Jan 20, 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! They catch up with all of the news out of the legislature this week, as well as Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant not seeking re-election, a dodgy push-poll, South King County pedestrian fatalities on the rise, and lawsuits against the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI).
Breaking down the flurry of news out of the legislature this week, Crystal and Erica discuss proposed legislation for a wealth tax, middle housing, lowering the blood alcohol limit for driving, limiting rent increases, reducing the disparity between products advertised towards women versus men, alternatives to jail for behavioral health crises, and a potential expansion of law enforcement's ability to conduct vehicle pursuits.
The trend of current Seattle City Councilmembers announcing they won’t seek re-election continued this week when councilmember Kshama Sawant revealed she won’t again this year. With four of the seven open seats on the council this year without incumbents, this years’ election is guaranteed to bring a large change to the city’s leadership.
A seemingly non-scientific push-poll designed to show support for a potential ballot measure to fund more police hires and spending was sent to a number of Seattle residents. They use it as a jumping-off to discuss manipulative polling and how it’s used to justify unpopular policy.
Crystal and Erica also discuss the alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities in the region, especially in south King County. The data supports the need to make wide-spread improvements to our pedestrian infrastructure to truly make our cities safe for people who walk and bike.
Crystal and Erica end this week’s show looking at two lawsuits against the Low Income Housing Institute. A former resident has sued the organization, claiming that LIHI illegally evicted them by not giving proper notice. The case hinges on whether LIHI’s housing is emergency shelter or transitional housing, the latter requiring stronger resident protections. LIHI is also facing accusations that the conditions of their tiny house villages are not adequate to support their residents.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“WA lawmakers trying again to tax wealth, as part of nationwide effort” by Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times
“Two State-Level Housing Bills Aim to Stabilize Rent and Protect From Rent Gouging” by Vee Hua from The South Seattle Emerald
“State Proposals Aim to Lower Traffic Deaths by Improving Driver Behavior” by Ryan Packer from Publicola
“Washington lawmakers discuss an alternative to jail for mental health crises” by Doug Nadvornick from KUOW
“Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant Will Not Seek Reelection” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger
“Why I’m Not Running Again for City Council” by Kshama Sawant from The Stranger
“South King County Sees Alarming Jump in Pedestrian Fatalities” by Andrew Engelson from The Urbanist
“WALeg Wednesday: Saldaña Drops Bill to End Jaywalking” by Ray Dubicki from The Urbanist
“Former Tiny House Village Resident Sues Nonprofit, Alleging Unlawful Eviction” by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
“Homelessness Authority, LIHI Clashed Over Reporting of Two Deaths at Tiny House Village” by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I am 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, 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.
[00:01:08] Erica Barnett: Hello, hello.
[00:01:09] Crystal Fincher: Hello, hello - and welcome back. Always a pleasure to have you and your information and insights. Think today we will start off just talking about the week in the Washington Legislature, now that our legislative session is off and running. What did you see this week?
[00:01:28] Erica Barnett: There's a lot going on as always. This is a long session, so there's a lot more policy legislation coming our way. There's a proposal to revive a wealth tax that has moved forward but then floundered in previous sessions - it would be a 1% tax on intangible assets like stocks and bonds - and so we'll see how that goes this year, maybe third time is the charm. Legislation is moving forward to allow sixplexes around the state in areas that are ordinarily or that are traditionally single-family only - that's Jessica Bateman's bill - and that too has been proposed in the past, but it may have a better chance this session because one of the sort of obstructionist legislators, Gerry Pollett, is no longer in charge of the committee that determines whether that bill goes forward.
There's a bill that would reduce the limitations on police pursuits. Police say that they, that legislation from - I believe it was either last year or 2021 - limiting the instances in which they can go after somebody in their car to violent crimes and sex crimes is inhibiting their ability to chase what they call criminals - people committing property crimes and things like that. So that proposal is up and it has a lot of support from the right-wing pundit class. And I'm missing a lot of other stuff - there's a bill to lower the blood alcohol limit for driving while intoxicated to 0.05 percent like Utah, which has been really effective in that state in reducing drunk driving deaths and a whole lot more.
[00:03:18] Crystal Fincher: I think that's a good start. There's lots of things just getting out of the gate and people trying to figure out what does have the momentum and the support to move forward versus what doesn't. I think another one that I was looking at - in addition to the middle housing bill, which came out with a ton of support in a hearing that it had earlier this week - are also some bills aiming to stabilize rent and to protect people from rent gouging. So looking at capping rent increases between 3 and 7% annually, depending on the rate of inflation. There's lots of conversations about, absolutely, the need to increase housing supply - there's widespread agreement on that, and that certainly is necessary to long-term affordability. In the short-term, things like rent stabilization policies are going to be critical for reducing displacement, evictions, and can make more of a difference in the short-term than increasing the housing supply. So lots of people sometimes have either-or conversations about those. I personally love the opinion that both are necessary and useful. I've talked about before - I've had neighbors with rent increases over 40%, had rent increases personally of over 30%. And that is just completely unaffordable for so many people, and contributing to the amount of unhoused people that we have - so definitely looking at that as another one.
There was another bill that just was a cool thing - with Senator Manka Dhingra, who works with students and youth in the area to introduce legislation. And they suggested legislation, which she has introduced now, which seeks to bring equity between pricing for products marketed towards men versus women, and how frequently the same exact product marketed towards women will cost more for no apparent reason. And so a bill trying to address that - I think that was most of it. There was another interesting one this week about an alternative to jail for people experiencing mental health crises. Instead of going to jail - which really doesn't address the root cause - talking about a kind of a 24-hour cooling off center where instead of being an environment that is not helpful at de-escalating or calming situations, that a place that is not jail that can seek to maybe stabilize or calm down a situation to hopefully get a person in a place where they're either stabilized or in a place where they can seek services. It sounds like that is in the beginning stages of conversation - does not have funding attached to it yet, that would be necessary - but those are the things that have been on my radar.
[00:06:32] Erica Barnett: That last bill that you mentioned, also from Senator Dhingra - it's based on a similar program in Arizona - and I'm getting this from KUOW's coverage. And it's interesting. I really want to read up more about it because it's a 23-hour hold, essentially. And we have various types of involuntary and voluntary mental health facilities. 23 hours - my immediate response is - what happens after that 23 hours? Do we just release people back to the streets with no care plan? I'm assuming that is not the intent, and I'm assuming that 23 hours actually must come from some limitation in the law. But at the same time as this bill is moving forward, there is a proposal that's going to be on the ballot in April in King County to create crisis care centers where people can just walk in and - voluntarily or be brought there by police, I suppose - to receive crisis care. And it's for a longer period than that 23 hours, so it feels like there is an emphasis right now on trying to get an entire continuum of care for people in crisis. And none of this has passed yet. As you said, the bill in the Legislature does not come with funding. But there is more discussion of this than I've ever seen in the state, and that's really encouraging because right now, primarily what we do is put people in jail when they're experiencing a crisis that is causing a threat or perceived threat to public safety - and that really can be extremely destabilizing for people.
[00:08:17] Crystal Fincher: And then you had talked about the vehicle pursuit legislation that is being worked on this week - and really interesting dynamics in between those. There certainly are folks led by a lot of law enforcement organizations who are saying that they're being limited - lots of times we can't chase people, or crime is on the rise because we've been essentially handcuffed from going after "bad guys." Senator Dhingra talked about it - we did an interview with her on Hacks & Wonks and in a Democratic media availability this past week - talked again about there's no data showing a linkage between a rise in crime and the limitations that were placed on police pursuits before. Now they're asking for an expansion of those. It is unclear why that would make a difference according to their logic. One, they actually are still allowed to pursue those most serious cases and have been. We've had several stories over the past few weeks of pursuits that have happened. And this is really a question of is it worth pursuing something, someone - no matter what - if someone stole some Tide detergent, is it worth a high-speed pursuit on residential streets where people are being put at risk and innocent bystanders are frequently harmed and killed in these situations. In fact, in the city of Kent, a police officer was killed during a high-speed chase. These are actually really dangerous events that happen. And there's a real question about - is it worth the loss of life, when frequently if you can identify the person you can find and pick them up - which has happened frequently - after the fact without risking the lives of everybody in the area. So that's going to be an interesting conversation moving forward. Senator Dhingra chairs the Law & Justice Committee and is not eager to bring this up for a hearing, but there are certainly Republican legislators and some Democratic ones who are in favor of expanding the ability to conduct these pursuits. And so that conversation is definitely going to be one that we follow throughout this session.
Looking at events this week in the City of Seattle, one notable announcement came earlier this week about a councilmember who is not going to be running again. What was announced?
[00:11:06] Erica Barnett: Kshama Sawant - I laugh because this was just so widely covered compared to other councilmembers who are not running - part of a trend of councilmembers on the current council saying that they are not going to seek re-election, but Kshama Sawant will not be running in District 3. She's going to be starting some sort of labor-related organization, and I say that vaguely because there wasn't a whole lot of detail in her announcement about what this group will do, but it's called Workers Strike Back. And what it will not do, apparently, is pursue elected office for its members. Sawant's organization, Socialist Alternative, is a small, Trotskyist offshoot of the socialist parties in America, and it's definitely one of the smallest. And they have not had a lot of success at getting people elected around the country. Sawant was really their shining example of a member who actually made it to elective office and was in there for three terms, for 10 years - one of those terms was a two-year term. And so they're going on and they're saying that they're going to start a workers' movement worldwide, so it remains to be seen what will happen with that. But Sawant will no longer be on the council, and a lot of people are already lining up to try to replace her.
[00:12:42] Crystal Fincher: There are. I saw a couple of candidates have declared already, which has also received a lot of coverage. You are right - we got some kind of brief mentions for prior councilmembers, including Lisa Herbold and Alex Pedersen, announcing that they are not running. But there seems to be strong opinions about Councilmember Sawant and therefore strong reactions in both directions - people sad to see someone who has been a fierce and unabashed advocate for issues about workers' rights for a long time. Councilmember - Mayor Harrell also said one thing he never doubted was her fierceness and advocacy. But this is definitely going to be a change on the council, and she has definitely left her mark - coming to office following the $15/hour initiative in the City of SeaTac that was run by a number of unions and advocates and folks. Following that, she ran in the City of Seattle as a dramatic underdog who people didn't really take seriously for almost all of the campaign - running on 15 Now, $15/hour in the City of Seattle - and running successfully, making Seattle one of the first cities - major cities - in the country to pass that minimum wage. And we've seen minimum wages increase across the country since then, with first SeaTac and then Seattle. So really interesting, certainly has been a lightning rod for a lot. So we will see who is going to wind up replacing her and how those campaigns take shape. What do you see as - just how this election season in the City of Seattle, with so many open seats - may unfold?
[00:14:52] Erica Barnett: Yeah, I was just doing the math in my mind - because I have to do it every time - and four of the seven seats that are going to be up are definitely going to be open seats. Open seat elections are always more interesting in my mind because you don't have that built-in power of incumbency that sometimes keeps people away, but often we re-elect incumbents. So we'll see what - Andrew Lewis has already said that he is going to be running for re-election in District 1. I believe Tammy Morales will be running for re-election - I would put money on that at this point - not a lot of money, but a little money. And Councilmember Dan Strauss also seems to be showing signs that he will run for a second term up in District 6. So still, with four open seats, that's going to be - that's a number that could swing the tenor of the council if there's any kind of trend in whether those seats swing left or right.
But importantly, one thing that happens when you have massive council turnover is you both get a sort of breath of fresh air, but you also lose a lot of institutional knowledge. I think, and I said on Seattle Nice, I think Sawant's actual influence on legislation has been somewhat overstated. She didn't achieve $15/hour in Seattle - that was very much a union effort that she got on board with, and it was a process of collaboration and compromise. Her thing was, as you said, it was 15 Now - just do it now and screw anybody that opposes it. But she also has institutional knowledge and institutional memory, as does Lisa Herbold who's been there for - been in the council milieu in some capacity for 25 years. It's going to be a loss of that kind of institutional knowledge, and I think that that is important when you're a city council going up against a mayor who - and I say going up against because they often clash. Historically, the council and the mayor are often on opposite sides of issues. When you don't have that institutional knowledge of how processes work and how legislation gets done and how the budget gets done, the mayor can roll you over. Bruce Harrell has a lot of experience himself being on the council for a long time, so it'll be interesting to see how that affects the power dynamic between the mayor and the council as well.
[00:17:36] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely will be. I'm also interested in something else that we saw this week that flew a little bit under the radar, but definitely was noticed in a number of political circles - which was a public safety online poll that was sent to people via text, several people this week. In fact, so many that it really didn't seem like it was a randomly targeted poll. It looked like someone got a hold of some political lists and sent it out, but what did this poll seek to ask and what was it comprised of?
[00:18:10] Erica Barnett: Yeah. Unfortunately, nobody sent me this poll - which if you're listening to this and you want to send me poll information, please do - but from what I gather, it's a push poll designed to elicit the feeling that Seattle is less safe and needs more police. The goal seems to be gauging support for a potential public safety funding initiative at some point in the future. And again, I don't know anything more about the idea behind this initiative, but it would essentially - or at least according to the poll - get the police department up to 1,450 officers within five years. The premise behind this is pretty flawed, which is that all we need is to pour more money into the police department and they will magically be able to hire 500, 600 new officers - when the police department itself has said that's not the issue. Now, they would define the issue as people don't want to be police officers in Seattle because there's insufficient support for police in institutions like the City Council. I would say police departments across the country have had trouble recruiting in the last three years and this is just a sign of that. But the police department has a lot of money - they fund tons of, hundreds of vacant positions every year - and so I don't think a massive increase in their budget is going to have a whole lot of impact because their budget is not really the problem. However you define the problem, it's not that we aren't funding police sufficiently.
[00:19:54] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And this was really interesting - and for those who have listened and who know me, thank you for capturing this poll and sending me all of the screenshots. Just FYI - always do that with polls - take screenshots, send them on over if you get called for a poll, note what it is and all of the questions. Really interesting to see what people are asking, how people are asking. And with polls like this, I would not be surprised to see - obviously someone is thinking about this initiative - but looking at something like this, sometimes we see these announcements or stories in the media which cite numbers from vague polls. And this is not a real poll - this is someone sending around some surveys, very non-scientific, and the questions are almost comically skewed and written here. So it'll be interesting to see if someone uses this to try and signal support for the poll. I would also be interested just in seeing the raw numbers because traditionally, folks in the City of Seattle do not react well - even if this was a scientific poll - so this is going to be really curious to follow, but obviously someone is thinking about running a public safety initiative - really a police hiring initiative, which this really is. And it really does seem to be misguided. If there is one thing the City has definitely been trying to do for the past couple years, it's hire more police officers. How many times have they tried to increase hiring bonuses? They're advertising everywhere. This has been a monthly conversation in the City for, I feel like, two solid straight years - and if money could fix the problem, it would have. But we'll see how this continues to unfold.
Another unfortunate bit of news that we have seen reinforced over and over again - but that has been made official - is just the increase in pedestrian fatalities and what kind of impact that is having. Some unfortunate news that we've seen, which has been reinforced repeatedly in news that we've seen, is pedestrian fatalities across the board have been increasing. There's been great coverage in The Urbanist about an alarming jump in pedestrian fatalities in South King County - just, it's really bleak. Really looking at the data put together by the State Department of Transportation - since 2013, the total number of crashes resulting in death or serious injury to pedestrians has climbed from 33 in 2013 to 95 in 2021. And that number continues to increase, and it is really alarming. And looking at the areas that are the most dangerous - Highway 99, also known as International Boulevard or Pacific Highway South, is one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in addition to Benson Highway or 104th - these go through several south County cities - but it's basically a high-speed highway in the middle of these cities. I remember they did work related to RapidRide Line A - a revamping of Pacific Highway South and International Boulevard - and unfortunately, one of the features that we saw was that there are long stretches of road with no pedestrian crossings. And mixing that with speeds that are 50 mph in some places is just a recipe for a disaster - when you're forcing people to sometimes take a - choose between walking directly across the street, which would be categorized as jaywalking, or taking a 10 to 15 minute detour to walk down to the nearest light or crossing and then walk all the way back, which is challenging for people with mobility issues - there are a lot of age and the disabled people, there are a number of services and health clinics on these roads. And so predictably, people are going to attempt to cross the road to avoid those really long crossings. To me, this was foreseeable just because of the design in these areas - and just mixing such high speeds in such high traffic pedestrian areas - and so it's unfortunate.
These cities have recognized the problem, but some of the solutions that they've presented for the problem have been challenges. In fact, there was coverage of a meeting by Ryan Packer, actually, at the state where some City of Kent officers, at least who've been involved in traffic enforcement, really seemed to almost victim blame in the situation - talking about they would do emphasis patrols to help stop jaywalking, which is a cause of this. I would say that's more predictable impact of design there and people making a choice because sometimes they can't walk that distance. And also characterizing people who are on foot or even on bike as unhoused people or people in poverty, as opposed to lots of people who are commuting. This is a site where several accidents have - several fatalities and crashes that have injured and killed pedestrians have taken place. It's going to be - a new light rail station is in process of being built there. This is a very high traffic area, lots of commuters, it's near a Park and Ride - and so there's a whole cross-section of people, lots of professionals. I used to be frequently on transit as I was commuting to work via Metro in Seattle daily. It's just disappointing to see a lack of recognition of what some of these challenges are. The Urbanist addressed some of these in that article, but it is really, really challenging, and I wish the conversation in terms of solutions and increasing safety would focus more on things that didn't blame the victim or seek to target them, instead of help keep them safer.
[00:26:51] Erica Barnett: Yeah. The idea that our roadway problems and our pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are because of individual behavior - it goes both ways, right? There's also an emphasis on people driving too fast, and this report does talk about people going - this report in The Urbanist talks about people going 80, 90 mph - and that is a huge problem and people should not be driving that fast. And two, these roads are designed for that. And the only way that you can make it possible for people to cross the road without "jaywalking" and the only way you can get people to stop speeding - and even driving the speed limit is often more than fast enough to cause fatalities - is you've got to put crosswalks in, you've got to slow down traffic. And the way you do that is through road design. And some of these - you can't necessarily go and narrow a highway - you can, but it's expensive and controversial. You can put in stoplights, you can put in bus lanes, you can do things that slow down the flow of cars - and I would say that it's not just that these things cost money, it's that they cost political will, and they're just - in a lot of these cities, and in the state, and including in Seattle - there is not the political will to do something that will slow down motorists. I remember - I don't live on Rainier anymore, but I lived right on Rainier for many years, or just a couple blocks off it - and I would use the 7 to get everywhere and run errands. And I am somebody who is physically capable of running across the street, and let me tell you - I did not go half a mile in one direction, walk across the approved pedestrian infrastructure, and walk half a mile in the other direction, just because that's what the road was telling me to do. I would run across the road. So people act rationally - and in that situation, it is rational to run across the road and just risk it, because I didn't have time to spend 30 extra minutes crossing a street that traffic engineers had decided was a highway through the middle of a neighborhood. And that causes really risky behavior. And the only solution, and the solution that obviously we haven't taken - because traffic fatalities are going up and not down everywhere - is to change our roads and to inconvenience drivers a little bit in order to save some lives.
[00:29:32] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and I do just want to underscore - between 10 and 15 years ago, the conversations about traffic calming in Seattle and hearing pushback, and - Oh my gosh, this is going to change my commute and things are going to take forever, there's a war on cars. And the impact to cars and drivers was really negligible - literally talking about differences of one and two minutes, which can have such a powerful impact on safety and truly save lives. We really do have to ask ourselves the question, Do we really believe cars should be able to just go as fast as possible and have absolute priority in anything that might slow them down? It's bad even if it costs lives and money and so much. Or can we spare a minute? Can we spare two minutes to spare some lives? It really does come down to that, and I wish we would more openly have that conversation - because there are so many people who are walking, and who are riding bikes, who are in proximity to that. And it has to be part of the solution to public safety, people being safe on the roads. I just wish we would be in a different place with that.
I do want to definitely talk about some great coverage in PubliCola this week about the Low Income Housing Institute, also known as LIHI, being sued for unlawful eviction. What happened here?
[00:31:11] Erica Barnett: This is one of a couple of lawsuits actually that have been filed against LIHI. One was dismissed at the court commissioner level, but this one was just filed this past week by a guy who lived in a tiny house village - actually in Olympia - run by LIHI. And he was kicked out after an altercation with one of the staff. And the lawsuit essentially is asserting that this was an eviction, that LIHI's tiny house villages are housing. This guy lived in the tiny house for more than two years when he was kicked out, and LIHI said - You have to be out within 48 hours, take all your stuff, goodbye. And he did vacate, but he's saying this was not legal, and it was an eviction, and the tiny house was his home. And I think as a matter of law, what is interesting - there's a couple of things that I think are interesting about this case - as a matter of law, LIHI has long been classified, or was long classified - their tiny house villages were classified as encampments. And they got an upgrade during the pandemic - the city, and then eventually the federal government, now considers them enhanced shelter. But what they're saying is that it's essentially transitional housing, and it meets these definitions of transitional housing that were adopted by the State Legislature just a couple years ago. So there's an interesting legal argument there about - once you have four walls, a door that locks - is that everybody who supports LIHI likes to say - is that housing? And does LIHI have more obligations to give notice and to give reasons and to allow people in some cases to rectify whatever is wrong? LIHI says that they are not transitional housing and that if you started defining their tiny houses that way, it would create a situation where every type of enhanced shelter would start looking at the people they take in differently because they wouldn't want to have to keep people around if they were causing a problem in the community. And if you had tenant rights, that would create a situation where people could live there for a long time while continuing to cause problems. So if it goes forward, that would be an interesting legal discussion.
And separately, I think that there's been a lot of complaints from residents of the tiny house villages that the conditions there are not always the greatest. One thing that this gentleman who's suing brought up to me was that they have these kind of outdoor kitchens, that he said the nutrition is really bad, there have been times when the washing machines have been broken so they can't wash their clothes, where there's been no hot water for a month on end in this particular village. And so I think there's questions too about the quality of life at tiny house villages. And so those are not really being litigated, but they're being discussed and I think that that will continue to be the case. LIHI is under a microscope with funding from the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority, whose CEO Marc Dones has never been a big supporter of tiny house villages. So I think they are under fire right now, and their CEO Sharon Lee is definitely someone who fights back and you can read my coverage for her comments on that.
[00:34:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, this is an interesting situation. I think it really brings up a lot of issues to a lot of folks that just because someone does not have shelter, if someone is responsible for providing them shelter or housing - and some of these people can be housed for months in tiny home villages - does that mean that they are not entitled to the same kinds of protections that everyone else is entitled to? And it seems like the argument against that is that - Well, this is a more challenging population and if we're going to serve them, providing those kinds of protections is dangerous for us as an organization and maybe we couldn't do it overall. When I think there are a lot of people who would love to talk about, Okay, what are ways that we can ensure that there isn't abuse or exploitation, more dangerous conditions? Just because someone does not have the means to pursue a lot of recourse or is coming from a bad environment, does that mean that we're fine with letting them settle for any old thing and any old treatment? And that is not to say that this is not a challenging and complex issue. Certainly this is a population that because they have been unhoused and out on the streets, they've been made more vulnerable to a host of challenges - whether it's health problems, safety issues, mental health issues, substance use disorder - the things that afflict society at large afflict this population also, and they're at risk for so many other things. And so I just hope we have a conversation that really does start from a place of how can we keep this population as safe as possible? And how do we keep people accountable to ensure that there aren't abuses? I feel like it's a risky place to be to say - If we aren't here, no one's going to be. And so take it or leave it with whatever there is, or not being introspective about how services can be provided in a better, safer, more equitable manner. I know that's what I thought when I first saw the coverage. What kind of reaction are you seeing from people?
[00:37:20] Erica Barnett: It's interesting. I think there is a lot of opposition to LIHI right now that I'm seeing in places like Twitter. I did want to say - just to flip your comments a little bit - I've also heard lots of complaints over the years from people who live at encampments but also in tiny house villages, that the environment can also be made unpleasant and challenging by other residents. People talk about - because tiny house villages - many of them are low-barrier and they allow people to use drugs and alcohol. People talk about that creating a bad environment in some tiny house villages. And when you have a population that is largely actively using, it can be really challenging for people who aren't. I don't want to discount the fact that when you are completely low-barrier, that creates challenges in itself - if somebody's trying to stay sober and they're in that environment, for example. But there can be lots of challenges in these communities - they're communities of people who are all struggling with different things. I just wanted to signpost that a little bit. Like I said, I think there's pushback to LIHI right now. It receives a lot of contracts from KCRHA and people are starting to really put a spotlight on them more than on other organizations. My coverage has been pretty factual, I think, so I'm trying not to reflect a bias one way or the other. And people can read into it their own biases and opinions and are doing so.
[00:39:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely. And it'll be interesting to see - I think one of the issues is that this is one provider who is doing so much of this work, and almost has a monopoly on the ability to provide these services. And are there - I certainly don't want to suggest that there are not challenges and that residents may not be, safety issues and sometimes, and thank you for bringing that up. I do think that it would be interesting to see what other similar shelters are doing and if they're in line with this. I do not know if they are in line with what other shelters who provide similar services or other tiny home villages are providing, but I hope that that is being looked at.
[00:40:02] Erica Barnett: I will just say - really briefly - compare it to another enhanced shelter, the Navigation Center. Navigation Center kicks people out all the time. We don't necessarily talk about that as much because it's not as high profile. People aren't - the Navigation Center doesn't have an Andrew Lewis on the City Council constantly singing its praises and inviting criticism, but shelters do kick people out. It happens a lot for behavioral issues, so people should not be under the impression that this is uncommon.
[00:40:34] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And with that, we will thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, January 20th, 2023. Happy birthday, Terrance. 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 Seattle Nice Podcast, and the 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 find me on Twitter @finchfrii with two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever 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 mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. And if you like us, leave a review. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.