Oct 21, 2022
On this week’s Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle political reporter Erica Barnett to delve into Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss’ “unforced error” at a public meeting, as well as interesting results from a recent Seattle Chamber of Commerce poll on homelessness. They then break down the convoluted question Seattle voters will see on their ballots around voting reform, what happened with King County’s about-face on expansion of the SoDo shelter, and why the terrible wildfire smoke conditions the region has suffered through for weeks needs to be treated as a real ongoing issue. The show wraps up with good news about Seattle redistricting and a victory for the Redistricting Justice for Seattle coalition!
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Erica C. Barnett, at @ericacbarnett. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Don't forget to vote! Visit votewa.gov for voting resources.
People Power Washington 2022 Public Safety Voter Guide covering Washington State Legislature, King County Prosecuting Attorney, and Seattle Municipal Court
Institute for a Democratic Future 2023 applications are live! The initial deadline is November 2nd, and the final deadline is November 13th.
Learn more about how to get involved in Seattle's budget season at this link.
Student debt relief sign-ups are live! Visit this link to enroll.
"A highly charged public meeting in Seattle's Greenwood - but don't you dare record it" by Isolde Raftery from KUOW
"Chamber Poll On Homelessness, Public Safety Shows That It Matters How You Frame the Questions" by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola
"Seattle voters to consider 'approval voting' vs. 'ranked choice' voting; here's the difference" by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times
"Under Pressure, County Executive Constantine Cancels Plans to Expand SoDo Shelter" by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola
"The Persistence of Seattle's Smoke Show" by Ray Dubicki from The Urbanist
"What does Seattle need for coming smoky summers? Clean air shelters, new rules to protect workers, and patience" by AGPhoto from Capitol Hill Seattle Blog
"In Dramatic Turnaround, New City Council Map Splits Magnolia to Keep Other Neighborhoods Whole" by Erica C. Barnett 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. Full text transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's cohost: Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, cohost of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir Of Drinking, Relapse and Recovery, the excellent Erica Barnett.
[00:01:00] Erica Barnett: It's great to be here, Crystal.
[00:01:01] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back. And just a few reminders that we've talked about in prior weeks, but the biggest reminder - it is time to vote. You should be receiving your ballot. Voting is opening up today. Ballot dropboxes are now open. You can fill out your ballot. You can vote. Vote - absolutely take this opportunity to vote. We talk a lot about, we hear a lot about politics at the federal level. This is a show where mostly we talk about stuff on the local level, but especially this year - where I think it's become much more visible and real to people that just because there are or were rights at the federal level, doesn't mean that they're going to stay that way. And who our local elected officials are in our state legislatures, in our county councils, city councils - everything at the local level really matters in terms of how we are able to continue to live and exercise our rights, or not. The type of prosecutor that we elect in our counties can impact whether women are prosecuted, and people are prosecuted for the decisions they make about whether or not to be pregnant and healthcare decisions that they're making. The types of legislators we elect will determine whether they move to restrict abortion in our state. Issues like preventing religious hospital mergers where, even though - yes, we currently have the right to abortion here - it's just not accessible in many areas and could be accessible in even fewer because there are only religious hospitals that refuse to perform abortions. Voting rights are at stake. Just people - we see the trans community under attack and under assault. Really just so many areas that are essential to people being able to live their lives, to exercise who what they want, make their own choices, and fully participate in our society. We have to have people at every level pushing in the right direction and your voice is needed to make that happen. So I hope - sometimes I look at stuff at the federal level and get really frustrated and irritated - and I understand how sometimes that can make people wonder whether or not their vote matters. It absolutely does on the local level, and we routinely have races here that are decided by fewer than a hundred votes. We have people up for re-election who won their initial elections by fewer than a hundred votes. So please take the time, fill out your ballot - should be arriving today. And if for some reason you haven't received it or there's a delay, you can get a replacement ballot, you can track that down. So please do that.
Also, I want to remind people that the Institute for a Democratic Future has opened up its application for the new coming cohort. Great program - I've talked about it before. If you're interested in advocacy - either professionally or on a volunteer basis - learning more about politics and policy in a Washington State and building a a great network, but really equipping yourself to make a difference in your community - that application is open. We'll put the information in our show notes, but the initial deadline is November 2nd for applications. The late deadline is November 13th. I've talked before - this organization is largely responsible for my career in politics - probably would not be working in politics without it. So I encourage people who are interested in the same to do it. And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want to talk about it.
Student debt relief is here. Sign up for that - do that soon because you don't have forever to do that. We'll put that link in the show notes. And also it is budget season all over the place, but in Seattle and King County - and we have just a reminder about that is happening now - and dates and details about that process will also be in our show notes.
We will also include helpful resources for voting - voter guide info - as well as the People Power Washington 2022 Public Safety Voter Guide, which covers the Washington State legislative races, King County Prosecuting Attorney race, and the Seattle Municipal Court races. Useful resource, make sure you check that out - especially 'cause some of those races don't have a ton of information about them elsewhere.
Any reminders you want to give, Erica?
[00:05:35] Erica Barnett: Yeah. So just a reminder to - when you're filling out your ballot, fill out those advisory votes. There's a bunch of votes at the top of the ballot - Tim Eyman, a right-wing activist, passed a resolution or passed an initiative that got those votes on the ballot. So we have to vote Maintain to maintain laws that are already on the books. So I know it's annoying, but there's a bunch of them on every single ballot, but go ahead and fill those out - vote to maintain the laws that are already on the books and and then move on with your day.
[00:06:06] Crystal Fincher: We've got a number of things to discuss this week. One interesting development was with Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss making an effort to keep a public meeting essentially private. What happened here?
[00:06:21] Erica Barnett: Yeah, this came to the attention of everyone via some reporting by Isolde Raftery from KUOW. And basically it was a public meeting in Greenwood at Taproot Theater - and apparently there were more than 200 people there and press releases went out. And at the very last minute, according to Isolde's reporting, Dan Strauss, councilmember for District 6, said - Nope, no reporters are going to be allowed inside, and also no one can record. So people were trying to record this meeting and he - members of the public - and this City councilmember said - No, this has to be private. And Isolde reported about this on Twitter, was understandably and justifiably outraged and a whole thing ensued from that. And Strauss sort of apologized, sort of didn't, and said people can come to a Town Hall, which I believe happened last night. But really inadequate response from Strauss and an outrageous thing to do in the first place.
[00:07:30] Crystal Fincher: It was outrageous. And these are public meetings - these are, this is a public official, this is about public policy. These are designed to be public by design. And in fact, there are potentially legal ramifications for not allowing these to be public and accessible by all, viewable by all. Dan Strauss said, "I'm an elected official. I know I have signed up for public scrutiny and accountability. However, the community members present did not. My intention was to foster an environment where people, neighbors of mine who have real profound concerns about safety in our community could have a place to speak freely. I apologize for any miscommunication or misunderstanding and that this event unfolded in this way." I guess a number of things - lots of people had lots of stuff to say about this. Clearly this was, should have been a public meeting. But it - most of all just was notable to me that - wow, it just occurred to him in this setting that these people may have wanted privacy. It just seems like it is very exclusive and selective that he is moving to essentially protect this group of people with these opinions, but there have been lots of other opportunities with people of other opinions - that this just never occurred to him. So it just really speaks to me about whose opinions he's prioritizing, whose opinions he considers to be real and profound valid concerns about safety. It's just disappointing, I think for me, just to see that reinforced.
[00:09:07] Erica Barnett: And to be clear, this meeting was about public safety - a security guard in an apartment building was wounded in Greenwood - he was shot and wounded in Greenwood. And this is one of those hot topics that tends to produce meetings where people are yelling and complaining and being mean to their elected officials and whatever. But the thing is - you actually - if you, as a member of the public, go to a public meeting and speak in public and give public testimony, or if you even write to your City councilmember - all that information is public. I can request emails from, emails to Dan Strauss about a certain topic and I can get them. And people need to know that there is no presumption of privacy when you are effectively lobbying a City councilmember or elected official. And there's a reason for that - we don't want certain selected people to have undue influence outside the public eye. And and so it's equally outrageous, although I understand that members of the public may not understand the law quite as well as a City councilmember should, but it's equally outrageous to think that you should be allowed to take a giant group of your neighbors and lobby a councilmember on an issue and not have that be something that happens in the public eye. So I just think there's so much blame to go around here, but ultimately it falls on Strauss to understand the law, respect the law, and follow the law. And I think this is just such an unforced error too - just letting the media in and letting people record would have been an extremely easy solution - even though it wouldn't have allowed him to act in private as a City councilmember.
[00:10:51] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, really easy solution. Definitely an unforced error. And I just wonder how this will impact how he's going to proceed in the future. I hope he has learned that this was a very, very unwise thing to do. But we'll see how he proceeds after this. But hopefully a good reminder for everyone that public meetings are public and all that that implies - very interesting development. Also this week, we saw a poll from the Seattle Chamber on homelessness. What did this show?
[00:11:28] Erica Barnett: So this is - yeah, this is the Seattle Chamber's poll that they do every year. They ask a bunch of questions about public safety, homelessness, et cetera. And the interesting thing about the conclusion is that they found on homelessness this year is that concern with/frustration about homelessness has gone down a little bit. I think that part of the reason for that is that public safety concerns have gone up - I think people really conflate those two things. And so to me, that indicates that people are maybe more angry about homelessness and angry about some of the issues that they see on the streets rather than people are - people believe that homelessness is getting better. The report or the - sorry, the survey - also found that people are generally supportive of the idea of more housing in their neighborhood, which is an interesting finding that they also found last year. So people are willing to allow duplexes and triplexes - and I guess I should put "allow" in big air quotes - in their neighborhoods, but the poll didn't really ask about denser housing. And of course these questions are intimately related because building apartments is the thing that keeps people off the streets, so interesting findings. I think that the questions as always are a little bit skewed to produce a certain result that is friendly to the Chamber's political interests, but it's an interesting tracking poll because they do it every single year and you can see opinions on different subjects change over time.
[00:13:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is interesting. And I do think that it's most useful for that element - just because it is a tracking poll, so they're asking things consistently. How they ask things is always, how you construct questions can definitely influence how you get answers - so that's always a topic of conversation. But it is tracking consistent answers to these questions over time. I do think it's notable, especially in the questions about housing, that public sentiment seems to be definitely ahead of where our public officials are at. I think that there is a predominant assumption among many elected officials that - well, we're just, we're going to catch a lot of heat if we try and push for more housing, more density. If we talk about putting a duplex or a triplex in a single-family neighborhood, my voters would not stand for that. And I think what we've seen, not only in primary results, but also in these polls is that the public is ahead of where they're at. And whether it's because there is such an affordability crisis that so many more people are feeling, or the fact that as long as something fits within a neighborhood, how many people live in a residence actually is irrelevant and it's not some eyesore like many McMansions are - that it would, that it's fine. It really doesn't impact their neighbors or quality of life in a meaningful way. And that some of the opposition frankly is from people who don't have a problem with the building, but have a problem with potentially the people who would be coming into the neighborhood who weren't there now. So voters are ahead of this. I hope people who can pass policy are paying attention because this is a key policy area that is afflicting many people in the region. And there's an opportunity to take action that's going to be broadly supported and really move people forward. So that was exciting for me to see - to continue to see - reinforced in this.
And then I agree with everything that you just said on how people are viewing homelessness overall. And I think we continue to see - people want action taken and being dissatisfied with the action that has already been taken. So as our leaders continue to roll out policies, roll out rehashes of old policies, and continue to double down on the same kinds of policies and solutions that they've offered - I think the public is saying it hasn't worked, I don't see how you think it is going to work - will you please try something new that has a chance of making this better? We're frustrated that you keep doing the things that have not fixed this.
[00:15:56] Erica Barnett: One thing I would also point out about this poll that was really interesting - it's 50/50 renters and homeowners, which is not the crowd you typically see, say, at a pitchfork public meeting. It's not typically the folks who are able to show up to meetings and take time out in the middle of the day. And so I think this is actually a more representative poll than a public meeting might be or a public comment session might be. And so in some ways, this is - you're right. This also points out that the general public, which is half renters, has a very different opinion on some of these issues, particularly housing, than the crowd that you'll see at a public comment session. And I think City councilmembers and other elected officials are really influenced by those public comment sessions that may feature 10, or 12, or 20 people all saying the same thing. But when you do a representative poll of the City - this is 700 people, a hundred in each Council district - you get a very different response and see very different attitudes.
[00:17:01] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely correct. Also this week, we saw a lot of coverage about the upcoming choice that residents in Seattle are going to have about how they're going to vote in the future. Lots of conversation about voting reform. What is going to be on the ballot? What is at stake here?
[00:17:18] Erica Barnett: Oh my gosh - I got my ballot last night and and this question - I even, I know what the question is, I've written about it - but it's so confusing. If you get your ballot, there's going to be - there's a very long question at the end of the ballot in Seattle - if you live in Seattle. And the first part is, Do you want a new system of voting, essentially? And you can say Yes or No. Then on the second part they ask, Which voting system do you support, regardless of whether you said Yes or No on the first. So the first option is an option called approval voting, which is supported by, it's backed by a bunch of money out of California. It's kind of the technocrats preferred solution and - well, solution - preferred change. I don't know if it's a solution to anything. But it would allow you to vote for as many people as you want. So you just look at your ballot and if there's 10 people there, you can vote for 1, you can vote for 10, you can vote for as many as you want on that ballot. The second option is ranked choice voting, which is probably a little more familiar to most people. That's where you just pick the people that you like in order of preference. If there's 10 people and you like 5 of them, you just rank them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And both sides say that this would solve a lot of problems in elections, make people feel that their voices are being heard more. And generally speaking, the left supports ranked choice voting, the kind of centrist left - or whatever you want to call them - supports approval voting. And there's also a campaign to do neither and stick with our current top-two primary system.
[00:18:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's really interesting. And I think even the dividing line, or the camps that support approval voting versus nothing - that is even a blurry line. We've seen the campaigns for each one - one, The Seattle Times has come out in support of just none of the above - just vote No, don't do anything else, we shouldn't make any changes.
[00:19:25] Erica Barnett: So is The Stranger.
[00:19:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. We do see from - a lot of tech money, it looks like a few, very determined, very rich people who really want approval voting. Is that - I don't even know if that really covers the center left. And we've also got a ragtag coalition for ranked choice voting. And some people are looking at it and going, yeah, people on the left definitely want this and others are saying we've actually seen some decent results from this for people in the center and even sometimes on the right. I think - one, I think it's a good idea to look at participation as opposed to results. As we talk about this, I think anything that does meaningfully increase participation is good, is going to be more representative and sustainable in the community - as opposed to trying to engineer a result, 'cause that generally just doesn't turn out well and is not sustainable. But really interesting to see how this proceeds. Certainly ranked choice voting has been - there's been grassroots momentum for that in Washington for years. It's on the ballot in a few different counties here this year. So we're going to see how people in - across the state - feel about this. And they've been communicating - I know people have gotten mailers from them and so it'll be interesting to see how this turns out, but certainly we have some, a lot of communication saying, now is not the time to make a change. And it'll be interesting to see if anyone can overcome that.
[00:20:58] Erica Barnett: Yeah, I think those endorsements - who knows the true power of endorsements at this point, but there's really only two big endorsing "newspapers". One is The Stranger, which is an online site now and the other is The Seattle Times - and they both for different reasons endorsed a No vote on the first part of this and to just keep the the old system.
[00:21:22] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And certainly in situations like this, where there's a confusing question for a lot of people - this is not the same, formatted in the same way that most questions are on a ballot. It's going to make people look twice at it and go, wait what am I supposed to do here? And where they're not sure what the details of the proposals are, usually No has the advantage in those situations anyway. We'll see if that carries through, but sometimes that's really hard to get beyond.
[00:21:52] Erica Barnett: And of course, PubliCola will be endorsing on Monday.
[00:21:54] Crystal Fincher: Monday is when we get to see - okay, we will be looking forward to that. Also this week, there has been an interesting and new development in a story that we've talked about before - with a proposed SoDo shelter expansion being canceled by the county. How did they make this decision and what happened?
[00:22:14] Erica Barnett: The answer to the first part is, I don't know. There's all kinds of rumors flying, but they - I think the most likely reason, and kind of the reason that County Executive Dow Constantine said that he canceled the shelter expansion, is there's too much opposition from the community. Now, there was opposition to this shelter expansion from groups in the Chinatown International District - it is in SoDo, which borders the CID, and the proposal would have added 90 shelter beds total, plus a sobering center - and there was opposition. There was also - in addition to grassroots opposition, a very concerted effort by right-wing provocateurs, the King County Republican Party, and outside actors - the Discovery Institute - to try to kill the shelter, characterizing it as a megaplex. Again, this is a 270-bed shelter that exists currently today that would have 90 new beds, Pallet shelters, and a high-acuity medical shelter, which would have taken a lot of the most "problematic" people off the streets and gotten them medical and behavioral healthcare. But at any rate, I thought Dow was probably going to cut some parts of this and maybe do half the beds, or announce beds elsewhere in addition to the ones there. But that's not what happened. He just said, Okay, fine - screw it. I'm just not going to do it at all. And the sort of outside actors, in addition to some of the grassroots folks, celebrated this. But I will say that I think the people who are - who actually live in Chinatown and the organic opposition is pretty disappointed that this was just - the decision was essentially to just wipe the whole proposal off the map as opposed to A) addressing the problems that they see in their neighborhood and B) coming up with a solution in collaboration with the community. I think they have said that they didn't mean for the whole thing to just get canceled. They just wanted to be included in the conversations. So pretty disappointing result all around.
[00:24:33] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Very disappointing. And actually seems like a continuation of the problem where once again, he - the County - did not seem to listen to what people in the community were actually saying. And it sometimes can be a tough situation where you have both good faith criticism and bad faith criticism. There have been, as we talked about before, there has been a failure to include the community on so many projects - that has actually been the norm in that area, and there's cause for frustration. And we repeatedly hear people say, Hey, we're not opposed to progress, but we do feel like you're disproportionately expecting us to absorb harms from certain things. The decisions that you're making seem to not include us and our feedback while we watch feedback from other areas in the City be very carefully considered and implemented in policy. And we don't see that in the same way here. And hey, we can help you do this better than you can do it alone. We could actually make this more successful if you include us and make this work in a way that we know can in our community. And, just project after project, and they've talked about many of them - that hasn't been the case. Seeing these other actors that have been involved in this, who just are opposed to anything that's not further criminalization, sweeps of homelessness, anything that they can almost just use as a wedge issue and as media fodder is unfortunate. And they're happy to come in and view any tension or existing dissatisfaction and amplify that, but for their own ends and to use as part of their own message, which is not reflective of what the community thinks. And it seems like - okay, you guys say you hate it - well, we're done. And the bad faith criticism was listened to without, once again, listening to the community, including the community, and moving forward. So I just - there's so many opportunities to learn lessons here and from this. And I hope people just pause and think, what if we did actually include people from the community? And not to say that they didn't do anything and I know they've said, Hey, we had meetings before and we talked to people - but maybe that's a signal to expand beyond the people who you've always talked to and the groups that may be most visible there, and really do some deeper and more expansive outreach into residents that are currently there, businesses that are currently there, groups that are currently there on the ground. And start talking to some people who you haven't talked to yet, start really moving through the community and making a concerted effort. I think that's possible to do. I think that there are people interested in doing it. I hope that leadership will start to prioritize that, but it'll be interesting to see. So where do we go now - has there been any signal that we're going to start this process again, that we're going to look and see where we can site it. What's next?
[00:27:48] Erica Barnett: I have heard nothing so far. I think - except that the money that was going to go toward the shelter is going to go to other purposes. And so there's City money that's wrapped up in this, there's a lot of County money that was wrapped up in it. The lease for the existing shelter that's there has already been signed, so that's going to continue to operate. But no plans that I'm aware of to restart this conversation or relocate these particular beds. The high-acuity medical shelter is something that the King County Regional Authority has been asking for a long time and that has been necessary and needed for a really long time, because there aren't really places for some folks who have really high medical needs to go. And so they're on the streets not getting help - very, very sick people with physical and behavioral health needs. And so I think that should be the top priority. I don't know that it will be, but there's a lot of needs out there that are not going to be met now, or that are going to be delayed because of this kind of capitulation which I think was - which I agree with you, Crystal, was totally - we're talking about unforced errors. Here's an unforced error. This could have gone a different way. And I'm frankly surprised that it didn't, but right now - no visible movement.
[00:29:19] Crystal Fincher: Disappointing. I hope that there is soon. I do think that there were probably decent intentions from people trying to move forward, but intentions really don't matter if impacts on the community are going to continue to be disproportionately harmful. And continuing to ignore that is only going to make things harder instead of easier. So hopefully there is a path forward that Dow and the County will be taking soon and that the County Councilmembers will assist him with that.
I want to talk about something we've all been dealing with this whole week - and I'm hoarse, and have had headaches, and my eyes have been burning and stinging because of our horrendous air quality. All of the smoke-filled air, toxic unhealthy air that has caused unhealthy air warnings. It has been - literally warned that it's dangerous to breathe, especially for groups that are more vulnerable - advised not to spend time outdoors, to close windows, to hopefully stay in a filtered environment. And great for those who can, but there's also a lot of people who can't. So this week, as we have all dealt with this, what have you seen in terms of school districts, organizations and how they have either moved to mitigate some of this harm or how they haven't?
[00:30:49] Erica Barnett: If I can talk about - just in order not to talk about things that I don't know about - if I can just talk about the impact that it's had on people experiencing homelessness, I think it goes without saying that people who actually live outdoors are going to be the most impacted. And these are folks with a lot of chronic medical needs, as we mentioned. And historically the City of Seattle, which oversaw shelters for a really long time has done very, very little - I remember Jenny Durkan being flummoxed at the idea that homeless people would need a place to go during the smoke and saying that - well, we also have COVID and so it's not safe for folks to be indoors when it was imminently, and in that moment, much less safe for them to be outdoors. The King County Regional Authority, the Homelessness Authority, has taken over shelters and they really - I hate to ding them during their first smoke emergency, but they haven't stepped up in a mass and meaningful way. They've offered beds at one shelter - the Compass Center downtown - which is a pretty big shelter, but it's not big enough to shelter all the people who might want to come in from the smoke. And it's in one location that not everybody can get to, there's people experiencing homelessness all over the City and they can't all crowd into one Pioneer Square shelter to to get out of the smoke. So I think that the response to this, and I'm sure this is true in other areas as well, I'm just talking about the thing that I know the most about - the response has been really inadequate to both the current situation with this year's big smoke emergency. But the future of our city, which is going to have events like this multiple times every single year, and we need to figure out a way to deal with this. This is not the first year that we've had a smoke emergency. It's - I don't know, the third, fourth, fifth? It's - because the smoke goes away, I think we don't take this seriously and plan for it in a meaningful way after it's gone. 'Cause we move on to the next emergency, but we really gotta - 'cause this is not going away.
[00:33:10] Crystal Fincher: You're exactly right. It's not going away. This is unfortunately the new normal. This is going to happen. We know it is. It's predictable, it's foreseeable. And as we've talked about with extreme heat events, extreme cold events, our government does have a responsibility, a core responsibility, to keep residents safe. We know that we have residents outside, living outside. We recognize and acknowledge that responsibility through cold weather shelters and hot weather shelters. Because for someone just to be left to the elements outside is cruel and inhumane, will result in harm - and sometimes irreparable harm, right? So we have to do better. I know it takes extra time to plan, but that is actually the responsibility and role of government - to make sure that we are preparing for these emergency events that are happening now, that we know are going to happen with increasing frequency as - in the coming years. So we just have to do better at all levels. And especially organizations like the state and the county, who do so much heavy lifting in terms of emergency management overall - even when individual agencies or organizations handle certain elements of an emergency plan - they have got to step up and start to help the jurisdictions within their bounds plan for and provide shelter in these situations. We had school districts in our region who had kids playing outside at recess, like nothing was happening. We have employers who have employees who have to work outside where this wasn't even discussed. We have to do better as a region. This is a significant health risk. We do see increased health emergencies result from extended breathing of toxic air and are learning more and more just how harmful it is. So this is another area where I know we have not had to contend with this in past decades. I know a lot of the people in power have had decades where this hasn't been a thought that they've needed to be concerned with, or - it's been coming, lots of people have been warning that's been coming - but one that they have gotten away without heeding for years. The time is here, we're dealing with this now, and it's very visible. And more and more people are not only impacted by, but noticing the lack of leadership and the lack of concern for just the general public's health and safety here. We have to do a better job.
[00:35:58] Erica Barnett: Absolutely. I was going to ask you about the schools and I - and again here, I'm a childless, childless wretch over here - it's just, I don't follow the schools, but that is outrageous that they were having children play outside in this. My - you were talking about your eyes hurting and your headache. I have been inside for days, barely going outside, and I have all those symptoms too. And that's sitting inside my house. So I I can't imagine and I empathize with anybody who has to be outside for any period of time for their job, for their school, for whatever, 'cause it's just awful.
[00:36:34] Crystal Fincher: It's awful. And there have been some districts - I think the Seattle School District advised that recesses be short, that PE - physical education - be less strenuous, trying to mitigate some of this. But I wish it wouldn't be left up to individual school districts. And frankly, some with a lot more resources than others, to even be able to plan this in the midst of everything else that they're doing - that this is something that is part of strategic plans, annual planning, budget conversations from the state level on down to make sure that there are protocols and that there's an easier way to implement this, that there are standard recommendations that can just be implemented and turned on - because this does impact people's health. And we're just really, really behind in preparing for this and mitigating this. Just we have the conversations about masking with COVID - why are we not also having these major conversations and providing this with wildfire smoke? I actually had N95 masks initially because of the smoke events we were having.
[00:37:43] Erica Barnett: Yeah. Same.
[00:37:45] Crystal Fincher: And when the pandemic started, I had a supply on-hand because - was trying not to breathe wildfire smoke where I was at. So it's - we have to talk about this in a lot of different ways. I really hope we have conversations about air filtration in public spaces, in schools, in public buildings. There's so much more that we can do that we know is going to be necessary for facing the challenges that are here and that are going to be impacting us with increasing frequency. So that's me on my soapbox, just pleading with people to take action where they can.
Also this week, we saw a significant development in Seattle's redistricting process. What happened?
[00:38:28] Erica Barnett: I'm glad we can close with some kind of good news. The Seattle Redistricting Commission, which was deciding basically all the new boundaries for the City Council districts, which have to be redrawn every 10 years to line up with population shifts and things like that. There was a big debate over whether to keep the peninsula of Magnolia in one piece and sacrifice Fremont by dividing it up into three different districts, as opposed to the two it's in now. And after a lot of back and forth, the Redistricting Commission voted to split Magnolia at a - what I would consider a pretty natural point along the top ridge of that neighborhood - keep the bottom half of the neighborhood in Andrew Lewis's District 7. And keep Fremont basically as it is now. So no massive, huge changes except in Magnolia where there's going to be a split. But I think that result is a lot more equitable. It was supported by a group called Redistricting Justice for Seattle. And I think that is a really good example of activism and advocacy working on the commissioners who, I think a lot of whom, really changed their minds after hearing feedback from a very large group of supporters saying, look, this is more equitable to every part of the City and let's not serve only the special interests at the top of Magnolia and in the Magnolia business district, but let's divide up the City equitably for the next 10 years. So I think that was a really positive result. Only former mayor Greg Nickels voted against it.
[00:40:05] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that was really great to see. And this is after a prior vote that made it look like it could be likely that the - I don't know if I want to call it a capitulation, but really seems like the interests in Magnolia who were advocating to stay together had a disproportionate voice. And there were so many groups in the community and so many advocates and residents who had said, Hey, we've actually, through several redistricting processes, have gotten the short end of the stick here. And it is time to actually correct those wrongs and institute more equitable boundaries that better reflect who the City of Seattle and the communities within it are today. So it is great to talk about good news and things that seem to better reflect the will of the community and what people on the ground are saying is best for them. So very excited to see that. And please stay engaged in this process, continue to make your voice heard, and to encourage those who have now voted to institute these new maps to continue along this path. I think sometimes it's very easy to criticize - and that's absolutely necessary, accountability is necessary - but also we have to remember to recognize when people do make those good decisions, because that also helps those to happen more often. And see people that - it really does help to show that making the right decisions also pays off, that people are also paying attention to that, and that they can continue to serve and have positive things happen when they do a better job of serving the community. So appreciate that and happy to see that - we'll continue to follow it along.
And with that, I thank you for listening to today's Hacks & Wonks on Friday, October 21st, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler. Our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng and our Production coordinator is Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful cohost today is Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, and cohost of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery - which is still available for purchase anywhere where you want to buy books - Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter @EricaCBarnett, that's Erica with "C's" and PubliCola.com. You can buy her book, Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery anywhere you buy books. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks and you can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts - just search for "Hacks and Wonks." 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, please leave a review wherever you listen. You can get full transcripts of this episode and links to resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.