Feb 25, 2023
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, political consultant and host Crystal Fincher is joined by Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett!
During this Seattle-centric episode, they discuss Mayor Bruce Harrell’s State of the City speech, the SDOT Vision Zero report about traffic safety, the passage of first in the nation caste legislation, what’s next for social housing, questions from the oversight board for the scope of King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s five-year plan, an increase in violence against unsheltered people, and the outlook for downtown Seattle.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
The State of the City is Vibes by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
In State of the City, Seattle Mayor Harrell emphasizes crime, downtown by Sarah Grace Taylor from Seattle Times
Vision Zero | Our top-to-bottom review provides a roadmap and new actions to reverse challenging trends in traffic safety by Seattle Department of Transportation
Seattle must do more to prevent traffic deaths, report says by David Kroman from Seattle Times
Councilmember Tammy Morales responds to the release of SDOT's vision zero review: "this report stops short of calling for dramatic or swift action to combat the unprecedented number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities on our streets, particularly in District 2.” by Tammy Morales on Twitter
Seattle becomes the first city to ban caste discrimination by Lilly Ana Fowler from KNKX
Opinion: Confessions of an American Caste Traitor by Prashant Nema from South Seattle Emerald
What’s next now that Seattle’s Social Housing Developer initiative has passed by Capitol Hill Seattle
Study: Human Service Wages Are Even Worse Than You Imagined by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
Plan to Eliminate Visible Homelessness Downtown is “Clearly Behind Schedule,” but Backers Remain Optimistic by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
Oversight Board Questions Price Tag, Exclusion of Tiny Houses from Homeless Agency’s Five-Year Plan by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
As Downtown recovers, Seattle reimagines what it could be by Josh Cohen from Crosscut
#ThePostman - D’Vonne Pickett Jr. Memorialized With Street Sign in the Central District by Cesar Canizales from Converge Media
Qualified Immunity Bill Passes Key Hurdle as Other Criminal Justice Reforms Stall Out by Andrew Engelson from Publicola
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. 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 with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show, and today's co-host: Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett.
[00:01:11] Erica Barnett: Hi, Crystal. Great to be here.
[00:01:13] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back. I want to start off talking about an annual event that happens in the City of Seattle every year - the State of the City address by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. What did he say and what was your impression of his State of the City speech?
[00:01:31] Erica Barnett: As I said in my headline and a story I wrote about this, the message that I got from it was vibes. What I mean by that is it was a lot of positive talk about the future of the city - everything's looking brighter - the future of the city is bright, optimism, innovation, Downtown that's going to be wonderful for everyone. But a lot of what he actually proposed or said he's going to do in the coming year, which is the point of the State of the City speech, was either stuff that he promised in his first State of the City speech last year or sort of small scale stuff - white papers, activation plans, executive orders, and a vision for the future of public safety - which is basically what he said last year as well. So not a lot of substance - quite a lot of fluff and good vibes talk - which resonated really well in the room, I have to say. It felt like a good speech, but when you read the words or paid attention to them at the time, there just wasn't a whole lot there.
[00:02:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. I think one thing - and you called this out also in your article, I think - is that especially on the heels of Mayor Jenny Durkan, who was not the most charismatic mayor that we've ever had and didn't particularly seem to enjoy the job, Bruce brings charisma to his speeches, to his interactions with people - and that goes a long way to building goodwill, at least in the reception of what he's saying. The vibes feel good, but as you said, it wasn't packed with substantive promises, goals, but there were a few that were included in there. What did those include?
[00:03:17] Erica Barnett: Yeah. So he said - so I mentioned this "downtown activation plan" - so reading between the lines, he talked about how great it is that Amazon is forcing people to come back to work, essentially - which a lot of them are not very happy with - but saying that as everybody returns to work and downtown kind of returns somewhat to normal, we're going to activate it, there's going to be new small businesses and storefronts, art spaces, possibly - and again, this gets into kind of the vague part - he kept saying may, possibly, maybe we'll have an arts corridor, a 24/7 street, this kind of vision of downtown, but yeah, as far as concrete actions, he says there'll be a plan. He also said there's going to be a new executive order about fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. Again, executive order - I don't know what that - that can mean a range of things. It's not the same thing as legislation. And then he says that he's going to propose a suite of legislation to hire more officers and release a vision for the future of public safety, which again - I think that what that actually translates to, particularly on the recruitment side - is they're going to hire a marketing manager who's going to do some ads. He mentioned digital ads aimed at Gen Z trying to get more younger recruits, but yeah - again, really, I'm really reaching to find substance because there just wasn't a lot of it there.
[00:04:44] Crystal Fincher: There was not - it doesn't appear - did he say anything about the planned public safety department that has been talked about for a year now?
[00:04:55] Erica Barnett: Oh, yeah. So that was another thing that he talked about in his first State of the City speech. He said within the year, we'll have a plan for this department - and I don't remember the exact language or whether there's anything solid there - but this year, a year later, he's saying that pretty soon there's going to be a white paper that sort of lays out what this department might look like. I think that that's a really good example of something where - he does not deliver on that third department, which is supposed to be a kind of non-police public safety response department. It does have a name, which is the CARE Department, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department - so they've gotten that done. But if he doesn't deliver on that this year, I think there's going to be some pushback, maybe, for not actually accomplishing all these lofty goals. It's been more than a year and he hasn't delivered on it yet, but a white paper is, allegedly, coming.
[00:05:57] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I think a lot of people are definitely looking forward to the white paper as a precursor to further action. Hopefully, certainly people want to stand up responses that are appropriate to the type of call that are coming, and there seems to be a broad recognition - because of the creation of this department and certainly by the residents - that a variety of different types of responses are needed. Having a cop with a gun show up to every single circumstance doesn't make sense, and certainly with the staffing challenges that they say they have doesn't seem to be the wisest thing. So it looks like we're going to stay tuned for the white paper. How that translates to actual action and creating this department and getting this off of the ground, which they have been talking about, remains to be seen.
[00:06:45] Erica Barnett: And I will say the white paper was supposed to be out last year. It was - the deadline was fourth quarter - the sort of loose deadline was fourth quarter of last year, so it's late.
[00:06:54] Crystal Fincher: That seems to be a recurring theme, but we will continue to pay attention with eagerness and an open mind to see what actually happens.
Another long-awaited report this week was the Vision Zero report that was just released yesterday. What is this and what did it say?
[00:07:14] Erica Barnett: Yeah, speaking of things that are behind schedule - this was supposed to come out last year and got delayed. It was billed as a top-to-bottom review of Vision Zero, which is the plan to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. It is titled the Top-to-Bottom Review of Vision Zero, which I find funny just because it's so literal. But what does it say? Basically it says the City has taken a lot of great actions to try to reduce traffic deaths and where it hasn't been able to take actions, it has tried really hard. It's a defensive report in a lot of ways - blaming other agencies, blaming the state and the fact that the state has control over a lot of our streets like Aurora, and then outlining a bunch of different steps that the City could take in the future to try to reduce deaths and serious injuries, most of which I should say are pretty underwhelming. There's a top five list that includes stuff like phasing in an unknown number of additional "No Turn on Red" signs downtown in time for tourist season - and I'm quoting here, "in time for tourist season and the Major League Baseball All-Star game." Another one is to accelerate leading pedestrian intervals, which is where if you approach an intersection, the light will turn for pedestrian first so you can start crossing before cars start coming. So we're going to do more of that. So it's a lot of - let's do a little more of the things that we're already doing and maybe that'll work. Nothing particularly bold in terms of things like street design that allows cars to drive, or for people to drive as fast as they do - mostly focused on individual behavior, automated traffic enforcement, that sort of stuff, but no real big bold vision here.
[00:09:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised by its billing as a top-to-bottom review, and that doesn't seem to be necessarily what we received. It seemed to be a review of things that they were doing - and I don't know if I want to say avoidance - but not necessarily on focusing on many things that as you said, weren't already planned. There was not an analysis, as Ryan Packer pointed out on Twitter, of what was the impact of reducing speed limits. Was that helpful? Was that not helpful? That was certainly done as part of the Vision Zero program. Also as you said, there seemed to be no focus on road design, which has so much to do with whether or not it's possible for drivers and cars to even get into those dangerous situations. I saw Councilmember Tammy Morales released a statement calling out the same thing that you did - Hey, this seems to lack design features. She said that she would be helping identify some of the missing money to finish going after grant money to implement projects that had already been planned, but that were in jeopardy or delayed because they did not have the funding.
But also it seemed like there was a lack of recognition of just the severity of the problem. You just pointed out - Hey, we want to have this done basically for tourist attractions - while every day we are seeing people being killed and maimed by these pedestrian collisions. And so it just doesn't seem like there was the kind of urgency or thoroughness. And maybe this was something where - hey, they started this and there was a limited scope. They realized it was a problem later on and the report didn't quite get there? Seems like they should have realized this has been a problem for quite some time, given all of the discussion around it. But left a lot of people wanting, I think. What are you looking forward to seeing come out of this?
[00:11:08] Erica Barnett: I hope that SDOT will listen to some of the feedback. Just looking through the summary report, which is the one with more graphics and stuff, it just feels like - and again, this was late, so they spent extra time on it, or waited to release it - but it just feels like a book report that somebody did at the last minute before it was due. There's data in here that goes all the way back to 2011 - the 25 mph issue that you were mentioning. So it says, Oh, it does, 25 mph is good and here's how we know - it's data from 2018. Data from 2018 is now almost five years old and that is before the City actually implemented more widespread 25 mph speed limits. So I don't know, did it do anything? Did we study that? Are we studying that? There's just so much missing information in here. And I'll just reiterate - in this 22 pages, a chart is repeated twice. I don't know if anybody copy edited it, if that was intentional. There are two pages that are just a graphic and a big - a blue field. It just, it feels like - and do those things matter? I don't know. It makes it feel like there's a lot of filler in here. And when you look at the content, it's just really like back patting - let's do more of the same and that'll maybe make things better, and blame for why they can't do certain things.
[00:12:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I don't think this is egregious in terms of the report and how it's put together, but I think people are feeling particularly frustrated because this is an emergency. This is a crisis. This is something impacting the health and wellbeing of so many residents, and so many others are at risk, by just the design of the roads and the community. And so it just feels like maybe it wasn't done, or it's not conveying the urgency of the situation, and really conveying that they are planning to do everything they can to reduce this for the residents that live here now, not the tourists coming into town. I know that SDOT and the City has plenty of people who care, who I'm sure are balancing issues of funding and staffing and prioritization. So what I don't want to do is imply that everybody involved with this is careless and doesn't - I think that a lot of people care very deeply about this. But it does come to prioritization - from the executive on down - and maybe there's a tension between what people know is helpful and right to do and what is actually being authorized and funded. And the people pushing for accountability have been pushing on those meaningful levers beyond rhetoric, saying - Okay, what is actually going to be done? What is being built, revised? Let's put this into action. So eager to see the issues that they identified get into practice and hopefully this is definitely a springboard for more. And I think the way they characterized it was also - these actions to build momentum towards further actions with the first five things that I think they identified. So we'll continue to pay attention.
[00:14:14] Erica Barnett: One of the action plans in this, which I thought was an action plan - one of the actions is to create an action plan. And it's - Okay, wait, I thought that this was supposed to be the action plan. When is the action plan coming? So I don't know how long people are willing to wait for an action plan since this top-to-bottom review took all the way into February, more than a year into Harrell's term. So we'll see.
[00:14:36] Crystal Fincher: It feels a lot like the infamous Seattle process, but we will see. One thing that happened that made national headlines this week was the passing of first-in-the-nation caste legislation led by Councilmember Sawant - what does this do and why did it happen?
[00:14:56] Erica Barnett: Essentially, it adds a caste to the list of protected classes in the City's anti-discrimination laws. So those laws protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, disability, etc - and so it adds caste to that list. And the concern as I understand it, and I did not cover this story myself, but is - there is in fact caste discrimination among, against people of South Asian descent, particularly in the tech sector. And that this is a problem that was brought to Councilmember Sawant - and she proposes legislation, which as you said, is getting national and international coverage because it's the first of its kind in the US.
[00:15:37] Crystal Fincher: It is. And it didn't pass without some pushback and controversy. What were detractors of the legislation saying?
[00:15:46] Erica Barnett: There was quite a bit of controversy. And again, I'm going to do this - I'm going to explain this at a very high level because I'm a little out of my depth and I don't want to misstate anything - but the controversy revolved around whether this was discriminatory against Hindus in America, because it calls out that caste discrimination among Hindu castes and against people in lower castes. And so there was opposition from a Hindu American saying that it'd create a discriminatory system. There was also opposition on the City Council itself from the one person who voted against it - Councilmember Sara Nelson, who said essentially that it was unnecessary, agreed with some of the arguments against it, and also said that it would open the City to litigation and she didn't want to take that risk.
[00:16:29] Crystal Fincher: And she was notably the only councilmember to vote against that - all of the others present did. I will say - I appreciate the conversation that this legislation has opened up. Certainly I have done a lot of learning around this issue - was not up to speed and familiar, still not completely, but it does highlight how many things that can seem invisible and innocuous to people who are not familiar with this - just as covered in some of the articles and coverage about this, just questions like, Hey, do you eat meat? That may seem innocent and unproblematic to people who are listening to that - can be very impactful and discriminatory in this context. So I appreciate the opportunity to learn more. And this has been covered and lauded across the country, really, and covered in international papers. So certainly groundbreaking legislation led by Councilmember Sawant.
Also this week, we saw continuing coverage of the winning social housing legislation, which I'm still personally excited about - the opportunities that this unlocks and also just starting to figure this whole thing out. I'm sure it's not going to happen without some bumps and bruises along the way, but that's how new legislation and new programs and implementations work. What is next in the implementation process for social housing?
[00:17:56] Erica Barnett: So I talked to both of the proponents, Real Change and House Our Neighbors, as well as former House Speaker State Rep Frank Chopp, about this. And what's happening in the immediate term is Chopp - in the Legislature session that's going on now - is trying to get funding to basically pay for the agency's first 18 months or so of operations, the new public developer. The City of Seattle is obligated to provide in-kind assistance, but of course they have their own budget challenges and so this would essentially provide state funding through the budget to get them up and running and allow them to set up a taxing proposal, which then might have to go before the voters again - in yet another initiative - if it is a local tax. Chopp also said, when we talked, that there could be some state options - like there's an expansion that's being proposed of a real estate excise tax that would create sort of a new tier of taxing for property sales over $5 million. And there's a local option there that could be used for social housing, he said. There's a number of different possibilities that they're considering, but they've got 18 months to figure that out and potentially get something on the ballot and pass to actually pay for the housing.
[00:19:11] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And there's also going to be a board established and some hires made. What will that process look like?
[00:19:19] Erica Barnett: They're making a couple of hires. So that would be - that's something that $750,000-800,000 would pay for is - I believe it's an Executive Director and a Chief Operating Officer. And then the board is going to be made up of 13 people - 7 of them would be appointed by the City's Renters' Commission. And then it's - the other 6 are appointed by various folks - the mayor, the City Council, and some other local groups with housing expertise. And that board - Tammy Morales is spearheading getting that process rolling. And then the board starts meeting and starts discussing all these things that we're talking about - how to move forward. They're going to be the decision makers. And ultimately, that's a temporary board. Assuming housing does get built, there's going to be a new board that's going to be made up mostly of people who actually rent in the buildings. But that's a few steps down the line.
[00:20:07] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So we will continue to follow the implementation, follow what's happening with this. But that initiative is passing, will become official - I actually forget the day that the election is certified - but coming up here soon.
[00:20:21] Erica Barnett: I think it's today, February 24th - if not, it's Monday.
[00:20:23] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Yeah - excellent. Thank you - I'm like, it's around now, but so it will be officially official soon. Again, just bang up work to the people doing that and looking at how many of the volunteers are pivoting now to the Renton minimum wage initiative that is happening. I'm just excited about what organizers are doing in the region to try and help improve the everyday lives of folks.
Also this week, we saw some King County Regional Homelessness Authority meetings - discussion about their scope and budget moving forward. What were those conversations?
[00:21:05] Erica Barnett: Yeah. The regional authority has released its five-year plan and it's in a draft form - it's going to be finalized, I believe, in April. And it's a somewhat novel approach to doing an implementation plan for an agency. Basically what they've done is created a plan that would end unsheltered homelessness within five years and at huge cost. You've probably discussed this on Hacks & Wonks before, but the price tag is in the billions per year plus billions more for capital costs to set up shelters and other types of temporary housing. And there's been pushback from - everyone from Councilmember Andrew Lewis in Seattle, to regional leaders, to Claudia Balducci from the King County Council, to Mayor Bruce Harrell saying - This is a nice aspirational plan, but we can't even come close to actually doing this. Just one year's worth of funding for this plan is two City budgets. There's been pushback about whether this is realistic, can we start smaller? And it's almost like the opposite of the Vision Zero plan - it's too ambitious in some ways - some would argue. I think the agency would argue that it's not too ambitious, it's just realistic. But there is a gap between reality on the ground right now, in terms of the agency's funding and reality as they define it, which is we need to spend these billions of dollars to actually address the problem.
[00:22:31] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we actually have a conversation with the head of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, Marc Dones, coming up on this week's midweek show where we go into that in a little bit more detail and why that's necessary, what that's comprised of. But I think there is a big conversation to be had. They're saying that they need more federal dollars and support, that there needs to be a lot more financially. I think they're really saying - Hey, now that we have gotten staffed up, have started to implement the plan, and we're doing some targeted things that are working - it's time to scale this up. And the real conversation seems to be, can we afford to scale it up? And if not, where does that leave us and what do we do? So that'll be interesting - to see how this conversation unfolds, and how cities view their contribution to this regional solution, and their individual responsibilities within their city - how they balance that and what types of approaches they move forward with.
But it does seem like there are some things that are working and that are positive that should be, hopefully will be expanded. Certainly I think most people agree that the job is not done, more needs to be done. And so what is enough is really going to be part of a conversation. And people who are elected are going to have to stand up for what they've advocated for and what they're saying to attempt to address the challenges here. But it'll be interesting to see. Also in related troubling news, we got more evidence and information about violence against unsheltered people. What did we learn?
[00:24:10] Erica Barnett: This is really troubling. The issue of homelessness and the issue of public safety are often conflated, with people saying that having homeless encampments nearby is unsafe for nearby children, people living in houses nearby. But in reality, the people who are most vulnerable in living in encampments are the people in the encampments themselves. So a new crime report from SPD showed a 229% increase in hate crimes, specifically targeting homeless people because they're homeless. Police Chief Adrian Diaz told me that this is an example of people "taking things into their own hands" because they're frustrated with encampments existing in their presence and the associated litter and perceived just disorder that goes with that - they've been attacking more homeless people. Additionally, there's been more gun violence deaths involving people who are homeless. So it's incredibly dangerous to be homeless and it's becoming more dangerous. And I think this gets lost in conversations about whether violent crime is up or whether property crime is up. A lot of these victims are people experiencing homelessness themselves. And I really think that gets lost in narratives about homeless people being inherently dangerous or a threat to neighborhoods.
[00:25:25] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And it has been a chronic problem, has led to them specifically being targeted, dehumanizing language around them. And certainly regionally, we've seen a lot of direct attacks on their - I'm thinking of a couple in Tacoma right now where people went in there because of narratives about them being criminals, going in to find stolen property, and it winds up with violence - but without that stolen property. It's a challenge, and I hope we understand how vulnerable that population is and we follow the data and evidence about what seems to be effective in addressing those issues.
Certainly we hear a lot about downtown Seattle. And there was an article this week, and continued conversations that we have in the region, in the wake of Amazon announcing that they are recalling people back to the office on at least a part-time basis and requiring people work from the office, which Mayor Bruce Harrell applauded and said was a good thing. But the state of downtown, the state of the central business district - should it be and remain and should we try and invest resources in keeping it predominantly a business district? Or are people really looking for something else? What was your take on that article and on the conversation about what we should be doing with downtown?
[00:26:52] Erica Barnett: Yeah, it's been really interesting to see the backlash among Amazon employees themselves to this idea that they are - to not the idea - to the mandate that they go back to work three days a week. The City, of course, has a two day a week mandate that is observed by some and ignored by some, I would say. And I think that the State of the City speech actually highlighted this kind of dichotomy that you're talking about, because on the one hand, Harrell said, It's great that Amazon is coming back downtown and we're going to have this dynamic downtown that returns to normal again. And at the same time, he was saying - maybe, in that list of maybes that he had - Maybe what downtown looks like is going to be different, and we'll have housing in some of these office spaces and other types of businesses in the retail spaces. And so I think that we're still figuring that out. But I just do not believe that we're going to return to the way it was before, because I think a lot of people have realized that they're more productive at home, they've realized that not getting paid for a long commute that is essentially unnecessary to doing their job feels unfair. And there's a whole lot of reasons that people liked working from home during the pandemic - people who have caregiving responsibilities have had a lot more flexibility to do that stuff. And primarily, we're talking about women with those responsibilities. So I don't think it's going to work to just say - everybody has to come back to the way it used to be. We also have a tight labor market, so forcing workers who can leave and take other jobs to do something like come back to downtown Seattle is not going to work in the short term for sure.
[00:28:30] Crystal Fincher: And this is being lauded because some people are saying, Great, this is going to be great for businesses downtown revitalizing, re-energizing downtown Seattle in this circumstance and situation - because foot traffic, as measured by downtown employees, has been down under 50% to what it was pre-pandemic levels. And although hotels have seen basically a return to pre-pandemic level activity from people traveling, visiting - they are not seeing that in terms, or coming from workers. And so it seems like there are a number of signals from the public saying, Okay, downtown should have another purpose besides just a place that people commute to and from to work. And that comes with its own challenges and that - it's long been a problem. Even in terms of just public safety and having safe activated spaces - meaning spaces where people are at - it's not like you're in a desolate, barren area after 7, 8 PM and people have left for the day. There's not that much going on in the core of downtown. Also more people live downtown now than have ever before - thousands more people than at the beginning of the pandemic. And just basic things like childcare and just some basic things to have and raise a family are missing in downtown and people need to go to other neighborhoods. And it seems like people are looking to downtown Seattle and a lot of other downtowns to fulfill desires for culture and community a lot more now, or to a much greater degree than they were before, where it was just business. And so re-imagining or reconstituting downtowns where maybe driving to the office every day is not the main draw - seems like that has to be a focus for the future or else downtown is going to get left behind. How do you see that?
[00:30:29] Erica Barnett: Yeah. This is a conversation that has been going on for almost as long as I have lived here, or actually probably longer, about downtown. Especially - when I moved here more than 20 years ago - downtown really shut down at night. And I'm downtown at night a fair amount - I think that the sort of tumbleweeds idea that downtown just turns into, rolls up the blinds or whatever the saying is - it's not that - at 5 o'clock, it's not - that's exaggerated. There are people downtown now, especially Belltown bleeds into South Lake Union - there's stuff going on. But the thing is, we've been saying for decades now and more intensely lately, I think with the pandemic, that downtown needs to have a different focus and different reasons for people being there other than office work. And yet, we still have, again, a mayor saying maybe that's something that should happen. If you're the mayor, or you're a City leader, there are things you can actually do to make it affordable for childcare to be downtown. And I won't go into all the different mechanisms for stuff like that, because it's pretty boring. But the only thing the mayor mentioned was changing zoning codes to allow housing - and actually housing is already allowed everywhere downtown. What you need to do is provide incentives and money to make it possible to convert office buildings into housing, because that's not going to happen by just saying, Maybe it should. And so we just haven't seen action on these things. And it actually does take action and money and spending to make some of these things happen. Childcare is not going to materialize because we wish it into existence. Neither are art spaces, all these things - we have to take action, there have to be grant programs, there has to be actual legislation and priorities and spending - because we can't just wish it into existence. It hasn't worked so far. And it's not going to work now.
[00:32:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I agree with that. Lots of talk about activating spaces, vacant storefronts. I think he did say that there was going to be a pilot, or actually not even a pilot, a competition to kick off innovation for how to convert commercial spaces into residential spaces - which has its share of complications and isn't necessarily simple and straightforward, can be done. But it does seem like we're in the beginning stages and just dipping our toe in the water a little bit with a number of these things instead of taking concrete action, which I think a lot of people would be eager to see. So that's another thing we'll continue to stay on top of and see how that unfolds.
We do thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, February 24th, 2023. Hacks & Wonks is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today was Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter @ericacbarnett and on PubliCola.com. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks and you can find me there also @finchfrii, with two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and 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. You can also get the full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.