Apr 22, 2022
On today's Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Associate Editor of The Stranger, Rich Smith. They kick off the episode with news of a driver involved in a pedestrian collision and road rage incident at Pike Place Market and an increase in police patrols in south King County with the stated purpose of keeping pedestrians safe, which sparks a broader discussion on pedestrian safety and why increased policing isn’t the answer. They then discuss Patty Murray’s advocacy to allow pot shops to use banks, City Attorney Ann Davison’s decision to dismiss 40% of cases, and the apparent “cultural issue” around Seattle cops swerving masking laws. Crystal and Rich wrap up by celebrating the union victory at the Seattle Starbucks Roastery and discussing the state of the King County Prosecutor race without a progressive candidate.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Pedestrian Injury in Road Rage Brawl Underscores Need for Car-Free Pike Place” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/04/19/pedestrian-injury-in-road-rage-brawl-underscores-need-for-car-free-pike-place/
“South King County Cities Increase Police Patrols in Name of Pedestrian Safety” by Ryan Packer from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/04/20/south-king-county-cities-increase-police-patrols-in-name-of-pedestrian-safety/
“Sen. Patty Murray Sees a Path to Finally Letting Pot Shops Use Banks” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/04/20/71280602/sen-patty-murray-sees-a-path-to-finally-letting-pot-shops-use-banks
“City Attorney's Office Will Decline to Prosecute Nearly 2,000 Cases to Help Clear Pandemic-Related Backlog” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/04/19/71145166/city-attorneys-office-will-decline-to-prosecute-nearly-2000-cases-to-help-clear-pandemic-related-backlog
“Report: Police Accountability Office Dismissed Widespread Mask Violations as “Cultural Issue”’ by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola: https://publicola.com/2022/04/21/report-police-accountability-office-dismissed-widespread-mask-violations-as-cultural-issue/
“Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery workers vote to unionize” by Brady Wakayama and KING 5 Staff from KING 5: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/seattle/seattle-starbucks-reserve-roastery-count-union-votes/281-43c97cd2-43a1-4a8b-bd2a-acbfe1e69bad
“Slog PM: Seattle Starbucks Roastery Votes to Unionize, City Sweeps 13 People Ahead of Biden's Visit, WA's County Councils Are 99% White” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/04/21/71372295/slog-pm-seattle-starbucks-roastery-votes-to-unionize-city-sweeps-13-people-ahead-of-bidens-visit-was-county-councils-are-99-white
“Progressive Lane Wide Open in King County Prosecutor Race” by Will Casey from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/04/15/70845236/progressive-lane-wide-open-in-king-county-prosecutor-race
“WA prosecutors who withhold evidence rarely face discipline” by Melissa Santos from Crosscut: https://crosscut.com/news/2022/04/wa-prosecutors-who-withhold-evidence-rarely-face-discipline
[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 the 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 officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Today, we are continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week. Welcome back to the program today's co-host: Associate Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith.
[00:00:51] Rich Smith: Hey Crystal - thanks for having me.
[00:00:53] Crystal Fincher: Hey, thanks for coming back. Well, there's a lot going on this week and I guess we will start by talking about a funky incident at Pike Place Market. There was a car that injured a pedestrian - a road rage incident - just wild things happening. What went on here and what's the deal?
[00:01:12] Rich Smith: I'm not - look - I knew you were going to throw this narrative to me, but I cannot give it. Because I read the police report five times, I read this summary in The Urbanist five times - I still cannot just basically put the ABC narrative together. But what I have gathered is that there was a massive road rage incident in Pike Place Market involving three vehicles, a hammer, a broken window - and at one point, a woman who worked at a nearby location in The Market was caught in the middle of this altercation when one of the dudes tried to use his car as a battering ram to hit the other car behind him. And she left the scene with apparently a broken leg, according to The Urbanist, and there's been charges. I saw a couple of charges come over from the King County Prosecutor's Office in the case. And it was just a big, nasty mess that shouldn't have happened because cars shouldn't be there in the first place.
[00:02:23] Crystal Fincher: 'Cause cars shouldn't be there in the first place - and we continue to have this conversation - these things happen when you try to mix a lot of cars where a lot of people are at. And this just seems like - obviously we've had this conversation for a long time here in Seattle - with lots of people who have been advocating to make Pike Place car-free, others car-free with the exception of commercial deliveries but prioritizing pedestrian use of Pike Place Market over cars. And currently it seems to be the opposite and resulting in things like this, which lots of people make the point could not have happened if Pike Place was car-free. So, so yet another thing we can add to the list that just really says, why are cars in Pike Place Market? And for me - I've actually taken a wrong turn into Pike Place before, and it's a miserable place to drive. Why would you want to drive there? It's gridlock all the time - if it was actually clear - you knew that, Hey, that's a pedestrian street, I can drive around and park if need be, or, Hey, I'm going to take transit and get in there, have a wonderful experience - like we have in many other places that we go visit for vacation because they look like that and they don't include cars. Why is it so hard? Why is it so hard, Rich?
[00:03:50] Rich Smith: Well, yeah, just to underscore the point here, it wasn't an isolated incident as The Urbanist notes. According - I think the piece in The Times - SDOT data shows that at least 170 collisions involving drivers have happened in Pike Place since 2004, so there has been a number of fender benders, a number of people have gotten hurt, nearly 40 since - during that time period - because of these cars. And yet, why is it so hard to just remove the cars, put some bollards in there, and let the pedestrians browse oranges freely? It's because there's a power structure that doesn't want that to happen. All of this kind of comes at a renewed - the rest of the City kind of rehashes this old argument about whether or not to have cars in Pike Place in the first place, with people like former City Councilmember, former Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck joining two others, I think, in the Pike Place Market administration writing an op-ed in The Seattle Times saying that, we can't pedestrianize Pike Place Market because that would - 'cause we haven't done it in the past and - that old traditionalist fallacy - and because it would lose its zest.
The argument is - from these people, right? This is their best argument is that - it wouldn't be as fun down there if you didn't have to play Frogger constantly. And some of the people who work in the Market worry about maybe they wouldn't be able to get their delivery trucks in - that's just not true - they can. And generally - it literally - they just fall back on this traditionalist fallacy argument all of the time - it's just, it's not how we have done it in the past. And so it's not how we can do it in the future. It's a classic conservative framework, and so that's why we can't do it. Jean Godden, former City Councilmember also tried to - she wrote an op-ed in Post Alley - she tried to make a couple of arguments, those also didn't stand up to scrutiny. Her arguments were basically that - even though 81% of the town thinks that we should pedestrianize the Pike Place Market, she openly wonders whether or not any of those people work at the Market who'll also want to prioritize it. And it's just like, well, look, if we had industries - only people within the industries that we're regulating make policy, then that would exactly be great, right? We live in a town, we could have nice things if we want them, and so we should.
[00:07:01] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and usually when 85% of your constituents prefer that something happen, most people don't seek to automatically just disregard that. And maybe, a path forward is listening to the residents in the City.
[00:07:21] Rich Smith: That's a good idea - yeah - and there's been some movement. Andrew Lewis has been saying that he's tried to press the issue - he's been working with Seattle Greenways to try to negotiate stuff with the Market Public Development Authority. And the last I heard was that they are going to put a - that is, the Market's got some planning coming up and they're going to put pedestrianization on the list of things to consider when they're doing their planning. And so, there's a - slow Seattle process is forming around the possibility of creating a pedestrianized Pike Place Market, but we'll see how that goes.
[00:07:59] Crystal Fincher: We'll see how it goes, we'll continue to pay attention to it. Also, south King County cities have decided to increase police patrols in order to help pedestrians become safer. What's happening here?
[00:08:14] Rich Smith: Question mark - yeah. Well, there's been a number of crashes on International Boulevard in SeaTac, which makes up a segment of State Route 99. And the cities have bound together to ask the government for a little grant money to figure out how to reduce the bad driving that has resulted in all of these injuries and crashes. The answer is apparently to just throw more cops at the situation and get the grant money to give them overtime so that they can do more patrols of that road. I don't know if that's going to work. It is not working as - federal transportation agencies and their safety documents have not highlighted increased police patrols as a way to reduce those kinds of injuries, traffic safety in an area, or to increase traffic safety in an area. So this just strikes me as a, yet another example of people trying to throw cops at any problem labeled as a safety issue. It's like if it's traffic safety issue, throw cops at it and it'll get better. If it's a public safety issue, public health safety issue - throw cops at it and I'm sure it'll get better. We'll talk about that more later, but it seems to just follow along this old path that hasn't worked.
[00:09:36] Crystal Fincher: It does and seems to be the default for a number of these south Sound cities here - in Federal Way, Kent, Des Moines, SeaTac and Tukwila - they're the cities along International Boulevard, or Pacific Highway South, or Highway 99, depending on where on that alignment within those cities you're at. But I'm very familiar with this stretch of roadway and as our federal authorities have said, state authorities have said, lots of localities are recognizing - that the design of roadways has, is actually the most influential in how safe they are. And are we really designing roadways that are only for cars, or are we designing transportation pathways that can accommodate all forms of travel and mobility safely?
And this stretch of road - it is very poorly designed - you have very, very long stretches of road where there are no crosswalks, there is no opportunity to cross the street. And there are three to four lanes of highway speed, like 50 mile an hour, traffic and more on each side of a middle divider in the street. And so lots of pedestrians, seeking to not walk half a mile or more to be able to cross the street, have jaywalked which is a very predictable thing that happens when you design streets this way. And policing that for a week is not going to solve that fundamental problem. And it just seems like such an oversight and a missed opportunity to recognize what does create this, to certainly not do it in the future when we're designing things here - that doesn't seem to be in the consciousness yet.
And also understanding that cops can't solve that problem and focusing money on what can - it just seems like another missed opportunity, misguided attempt at improving public safety that has no data behind it to show that it's going to work, is not in line with best practices. And usually when things like this fail, when we throw cops at it, the retort is well it's because there wasn't enough cops that we threw at it. And if we continue to throw more, that can help - soaking up the available budget for being able to fund things that actually would improve safety. So just frustrating to see.
[00:12:11] Rich Smith: Yeah. I don't know much about the grant structure that precipitated this spending, but it just - it seems like you could spend $25,000 in a way that addresses the root causes that you're talking about - that highway design, or providing for more pedestrian safety during crossing a four-lane, five-lane highway - that might be better spent than just having a couple of cops write some more tickets for a couple of months.
[00:12:44] Crystal Fincher: Well, something that maybe is a reason to be optimistic - this week, Patty Murray talked about potentially a path to letting pot shops use banks, which would certainly make them much safer places for everyone to be.
[00:13:00] Rich Smith: Yeah, that's right. She came into town, and she'd been doing a couple of speeches and she was promoting her work on the Safe Bank Act. This is, as you mentioned, an act that would allow pot shops to have access to the banking services and financial services - that every other small business has access to, that they don't have access to - because lenders don't want to support banks who work with pot shops for legal reasons. This would eliminate those legal reasons and allow them to do stuff like take debit cards and have access to capital and potentially increase minority business ownership since they'll have more access to capital and banks and stuff like that.
So it's a general good bill - there's a lot more that needs to be done, obviously, in this space to create equity in the cannabis industry. But this is the very first level step that should have happened a long time ago. And in fact, kind of has - the House passed this bill six times in various forms, it just hasn't gotten through the Senate. So Senator Patty Murray saying that she sees a path forward is significant - that path forward is kind of funny - it involves conference negotiations between the House and the Senate over two separate, but similar, bills that would increase manufacturing, particularly around semiconductor chips, which are in short supply, as we all know.
And the Safe Banking Act was in the House version, it was not in the Senate version that was going to conference. And Patty Murray says she's one of 13 senators who are going to try to get that bill in whatever the final product is that comes out of those negotiations. She says that this is the only path and the surest path to get a Safe Baking Act on Biden's desk. Those negotiations start soon and they'll last five weeks once they do, so this could happen outside of a month, but it's going to take a bunch of senators who come from states that haven't legalized pot to agree to do this. And so that's the challenge for Patty Murray right now, but she says she sees a path.
[00:15:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and that's the genesis of the problem is - unfortunately, cannabis still is not legalized federally, which has created complications initially in the banking system with some banks saying, Hey, we can't have banking activity that we know is related to illegal activity. And since it's not legal everywhere, and it's illegal somewhere, then we can't do anything - forcing pot shops to largely be all-cash operations. And when you tell the public that there are huge amounts of cash stashed in specific locations, it becomes a draw for people trying to steal cash - and we've seen robberies because people have known that there's a lot of cash there. So this regulation has made these stores more dangerous because they've made them a target for having, because they've had a lot of cash.
So it certainly makes sense to reduce that risk. This is a legal well-regulated activity. These places have shown that they're no more harmful than bars - certainly, much less - all the science, that debate is long over. We know that weed is just a substance, like many other substances, and is legal. If we can sell it, why don't we protect the people in the industry that we've allowed to thrive and flourish here. It just makes sense. It is a good time to contact your senators - let them know how you feel about this bill. Also doesn't hurt for folks in the House to hear that this is a priority for you and folks, but hopefully this can get through in this reconciliation process.
[00:17:14] Rich Smith: That's right, yeah. And then there has been an increase in armed robberies at the pot shops as a result of the fact that they carry like cartoon bags of cash inside of there. And in her speeches this week, Murray has framed the issue as an anti-crime measure. And that's how she's going to try to convince recalcitrant conservative Republicans on the conference committee to come along to her side. We'll see if it works.
[00:17:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, well, if someone can get it done, I think Patty Murray can get it done if it's possible. We will see.
[00:17:56] Rich Smith: Persuasive.
[00:17:57] Crystal Fincher: She is. Another big development this week - an interesting development this week - Seattle's City Attorney, Ann Davison, who is a noted Trump Republican who campaigned on getting tough on crime and prosecuting all these crimes and holding people to account. And wow, the problem is because we aren't charging every single thing and enforcing the laws on the book. And yes, if someone steals a loaf of bread - that is theft and we're going to prosecute them and we're going to hold them account to the highest extent of the law.
However, reality presented itself and that is actually just not possible - for a number of reasons - which lots of people were attempting to say, including her opponent, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, in the race and was notoriously shunned for being like, no, that's just abolitionist crazy talk and we can't do it. But Ann Davison announced this week that she is declining to prosecute about 2,000 cases to help clear pandemic-related backlog. What led up to this, Rich?
[00:19:12] Rich Smith: Yeah, well, I mean a lot. So, yeah - as you mentioned, there's been a backlog of misdemeanor cases - has piled up on the City Attorney's desk over the course of the last couple of years. That number is between 4,000 and 6,000, depending on what you want to count. Some stuff is backlogged because we're waiting for toxicology reports in DUI cases. Some stuff is backlog for other kind of procedural reasons, but the number that they're going with is the middle number, 5,000. So when Ann Davison got the job in January, she hired somebody else - district attorney, or former district attorney Brian T. Moran, a Trump appointee - to consult on what to do about this backlog, paying him $200,000 for it. And he did what he was contracted to do - got a little report going and looked at the situation and found what any casual observer of any city attorney's office or prosecuting attorney's office would tell you to do with a 5,000-strong backlog - which is cut the petty stuff and just go after the more serious misdemeanor crimes. Still just talking about low-level crimes here, and that's what she ended up doing. So -
[00:20:38] Crystal Fincher: Which you called at the time.
[00:20:40] Rich Smith: That's right - yeah. You don't need to pay this guy $2,000 or $200,000 to do it - you could just do the thing that the City Attorney's office has done in the past whenever they faced backlogs as a result of - they've got a bad filing system - they get behind, they had vacancies, people go out of the office, and stuff piles up. And so backlogs accrue occasionally, and they deal with them in this way - every prosecuting office basically deals with them in this way. It's common. So I don't know why they had to do this whole thing, but in any event, yeah - Brian T. Moran's suggested and Ann Davison followed through with the recommendation to decline 40% of the backlog, 40% of the cases. Which is no different than what Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, noted abolitionist, would have done - though I think that NTK probably would have looked harder at declining some of the domestic violence cases and other assaults and stuff like that, depending on what they were. I shouldn't speak for her, but she did say in interviews that she didn't think we should be prosecuting some or most DV cases and even some assault, so that's what happened. Welcome to the abolitionist corner of the police accountability movement, Ann Davison.
[00:22:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, really interesting. The reality is we have a criminal legal system that has limits and that has limited capacity. And that capacity is - they're usually at or near their limit, with a lot of folks within that system being overworked and people doing more than they should be doing with what they have, whether it's in prosecutors, in public defenders, or whether it is with the jail system and the shortage of people that are staffing them - and all of the issues that result.
[00:22:52] Rich Smith: Oh yeah - you've got between 12-14 - the police refer between 12,000 and 14,000 cases to the prosecuting attorney's office every year. They've got 29-30 people to look over all of those cases and make filing decisions, if that, and then they have to deal with the court system, which has four courts, only two of which are operable at the moment. So even if Ann Davison charged every single case or directed her prosecutors to charge every single case that came across her desk, or the desks of her assistant attorneys, it would immediately seize up a court system which is far too small to handle this giant bureaucracy, basically, that the criminal, that the misdemeanor system has become. We don't have this - an adjudicated bottle where someone gets caught by a cop sleeping where they're not supposed to, or stealing a sandwich, and then there's a trial to determine whether or not they actually did what the cop said that they do, and a consequence meted out by a judge. Most of these cases - vast majority, upwards of 90% - don't go to trial. Most of the cases plead out in a kind of coercive way to prevent, so that the person doesn't have to face any more jail time than they already faced by waiting for their trial, or waiting to get a hearing with the judge in the first place.
And we just have this huge administrative system, basically, that seeks to mark people and kind of monitor them with a bunch of paperwork and procedural hurdles rather than put them through any kind of judge-jury system where we could determine whether or not it actually happened or didn't. And that's the result of - the system developed as a direct result of this policy that Ann Davison is - won her election on - of broken windows policing and attacking strongly all of these "quality of life offenses." And I suspect it will continue to see similar results in the future if we continue on this arrest-everybody-downtown-and-throw-them-in-jail sort of strategy.
[00:25:29] Crystal Fincher: And it's frustrating and it's consequential. I mean, people are scared and concerned. There are some wild things happening on the streets and people are concerned. And so people do want solutions that make people safer - that is really the goal and we do need to take action that makes people safer, but we have to get beyond the conversations that include policies that have failed. And that there's so much data showing that this actually doesn't result in making people safer - other things do, let's actually invest in the other things because we do need to be safer. The streets are not as safe as they should be - that's a fact. And I think some people interpret hearing things like, well, it is counter-productive - and it is absolutely counterproductive - to use hard enforcement or incarceration, especially with misdemeanors. And well, you're just being soft on crime and - no, we're spending time and resources and energy doing things that don't result in lessening the likelihood that you or I are going to be victimized on the street. And I just would love to do things that reduce the amount of people who are victimized.
And hopefully this begins a conversation - in these situations where they're like, oh, turns out the thing I was advocating for and that I attacked my opponent for is the thing that's necessary. Maybe that should cause me to pause and reflect on, well, if I thought they were super wrong and it turns out they weren't, maybe I should explore some other things that were said. Maybe I could be the one who needs to reevaluate and come to different conclusions. And I hope that happens. I hope we'll see that.
[00:27:19] Rich Smith: I just think that's such an important point because so many - people who come to a public safety conversation from the left get accused of just wanting crime to run rampant. But I don't hear from lefties - yes, please steal my bike, yes please beat up myself and the people I love, yes poor people should continue to wallow on the streets and try to get by - please no one do anything. That's the opposite of what's happening - but everybody in this conversation, I think, wants safer streets, wants people to get the help that they need. But the frustration, I think, coming from the left is - okay, we have tried the exact same strategy for the last 30-40 years and now you're just going to try it again. And I've got some new - now we finally have data showing - yes, aggressive policing actually increases crime. Yeah, throwing people in jail doesn't do much to help them - to help their drug treatment or to help their drug problem.
[00:28:26] Crystal Fincher: It increases their likelihood of reoffending.
[00:28:28] Rich Smith: Yeah, exactly. I don't know the data on this, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume that exits to housing from the jail are not high - for people who don't have a house to go to after they get scooped up off the street for trying to sell baby formula on Third Avenue, or whatever. The call is to spend the City's limited resources in smart ways that will actually reduce crime, and not just 10 years down the line, 5 years down the line, but soon. And by the way, I remember, although maybe my memory is fading - cops saying that they don't want to be doing this shit either. Cops don't need to be responding to mental health calls, cops don't need to be policing kids using drugs on the side of the streets - we need to get these people the help they need - that help isn't, despite what the mayor says, to be found in a cage.
[00:29:31] Crystal Fincher: It is not. And speaking of more frustrating things, and things that are happening despite what the mayor has said - this week, Police Accountability Office dismissed complaints of the widespread mask violations that we saw from SPD, despite their policy that they were mandated to wear masks - they just refused. Which seems like it would create more conversations about the police being out of control and not responsive to any kind of authority, even their own internally established authority, and that being wildly problematic - but anyway, they found that the complaints against policy for their failure to wear masks could not be addressed as a disciplinary issue because so many of them were not doing it, that they just chalked it up to culture and because we aren't punishing everyone - because we've decided not to punish everyone - that we can't punish one person because we're not punishing everyone. It just seems like more of that weird, funky twist-yourself-into-a-pretzel-to-avoid-any-kind-of-accountability logic that people have grown so frustrated with seeing. What's the deal, Rich?
[00:30:50] Rich Smith: Yeah. I mean, just to continue on - the state's Department of Labor and Industries fined the SPD twice during 2021 for not wearing masks and for mask violations, because it is a worker health and safety issue and it is a public health and safety issue. And the first thing I guess I would say on the worker health safety issue is that COVID-19 was the number one killer of cops in 2021 - putting on the masks is about making sure that the people who work in these precincts and these buildings are not spreading a deadly infectious disease around to their friends and coworkers, right? So, I understand that Donald Trump and conservatives think that masks are the devil or whatever, but you gotta wear them and failing to do so is gonna lead to your imminent death. And yet, the culture is strong.
I guess this is just the - it'll be interesting to see how Mayor Harrell responds to this, if he does, considering that culture change at SPD was one of his main campaign promises. He didn't have much in the way of concrete policies in terms of how he was going to make that culture change - talked about high fives, talked about pizza parties, talked about showing them the George Floyd video - none of that. I haven't seen any reports of that - maybe he's done that, maybe he has - I doubt that he has, otherwise it'd be a press release about it. Maybe he should show the cops videos with people on ventilators dying and saying, I wish I did the vaccine, I wish I wore a mask. Maybe that would fit in with his style, but, I don't know. It's bad for them - who knows if the City is going to do anything about it. The police oversight agencies that we have - this report shows - certainly aren't going to do anything about it, which reveals their toothlessness as well. And it shows that the people we entrust with the laws - wearing masks in the workplace being one of them - break them routinely without consequence. And yet they hammer poor people for committing low-level violations every single day on the streets as well. So hypocrisy that is deadly for them, and potential inaction on the City, and yet another instance revealing the toothlessness of our police oversight agencies - a perfect storm of a story.
[00:33:34] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and you raise an excellent point. It is deadly for them - nationally and locally - the biggest threat to officer safety is not some violent villain. It's COVID. COVID has killed more police than anything else. This is a risk for them also, and these complaints included one where an officer refused to wear a mask in a hospital around people who were immunocompromised and who were already in really sensitive situations. This is not just, Hey, I'm expressing my right. This has impacts on other people's health and safety. And if their job description includes protecting people, this was a direct and blatant failure of it. If that's not a violation, what is? And so often the answer to that question, "If this isn't a violation, what is?" - it's just nothing and the field of nothing just continues to be reinforced and it's just, again, frustrating. But better news -
[00:34:46] Rich Smith: It's selective enforcement. It's the same thing with the cops who went to the insurrection - they were just doing totally above-board, free speech stuff. How could we ever discipline half of the cops just for going to a coup party? Why would we ever? And how can we ever discipline cops for systematically not wearing masks? You know -
[00:35:09] Crystal Fincher: How can we discipline cops for voter fraud, who voted from the incorrect address - like that is a federal law violation that's major. And what the coup party was - supposedly what they were mad about was voter fraud - while they were committing it and their colleagues were committing it. So were they really mad at their colleagues? No, they weren't mad at their colleagues that they just kind of overlooked it.
[00:35:35] Rich Smith: Yeah, and any kind of actual consequences from an oversight agency would be - wouldn't do much because really this is just a culture thing. Meanwhile, we must imprison and jail anybody sleeping where they're not supposed to, imprison and jail anybody stealing some soda from a Subway, imprison and jail anybody breaks a window because they're having a mental health crisis. It's logically incoherent.
[00:36:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I've used the word "frustrated" several times in this conversation. I am frustrated, and frustrated that yet again, where we're having conversations about public safety, which should be completely centered around - is what is occurring making people more safe? Yet another thing that directly makes people less safe, that introduces threats to their health, safety, and wellbeing - and we're passing it off as okay. When we are having a conversation about public safety, is this making the public safer? Is there data showing that this makes the public safer, more dangerous? If it isn't making people safer, accountability is - okay, I'm doing something. Am I getting the result intended? And if that result is actually making the public safer, the answer is conclusively No. So what are you going to do about it? That is what we should be holding our public officials, our public employees accountable to - it is, is this making the public safer?
So many of these conversations are around, well, we should be enabling more overtime. We should be hiring more people. We should be doing all of these things that have nothing to do with keeping the public more safe. And yet another thing where we're quibbling about things that are conclusively making the public less safe and just passing it off as okay. This should be unacceptable to everyone involved. I hope we hear that this is unacceptable to Bruce Harrell and to his administration. People should be asking about this and saying, okay, you're doing all these things, but is it making people more safe? As we hear about more shootings and stabbings in the CID, that have already had emphasis patrols and more cops shown there, did that make the public more safe? Did that prevent or stop that shooting, this stabbing? When the answer is no, then what else are we doing to do that? Because these are real people having their lives upended and traumatized from this violence - that we are not doing the things that we know will stop it.
[00:38:23] Rich Smith: Yeah.
[00:38:24] Crystal Fincher: In more optimistic news - this week, we saw a very big deal - the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery workers voted to unionize. Why is this such a big deal?
[00:38:38] Rich Smith: It's huge - yeah. Well, it's a big deal for a couple of reasons. One, there's only three of them in the US, and this was the second one to unionize. So Chicago is the only hold out - all eyes on Chicago. The one in Chelsea, in New York, unionized earlier this month. This was of course a high-profile roastery in Howard Schultz's/Starbucks's hometown. So this adds to the humiliation for the company and to the victory for the winners. And also the Roastery is our flagship store - it's where the top baristas go, it's where the career baristas go. And they're huge - there's a hundred employees working at them, so it's not like at a branch where there's 15 or 12 people. They're really difficult to organize, or relatively difficult to organize, so in a place with a hundred eligible voters, north of a hundred eligible voters - about half of them voted and most of them voted to unionize - that bodes well for this growing movement of unionization - not only in Starbucks, but in the retail sector writ large. As people are coming back and still working in pandemic conditions and being forced to work, now that the culture has moved on, and wanting more say in their safety and in their salary at the table.
So yeah, it's a huge win all around. This one was closer than some of the other ones we've seen, partially because of those challenges to organizing - it was, it felt really tense watching the vote happen. I was watching the Zoom meeting, as the NLRB representative was counting up the votes, and there was like - no, no, no, no, no, yes - it was a little bit tense, but the workers ended up prevailing and so now they'll need continued support as they try to negotiate a contract.
[00:40:38] Crystal Fincher: Well, and you raised a point before we were on air - this seems like it should be an indicator to Democrats, and really anyone running for office, that - looking at the energy that is behind this and the successes that they're having - the unionization movement among workers is one of the most successful things happening in the country right now. Wow - doing things that help people who need it the most, that really support workers, that are helping people at the lower end of the income scale. Those things seem to be really popular. How about focusing on doing more of those? Seems like it would make sense.
[00:41:21] Rich Smith: Every Democrat running for Congress should be screaming about this - supporting the workers, hopping onto this bandwagon. And a lot of it is young people 'cause they're baristas. We know that Biden's approval rating has tanked, especially among young voters. This might help out there as younger voters entering the workforce are increasingly interested in unionization and organization efforts. And I haven't, I just haven't seen - but maybe I'm missing it. I just haven't seen a bunch of Democrats screaming their heads off about this. I have seen Kshama Sawant, the socialist City councilmember in Seattle, do what she normally does - just fly a kite and try to catch the wind of this movement and increase her political salience as well. That's good political instincts. I don't know why the Democrats aren't running after her to do to the same thing, but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that they are besties with corporations.
[00:42:19] Crystal Fincher: I mean, some of it - to be fair, I have seen some Democrats, certainly not enough - but I've seen our state Senator Karen Keiser cheering enthusiastically for every one of these as they come. Certainly some Democrats are there, but this should be something that is uniform within the party. And you mentioned, Biden and kind of everything down the line suffering from younger voters just not being excited and not feeling like the party is addressing their concerns. This has been a movement led by younger people - absolutely. And look at what young people can do when they're engaged and motivated and excited. They're doing things that have not been done before. These are not the first unionization efforts, but they're successful now with an energy behind them that is only gaining steam. So, younger people are a formidable political force and people better look at them, include them, address their concerns, and get behind them and support them. If you don't do that, you're in for some peril. You can see very clearly how powerful and influential and consequential they are - please take heed.
Another race, where there is an unfortunate development, is the King County Prosecutor's race? What happened here?
[00:43:49] Rich Smith: Yeah, Stephan Thomas, who was occupying the progressive lane in the King County Prosecutor's race, decided to drop out - dealing with some family stuff and he couldn't juggle his responsibilities at home with the - what we know is going to be a gauntlet of a prosecutor's race, especially as the progressive in a media environment where people are - where crime is up relative to previous years. And so, that leaves the progressive lane open in the race and leaves King County voters, right now at least, with only two options - Leesa Manion, a longtime chief of staff for outgoing Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. I think she's been in the office 25 years, or 35 years - I can't remember. Probably 25 - 35 seems long, but it's been - she's been there a while. And the other person in the race is Jim Ferrell, who's the mayor of Federal Way. He has taken a hard right, sort of tough-on-crime approach, hoping to stir up people's fears to gain more votes. And he's been endorsed by Seattle Police Officers Guild, SPOG - didn't go out of his way really to criticize Mike Solan, who has spread conspiracy theories about Black Lives Matter, also being involved in the insurrection, and is generally a conservative prosecutor dude running the City of Federal Way.
[00:45:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is a challenge. And Will Casey wrote a piece for The Stranger that covers all of this - that will be included in the episode notes. But yeah, it's unfortunate, especially in this conversation that we're having about public safety - who is centering what in the conversations about public safety - is safety, again, as we talked about earlier actually the thing that's being centered and prioritized, or is it other things that may not be exactly aligned to that? And it seemed to me like it was an opportunity to have this conversation county-wide - lots of people are unhappy with the status quo. And there is - certainly Leesa Manion is endorsed by the outgoing county prosecutor, which some people would look at being the status quo. I've heard some things that may be a departure from that - we'll hear more, we'll see.
But an opportunity, especially for people saying - what we've been doing has not been getting us the results that we want - to hear different alternatives to that, with Stephan Thomas being able to articulate with experience from within the system as a prosecutor and elsewhere - seeing what actually does work and what doesn't from a progressive perspective. And I actually hate putting labels on things having to do with public safety. There are things that work and there are things that haven't worked well. And so he has experience with a number of things that data and best practices suggest are the most effective now. And then kind of the approach that we used to take and lots of areas are moving away from on the other side, with Jim Ferrell, with a approach that increases criminalization, incarceration, focusing on, Hey, we just need to arrest and charge and jail people as accountability - and a focus on that. Not quite hearing how, with the data that we know, where we can conclusively say that incarceration does not improve any outcomes or reduce people's likelihood of reoffending, especially over other non-custodial intervention - that prosecuting low-level crime is not the most effective way to deal with that if we actually want safer streets. That preventing crime doesn't seem to be part of that narrative, just responding to it is. So we would have had an opportunity to have a more full conversation. Now filing week is not for almost a month and so there is an opportunity as the title of this - the headline of this article says - that that progressive lane is wide open in this race for someone who may be looking at it. But I hope we get to have a more full conversation than just defending what has been the status quo or moving backwards to more criminalization. I really hope the conversation gets to be more informed and expansive than that.
[00:48:52] Rich Smith: Yeah, that's a great point and Stephan also had an incredible personal story with his relationship with the criminal justice system - that he grew to start to change when he became a prosecutor in the King County Prosecutor's Office. And he would have added a real gravitas to that conversation that would not have easily been dismissed by people trying to make, as you said, arguments to get tough on crime that are unsupported by what the data shows actually reduces crime. So he was an incredible speaker, a great thinker, and he had an incredibly moving personal story. And so, I think that the discourse is certainly going to decline as a result of his absence and that's unfortunate.
And the piece that Will wrote sort of also highlighted another thing that is lost - represents - which that he was big on prosecutorial independence from the cops, and prosecutors and cops being cozy is one of the major problems in the criminal justice system. And he made a point of being independent by refusing endorsements from law enforcement agencies, and by considering not putting cops on trial to support cases when those cops were on the Brady list or even if they had been accused of lying - not just found guilty of lying, but accused of misconduct or lying or abusing their power. And Will asked Jim and Leesa what their response is on that and they gave a little bit of a spectrum of a response. And I think that Stephan would have been a little bit more independent.
[00:50:51] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and that was a great point. And in Melissa Santos' final article for Crosscut, she actually wrote a piece related to that about prosecutors who withhold evidence that they're supposed to turn over - about whether or not cops have been honest or not, and related things - how they rarely face discipline and that closeness is problematic. So certainly would have been an asset to have that conversation from people who are very familiar with our system - where it's working, where it's not, and how to make it better. So I hope we are able to have a full conversation - certainly wish he and his family well and hope things turn out well for Stephan Thomas.
And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, April 22nd, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assistant producer Shannon Cheng. Our wonderful co-host today is Associate Editor of The Stranger, Rich Smith. You can find Rich @richsssmith - that's three S's in the middle. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii and you can now follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts - just type "Hacks and 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. While you're there, leave a review, it really helps us out. You can also get a full transcript of the episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you next time.