle, that's gonna be held on October 4th. It's gonna be in person and stream live. I'm going to be moderating it. This is being put on by media partners, Real Change News, KVRU, KNKX, and Hacks and Wonks. And so we'll have a great conversation, but it's gonna be from seven to nine at the Rainier Arts Center on Tuesday, October 4th. Feel free to come on down and learn more about what Emijah Smith and Chipalo Street are planning to do if they are elected as the Representatives in the 37th Legislative District. Also want to make sure that people know about a Seattle Municipal Court in the Community event on Monday, September 19th, so this coming Monday, from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, this is a big deal because sometimes people get tickets that it takes them a long time to pay. Sometimes they're in different situations. Some people get warrants for different things. They need medication assistance, public defense assistance, mental health screening, and services. Stuff like that is going to be available on Monday. September 19th from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM at the Rainier Beach Community Center. Lots of people are ashamed to talk about this in public. So you may have friends, you probably know people, who could use some of the services here, who need to settle something with the court, settle a fine or a payment, or they forgot to show up or something, there's a warrant. Make sure that you are spreading the word about this into the community or people who are in need of a variety of things. There will be a meal provided there. Onsite services include help with unpaid tickets to renew vehicle tabs, ticket payment and community service plans, warrant recalls, and quashing, free smartphones and data for people to qualify, public defense screening, medication assisted treatment info, mental health screening, and resources, mental health services, and resources, excuse me, and free hygiene kits and more. Get people here, make sure people know about it. Lots of people need to know about it. We'll of course, link to this in the show notes. Also big deal coming up this next week, starting on Monday, September 19th, is the week without driving challenge that's put on by the Disability Mobility Initiative, which I know you're familiar with, Mike, and which invites people to refrain from driving in any vehicle for any activity for a full week in order to increase awareness about what it's like to navigate the world is a non-driver. For reasons ranging from age ability, economics, about one quarter of our population in this state is unable to drive, but most transportation and policy investments continue to prioritize the needs of people in vehicles over those who rely on walking, rolling in transit to get around. What do you think participating in something like this does for an elected official?

[00:43:00] Mike McGinn: I've always thought that every elected official should just have to take the bus, because at least some of the time, because if you did, you'd change your mind about how much money should go into buses and frequency of service, dedicated lanes, all of the things that can make public transit a great system. I think the Week Without Driving is fabulous and disability mobility Initiative is really leading the way. We've been, at America Walks, we've been popularizing it for people to adapt in other places and take the same challenge. We've designed a transportation system, and built a transportation system, over the last, 75 years, in which really an entry into community and economic life for so many people requires buying a car and that's really expensive, besides being polluting and and dangerous to people outside of vehicles. It's just not a sustainable transportation system. I'd ask people to imagine the opposite. Imagine if we designed places, we planned and built places where you put the needs of non-drivers first. Like what amazing places those would be. You'd be able to walk to the store. There'd be frequent, reliable bus service. There'd be curb cuts and you may not need that curb cut now, but there's a point in your life where you might really appreciate that the curb cut is there. And so building places for all ages and abilities, putting things close enough to each other, building abundant housing. So many well off people go to Europe and travel around and go,

"this is amazing. Why can't American cities be like this," when they go to. European city or town, which is delightful with lots of people space. And then they come home and it's "we can't possibly change here in America." We could, it's a choice. And I think what the Week Without Driving really does is drive home to people how many people were excluding from the community. That means we're excluding their contributions to our community. But I also hope people can look at the other side and just imagine how great it would be to be on the other side of that. And what we see in places like Seattle is the neighborhoods that are closest to that ideal are the most expensive places to live. People pay a premium, to live in those types of neighborhoods. And it's not like it's a rare thing that you have to search all over the world to find this rare mineral or something. We make this stuff. We control every aspect of how a place is built. It's just, we've chosen not to. So yeah, Week Without Driving is fabulous. And if it inspires elected officials to say, "maybe we could do with one fewer interchange and build sidewalks in the entire city," that would be a pretty awesome deal.

[00:46:05] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And I'm looking forward to seeing who participates. Hopefully a lot of our state and local elected officials will be participating. We'll try and see if we can get together a list and talk about that next week and continue to follow up on that issue, but it's just so important and fundamental to how we're able to move around and connect within our communities. Last thing we'll talk about today is news that came out this week about an organization, the Esquire Club, that Mayor Harrell used to be on the board of, that received quite a bit of grant funding that was announced this week. So there were 20 financial grants that were given in the city. And one of the largest grants, totaling almost $800,000, went to the Royal Esquire Club which is a private Black mens club in Columbia City, where Harrell was on the board. Harrell was board president for six years. The mayor's spokesperson, Jamie Housen actually told Publicola that Harrell resigned from the club in November and was not directly involved in choosing the recipients of these equitable development grants and that he had no role in deciding which organizations would receive the awards. This is the fourth largest grant among 20 groups. The club was one of only eight organizations that received the full amount that they requested. In contrast for example, the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, which is building a south Seattle health center, which is necessary, for BIPOC patients, asked for $2 million for property acquisition and received $1 million. According to a presentation on the awards from the office of planning and community development, the Royal Esquire Club will use the $800,000 to support rehabilitation of existing cultural space. In 2019, according to the groups, most recent IRS filing, the club's total revenues were $359,000. So this certainly raised a lot of eyebrows with people. One, he had made news previously with that club and it's something that had previously been in the news, but then to have an award go to an organization that he was affiliated with certainly gets a lot of people's attention, makes people wonder what the process is. They've said, "hey, he resigned from the board. He was not involved in this decision. We're planning on being transparent." Publicola has requested the grant applications for all of the organizations and more information on that. How do you see this? And do you see any issue with this or do you feel like it's just nothing?

[00:48:50] Mike McGinn: An advisory community board or some type of system is set up to evaluate grant funding. For example, the Neighborhood Street Fund or the Neighborhood Matching Fund in particular. And it's pretty rare for a mayor to change anything. They're ultimately approved by the mayor and then sent on to the council so they can see it as well. But you don't wanna mess around with that if you're the mayor because a whole bunch of people put the work in. This wouldn't be a story, or it might not be a story, but for a couple of other things. I think one is, Mayor Harrell was accused of using his role as a City Councilmember to speak to the Office of Labor Standards when it was investigating the Royal Esquire Club for wage theft. So there's a pattern that the reporters think they're seeing here. "Aha. Here was favoritism. Is this another example of favoritism?" So the question's raised. And I think we also saw- , I would hesitate to say that whoever the advisory board members who looked at this were trying to curry favor with the mayor or trying to avoid retribution from a mayor. People have been known to worry about that. But you don't know. And that's, I think part of the problem. People start to, to worry about it. And I always felt nervous as a mayor, whenever anything that went to Greenwood came up because I'd been president of the Greenwood Community Council for years. So it's a spot that requires the most exacting standards to ensure that no conflict of interest is presented to the public.

[00:50:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that's a big thing. And people who knew me 10 years ago or so probably recalled me telling them, because I wasn't involved with you and your campaign early on it, it came later on, just going, oh my gosh, these people bend over, further backwards than any other people I've seen in government to avoid any conflict of interest. In fact, it gets in the way of some work. These people are squeaky clean which is a good thing. And, oh my gosh, returning to a world of squeaky cleanness is great. And the lowewt crime rates in the past 40 years. But anyway what I think is the issue here. I think it's probably the case that he wasn't involved in this decision. There are processes in place. There, there are things like that. And so there's what the rules say. The thing that I think we see in, in lots of layers of government that is of concern, is the implicit suggestions and the implicit pressure. We're familiar with this when we talk about abuse and like the implications of different things and, power dynamics. And so what we know from what was previously reported, there was an allegation that the Esquire Club was improperly withholding pay from employees and they were subject to an investigation about that. And it was reported that Mayor Harrell called the investigator to tell them that, and he was on the council at the time, the council and mayor control their budget. Which seemed like a threat that, "hey, if something happens, if you have a finding of something improper, illegal, happening here, you may find yourself without funding and without a job. Certainly not the kind of call that we want public officials making. And that was reported on. We also saw recently reported on in the leaked comments from his SPD roll call meeting him explicitly saying, "why am I gonna give these people funding if they're criticizing me? I think these people, are not agreeing with me or out to get me and talking about defunding them. So again, more conversations where if he is not satisfied with an outcome, one of the remedies appears to be removing money from that organization, taking money away. And so if you are someone working in the city, someone sitting on this committee, know that he has been involved with this club for so long and that it's important to him. Do you feel some pressure, more than you would otherwise for other programs, to at least provide some funding or all of the funding? "Hey, just let it go through. We're doing several others also. Let's just make sure we include this." I can tell you those conversations - I can't speak about this specific situation - but in similar situations, those conversations happen. Those pressures are absolutely felt. And so that's the kind of thing that gets introduced when you have organizations that are affiliated with elected officials that are then standing to receive funding from the jurisdiction that the elected official is serving in or has control over others in. That even though they may follow the letter of the law, we may not be accounting for all the pressures. Now, is this the only situation in which this has ever happened in the city? No, but I do think it's something that needs to be acknowledged and talked about and considered as future and further decision making and policy happens.

[00:54:43] Mike McGinn: Agreed. I think that this is, and again, just that issue of conflict of interest is, and it comes up in more than one place in government, but it goes directly to trust in government. And if there's one thing that we have a lack of in our society right now is it's an abundance of trust, right? Government requires trust, community requires trust. And a lot of trust has been broken at a lot of different levels of government, right now. And, I know I'm broadening the aperture here and looking at a lot more things than just what's happening in city government when I say this. But, city government operates within that framework. Most people aren't paying that close attention to city government. They're judging it based on everything they're hearing about governments at all levels and at things that are happening in society as a whole. And when you have that, when you have these types of levels of distrust and concern and distress about where we're heading as a country, it just puts an even higher premium on elected officials, on how do they work to rebuild trust with the public. And I think that's the challenging one here. And moving forward, I think that, as you point out, given that some of Mayor Harrell's comments were expressing his concern about people that didn't endorse him or his concern about putting money in the budget for groups that he felt weren't doing what he thought was best, some of that is just policy but it had a feel to it that really wasn't appropriate for this point.

[00:56:31] Crystal Fincher: Agree. And it does boil down to trust. As you said.

With that, I thank everyone for listening to Hacks and Wonks on this Friday, September 16th, 2022. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler, our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng and our post-production assistant is Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful cohost today is activist, community leader, former mayor of Seattle, and executive director of America Walks, mike McGinn. You can find Mike on Twitter at @mayormcginn. You can follow Hacks and Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. And you can find me on Twitter at @finchrii. You can catch Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, spotify, wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type Hacks & Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks, you can also get a full transcript of the episode and links to the resources reference in the show at and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.