On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by staff writer at The Stranger covering policing, incarceration and courts, Ashley Nerbovig! Ashley and Crystal discuss (and rant!) about continued and international outrage over Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) leaders caught on body cam laughing about a fellow Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer running over and killing Jaahnavi Kandula - how the SPOG contract makes it near impossible to discipline or fire officers, Mayor Bruce Harrell's responsibility in creating the mess by voting for the contract as a City councilmember and in possibly getting us out of it by delivering a better one from the current negotiations, and how our recruiting problem is a culture problem in a competitive marketplace. The show then covers passage of the War on Drugs 2.0 bill by Seattle City Council, the start of the trial for three Tacoma officers accused of murdering Manny Ellis, and a rally held by Seattle City employees for fair pay. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today's co-host, Ashley Nerbovig, at @AshleyNerbovig. Resources “Tanya Woo, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 2” from Hacks & Wonks “Tammy Morales, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 2” from Hacks & Wonks “Seattle Police Officer Probably Won't Get Fired for Laughing about Jaahnavi Kandula's Death” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger “Police response time to Wing Luke Museum 911 calls raises questions about priorities” by Libby Denkmann and Sarah Leibovitz from KUOW “Seattle Police Officer Hurls Racist Slur at Chinese-American Neighbor” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger “‘Feel safer yet?' Seattle police union's contempt keeps showing through” by Danny Westneat from The Seattle Times “Amid SPD controversy, Mayor Harrell leads with empathy” from Seattle Times Editorial Board “Seattle Launches Drug War 2.0” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger “Council Passes New Law Empowering City Attorney to Prosecute People Who Use Drugs in Public” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola @daeshikjr on Twitter: “BREAKING: Seattle City Councilmembers revived a recently voted down bill that many community activists are calling War on Drugs 2.0. We spoke with Sara on her campaign trail about her experience with drugs, mushrooms, and what she hoped to accomplish while in office. …” “Trial begins for Tacoma officers charged with killing Manuel Ellis” by Jared Brown from KNKX “Trial of 3 Tacoma police officers accused of killing Manuel Ellis in 2020 gets underway” by Peter Talbot from The News Tribune “Historic trial begins for 3 officers charged in killing of Manny Ellis” by Patrick Malone from The Seattle Times @tacoma_action on Twitter: “Here's how you can support the family of Manuel Ellis during the trial…” Trial Information for State v. Burbank, Collins and Rankine | Pierce County Courts & Law “City Workers Rally Their Asses Off” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger Find stories that Crystal is reading here Listen on your favorite podcast app to all our episodes here Transcript [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 Tuesday topical show and our Friday week-in-review 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. If you missed this week's topical shows, we continued our series of Seattle City Council candidate interviews. All 14 candidates for 7 positions were invited and we had in-depth conversations with many of them. This week, we presented District 2 candidates, Tanya Woo and Tammy Morales. Have a listen to those and stay tuned over the coming weeks - we hope these interviews will help voters better understand who these candidates are and inform their choices for the November 7th general election. Today, we're continuing our Friday week-in-review shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program for the first time, today's co-host: staff writer at The Stranger covering policing, incarceration and courts - and rocking that coverage - Ashley Nerbovig. Hello. [00:01:42] Ashley Nerbovig: Hey, Crystal - thanks. Hi. [00:01:43] Crystal Fincher: Glad to have you on the show. We have no shortage of things to talk about and particularly this week where everything public safety was exploding, imploding, just all over the place. I want to start off talking about a story that is now making international headlines - the release of the video of an SPD officer, a SPOG executive, mocking the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, who was killed by another policeman while she was just a pedestrian just walking and run over by a policeman who - it didn't seem like he had his lights and sirens on, going over 70 miles per hour. Just such a tragedy in the first place, and then outrage was the dominant feeling nationally, internationally when that video came out. What is going to happen or what does it look like is going to happen? You wrote a great piece this week about that. [00:02:42] Ashley Nerbovig: Yeah, he's not gonna get fired - for sure - unless something wildly out of the normal process happens. And even if that does, the arbitration process is such that they would look at the SPOG contract and be like - There was nothing in this that he did that's actually fireable. - and it's super frustrating to watch. And in that story, I break down how we've seen these cases before - that cops have said really outrageous stuff, or even done something pretty outrageous, or something that the public looks at as pretty outrageous - and the reaction has been either it's a written reprimand or it's unsustained findings. One of the examples I gave was that there was multiple officers in one car who - one of them said - they accelerate toward protesters, people can be heard to be laughing. And so one of them says - I effing hate these people - or something along those lines. And because they couldn't narrow it in and prove who said it, and none of the cops inside said who said it - it's frustrating, but it also makes sense when you read the SPOG contract - because they have to prove beyond a preponderance of evidence, which is more than 50%, which sounds like a pretty low standard to hop over. But actually, I think they did a review of a bunch of different cops' policies on what they have to prove to require discipline across the country and SPD is in a very small minority - the majority of people have something that's lower or at a preponderance of evidence, and our standard is right above it. You see all of this outrage, and then you see Andrew Lewis and Lisa Herbold and Mayor Harrell and SPOG all say, essentially - We want to watch the OPA process, we're excited to watch that investigation. - as if they don't know that anyone reading the SPOG contract, anyone who's read enough OPA cases knows that this is going to end in the cop continuing to be on the force. And to some extent, you can make the argument that if this was one isolated comment, maybe it wouldn't be a firing that was justified. But when you look at his entire career, and then when you also look at what the actual other punishments are, right? You can get suspended, but you don't have that suspension served consecutively - you can serve it throughout a year. So it means that - the whole point of having a suspension is that they don't get paid, and it hurts their bottom line, and it's something to avoid. If you're just serving out a 15-day suspension over a year, and then you're making it up with tons of overtime, what are the consequences for cops in this city? And the answer is that our police accountability systems do not have actual consequences for our officers right now. [00:05:28] Crystal Fincher: Not at all. And it's infuriating. And this has kicked off a conversation that we've had before - just talking about the SPOG contract and the importance of that - there are a lot of people who are new here who weren't paying attention several years ago. There was an attempt that the City of Seattle - the council in particular - attempted to do this. They passed police accountability legislation that tightened that up. But then the current SPOG contract that's in place - was approved by Mayor Harrell on the council, by the way, who voted for the current contract that is currently handcuffing him and preventing him from being able to do anything about this - that superseded many of the City ordinances that dealt with this. And one thing that a lot of people don't know is that contract can supersede City law. So the things that the City thinks is happening, the process that we have - our democratic, our initiative process, the council process - all falls by the wayside when this is approved. And at the time, this was approved on a narrow vote - this was not, the conversation leading up to the approval of this current contract was not like - Oh, this looks great, it's fine. Lorena González infamously toiled over the vote that she was going to do, and later said that she regretted voting to approving it. But they were warned that this was going to happen. They were warned that moving backwards on accountability was going to produce really unsavory results. And lo and behold, here we are. So once again, we're in a situation where everyone - almost everyone - agrees. Most members of the public, of the national community, international community agree this is egregious. This is unacceptable. And the City's handcuffed because of this current contract. And I just want people to be aware that the next contract is currently being negotiated. The mayor's office - the same mayor who approved this current contract - is currently negotiating this next contract. And is Bruce Harrell going to ensure that something like this can't happen again with no remedy, or recourse, or consequence? That's really going to be up to how this contract is negotiated and structured. I don't know what's going to happen with this officer in this incident - he has a long record himself of issues, complaints - and I don't know what's happening with that is going to go through this process. But the executive's office, the council who will ultimately have to approve this contract does have a say in whether or not something like this can happen again. And I think they owe the residents of the city assurances that this shouldn't happen. We're seeing so many of these examples. This isn't the first example of a death mocked - it's just the first one that we have on video that's public. There was a tombstone before, there's been social media posts before. And also the fact that this was, I believe, VP of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. When you have leaders doing this - similar to the assistant police chief in Kent who displayed literal Nazi memorabilia - that speaks to culture. These are leaders. These are people dictating what we have here. And tangentially, and this is going on while we're having a conversation about police being short-staffed, while we're having a conversation about how hard it is to recruit - after the city has thrown money and recruitment bonuses and retainment bonuses at people. And can we just acknowledge that someone looking at this, now that they have the choice to join any police department, basically, they want to - they're all hiring - why would they join Seattle? This is the recruiting problem here. It's this culture. It's this continued drumbeat of toxic, distasteful stuff. [00:09:06] Ashley Nerbovig: I think you're right about it being a culture problem. But I also think that the strength of our SPOG contract - you could make an argument that these are some of the most protected City employees. And it's across the board that people don't want to be cops. And it makes sense because even if you take away all of the controversies, local governments overall are struggling right now to recruit people for any job. And then on top of it, you're talking about a job that requires a lot of no work from home - we've had a complete culture shift in what we value about work. And I think when you look at what the job of being a cop is, it's you have to live in a certain location, basically, you can live - although Auderer lives in Olympia, I think, so you can live far away - but you have to be able to go to work in-person. And then on top of it, you're tied to all of this really negative associations that we have with cops, and this shift in how we've thought about cops. And you're competing in a really tight job market where there's a lot of really - yes, you get a lot of money being a Seattle police officer, but that requires a lot of overtime. You can make that same money just like having a normal 40-hour workweek if you work something tech, and it can also be more flexible and more remote. I just think that the problem is exactly that being a cop is not appealing, and we can't change that - no one wants these jobs. And so why are we not talking about what people do want to work and starting from that place of - people do want to help people. I think a lot of cops in those positions talk about reshifting budget priorities, and that would mean changing their jobs. But cops were the first people to tell me that they didn't want to be social workers, that they weren't trying to do social work - and that they felt like they didn't have the tools and they weren't the people to be doing mental health intervention, or drug abuse intervention. Or homelessness intervention. You can't help someone unsheltered when you're a cop. The only thing cops can do is jail. I thought something really interesting - I know this is something we're going to talk about in a bit - and I really want to say something that I thought about with the SPOG contract. One of the things that I can't remember if it was Teresa Mosqueda or Morales who said it, but one of them was like - If we aren't funding these treatment options - when they were talking about the drug vote - If we aren't funding these treatment options, and we aren't funding these diversion programs, the only thing cops are going to be able to do if they want to get someone off the street is put them in jail. And I think that people have this idea that cops have other options, but that's their tool. It's not a choice for them. The only solution for cops is to arrest - that is their main job activity. And just this idea that people don't want these jobs, they are not effective for the problems that we have, and yet we have this desperation - and Bruce Harrell has this desperation to cling to tough-on-crime policies. And it's dumb. And you don't see any solutions, but people like to pretend like they saw some improvement - when they just like the feeling of, oh - you don't see anything change when you put a tough-on-crime policy. There's this idea that all of our - anytime we do something that's like violence intervention or like a community-based approach - that we don't see the results very quickly. And it always is so funny to me, because I'm like, you don't see - no one in their day-to-day life, if we tomorrow said you can arrest - other than maybe someone who went downtown and all of the homeless people, we can't even put anyone in the King County Jail. So I don't know what they're talking about right now, but you don't actually see a marked improvement - you just get a shift in media narratives - that's all that changes, really, in my opinion. [00:12:49] Crystal Fincher: This is the same thing that we're doing - and your point is exactly correct - we're only funding one thing. And what you fund, what you put resources to, is what you're going to have. We are so desperately short of other support services, behavioral health support services. And there are entities in the process of addressing that, right? Absolutely frustrating that it's not here now, there is some work being done there. So progress is being made largely at the county level and regionally. But this is not going to work. This is the same old thing. The thing that I find troubling, particularly as a progressive political consultant, is that this makes passing progressive policy harder. Because if you dress something up like progressive policy - Oh, it's really important that we treat root causes. And yeah, we all believe it. - and they all say that until it's time to actually put their money where their mouth is, to actually do the thing, to implement it. And then what we get is this warmed-over piece of legislation that does one of the things - yes, we can arrest - and makes it harder than it was before to do the other things. And it was astronomically hard before. We know what's going to happen with this. So the real question is, so what are they going to blame for the failure of this next? What excuse is coming up next? I talk to a lot of people, lay people, some people - I just like hearing an unfiltered opinion of someone who's not an insidery insider and paying attention to all the policy and stuff. And you would be shocked by how many people who are - they don't consider themselves super leftist, probably general Democrats, but they don't really pay attention to much - who are under the impression that Seattle's progressive city council has run amok. And it's like, when it comes to public safety, they are not passing progressive policy. Unfortunately, the conservative council - that is the policy that we have and that we've continued. And when everybody rushes to put that label on it - we're going to see a lot of political communication coming up soon, where I'm sure everybody is going to call themselves a progressive, probably pragmatic progressive, responsible progressive - but like they cling to that word and they want to present their policy is that. But when it's not, all it does is hurt actual progressive policy. So it's important for people to stand up and be like - No, we see that, and we see that it's not what the community is demanding and asking for. It's just really frustrating. We should probably get back to some of this news a little bit. [00:15:02] Ashley Nerbovig: There's just one last thing I want to say about Danny Westneat - this is going back a couple topics, but it was something that you said about the SPOG contract and that this is the leadership of SPOG. And Danny had a - bless his heart, he tried, probably - I quote tweeted it when I read the first couple of graphs. And then I went back and read his whole column about Auderer - I can't even say his last name - but the SPOG VP's comments. And he said quite a few things that were just absolutely ridiculous, where he talks about how SPOG uses public safety as a bargaining chip and says essentially - Oh, it'd be a shame if something happened to this beautiful city of yours. And then he goes on to give them that bargaining chip and say that Seattle desperately needs more cops. And then he goes to talking about how - he names a city that basically did defund because they also broke up their cop union. And it's just such a wild series of thoughts. And he concludes it on - SPOG needs to clean house. And it's so frustrating - even if you're just thinking of it logically - if you are a member of SPOG, and your vice president has gotten out of this many OPA investigations with little to no punishment - you don't think they know who is leading them? That's who I want as my union vice president - I want someone who's gotten away with a bunch of stuff - that is how you stay safe and stay protected - and who's going to clean house - the leadership? The leadership is the problem. Anyway, I just wanted to fully round that out by giving Danny like a 2 out of 5 stars on that column. [00:16:35] Crystal Fincher: There are a lot of people who are like - Wow, okay, didn't think there was going to be a day where many of them agreed with Danny Westneat. He got some of the way there. I think one of the challenges with that is a tendency to view unions as separate from workers, and the union as separate from the cops. They are elected by their peers in the union - this is representative of the culture, this is the result of them saying these are the people we feel best represent us. And this is what it is. If that's not a red flag, I don't know what is - but here we are. And it's hard for me to separate SPOG versus police because SPOG is police. And it's just time we had a serious conversation about real accountability. And it's a tangible conversation - there is someone responsible for this, there is an intervention that can work here - we can negotiate this. It's up to the mayor, the people on negotiating committee, it's up to the council who's going to approve this. This doesn't just happen - they're permitted to happen by a contract that is in place. And if we're unhappy with it, and if City Hall can't see that the people are unhappy with a contract that enables this, the question is - particularly for Bruce Harrell, who is the boss of the police department - they literally report to him, police chief literally reports to him, direct report, his responsibility. What is he going to do now? Is he going to respond to this and say, I'm going to ensure this doesn't happen again? Because that's a buck-stops-here attitude that is normally expected of an executive. That's the job. What is he going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again? How is he going to live up to his word that he's going to improve the culture and improve public safety? We're waiting. And it seems like they're just permitting this. They're just - Oh, that's too bad. [00:18:20] Ashley Nerbovig: The Seattle editorial board said he's been leading with empathy. If anyone really wants to rage out, read that editorial. I don't know if Bruce called and said he was going to cancel the whole city's subscription to The Seattle Times, but it's just absolute garbage. Kandula was killed while Officer Kevin Dave was responding to a guy who had too much cocaine and wasn't even ODing. Rich, my editor, said this to me earlier this week, where he was like, we were talking about the drug vote, and he was saying - This is just another example of how cops shouldn't be the ones responding to people overdosing. EMTs can go to these things. [00:18:56] Crystal Fincher: And do in most other cities - without police, to be clear. [00:18:59] Ashley Nerbovig: And you mentioned earlier that it was unclear about his lights. And I don't know for sure what was going on there, because I know his in-car video wasn't working. But I've read another OPA case where someone had said that a cop was just turning on his lights and sirens to get through red lights - and the justification for that that they showed was that it was like - oh, he was tactically using his lights and sirens, which means that they only turn them on to get through lights and stuff, even though he's responding to a call. And when they do that, it means that their in-car video doesn't turn on. And that's allowed because - oh, it's a tactic. And super curious to see the end of this OPA report for Kevin Dave. EMTs are not worried about sneaking up on people - they just turn on their lights and go. But yeah, it's going to be really frustrating to watch. [00:19:45] Crystal Fincher: So now can you break down what this legislation does? Because I've seen it characterized in a number of different ways - Oh, it's making drugs illegal. It's like doing different things. What did this legislation actually change? [00:19:56] Ashley Nerbovig: This particular piece of legislation - to do my full roundup of this - everybody knows that in 2021, the Washington Supreme Court struck down our felony drug possession law. The Washington State Legislature scrambled to pass something - and they passed this idea of we're going to do two referrals to treatment before we arrest anyone, and we're only going to arrest on a misdemeanor, and that went across the state for people in possession of drugs. That went on for two years and it was unworkable - they didn't structure it, they didn't create a database for people to be marking referrals - it's called a stopgap measure. It was one of those things where it was a really half thought-out piece of what potentially could be progressive legislation, did more harm than just making it a misdemeanor and then trying to talk about decriminalization a little bit later - I think that might have actually ended up being strategically a better way to go, except you would have seen a bunch of people arrested in that time. The result is that they came back this session and they said - Okay, no. They had that big fight and they said - We're going to make it a gross misdemeanor, your first two offenses you're going to get a maximum sentence of 180 days, any offenses after that you're going to go up to 364 days. And they said - We prefer people defer to treatment, we prefer cops defer. - that was one thing that Herbold and Lewis both kept saying is - their City bill, that it was different from the state bill and that it starts the diversion out of the system process at the cop level before people even have a case started, whereas they kept describing the state bill as getting started. There are multiple places throughout the system that you can get diverted - you can get diverted before you get arrested so there's never anything on your record, you can get diverted after you've been arrested by the cops and now the prosecutors are in charge of your case and they defer any charges or defer any charges from getting actually convicted and then you're able to get it off of your record. So that's deferred prosecution. And then there's, you can get stuff - after you've been sentenced, you can get stuff wiped off your record. The argument that the City was making in how their bill was different from the state bill is they're saying - Oh, we really make it clear that our policy is not to arrest. The state bill does too. They say that it's their preference that people are diverted to treatment rather than be arrested. They also put a bunch of deferred prosecution stuff in there to divert people out of the system once they have charges against them. It's easier to talk about what this bill didn't do. It set a policy that said - This is our preference by the City of Seattle. So the state law was already in place. And now because it's a misdemeanor, state law passes - that starts in August, like everything gets implemented. So technically, cops could find people who were using drugs in public or possessing drugs in public and arrest them on a gross misdemeanor. And I think the using is such an interesting part of this, because there's nothing about possession as a charge that doesn't get at the same thing that public use does. When you make it all about public use and you add public use plus possession to this law, it is such a dog whistle towards people who are just mad at unhoused people. Morales said something really clear in the City Council vote, which was that this bill is not going to curb public use because the people who this bill is targeting have nowhere else to use. And so the state law passes, SPD cops can do this. But if SPD cops right now in Seattle - or right before this, because Harrell signed the bill yesterday - before this bill passed, if they arrested someone, their charges, because Seattle doesn't have its own ordinance, would have gone to Leesa Manion's office, the King County Prosecutor's, which would have made a ton of sense. King County Prosecutor's has a bunch of programs already in place for this - they've already been dealing with felony versions of this for a long time. But her office did a weird thing and got really like - We don't have the misdemeanor staff to handle this and these felony drug courts that we have wouldn't even apply to this. They did a bunch of workarounds - they really quashed the idea of these cases getting referred to them really early on, or at least they asked for money from us that apparently City Council just was unwilling to try to negotiate - or they were unwilling to negotiate trying to work out a contract. I never really understood what her motivations were with that or were slamming it down so hard. And so the City said - We're going to implement this ordinance and we're going to send these cases to our city attorney, Republican Ann Davison. So that's what this law does is that it doesn't - anyone who describes it - all that this law does is say that now Ann Davison can prosecute these cases, and also we would really like it if cops didn't arrest people on these charges. And it says - and I'll give them this - it adds a bunch of paperwork that cops now need to have when they do arrest someone on a drug possession charge. But I think Morales really summed it up really well where she said - This does not expand any diversion, it doesn't expand any treatment. - and this is probably a little bit more opinion-based, but - It doesn't improve public safety in any way. And I think that's so key is that we can ask - even if it's not, even if you aren't someone that believes in the nefarious, like that cops are all like Auderer and don't care about behavioral health and don't really look at people who are addicts on the street as someone that needs public health intervention - let's buy the premise that there are well-meaning cops out there who want to take these people to treatment. We do not have resources. And this idea that - in the City Council staff member, or the City Council Central Staff's memo, they said - Diversion requires social workers. These are actually much longer, much more resource-intensive cases. And cops are going to maybe divert the first or second time that they find someone, but then there's no resources to pick that person up - there's nothing to actually help them, maybe they're not ready to get treatment yet. And at some point, they're just going to arrest them and they're going to go through all of the charges. And maybe they're not going to go to jail because King County won't take them right now, but it's creating the structure for that. And they're still going to have to continue to show up at municipal court until they get something on their record that ends up putting them in jail. And we know how bad jail is - we know that it increases the chances of overdose. I think this bill kills people - I think that's the bottom line of what this bill does - is that it's going to kill a bunch of people, and make a bunch of people poorer, and do nothing to curb drug addiction, and fill our jails, and just continue the cycle of mass incarceration. [00:26:51] Crystal Fincher: The outcomes from this type of policy are clear. We have so much information about what happens when you do just fund, enable sending people to jail without doing anything to address the root causes for why they're there. Also, there are some people rejoicing over this - like it is going to help - I'll be curious to see their evaluation after a period of time, to see what their perception of what results. But it's just frustrating because we could choose to do what has shown to be effective elsewhere. Everybody is frustrated. I don't think anyone is happy. I don't want to be in a space where someone is using publicly, right? And perhaps inhaling secondhand something or whatever. But I also recognize that generally people who do use in public don't have another place to use. And if it is an issue of - addiction isn't logical, right? Addiction isn't reasonable. It's not - Oh, there are consequences for me going to jail now, so I'm just going to stop being addicted. The thing about addiction is that you can't decide to stop being addicted. It's not up to you. And that people fall into addiction for a variety of reasons. And being addicted is a reality that so many people face - to treat it as like they're less than human for struggling with that particular issue is ridiculous. But we do that from a public safety perspective. And as you said, this is going to largely wind up targeting the homeless - that's usually who this applies to - people. We can talk about the drug habits of executives and rich people, and the rates of drug use are not low across the board. I always find it so curious. We drug test minimum wage and low wage workers, but not high wage executives. I'm pretty confident what results we would see if we did that. There's an interesting video with Sara Nelson - yeah, speaking of politicians using drugs, and then voting on drug ordinances - but Sara Nelson has a place to use privately. That's the difference. [00:28:52] Ashley Nerbovig: Because we're going after public use, we're not going after possession. And the casual way she talks about it - you are aware that you are growing drugs, and you're telling people where to find drugs - and I can hear her argument against this, right? But the point of it is that drugs are not inherently dangerous, and it was incredibly frustrating to watch that video. And then think about the fact that when this was in front of the Public Safety Committee, Mosqueda came out and said - I want to make it very clear that lots of public health agencies at this point have said that breathing in secondhand fentanyl smoke is not dangerous to your health. I am someone who opens a window if someone blows vape smoke too close to me - I don't like it, I don't want that smell, I am not totally convinced that the smell will not linger. But it's like that, right - it's a smell, I'm not worried about getting a nicotine contact high. And the way that fentanyl gets demonized as the worst drug that we've ever seen, it's part of how we can dehumanize the people who are using it. And I think it's so interesting, because if you ask someone to class their own drugs, shrooms and weed and cocaine would be the bourgeoisie of drugs - they're allowed, it's fine - alcohol. All of those things are totally fine. And the people who use them are not degenerates or any way bad. Maybe cocaine. But for the most part, we are totally okay with those kinds of drugs, no matter how alcohol is still one of the most harmful substances in our society. Whenever I call the King County Medical Examiner's Board to get the overdose deaths, it's overdose deaths and deaths due to alcoholism. But they're longer term, right? So I'm not saying that - fentanyl is absolutely killing people - it's in everything. And it is a new, very scary problem because we don't have a ton of ways to treat it. But it doesn't change the fundamentals of what we're seeing, which is you had someone like Sara Nelson who struggled with her own story of addiction. But as soon as it becomes a drug that they view as dirty or not fun to scavenge for, you get this attitude of - We need to crack down on this. And that's how it's got to be a punishment-based system - it's not a conversation, it's not help, it's not treatment - we've got to really show these people the errors, the way to be, and improve their life. And it's just so condescending. [00:31:30] Crystal Fincher: This is the crack playbook at play. And again, to be clear, not at all saying that fentanyl is not very troublesome, problematic, and that we don't want people using that. Those are all true. But to say somehow a unique and unsolvable addiction issue as opposed to opioids, as opposed to all of the other things. The one thing that we know is that there are new drugs created all the time for a variety of things. There's going to be something more potent. Fentanyl is not the last, right? It's just the current. There is going to be a next. We've been playing this cat and mouse game with the War on Drugs, with all that we're doing - it's here. But hearing the language around that is the same tactic that happened with crack, right? And the justification to pass a ton of laws, super harsh penalties, mandating mandatory time, adding it as a strike for possessing crack, lower thresholds for dealing and all of that, as opposed to cocaine, which was used by a different demographic largely and fueled there. This is pretty transparent. And unfortunately, you hear a lot of the rhetoric in public meetings. You hear it from people - Oh man, this fentanyl, these people are like zombies, this is something completely new we haven't seen before. Those are all the same things that they said with crack. Those are all the same things that they say with the new drug that they want to use when they're in the mood to crack down and jail people - here is where we're at. Acting like fentanyl is just - oh, if you're addicted, you're lost, you're hopeless, is untrue. It is a dangerous drug. We need to address it. Public health approaches have a better record of doing that than punitive jail-based approaches. But it's a problem that we do need to get our arms around, but we make it harder to do that when we pursue policies to jail - which are very expensive to do in every single way. And then say - Sorry, we just don't have the resources to provide more treatment services, to provide more behavioral health services, to provide more housing, to provide detox for people. Those are all necessary for us to deal with this problem, and we just aren't doing it. I would like to do it. I would like to meaningfully address this - most people would - but this makes it much harder. I do want to talk about this week, a very important - and for our state historic - trial starting, of the three officers accused of murdering Manny Ellis. What is happening here? [00:33:58] Ashley Nerbovig: Yeah. So they're still in jury selection. It's going to be a long, drawn-out process. I think opening statements start October 2nd. And for people who don't know the case, Manny Ellis was an unarmed Black man who was in Tacoma - this was March before George Floyd's death, and there are so many parallels. Everything that is terrible about George Floyd is terrible in this case. Bob Ferguson comes in, says that he's going to investigate this case, does an investigation. Tacoma Police Department does not cooperate with Washington State Patrol. Washington State Patrol and AG Ferguson ends up creating this probable cause statement and now three officers, three men are all on trial this week. Or the trial is starting and jury selection is starting. And there's one guy who - I can't remember his name now - but he's live tweeting all of it. And there's been some really interesting tidbits. One of the jurors - the judge asked if there were any jurors who might have conflicts presiding over a case involving law enforcement, no one raised their hands, and then the judge looks at this guy and says - But didn't you say you have a brother in law enforcement? And there's no other details, but that's where it's starting right now. And it'll be a really interesting case - it's horrible to see these cases get to this point - and you wonder about, I don't know anything about the disciplinary records of these cops. But yeah, that's where it's starting. And that's the background on it. [00:35:14] Crystal Fincher: And certainly - it's a trial. And I generally try not to follow these things or get emotionally invested in these trials - for good reason - they often don't seem to wind up with justice, and even what is justice when your loved one, someone you care about, a human being is killed. And just also lifting up - we hear about all these cases around the country - we have more than enough here locally. There's another police officer from Auburn currently awaiting trial for killing Jesse Sarey in Auburn. It's really troubling. And we also have family and friends of Manny dealing with this and having to once again hear the horrific details of this killing. And they're continuing to call for the firing of the cops who've been on payroll this entire time, who are still on payroll. There's a GoFundMe for the family. And court is something that people can show up to and show support if they want to do that also. It's a tragedy. And I hope the family is able to find peace and healing and that this can assist with that. I have no idea where they stand on this, but certainly, I'm thinking of them as this trial continues to go on. Last thing I want to talk about today is Seattle City employees rallying for fair pay. Why did this rally happen? [00:36:38] Ashley Nerbovig: Shout out to Hannah Krieg - she got all the great quotes for this one. This rally happened because apparently, and I'm quoting directly from her story - Bruce Harrell is funny, he's a funny guy, and if this is true, I believe it - Mayor Harrell told them to rally their asses off. The City started their negotiations for a pay increase of 1% and has settled on a pay increase of 2%. And the City workers are saying that's an insane way to start negotiations in one of the most expensive cities in the country. She puts this really good stat in there - that's a pay cut as the cost of, a 1% cost of living adjustment or even a 2% cost of living adjustment is a pay cut as the cost of living rose 8.7% this year. It's really important to note that the SPOG contract guarantees at minimum like a 1.5%, I think - I did a little tweet about this - it's plus COLA or something. But effectively, regardless of what their contract says, they have never gone a year without at least a 3% increase. Lieutenants and higher up guilds just got like a 4% increase. Sometimes I'll get these emails from the mayor's office that's - I'm really like unhappy with how you've portrayed us as prioritizing police. We really prioritize like other things too. - and it's, you can see it, where their money is going. So the workers are contract, are striking because they're not getting, at minimum, just keeping up with inflation. And the City of Seattle seems to think this is just like across the board, boy to cut is in general services and for the city. And that's - I really encourage people to follow Hannah's coverage on this because she's really on top of it. [00:38:17] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's really challenging. We talked about police saying they have a shortage of officers and all of the action that has been taken to fix that including a retention bonus, healthy retention bonuses. And so we're talking about the shortages in the rest of the city, and it just doesn't seem like there is the interest in making sure the City is able to provide essential services and the level of service for everything that is currently happening and that people expect. There have been several council candidates who have said and agreed with - Yeah, we should be giving City workers the same kind of retention bonuses, investing in their retention, doing something tangible to actually address the shortage here. And we're going to be seeing Mayor Harrell's budget come out pretty soon. It's going to be interesting to see how he deals with that and what it is because a budget is a value statement - that's a document of values - where you're spending your money is what you value the most. And other things - you can talk about them and say they're great, but if you aren't funding them, clearly they were lower on the priority list in your estimation. And he may have his reasons to justify that. But it is disingenuous to say - Oh, I completely prioritize that, I value that, and I'm just not going to fund that while I'm going to fund this other thing. So it will be interesting to see. But it seems like the City has a lot of work to do to start to step up. And everyone on the campaign trail talks about their values and making sure people can live where they work, how important that is to our economy - and it absolutely is important - again, what tangibly is going to be done about that? What are we going to see in that budget? And if not, just what is really the tangible impact of that? So we'll continue to follow that. But certainly workers see some definite red flags there and are rallying to make sure people understand that this is a problem that has consequences for the entire city and beyond. And for all the plans that people say they have, they're going to rely on these employees to execute them. So we better make sure that there are people in place to deliver on the policy that we pass as a city. [00:40:34] Ashley Nerbovig: Yeah, I hope we get a strike. I think it would be good for people to feel what happens when they don't - I think that a lot of these services are invisible. And we already see that SPOG is doing all these sick-outs and they're not responding to calls - and a lot of them are blaming it on the staffing shortages. When you hear about sick-outs, you get a little bit curious about those call response times. I hope it turns into a strike because I think people do need to realize how essential these workers are. [00:41:00] Crystal Fincher: Certainly the public - some people definitely see that, some people definitely don't. But a strike will be a failure, right? We're having a rally because an initial offer was pretty insulting. It was not a serious offer. It's a pay cut. If you're starting saying - Okay, how big a pay cut are you going to take to people who are already short-staffed and overworked? Because really, let's talk about it. When we talk about short staffing, that means that the same amount of work is falling on fewer heads. And that's a hard position to be in - and many of these positions aren't like super high-paid positions anyway. People are struggling to just pay their bills and work is getting harder, and now you're going to ask them to take a pay cut. And being disrespectful when that happens - Okay, go rally your ass off. So I hope there is more respect in this process and that lines of communication open and are productive. Because strikes are disruptive, right? They're not fun, they create a lot of drama. It may come to that - and I absolutely support workers' rights to strike and sometime that's necessary to get the job done - but I hope it doesn't come to that. I hope they are able to talk. But it's going to take more respect from the City perspective, realistically - they just aren't starting in a serious place. [00:42:14] Ashley Nerbovig: Yeah, I like what you said there. It would be a failure. My chaotic evil side is - yeah, disrupt it, show people that you exist and stuff. But you're right. It would suck for these workers to have to go on strike because - the no pay and I'm sure they have a fund - you're 100% correct. What I would actually like to see is Mayor Harrell care about these people the way that he has been so consistently able to show care for our police department. [00:42:44] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree. And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, September 22, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is the incredible Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today was staff writer at The Stranger covering policing, incarceration and the courts, Ashley Nerbovig. You can find Ashley on Twitter at @AshleyNerbovig, A-S-H-L-E-Y N-E-R-B-O-V-I-G. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can find me on just about every platform at @finchfrii, that's F-I-N-C-H F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks - wherever you want to listen to us, you can listen to us - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar of your favorite pod player. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen - it really helps us out. 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 podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.
On this Tuesday topical show, Crystal chats with Tanya Woo about her campaign for Seattle City Council District 2. Listen and learn more about Tanya and her thoughts on: [01:06] - Why she is running [02:02] - Lightning round! [12:49] - What is an accomplishment of hers that impacts District 2 [17:13] - Housing and homelessness: Frontline worker wages [19:36] - Homelessness: Involvement with opposition to SODO shelter expansion [25:15] - Public Safety: Alternative response [27:08] - Victim support [30:52] - City budget shortfall: Raise revenue or cut services? [36:02] - Small business support [39:16] - Childcare: Affordability and accessibility [40:28] - Bike and pedestrian safety [45:59] - Transit reliability [48:02] - Difference between her and opponent 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 Tanya Woo at @votetanyawoo. Tanya Woo My family immigrated to Seattle in 1887. I grew up on Beacon Hill, worked at our family business in the Chinatown International District and now live in Rainier Beach. I've seen how South Seattle has changed. I've seen what happens to neighborhoods that don't have a voice and are expected to just live with bad city policies. I want to change that, and that's why I'm running for Seattle City Council. I spearheaded the renovation of my family's building, the Louisa hotel, that provides small business space and workforce housing. Twice a week, my Community Watch walks around Little Saigon, Nihomachi (Japantown) and Chinatown trying to make our streets safer for everyone, which includes our unhoused neighbors. My work against government discrimination in the Chinatown International District has taught me a very important lesson: the only time people in South Seattle are heard is when we make those in positions of power listen. Resources Campaign Website - Tanya Woo Transcript [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 week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical 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. Well, I am very pleased to be welcoming Tanya Woo, Seattle City Council candidate in District 2, to the program. Thank you so much for joining us, Tanya. [00:01:04] Tanya Woo: Well, thank you for having me - I'm really excited to be here. [00:01:06] Crystal Fincher: Excited to have you - and just wanted to start off by understanding why you chose to run and why now? [00:01:14] Tanya Woo: Yes, and so this comes from a long history of work in the Chinatown International District, as well as being a lifelong resident here in District 2. Just seeing the effects of the pandemic on our community, as well as seeing all of these high-impact projects that are happening around the Chinatown International District these last four years - and realizing that the district is really fighting for its life, basically. And so we were fighting for a seat at the table, we were fighting to amplify voices and to be heard - and realizing that the best way to get a seat at the table is to fight for it and to run for it. And so after a lot of discussion and a lot of encouragement, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. [00:02:01] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. Well, as we get started on this show - I mean, we do candidate interviews a lot - we're adding a new dimension into the interviews this year, which is a lightning round before we get to the rest of our regular conversation and discussion. And so just a number of yes or no questions, that hopefully are easy, or super one-answer choice questions. So we'll just run through this and then get back to the other questions. So this year, did you vote yes on the King County Crisis Care Centers levy? [00:02:31] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:02:32] Crystal Fincher: And this year, did you vote yes on the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy? [00:02:37] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:02:38] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote in favor of Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135? ... In February. [00:02:43] Tanya Woo: I may not have voted for that. I may not have voted for that one. [00:02:53] Crystal Fincher: Okay. And in 2021, did you vote for Bruce Harrell or Lorena González for Seattle Mayor? [00:03:00] Tanya Woo: I did not vote in that election. [00:03:02] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Okay, so I guess that covers - let me find that - so City Attorney. Last year in 2022, did you vote for Leesa Manion or Jim Ferrell for King County Prosecutor? [00:03:17] Tanya Woo: Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I don't know which elections I voted for, which ones I did not vote for. [00:03:21] Crystal Fincher: Okay. [00:03:22] Tanya Woo: I'll have to pull up my record to answer. [00:03:23] Crystal Fincher: We will skip the... [00:03:26] Tanya Woo: I am so sorry. [00:03:27] Crystal Fincher: It's fine, it's fine. We'll skip the rest of those. We'll go to the other questions. Do you rent or own your residence? [00:03:34] Tanya Woo: My husband owns the residence. [00:03:36] Crystal Fincher: Okay, are you a landlord? [00:03:39] Tanya Woo: My family is a landlord. [00:03:41] Crystal Fincher: Okay, would you vote to require landlords to report metrics, including how much rent they're charging, to help better plan housing and development needs in the district? [00:03:50] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:03:51] Crystal Fincher: Are there any instances where you would support sweeps of homeless encampments? [00:03:59] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:04:00] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to provide additional funding for Seattle's Social Housing Public Development Authority? [00:04:06] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:04:07] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with King County Executive Constantine's statement that the King County Jail should be closed? [00:04:18] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:04:19] Crystal Fincher: Should parking enforcement be housed within SPD? [00:04:28] Tanya Woo: Oh. I don't think I've ever really thought about this one. Probably yes. [00:04:43] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Would you vote to allow police in schools? [00:04:51] Tanya Woo: I think that's up to the schools. [00:04:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget for a civilian-led mental health crisis response? [00:04:59] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:00] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget to increase the pay of human service workers? [00:05:03] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:04] Crystal Fincher: Do you support removing funds in the City budget for forced encampment removals and instead allocating funds towards a Housing First approach? [00:05:13] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:14] Crystal Fincher: Do you support abrogating or removing the funds from unfilled SPD positions and putting them towards meaningful public safety measures? [00:05:24] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:24] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocating money in the budget for supervised consumption sites? [00:05:33] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:34] Crystal Fincher: Do you support increasing funding in the City budget for violence intervention programs? [00:05:40] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:05:41] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't give the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of Inspector General subpoena power? [00:05:54] Tanya Woo: Do I oppose it? Yes. [00:05:56] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't remove limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian? [00:06:05] Tanya Woo: So sorry, can you repeat the question? [00:06:09] Crystal Fincher: Sure, sure, sure. Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't remove limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian? [00:06:21] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:06:22] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that impedes the ability of the city to move police funding to public safety alternatives? [00:06:32] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:06:33] Crystal Fincher: Do you support eliminating in-uniform off-duty work by SPD officers? [00:06:45] Tanya Woo: Such as traffic control? [00:06:49] Crystal Fincher: That would fall under one if they're off-duty, I think, yeah. [00:06:54] Tanya Woo: I do not oppose it, so. [00:06:56] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Will you vote to ensure that trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities? [00:07:07] Tanya Woo: And this isn't - do I oppose it? [00:07:09] Crystal Fincher: No - will you vote to ensure that - [00:07:10] Tanya Woo: Oh, sorry - okay. [00:07:10] Crystal Fincher: - trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities? [00:07:18] Tanya Woo: Oh, I think that's a conversation we have to have with the sports teams, but I would be in support of it. [00:07:25] Crystal Fincher: So when you say conversation to have with the sports teams - if they voted against it, would you support that? [00:07:31] Tanya Woo: I think we have to support - yes. [00:07:33] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so you would support-- [00:07:35] Tanya Woo: If the sports teams voted. [00:07:37] Crystal Fincher: Sports team said that they couldn't play, then they couldn't play. [00:07:40] Tanya Woo: If they had good reason. [00:07:41] Crystal Fincher: Got it. [00:07:42] Tanya Woo: 'Cause I think every sports is different. [00:07:44] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans people can use bathrooms or public facilities that match their gender? [00:07:51] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:07:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Seattle City Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax? [00:07:58] Tanya Woo: I'm so sorry, going back to the gender one - their stated gender or their perceived gender? [00:08:04] Crystal Fincher: Whatever gender they identify as. [00:08:06] Tanya Woo: Okay, yes, then - we need to ensure that it's served - okay. [00:08:10] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Seattle City Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax? [00:08:17] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:08:17] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to reduce or divert the JumpStart Tax in any way? [00:08:29] Tanya Woo: That's a very complicated question. [00:08:31] Crystal Fincher: Okay, we can leave it as - it's complicated, it's not a yes or no - and we can get to that. We have plenty of time to talk about this in the other questions, so we can cover the details of that. [00:08:41] Tanya Woo: Okay great. Yeah - that's a lot of -- Oh, go ahead. [00:08:45] Crystal Fincher: Are you happy with Seattle's newly built waterfront? [00:08:50] Tanya Woo: Yes, I love the direction it's going in. [00:08:52] Crystal Fincher: Do you believe return to work mandates, like the one issued by Amazon, are necessary to boost Seattle's economy? [00:09:01] Tanya Woo: And that's the three days a week, right? [00:09:05] Crystal Fincher: Theirs is three days a week - whatever, you know, if they're mandating a return and not work from home in whatever form that would be. So it could be three, it could be five. [00:09:15] Tanya Woo: I think yes. Oh, okay. I think it's great to start with three. And then, of course, the willingness to work with families where that could be a barrier - where there's any barriers involved. [00:09:26] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so do you think - I mean, do you think the mandate is necessary or is that it's on a case-by-case basis and-- [00:09:33] Tanya Woo: Well, I think it's necessary to revitalize the downtown area. I know there's a lot of barriers for some people not being able to physically return to work - I think case-by-case in those situations should be allowed. [00:09:48] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Have you taken transit in the past week? [00:09:52] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:09:53] Crystal Fincher: Have you ridden a bike in the past week? [00:09:55] Tanya Woo: No. [00:09:56] Crystal Fincher: In the past month? [00:09:59] Tanya Woo: No. [00:10:01] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Should Pike Place Market allow non-commercial car traffic? [00:10:11] Tanya Woo: Oh, I know that is being talked about right now. I think it'd be nice to not allow it, but I know some of the business owners want it - so I think definitely let Pike Place Market decide on how they want to proceed. [00:10:30] Crystal Fincher: Should we accelerate the elimination of the ability to turn right on red lights to improve pedestrian safety? [00:10:44] Tanya Woo: For all red lights? [00:10:45] Crystal Fincher: Yes. [00:10:47] Tanya Woo: Okay. That would add a lot of needed infrastructure. I would support that, but I think we'd have to put together a plan to be able to carry that out. [00:11:03] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Should significant investments be made to speed up the opening of scheduled Sound Transit light rail lines? [00:11:15] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:11:16] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever been a member of a union? [00:11:20] Tanya Woo: No. [00:11:20] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to increase funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting? [00:11:31] Tanya Woo: Would I support putting money into investigations? [00:11:35] Crystal Fincher: Increasing funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting? [00:11:42] Tanya Woo: Oh - yes. [00:11:43] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever walked on a picket line? [00:11:46] Tanya Woo: No. [00:11:47] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever crossed a picket line? [00:11:49] Tanya Woo: No. [00:11:50] Crystal Fincher: Is your campaign unionized? [00:11:53] Tanya Woo: They have the option to do so, but I do not believe so. [00:11:57] Crystal Fincher: Okay. If your campaign staff wants to unionize, will you voluntarily recognize their effort? [00:12:02] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:12:03] Crystal Fincher: Are any of the staff employed by your businesses unionized? [00:12:14] Tanya Woo: If, are my staff employed by businesses unionized? [00:12:18] Crystal Fincher: Any staff employed by your business unionized? [00:12:22] Tanya Woo: No. [00:12:24] Crystal Fincher: If they wanted to unionize, would you voluntarily recognize their effort? [00:12:28] Tanya Woo: Yes. [00:12:30] Crystal Fincher: Well, look, that's the end of the lightning round - you survived, it's wonderful. [00:12:34] Tanya Woo: Okay great - these are always rough because I feel like sometimes issues are so complicated and there's a lot of gray - it's not always black and white - but yeah, that wasn't so bad. [00:12:45] Crystal Fincher: Which is why we have a robust conversation in front of us to talk about all of that. But I want to start out for - helping to give people a feel for what you prioritize and how qualified you are to lead, which a lot of people see throughout the community. Can you describe something you've accomplished or changed in your district and what impact that has had on residents? [00:13:08] Tanya Woo: Yes. Three years ago, during the pandemic - when there were a lot of pandemic racism, anti-Asian hate happening - our businesses were forced to close down throughout the city. And a lot of people were uncertain and just confused about what was happening, especially in our communities of color. I helped start a group called the Chinatown International District Community Watch. We saw there was a lack and a gap in services between the hours of 6pm and 6am - and that was the time when many of our streets, because of the stay-at-home mandate, it was just a ghost town. And so we wanted to make sure that people felt supported, that our small businesses felt supported in the Chinatown International District - which includes our housed and unhoused neighbors and residents. And so we started like this alternative to policing group that kind of just went through the three neighborhoods - Little Saigon, Chinatown, and Japantown - and just made sure everyone was okay. We believe that building trust between our unhoused neighbors and those who are there at 12th and Jackson engaged in the illegal markets were okay. We always believe that trust was the best way to de-escalate the situation. And they wanted to build connection and build relationships with people to help connect people to resources and to just be there. We wanted to give hope to our seniors and to our small business owners who were working through the pandemic. And so wanted to let them know that we were here and available if they need help - we did senior escorts. We also did something regarding self-defense training, which mainly focused on situational awareness - many in the Asian culture, people don't - there's not a lot eye contact, people are not looking around when they're walking. And so there are a lot instances where our seniors were unfortunately being attacked - we had a hate incident happen within the CID. And so we wanted to be there to show support for the community. And it's been three years and we're still going strong. We kind of segued into different sections. There was a couple of large encampments that had grown in the first, second, or third year. And we started doing outreach and engagement in the encampments - getting to know our unhoused - we saw who was doing what, we saw the [unintelligible] who were engaged in the sex trade, who was engaged in the illegal markets. But we wanted to make sure that people who needed services and help were also being heard. So we were actively going into the encampments during that time - and now that those encampments have been resolved, we're going into Little Saigon area and 12th and Jackson with water bottles and meals. And trying to make that connection - that community cares, we want people to be okay. And we've done things where we've had to administer Narcan and CPR. And we really see that there's a need here. And so I believe that we're very, very slowly - there are many success stories - people who have found housing come back and say hi to us, and they invite us to see their homes. Many people who we have connected to other services, like brought to the hospital - helped bring to the hospital - have come back to thank us. And just seeing that we're making a difference in people's lives, I think brings me worlds of happiness. And so-- [00:17:03] Crystal Fincher: Now-- [00:17:03] Tanya Woo: --that was-- oh, go ahead. [00:17:05] Crystal Fincher: Oh, no, go ahead, finish. [00:17:06] Tanya Woo: Oh yeah, and so that's one of the things I'm really proud of and excited about - that this is continuing. [00:17:12] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. Now talking about homelessness, one thing called out by experts as a barrier to the homelessness response is frontline worker wages that don't cover the cost of living and that impairing the response. Do you believe our local nonprofits have a responsibility to pay living wages for our area, or that this is a problem with the response? And how can we fix it if it is a problem with how the City bids for contracts and services? [00:17:39] Tanya Woo: Yes, I agree we have to pay a living wage and that is a huge barrier. I mean, even if - there's a huge turnaround in a lot of our nonprofits and our services - we have amazing people who are moving on and that turnaround, especially with caseworkers, is a bit detrimental to further relationships with many members of the community who need behavioral health services, addiction treatment, who are partnered with people to lead them through the journey from being unhoused into finding housing. And how important is that we pay a living wage to case managers so we don't see that there's a huge gap in services and that people are being missed or forgotten. And in other service sectors, I think there has to be - we have to meet those needs because the best way to fight homelessness is to prevent it. So especially with City contracts, there has to be - now that many City contracts are being renegotiated - to get a cost of living wage and also a percentage to match, for every single year going forward, the increase in the cost of living. I think that has to be comparable to other cities, other markets that we're seeing. And we have to make it a priority because we have to put people first, and we have to allow people to be able to live here and work here, as well as be able to negotiate these contracts so that they are fair. And also we have to make other, look at other things as well in terms of City contracts - I think trying to employ more minority businesses in City contracts, as well as female businesses, in terms of the larger contract picture is also very important. [00:19:36] Crystal Fincher: Now, you were involved in the opposition to the proposed - it was nicknamed the "Megaplex" - but a services complex for the homeless there. And I think there were legitimate issues raised over the past several years about the CID residents being left out of discussions about what infrastructure is being built and developed, and mitigations or lack thereof. And the CID and its residents experiencing hardships and consequences out of proportion to people in other parts of the city, and that being a growing frustration - and then this happens and it feels like they're repeating the same cycle. While that's competing with the need to provide supportive housing, and to providing behavioral health treatment and services, and places where people can go and be, and offer these services. So if the right place or the right way to do it wasn't with that, what is the right way and the right place to do it? [00:20:41] Tanya Woo: So first off, I want to make it very clear, we're not against the shelter. We were not against behavioral health services. We just wanted a seat at the table. This comes in a long line of historical high-impact projects that received no community input. And we're looking at I-5, we're looking at Sound Transit, we're looking at the stadiums, the Seattle Streetcar - all high-impact projects that have been detrimental, has really affected our community - but there was no community engagement or outreach. And so in the case of this shelter complex, the lease was signed in May, but the community was not notified until September for a facility that was supposed to open in November, December. And we asked, you know - there's something called the Racial Equity Toolkit that we have provided the City that dictates or advises on how to do that community outreach and engagement - and something that we desperately need and would like to see carried out. And so if King County and the City had started community outreach and engagement back in May, this would not even have been an issue. And so basically in September, when we were first notified during a public safety meeting that only contained a few of us, we were asking around - Have you heard about this project? - and no one's heard about it and people were confused. And so we reached out - and we were a community in crisis - and none of our elected officials showed up for us. And so that's why we started protesting, was because, you know, protests that are loudest are the people who are not being heard. We went to King County, we went to City Council meetings - and we realized there are a lot of barriers for how communities of color, especially non-English speakers, communities of refugees and immigrants can engage in the political process. We requested for a translator ahead of time - we're told no, we had to bring our own - and then translation only goes one way, only goes towards the City councilmembers, it does not go back towards the community. And so we were just standing up in between breaks, yelling at the community members - this is what's happening, this is what people are saying. And that's emblematic of what's happening in the entire district. There is just not very much outreach and engagement and we definitely need more of that, we would like to see the table. There were a whole lot of issues that we would like to have been addressed. For instance, there should have been a good neighbor agreement between the community and the shelter that should have been in place when the shelter had opened back in 2020. And there should have also - we were seeing these encampments that were right outside the doors of the shelter - and last year, there were about seven homicides in the CID. I believe all but one were within the encampments. And so we were also asking for safety for our unhoused neighbors and wanted to enter a discussion with a public, a safety plan for everyone, including our unhoused neighbors. And we can go on and talk about all the reasons, I guess, that we wanted that discussion, engagement - and instead of giving that to us, they just decided to cancel the whole project and no one was happy. [00:23:59] Crystal Fincher: Well, and so I guess that's my question - and so if you are in favor of providing services and doing that, where do you think they should be sited in the district? [00:24:11] Tanya Woo: I think that area would have worked, but what we needed was that outreach and engagement. We were getting no information. We were holding our own town halls and reading off what we knew based on media and - of course we had our facts wrong 'cause no one was telling us what was happening. And that was basically - this is why I'm running - we wanted a seat at the table. And it's not gonna be given to us - we have to demand it. [00:24:42] Crystal Fincher: So would you be supportive of starting a new process with that site as the goal, but with the appropriate amount and type of authentic community engagement and collaboration? [00:24:55] Tanya Woo: Yes. And that's all we wanted - was that community engagement and collaboration. And we've historically have not gotten it. And so we feel like our community, that CID community, has suffered from the lack of investments and the lack of attention. [00:25:14] Crystal Fincher: I gotcha. Now I also wanna talk about public safety - and starting talking about alternative response - in other jurisdictions around the country, and in our own region and King County, have rolled out alternative response programs to better support those having a behavioral health crisis. And Seattle is stalled in implementing, which is one of the most widely-supported ideas by Seattle voters and voters in District 2 - which is standing up non-police public safety issues and solutions. What are your thoughts on these and what are your thoughts on civilian-led versus co-response models? [00:25:51] Tanya Woo: Yes. So I believe that Community Watch is a great example of alternatives to policing. And also there are a lot of organizations who do a lot of great and important work in community - We Deliver Care, LEAD, REACH, Co-LEAD, JustCARE - throughout the years that I would love to see grow on a larger scale and be able to support the entire city. I know they have little pockets within the city where they're doing this amazing work and it's working - and I would love to see more of that. That alternative to policing model is present, it's there - we just need to put City funding and City support behind it. So I also believe, like Health One, which pairs a case worker, case manager with a response team definitely needs to be expanded. Having more case workers out there should be a priority. Having case workers with officers should definitely be explored - and so I do support that model. [00:27:06] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now, a lot of times we hear people talking about what victims would want, but in survey after survey and talking to victims directly and BIPOC communities - the community in District 2 is largely at-risk for violence at greater proportions than other places in the city - but largely they say two things. They first wanna make sure that what happened to them doesn't happen again. And they want support - better support - through the systems. We've had business owners in the City of Seattle talk about - Yeah, I can call police, it takes them a long time to respond. But even if they come, it's not really helping me move forward. But something like a victim compensation fund or more support or something like that would happen. - How do you think we could better support victims of crime in the city? And how do you think that might change the overall feeling of safety? [00:28:04] Tanya Woo: Yes. So for example, there have been about 14 robberies in the Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach area - mostly targeting Asian American seniors, but they're targeting young and old people as well. And so in those instances where they're targeting non-English speakers, we're seeing that not only are people not reporting in a timely manner, but they're not reporting at all - because that structure has not been put in place to help our immigrant, refugee, non-English speaking community. There's one survivor who I met recently who was severely traumatized by this experience - this person can't sleep at night, they have nightmares, and it's very obvious they need a lot of support. But that support structure has not been put into place, especially if you're a non-English speaker. So we were working with this person on connecting them to agencies to help - they have a $5,000 Harborview bill that they have to pay, working two jobs each, as well as dealing with all this trauma. And so we need something in place to help survivors, especially the refugee non-English speaking immigrant community members, to have access to these services, to be able to get assistance in paying their bills, or assistance in being able to get therapy, or other help that they may need. And that's - navigating the process is very difficult. Also - with these 14 burglaries - the community was not notified. I don't know why they waited until 14 to get the word out. Even now, we're not entirely sure what the circumstances are. We know that for one instance, this person was followed from King's Plaza - but how do we stop these from happening by watching out for each other? Especially if these are starting out at King's Plaza or other grocery stores, how can we allow for these marketplaces to keep an eye out for each other and make sure that they're not being followed? Just getting the word out is very difficult, and I wish there'd be more City agencies working with our nonprofits and organizational partners who are in these communities to get the word out as well as to help connect survivors to resources. So I agree that there is a huge lack, but I think we really need to work together to build upon what we have. [00:30:52] Crystal Fincher: Now I wanna talk about the City budget - and the City of Seattle is projected to have a revenue shortfall of $224 million beginning in 2025. Because the City's mandated to pass a balanced budget, the options to address the deficit are to either raise revenue or cut services. What approach are you going to take? [00:31:13] Tanya Woo: Ah, I think we have to look at the entire budget and define metrics of success for every single agency and making sure that there are results. We put so much money into KCRHA, which is the Regional Homeless Authority, but there is no metric for success, we don't know where this money is going - well, we have a general idea, but we don't know what the results are. How many people are they housing? I know right now they're going through a process where they're trying to come up with a system similar to that, but I would like to see something done for all government agencies. I mean, for any of us who have ever applied for a grant, we know how arduous it is to just basically name every single line item, and then be accountable for it, and then also show the results to be able to close out that grant. I think we have to hold all our agencies to that same level. [00:32:10] Crystal Fincher: So does that mean that that might be an area where you'd look to cut? Is that what you're saying? [00:32:16] Tanya Woo: Or not cut, but to maybe move around - see what programs are successful, what are not successful, and then invest in the programs that are showing results. [00:32:26] Crystal Fincher: So given that, if the money is just shifted and we're still dealing with a big budget deficit, how would you move to fix that? [00:32:38] Tanya Woo: Ah, then we'll have to look at - so we have to look at our priorities and really focus on those. And so I think it's looking at the overall budget - and yes, I guess, moving money around does equal cuts and other things, but giving a real clear picture of where the results are and moving the money to where the results are, I think, should be the priority. [00:33:09] Crystal Fincher: Okay, I think I've read that you're on record opposing a lot of the new revenue proposals and options. Is that correct? [00:33:17] Tanya Woo: Well, I wanted to see what the Progressive Revenue Task Force was going to put out. And I believe they gave a list of recommendations, and three is moving on to further legislation. And so I do not oppose any of the recommendations so far, but I want to see where the legislation - what the legislation looks like before making a final determination. [00:33:46] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so jury's still out, depends on what ultimately happens. So at this point, is it fair to say that you are not a strong supporter, or won't be leading any charge to implement new revenue, and may be a vote in support or in opposition? [00:34:02] Tanya Woo: Well, from my understanding - the three things that are being pushed forward are just continuations of things that are currently in place. And so I just want to wait and see. [00:34:15] Crystal Fincher: Well, the capital gains tax would be one, or a CEO tax would be another one, expanding the JumpStart tax. Yeah, so those ones are not currently in place. So are you looking to limiting what you would do to things that are already in place, or would you support something potentially beyond that? [00:34:37] Tanya Woo: Oh, I would want to see - I think some of them were not considered - I think the legality of each is being considered. So I probably would not be an advocate for any particular tax currently. I just want to see what legislation gets pushed forward before making determination of which I'm supportive or opposed of. [00:34:58] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so if that doesn't shake out and there isn't any new revenue, how would you propose doing things like supplementing victim services, or increasing public safety, or increasing homeless services that need new revenue? Would that just have to be offset by cuts in other areas, shifting to more higher priority areas on your agenda? [00:35:26] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think it's looking at the budget in its totality and seeing where we can make those cuts and how these programs could be successful because I believe they're in place - we're not reinventing the wheel here - we're just supporting and being able to help build capacity of some of these organizations and nonprofits, as well as I think - communication, outreach, and engagement is really important and making sure that communities of color know what's available and have access or even knowledge of these resources. [00:36:01] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now, I want to talk about small businesses and the economy. You are a small business owner. Seattle and District 2 have very diverse businesses. Seattle has some of the largest corporations in the world headquartered here and some nearby, and also just a vibrant and diverse small business community - which is very important to our local and regional economy and just how the city is developing and feeling. What is most important - what would you lead and do to support small businesses in your district? [00:36:40] Tanya Woo: Yes, my family has been involved with a lot of small businesses. My grandparents had the Moon Temple Restaurant that they worked at for 32 years. Then my parents used that to help fund and open Seattle's first Chinese bakery, the Mon Hei Bakery in the Chinatown International District - I grew up in there, in the bakery, doing odd jobs for 50 cents an hour. And then later my dad - because we were able to build that intergenerational wealth through these small businesses, able to buy the building that the bakery was in. And so realizing how important our small businesses are in terms of being the social center for many community members, also being a safe haven for community as well. And making sure that we have that economic engine to help provide good paying jobs and allowing for many communities to stay in place. And so I think we have to be more proactive versus reactive. We had the broken window fund that really helped a lot of businesses, but the application process was a bit cumbersome and a lot of people who did not understand it. And so I think it'd be nice to have these, like City of Seattle service stations - I know Othello has one, the U district has one - but to have some in locations where small businesses can have access to be able to get their questions answered regarding City resources and being able to get City grants. Now, many of our small businesses are dealing with graffiti and the City will send notices to our small businesses demanding that they pay a fee every single day that that graffiti remains in place. And so having access to government to be able to, to, I guess, push back on these notices, as well as to get help in terms of how to access resources, and also to just basically address their concerns. I know at 12th and Jackson, there is a huge illegal market there, as well as many people using fentanyl - and that's really affected the business community. And so how do we interact with local government and agencies to bring light to this issue, to get more attention, and possibly work with community in trying to resolve and help people. [00:39:16] Crystal Fincher: Now, I also wanna talk about childcare, which is really important. And we recently received news that childcare is now more expensive than a college education - which has a devastating impact on families. Do you have plans to fix this? [00:39:32] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think the City could do a lot to help, I guess, childcare businesses to grow and to help with permitting process for childcare businesses to get started. And looking at - and just basically working in partnership with the childcare business community - figure out what the barriers are in place to provide more childcare. I think also helping accessibility - not only physically, but financially. And also helping with choices, so people are not having to drive across the city to be able to access good childcare options. I think that's something we need to work in partnership with not only businesses, large and small, but also with what families need. So I think there's a lot of work we can do in that area. [00:40:27] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also wanna talk about transit and transportation. Pedestrian and bicycle safety has been atrocious. Pedestrians and bicyclists are not currently safe. What would you do to improve that? [00:40:42] Tanya Woo: Yes, I know there's a lot of traffic calming measures that community has been asking for, but SDOT has not been able to put in place. And so trying to find out what those barriers are and - within SDOT itself - be able to implement these traffic calming measures. There are many promises that have been made in these last 10 years and many projects - communities really excited for - that have not been implemented. So I think it's really holding agencies accountable and finding out those barriers are to get through that. And looking, especially in South Seattle, our traffic death numbers have not, pedestrian traffic death numbers have not gotten any better - and I think they're getting worse at this point. So is there - I know there's a lot of discussion groups, a lot of people who are really passionate about this issue - but how do we draw everybody in and make these things happen? And I've heard the frustration where people are - We're gonna go out there and paint that sidewalk ourself, or we're gonna put that planter in - we can't wait for the City to act. - and so how do we allow for these community projects? I know there's been a lot of speed bumps that have been helpful. How do we look at other traffic calming measures and make them happen is of paramount importance. [00:42:02] Crystal Fincher: It is, and I guess, what I'm getting at or what I'm wondering is - there have been a lot of promises made by SDOT, and the City, and various politicians and promises to bring change and it hasn't happened. So how exactly can you hold, what will you do to hold SDOT and your other colleagues accountable if you were to make it onto the council - as well as the mayor - to get action in District 2? [00:42:33] Tanya Woo: Yes, and I think that's the big question that a lot of people are wrestling with. And I think it's just getting down to - what are the barriers? Is there a lack of staffing? Or a lack of permitting - is the permitting process the barrier? Is there a community engagement process that needs to be done? And being able, I think, trying to understand what that barrier is. Is it just not a priority? [00:43:02] Crystal Fincher: If it is an issue of priority, how do you overcome that? [00:43:06] Tanya Woo: I think we have to make it a priority - it's lives on the line here - and we have to draw everyone in. And I know a lot of people have a lot of suggestions, like we need better lighting and that's a bigger infrastructure issue - putting that in place. And there's discussions regarding the traffic signals and cameras, especially. But I think there's a very divided community in terms of how to attack the situation, but I think it's going to have to be a - it's all-of-the-above situation - but I think it's getting SDOT to act is the biggest barrier. And if SDOT doesn't have the capacity, how can we give them the capacity or allow for community members to step in and to help? [00:43:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely allowing community members to step in and act would be good. Unfortunately, SDOT is not that fond of that in many instances, if it's not already part of a pre-planned program. A lot of it seems to be coming down to right-of-way and investment in car infrastructure versus bike and pedestrian infrastructure. And so parking spaces - that type of infrastructure and space that could be used to provide safe facilities there - would you vote to eliminate parking spaces in order to provide safe infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists in your district? [00:44:30] Tanya Woo: Yes, I think that is a - I support that, but I think that's a community-by-community approach. I know for the Chinatown International District - that many people using bikes go through there, yet it's also part of the downtown core where parking is a huge importance, especially since there are many seniors there who cannot utilize the bike lanes or who need those handicap parking spaces. And so I think it's a community-by-community approach and definitely having those discussions is important, but it's a larger picture of how do we - it's growing pains we have - we haven't planned for the city to grow so quickly. So how do we fit that in into our communities? How do we bring in Sound Transit, Metro to offer more consistent schedules? Metro just got some schedules cut and with ST3 coming into place and that discussion happening, we have to involve and look at not only ST3, but bike lanes and draw Metro in on the discussion for a larger planning for the next couple of years so that we set ourselves up for success. [00:45:57] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now transit reliability is becoming an increasingly pressing issue with staff shortages and other challenges creating ghost buses, missed buses, canceled trips, eliminated routes and trips - and it is jeopardizing transit ridership, jeopardizing so much in the city. Now Sound Transit is a regional body and King County Metro is a county body, but what can the City do to help stabilize transit reliability? [00:46:33] Tanya Woo: I think we have an aging workforce that's not being replenished. And so how do we go about that is a good question that needs - I think we need to talk about. Also, I think a lot of - there's a lot of public safety concerns that I think permeates through all of our issues, especially with hearing from - people going to, children going to school being on buses and seeing a drug use happening, as well as drivers having to deal with a lot of behavioral health issues or unhoused residents trying to stay warm or on their buses. And so how do we work together to promote the feeling of safety? And I think it's also looking, trying to offer more routes, more options and choices for people to be able to take the bus and have that system work. I know like a lot of people don't find it reliable because they always complain like - We're waiting longer than we feel like for buses to show up and then there's three or four buses at the same time that shows up - and how do we look at, make sure there's more consistent consistency and more options for people. [00:48:02] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Now a lot of people are trying to make a decision about who they're gonna vote for, about who aligns with their values. What do you tell them in order to help them make their decision between you and your opponent? [00:48:17] Tanya Woo: Yes, and so I've spent my whole life working towards a lot of the issues that I feel are huge priorities for the city - to provide more housing. My family actually went and we - have the Louisa Hotel - recently redeveloped and opened right before the pandemic. We have 84 units of workforce housing, which only charges people a percentage of their income so no one's forced to pay rent they cannot afford. I think we need more of that in the city and I know how to build. And we have about 20 units working with our organization called Housing Connector to be able to house the formerly unhoused, and that organization also pairs people with a caseworker to help partner through their journey from - into finding housing. And I think that's a really important project that many people - or many, I guess, apartment owners - should get involved in. I helped start Community Watch, which I feel like is a great model for alternatives to public safety. And so I see that there is a need, and we have to act, and so I've gone out and done that. We go into our unhoused community - try to bring services and connect people to resources. And so I have a lot of on the ground experience - I'm embedded in community within our encampments, I see firsthand the trickle down effects of policy, and I also see displacement and gentrification - which is something I've been working against my whole life and trying to protect our communities of color from that. And so I know what it's like to be in a community that feels like they're not being heard. To see a community, I guess, being on the list of one of the most endangered neighborhoods of the nation - a list we're not proud of - but we have to do more and we have to act to make sure that no other neighborhood gets put on that list in the City of Seattle and how do we get our neighborhood off that list is really important. So I'm a person of action. And I'm in community and I hear the gunshots every single night where I live - I live in the Rainier Beach area, I work in the CID, I go to the CID and I hear gunshots there and I realize public safety is so important and not a topic that's being addressed by our current councilmember. I agree that police need to be reformed, but we need - my group, we were in place of a shooting and we are not equipped to be able to deal with that and so for that, we absolutely need a police department. But we need a police department that's culturally competent and that will prioritize de-escalation. And so having that in place, I believe, is really important - in partnership with community investments with the community, as well as we need more after-school programs for youth, our community centers, our libraries, and our parks to resume the programming that they had pre-pandemic. And so I think there are a lot of actionable items that can be done to help empower people that could be done that's not currently being done. So there's a lot of work in certain areas that I would like to help implement and those will fall in the three priorities, like with public safety, homelessness and housing, as well as transportation. And so as a movement of action and want to help amplify voices of community and make sure that our communities of color are not forgotten, especially in a district where there is a lot of diversity and we should celebrate that. And so part of the reason why I'm running is because I've seen all this in the last four or three - many years - I've lived here my entire life, I know the communities. And we have to act, time for action is now - we can't just talk about ideology and debate amongst each other about what will work and what not will work - and in the end, not coming to solutions. And this should be a priority - going to solutions and problem solving, and especially making sure that the perfect solution is not an enemy of a good one. [00:53:09] Crystal Fincher: Well, gotcha. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today, candidate for Seattle City Council District 2, Tanya Woo - much appreciated. [00:53:19] Tanya Woo: Thank you - have a good rest of your day. [00:53:21] Crystal Fincher: You too. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.
Jill Schlesinger with the latest on inflation and the economy // Heather Bosch on beating the crowds and beginning holiday shopping early // Casey McNerthney with the latest fentanyl data in King County // Dose of Kindness -- A man sends letters to his former school bullies // Gee Scott on the Seahawks' victory yesterday // Casey McNerthney with the latest retail theft data in King County, part 2See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Seattle and King County have been experimenting with using hotel rooms to house people rather than directing them to crowded homeless shelters. But some service providers fear the hotel rooms could be hiding another crisis: drug overdoses.
What's Trending: Drug ordinance to be voted on by Seattle council, a Stanwood church is getting noise complaints, and the Mariners are hosting a fundraiser for pets. LongForm: Councilmember Reagan Dunn says raising wages nearly $4 an hour in unincorporated King County is an awful idea. Quick Hit: St. Louis clinic ending gender affirming care for minors.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that everyone 6 months and older get the updated vaccine for COVID-19.Right now there are several variants circulating and infectious disease experts say this latest shot is your best protection.UW's Dr. Tia Babu explains what you need to know about the latest vaccine.More resources on vaccines:The CDC's Bridge Access Program provides uninsured adults can receive the Covid-19 boosters free of charge.Vaccines for Children provides free vaccines for uninsured children.King County's programs for vaccinesWe can only make Seattle Now because listeners support us. You have the power! Make the show happen by making a gift to KUOW: https://www.kuow.org/donate/seattlenowAnd we want to hear from you! Follow us on Instagram at SeattleNowPod, or leave us feedback online: https://www.kuow.org/feedback
On this Tuesday topical show, Crystal chats with Rob Saka about his campaign for Seattle City Council District 1. Listen and learn more about Rob and his thoughts on: [01:10] - Why he is running [05:31] - Lightning round! [14:12] - What is an accomplishment of his that impacts District 1 [17:46] - City budget shortfall: Raise revenue or cut services? [23:29] - Climate change [25:29] - Transit reliability [28:08] - Bike and pedestrian safety [30:22] - Public Safety: Alternative response [35:00] - Victim support [40:56] - Housing and homelessness: Frontline worker wages [43:03] - Small business support [47:30] - Childcare: Affordability and accessibility [51:38] - Progressive revenue options [53:41] - Difference between him and opponent 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 Rob Saka at @voterobsaka. Rob Saka I am a Seattle Public Schools dad of three, attorney, justice reform advocate, Air Force Veteran, and West Seattle resident. As the son of a Nigerian immigrant, I overcame abject poverty, a traumatic and unstable home life cycling through the foster care system, to rise in the ranks of the U.S. Air Force, earn my college and law degrees under the G.I. Bill, and achieve success as an attorney and policy advocate in Seattle and King County. I grew up in the foster care system in Minnesota until my father was able to rescue me at nine years old. We moved out west and settled in low-income apartments in Kent, blocks away from a justice center that would later house some of my childhood friends. Growing up, I watched my dad work numerous physically demanding low-wage jobs. As a single father, he ended up settling for any honest work he could get to put food on our table. I went on to earn my college degree under the G.I. Bill at the University of Washington where I met my wife, Alicia. After quickly moving up the Enlisted ranks, I earned a rare Deserving Airman Commission and served as an Intelligence Officer. After 10 years in the military, I resigned my commission to focus on serving others as a civilian attorney. I thought I could help others in my community better overcome some of the systemic barriers I had navigated growing up if I was armed with the power of the law. After graduating law school from the University of California, Hastings Law, I moved back to Seattle to practice law at Perkins Coie. I have tried my best to bring my unique brand of servant leadership and passionate advocacy in service of communities across this city, including by serving on nonprofit boards such as the Seattle Urban League, representing fellow Veterans in need pro bono, via the Seattle Stand Down Initiative, helping underserved microentrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, volunteering to be head coach for my daughter's Little League baseball team, and much more. In 2018, King County Executive Dow Constantine appointed me to serve on the once per decade Charter Commission where I helped champion and pass several voter-approved ballot measures to reform our justice system and protect workers. In 2021, the King County Council appointed me to the nonpartisan Districting Committee tasked with redrawing King County Council districts using Census data. In 2022, Mayor Bruce Harrell appointed me to serve on the Seattle Police Chief Search Committee responsible for helping to select the next Chief of Police. Resources Campaign Website - Rob Saka Transcript [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 week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical 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. Well hello - today I am thrilled to be joined by a candidate for Seattle City Council in District 1, Rob Saka. Welcome, Rob. [00:01:03] Rob Saka: Thank you, Crystal - appreciate the opportunity to share this virtual space here with you and your audience. [00:01:10] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Well, I guess what I'm starting off wondering is - why are you running? [00:01:17] Rob Saka: Yeah, so great, great question. So just a little bit about me first. I'm a - Crystal, I'm a public school dad of three - three young kids. I'm an Air Force veteran, attorney, community safety advocate. I had the pleasure of serving on a lot of boards and commissions, most recently the Seattle Police Chief Search Committee. Before that, I served - I got nitty gritty, waist deep in US census data and helped redraw the legislative boundaries in King County using a process that runs parallel to state and federal redistricting. Before that, helped champion and pass a brand new justice reform framework right here in Martin Luther King County - and that voter's ultimately approved. And, you know, so I live in Delridge with my family and look, I'm grateful - as an Air Force veteran, I went to law school. In the last 10 years, I've been helping organizations and individuals of all sizes start and grow their businesses and be successful. And I'm grateful, Crystal, where I am today personally and professionally. But I'm also someone who overcame the foster care system for the first nine years of my life - cycling in and out, in and out, mostly in - before my father, who is a Nigerian immigrant, was able to finally rescue me from those circumstances at age nine. And, you know, me and my dad - he ended up raising me as a single parent, ended up sort of struggling growing up, our struggles continued together. But I was born in Minneapolis and moved out West like middle school age - landed in South King County in Kent, so proud to have called - proud to call West Seattle my home today, lived in Seattle for over 15 years. But, you know, particularly during the formative years of my childhood - you know, adolescence - grew up in South County in Kent. And, you know, so let's just say I have a non-traditional background and journey and path to where I am today. And I grew up in Kent - in the valley in Kent - that were blocks away from the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center, Crystal, that would later house some of my childhood friends. And sadly, some of them would be sentenced for their crimes by judges who are now my professional mentors in the legal community. And so I've always felt this continuing, ongoing - not just responsibility, but duty - duty to make sure that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities and walks of life are able to not only achieve their true potential in life, but thrive. And part of my calling, part of the way I've been able to do that is through justice reform and making sure more people that look like me and you and others, you know, aren't like - more specifically more Black and brown folks - aren't overly represented in the criminal justice system here. And so I mentioned some of that work. And I fought to hold bad police accountable in the past, and I'll continue to do that, you know, going forward if elected in Seattle City Council. But public safety has been weighing heavily on my heart and my mind, Crystal, as a dad - dad in the city, just a dad from Delridge. And I understand the need - as a Black man growing up in this country, I understand the need to have better police because I've experienced police brutality firsthand. And better police - not no police, not defund police, but better police - and I fought to hold bad police accountable, continue that work going forward. But the stakes have never been higher to make sure that we have the public safety resources and prevention and response and intervention capabilities - both, all - that we need to meet the challenges we're currently facing. And I was - been personally disheartened by some of the current direction of the Seattle City Council in particular, and I'm here to focus on solutions. The stakes for this city have never been higher - for my kids, for kids across this entire city. But I couldn't be more energized and excited at the opportunity that we all have to bring about the change that I think people are so desperately yearning for. So that's why. [00:05:31] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Well, before we dive into all of the details and long discussion we're gonna have, we are adding a new element into our candidate interviews this year, which is a bit of a lightning round - just short form yes or no, or choose one answers. And so starting with this little group - This year, did you vote yes on the King County Crisis Care Centers levy? [00:05:56] Rob Saka: Yes, happily. [00:05:57] Crystal Fincher: This year, did you vote yes on the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services levy? [00:06:03] Rob Saka: Yes, yes - that benefits everybody. Not just 'cause I'm a vet - heck yes. [00:06:08] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote in favor of Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135? [00:06:13] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:06:16] Crystal Fincher: In 2021, did you vote in favor of Bruce Harrell or Lorena González for Mayor? [00:06:21] Rob Saka: I voted for Mayor Bruce Harrell. [00:06:24] Crystal Fincher: In 2021, did you vote for Nicole Thomas Kennedy or Ann Davison for City Attorney? [00:06:29] Rob Saka: Ooh, yeah, it's - rock and a hard place - but given the choice between an abolitionist and someone super duper hefty and strong on public safety, I voted for Ann Davison. [00:06:43] Crystal Fincher: In 2022, did you vote for Leesa Manion or Jim Ferrell for Prosecutor? [00:06:48] Rob Saka: Leesa. [00:06:49] Crystal Fincher: In 2022, did you vote for Patty Murray or Tiffany Smiley for US Senate? [00:06:54] Rob Saka: Senator Murray. I helped knock on doors for her in 2010. Of course, yeah. [00:07:00] Crystal Fincher: Do you rent or own your residence? [00:07:03] Rob Saka: Today, I own - grateful for that - but I'm a lifelong renter and other unstable and insecure housing before that, but today, I own. [00:07:12] Crystal Fincher: Are you a landlord? [00:07:14] Rob Saka: No. [00:07:15] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to require landlords to report metrics, including how much rent they're charging, to help better plan housing and development needs in the district? [00:07:25] Rob Saka: Maybe. Curious to understand more about what specific set of problems that would help address-- [00:07:34] Crystal Fincher: We can get more into all the detail. We'll keep these to yes or no right now. Are there instances where you support sweeps of homeless encampments? [00:07:45] Rob Saka: I support better connecting our unhoused neighbors with shelter and services, and some people call it sweeps, some people call it restoring encampments or whatever, but-- [00:07:57] Crystal Fincher: Is this a yes or a no? [00:08:01] Rob Saka: I support connecting people with, better connecting people with shelter and services. So I guess under your framing, yes. [00:08:08] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to provide additional funding for Seattle's Social Housing Public Development Authority? [00:08:15] Rob Saka: Maybe. We need to figure out where that's gonna come from, but I'm inclined to do it. I'm looking forward to working with the authors of the original bill - that I voted for - to figure out what the funding solution looks like. [00:08:28] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with King County Executive Constantine's statement that the King County Jail should be closed? [00:08:36] Rob Saka: As a principle - long-term, yeah, long-term, but yeah, we still have issues and challenges today that require incarceration, and so-- [00:08:52] Crystal Fincher: Moving on to - lightning round, lightning round. Do you agree with King County Executive Dow Constantine that the Youth Jail should be closed in 2025? [00:09:02] Rob Saka: Maybe. [00:09:04] Crystal Fincher: Should parking enforcement be housed with an SPD? [00:09:10] Rob Saka: Maybe. [00:09:11] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to allow police in schools? [00:09:17] Rob Saka: Yes, if that's what the community wants. [00:09:19] Crystal Fincher: Would, do you support allocation in the City budget for a civilian-led mental health crisis response? [00:09:25] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:09:26] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget to increase the pay of human service workers? [00:09:31] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:09:33] Crystal Fincher: Do you support removing funds in the City budget for forced encampment removals, and instead allocating funds towards a Housing First approach? [00:09:42] Rob Saka: No. [00:09:44] Crystal Fincher: Do you support abrogating or removing the funds from unfilled SPD positions and putting them towards meaningful public safety measures? [00:09:53] Rob Saka: No. [00:09:55] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocating money in the City budget for supervised consumption sites? [00:10:00] Rob Saka: No. [00:10:01] Crystal Fincher: Do you support increasing funding in the City budget for violence intervention programs? [00:10:08] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:10:10] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract, or Seattle Police Officers Guild contract, that does not give the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of Inspector General subpoena power? [00:10:22] Rob Saka: Yes, I worked on it at the county level - yes. [00:10:26] Crystal Fincher: So you oppose it, they should have subpoena power? [00:10:28] Rob Saka: Yeah, absolutely. I believe an effective civili-- well, we can talk about it, but yeah, yeah. [00:10:32] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't remove limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian? [00:10:45] Rob Saka: Help me understand this question - is it - so-- [00:10:47] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose basically lifting the cap, removing limitations? Would you oppose a contract that doesn't remove those limitations as to how many of OPA's investigators must be sworn versus civilian? [00:11:03] Rob Saka: No. [00:11:03] Crystal Fincher: Meaning should - okay, gotcha. Do you oppose a SPOG contract that impedes the ability, do you oppose a SPOG contract that impedes the ability of the City to move police funding to public safety alternatives? [00:11:20] Rob Saka: Would I oppose a SPOG contract that removes? [00:11:23] Crystal Fincher: That impedes the ability of the City to move police funding to public safety alternatives? [00:11:31] Rob Saka: Yes, provided it doesn't impact, yeah. [00:11:34] Crystal Fincher: Do you support eliminating in-uniform off-duty work by SPD officers? [00:11:43] Rob Saka: No. [00:11:45] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams that fit with their gender identities? [00:11:53] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:11:55] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans people can use bathrooms or public facilities that match their gender? [00:12:00] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:12:02] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Seattle City Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax? [00:12:08] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:12:10] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to reduce or divert the JumpStart Tax in any way? [00:12:15] Rob Saka: No. [00:12:17] Crystal Fincher: Are you happy with Seattle's newly built waterfront? [00:12:23] Rob Saka: Yes. Maybe. Could be better. [00:12:26] Crystal Fincher: Do you believe return to work mandates, like the one issued by Amazon, are necessary to boost Seattle's economy? [00:12:34] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:12:36] Crystal Fincher: Have you taken transit in the past week? [00:12:40] Rob Saka: No. [00:12:41] Crystal Fincher: In the past month? [00:12:43] Rob Saka: No. [00:12:44] Crystal Fincher: Have you ridden a bike in the past week? [00:12:48] Rob Saka: No. In the last month - yes. [00:12:51] Crystal Fincher: Should Pike Place Market allow non-commercial car traffic? [00:13:00] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:02] Crystal Fincher: Should significant investments be made to speed up the opening of scheduled Sound Transit light rail lines? [00:13:09] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:11] Crystal Fincher: Should we accelerate the elimination of the ability to turn right on red lights to improve pedestrian safety? [00:13:19] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:21] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever been a member of a union? [00:13:23] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:25] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to increase funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting? [00:13:33] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:35] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever walked on a picket line? [00:13:39] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:13:40] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever crossed a picket line? [00:13:42] Rob Saka: No. [00:13:44] Crystal Fincher: Is your campaign unionized? [00:13:49] Rob Saka: No, no one in my-- [00:13:52] Crystal Fincher: You would know if it was. [00:13:53] Rob Saka: Yeah. [00:13:54] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. If your campaign staff wants to unionize, will you voluntarily recognize their effort? [00:14:00] Rob Saka: Yes. [00:14:02] Crystal Fincher: See, and that's the end of the lightning round - quick and painless. And now we can get into our deep conversation where we can get into all of the nuance. Wanted to start out talking about, you know, a lot of people look to work that candidates have done to get a feel for what they prioritize and how qualified they are to lead. Can you describe something you've accomplished or changed in your district and what impact that has had on its residents? [00:14:28] Rob Saka: Yeah, so a couple of things. I kind of - as I mentioned, I served on a number of boards, appointed boards, and commissions at the county and city level. And particularly with respect to my prior work in the King County Charter Commission where kind of basically changed the landscape for, you know - at the constitutional, the basic framework of the county, made a number of changes that voters ultimately approved and signed off on that, you know, helped make King County a better place. And therefore this district and the city, entire city a better place. So more specifically, you know, I'm really proud of a lot of the work that I did in the justice reform space. You know, I'm one of the co-architects, the reason why in this county we no longer elect our sheriff, we appoint our sheriff. Why? Because I believe in effective civilian oversight of law enforcement. Also, you know, one of the lightning round questions earlier was about, you know, granting the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight or whatever - the parallel office, whatever it's called, at the city level - them subpoena power. And I helped champion and pass that at the county level to make sure that the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight has subpoena power and voters approved that. And, you know, also with respect to the inquest process, when someone is killed by law enforcement, you know, I helped add safeguards and protections and making sure that that process is more fair and transparent for all, more specifically by adding and allowing the families of the deceased to be represented by, you know, have legal representation and clarifying what constitutes an in-custody death situation. So, you know, that's sort of like the package of justice reform work that I'm proud to have been a part of and help lead. And then there's this whole issue of workplace protections. It is now unlawful in this county to discriminate against workers on the basis of, you know, their status as family caregivers or their status as a veteran, including veterans who were dishonorably discharged as a direct result of their, you know, their trans and queer status. Some, you know, as we know, when Trump took office, you know, he did what Trump does and unfortunately, a lot of people were given paperwork and discharged, many dishonorably, from the military. And so now in this county, you can no longer - so it's not just the people of, absolutely, you know, like everyone benefits from that, not just the people in the county. And selfishly, look, as a veteran and someone who has - with three young kids - and I have my own family caregiving obligations, but so my DNA and fingerprints are clearly all over that. But we know that everyone, everyone benefits, again, when they can show up to work without fear of reprisal, retribution, discrimination, because of one of those things. [00:17:46] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Well, I wanna talk about the City budget. The City of Seattle is projected to have a revenue shortfall of $224 million beginning in 2025. The City's mandated by the state to pass a balanced budget. So the only options to address that deficit are either raising revenue or cutting services. Which one of those is, or what combination of those, is your approach? [00:18:12] Rob Saka: Yeah, it might be a more - I respectfully, you know, reject the paradigm - it's one or the other, you know, cutting or modifying maybe. And we can consider new revenue opportunities, but I think my starting place is operating within existing state law, meaning, you know, we have to have a balanced budget and start with whatever City budget we do have in place. And, you know, so that's my starting point. We need to identify what's working well, like working well spending-wise - what kind of, you know, I personally support audits of city budgets - independent, third-party audits even of city budgets, potentially across the board to identify and regular ongoing like monitoring and systems evaluations to make sure we're getting the bang for our buck and making sure whatever dollars we're spending are wisely spent. And we can shift, you know, reshift or, you know, reallocate resources to areas of greater need and greater impact potentially, but depending on the opportunity. And then from there-- [00:19:25] Crystal Fincher: I guess starting in the frame, just to help clarify the frame. So if we are working within the City budget and starting with the existing City budget, what we're moving to needs to be $224 [million] slimmer than what currently is. So I think audits are wonderful things, I think they're actually an underutilized resource for many - and not a tool of punishment, but a tool of discovery. But if you do have to cut, if you are starting from the point of - let's take this budget and see where we can trim - where are you starting? What, where would you prioritize those cuts? [00:20:03] Rob Saka: Yeah, I'm not gonna prioritize any specific area. I'm not gonna come in and target any specific area. Instead, I'm gonna approach it with a curious mind and, you know, figure out what are those programs and services that are well delivered, well administered, and we're seeing results for. And what are, you know, other opportunities where they either need potentially additional investment or maybe reinvestment and kind of going from there. And then, you know, that's kind of like the framing that I kind of view this as. And then from there, if an existing - so if everything, after all that work, you know, it's a set of, you know, it's a spectrum, a set of analysis that kind of run side-by-side and in parallel. But, you know, from there, let's look at - so take the issue of homelessness, for example. Homelessness is certainly a Seattle problem, but it is not a Seattle-only problem. The issue of homelessness in this city is a regional problem, it's a county problem, it's a state problem, and it's a federal problem. And it's a shared - so I think not only should we not try and solve the issue - whatever the issue is, whatever the challenge is - alone and in a silo. We need to look to those other partners and other governments for design, helping to co-design and co-engineer the policy solution - Step one. Step two is we also need to look to them for, you know, like help funding the specific solutions as well. So, you know, I would push for more - that's one area where I would push for more funding of, you know, like the shared responsibility model. And from there, let's explore public-private partnerships - building housing, affordable housing - you know, there's organizations and private organizations, including some companies who, you know, want to contribute and help address the problem. And so working collaboratively with them to figure out what's doable, how we can potentially close some of those gaps and fund them. And then let's look at new revenue opportunities after that. And I know there's this new Progressive Revenue Task Force - or whatever it's been rebranded, it's called something else in Seattle now, but - and then let's look at new revenue potentials and opportunities. But there's like, I kind of think about it more than just like - yeah, I try to avoid the either or-- [00:22:43] Crystal Fincher: I mean, but isn't that, wouldn't that be the position that you're in when you're elected? You have to trim the budget by $224 million - absent finding new revenue, which is going to take a little bit to trickle in and get started anyway. So you're going to have to make that call as a councilmember, right? [00:23:01] Rob Saka: I'm going to have to make the call to be the, be a responsible steward of whatever dollars we are spending. I'm going to have to make the call of being, you know, doing my due diligence to make sure that we're operating within the existing City budget, identifying, you know, system deficiencies and opportunities to improve and streamline and allocate and sometimes reallocate resources. Yes. [00:23:27] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Okay. So let's talk about climate change. On almost every measure, we're behind on our 2030 climate goals, while experiencing devastating impacts from extreme heat and cold, to wildfires and floods. It's been really challenging and anticipated to see things like that with increasing frequency. What are your highest priority plans to get us on track to meet the 2030 goals? [00:23:53] Rob Saka: Yeah, so climate change is an issue that's really important to me personally and my family. And having talked to a lot of people throughout this district, it is one that I know is weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of a lot of people - I wouldn't say that supersedes public safety in the issue of, in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but it is very important, it's very urgent. So my specific plans and proposals from a policy perspective to address climate - make sure we have a, we actually bring to life climate justice and we're seeing and building out climate resiliency across this district and hopefully across the City as well. This - District 1, first of all, as you probably know, now includes South Park and Georgetown due to redistricting. And those are some of the most historically, you know, at-risk communities. The life expectancy of folks is lower there in the Duwamish Valley. We need to build out more sustainable communities and more resilient communities. So I support things like - we also need to cut down the amount of greenhouse gases as quickly as possible. And part of that is, you know, we need to encourage and incentivize people using 100% electric vehicles. You can do that at the city level in part by building out our infrastructure and charging battery infrastructure to support that across the city. So that's part of my plan. Another part is we need to get people, again, out of those single-occupancy vehicles that are producing the most greenhouse gases and into public transit. And so we need to, therefore, expand our public transit options. And not only as we expand out options and service, we need to expand reliability and the quality, overall quality of the experience. And I do know, just having talked to a lot of people - 7,000+, knocked on 7,000+ doors personally in this district. My campaign has knocked on an additional 12,000 outside of that. You know, there are some people, a lot of people that want to take public trans and get out of their cars, but unfortunately they just don't feel safe. They don't feel safe when they're on the bus. Crystal, they don't feel safe when they're on the journey from their homes to the bus stop. They don't feel safe when they get off the bus to wherever the destination they're going, whether it's downtown or wherever they're going. And so we can build out and expand and drive reliability and predictability and accessibility and our transit options. But if no one's feeling comfortable to take the bus, it's a nice shiny object that's effectively akin to a art project. We need to make sure we create the experience that is in-line with people's expectations as well and making sure we're doing both things in parallel. And also, you know, we need to - and part of my plan includes - working collaboratively with labor organizations to find the best opportunities and build the pipeline for those jobs, working class jobs, in sustainable fields and making sure that those are well-funded. And, you know, we create - everyone is able to share in the benefits of a sustainable economy that's diverse. Also building out and improving our green building codes and sustainable building standards, environmental standards - strengthening those. Those are just some of the things that, you know, kind of how I view the opportunity at the Seattle City government level, from a policy standpoint, to make further progress and accelerate our impact on addressing the climate challenges we face. [00:28:08] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. So how would you look to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in your district? [00:28:17] Rob Saka: Yeah, so we need to - one's low-hanging fruit. One is bike safety. So we need to add more protective barriers to bike lanes where possible, where feasible. I think there's an opportunity for more bike lanes, but I think we're at a decent place there - we're better off in bike lanes today in this district than we are in pedestrian safety improvements and enhancements. I'll tell you - 7,000 doors I knocked on personally, Crystal, and all over this district - and I started right here in my own community in Delridge. And then I sort of branched off, fanned out to other parts of the district and, you know - Admiral and Fauntleroy and Alki. And then, you know, South Park. And for the last month before the primary, I came back home - came back home to Delridge and High Point and, you know, other more disadvantaged communities, historically underrepresented communities like South Park. And I was struck by a couple of things. 'Cause when I was at those, like the "more affluent" parts of the district - I was amazed, Crystal - like the potholes were few. When there were potholes, they were quickly patched and repaired. Amazingly, shocking - there were sidewalks on both sides of the streets. And then when I came back home, particularly to Delridge - more specifically, like when you get further east of Del, anywhere east of Delridge, you go, the Delridge corridor - Crystal, there's many neighborhoods and communities that don't - not only do they not have one sidewalk, they don't have any sidewalks, period. We need to build out our, like, and building out, investing in basic sidewalk infrastructure is a huge opportunity to address pedestrian safety in this district. And I plan to do just that. [00:30:22] Crystal Fincher: Well, I want to talk about public safety a bit, and starting with alternative response. While a number of jurisdictions, definitely around the country - but even in our own region, in the county - have rolled out alternative response programs to better support those having behavioral health crises, Seattle has stalled in implementing what is a widely-supported idea by voters and residents in the City. Where do you stand on non-police solutions to public safety issues, and what are your thoughts on civilian-led versus co-response models? [00:30:54] Rob Saka: Yeah, so it's imperative. It's an essential part of my plan and my public safety package - to actually stand up, fund, and deliver this - and work collaboratively with my fellow council members and the mayor to do so. We've, sort of as you alluded to, Crystal - we've kind of languished a little bit, been in the sunken place a little bit, if you will - talking about this great opportunity, and we just can't seem to get unstuck and unblock ourselves. Meanwhile, you mentioned a few other jurisdictions right here in the county, across the state, that have done it - but some great comparators, I think from a population standpoint, geographic scope and size, are Denver and Albuquerque. We literally do not need to recreate the wheel here. Instead, we need to just humble ourselves and look to how, specifically, other jurisdictions have been successful. What works? Now, also, at the same time, understanding every single thing that they did well is not gonna port over, make a direct, logical, one-for-one - mean it'll automatically work out well here in Seattle, but we don't need to recreate the wheel. Let's look to what's been successful in other jurisdictions - I named a few that would be good comparators. With respect to, but that is an essential part of public safety, not the only part. Yeah, we need to hire more police officers and train them and make sure they have the tools and resources they need to be successful, set and enforce the highest standards of excellence and professionalism in the communities where they operate, and hold them accountable swiftly if they fail to carry out their duties in a just, equitable, constitutional manner. So that's also an essential part. But back to the first, the question here. Yes, I support these civilian-led responses. It's an urgent thing and we need to treat it as such. And for the co-response versus civilian-led response, I think that's gonna be a situation-dependent thing. I know they have various models in other jurisdictions. And if it's pretty clear, we need to develop some good, sharp, clear, consistent guidelines about what that response looks like. But I'll tell you, Crystal, when I - I volunteered for a 911 shift downtown, you know, at the call center downtown Seattle, and I was struck by two things. One, the mounting list of calls - queue of calls - that, like, deserves ordinarily some sort of police response of some sort, but because of staffing levels, no one was gonna get to it for hours, maybe some cases days. And also, I sat sitting side-by-side next to the frontline call center operator and listening to the calls, I definitely heard a few calls that someone was in a clear crisis situation and they needed a response of some sort, but a badge and a gun and armed response and a uniformed response was not at all what they need. We've seen how that's a formula for disaster. We, you know, we can train police officers - and yeah, we're gonna train them better, make them better, and hold them accountable, but we're not gonna train our way out of bad responses. Like, they don't need to be leading and frontlining a lot of these crises calls, especially when maybe the call earlier, someone might've been trying to take their life, that's conceivable, and then they respond to someone who just needs help. He needs a, they need a social worker or behavioral mental health crisis. We can't train our way out of that with uniformed gun-badge responses. So, but it's a situation-specific - to answer your question, you know, again, about the different models options. It's a situation-specific kind of analysis. [00:35:00] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. I wanna talk about victims - a lot, and we hear people talk about victims and oftentimes mischaracterize what victims say, but both from, you know, anecdotal conversations and numerous studies, victims overwhelmingly want two things - to make sure what happened to them doesn't happen to them or anyone else again, and help getting beyond their - support and help to get beyond and to restore what was lost or damaged or hurt. And we don't do a good job from a governmental standpoint, or as a community, supporting people who have been victimized. And so often that feeds into very unhealthy outcomes later on down the line. What can you do in your capacity as a City Councilperson to better support victims of crime? [00:35:55] Rob Saka: Yeah, so great, great question. I think the best - so all of these issues - highly complex, nuanced. So let's double click, dive a little deeper. So we talked about the imperative a moment ago to, you know, from my perspective, to hire more police, public safety, empower them, set and enforce the highest standards, and hold them accountable. Also the co-equal important policy plan that I have to stand up, fund and implement, you know, these civilian-led responses. But also a very, very important part of this whole equation is prevention - making sure that we don't have to, people don't have to experience crime to begin with. Making sure that people - that crime victims, if you will - you know, not only they don't feel the sentiment and have the experience of like, not wanting that to happen again to someone else, but also they don't feel the sense of like, we need to kind of restore and bring a sense of whole and completeness to whatever traumatic experience happened to them. So prevention is really important and crime prevention is really important. And why is there crime? Well, it's complex, not just one thing, but you know, rising inequality, lack of access to resources, unequal opportunities, poverty, you know, lack of mental behavioral health services and support. And I think building out programs and services anchored and oriented around addressing those root causes will go a long way in preventing crime to begin with and minimizing our impact. Because yes, we need effective prevention and address the root causes, if you will, but we also need to make sure that we have, you know, our whole like policy plans and funding strategy reflects, you know, making sure we can contemplate and resource the realities of today and have good interventions as well. So, you know, all of those things must and should coexist in parallel, in my view. [00:38:17] Crystal Fincher: Okay, so I just wanted to clarify on that last one. I think your points about prevention and your plans to hire more police certainly speak to some other aspects, but specifically when it comes to supporting victims - people who have been - unfortunately, while you're working towards prevention and doing the other things, it is, there are going to be more people who are victimized unfortunately, even while we're reducing crime. But what could you do to better support victims, people who have been victimized, and people who do need help? [00:38:55] Rob Saka: Yeah, so great question. The number one thing is making sure we have effective intervention and response capabilities. And, you know, we do that in part through making sure we have well, you know, well-resourced, trained set of public safety apparatus - firefighters, police, paramedics - and to make sure that people have the responses that they need and expect. Making sure if someone has been like victimized by property crime or whatever it is, that, you know, they can reasonably expect an officer to show up and, you know, take a report, and hopefully investigate that, and follow up, and show up in a timely manner. But also, you know, depending on the nature of the victimization for crime victims, we also need to do a better job of making sure people have access to services and - like trauma response and support services - and they're better taken care of from a mental health perspective as well. And help them navigate and better help them navigate everything - like, you know, talking about crime in abstract, you know, without a specific like fact pattern, it's a little tricky. But I do think at a high level, there is a huge opportunity to better help people navigate the various systems, structures, services, and programs that currently exist today once - for victims - and then build out and expand those as well. [00:40:56] Crystal Fincher: I see. I wanna talk about housing and homelessness and in particular, one thing called out by experts as a barrier to the effectiveness of the homelessness response is frontline worker wages that don't cover the cost of living. Do you believe our local nonprofits have a responsibility to pay living wages for our area, and how can you make that more likely with how the City bids for and contracts for services? [00:41:24] Rob Saka: Yeah, I think that is some of the most important work going on - in any profession, in any discipline, in any - like the direct frontline work that, you know, our professionals across a variety of disciplines are doing directly on a day-to-day basis with our unhoused neighbors. And inflation is rising exponentially. You know, wage increases haven't kept up just across the board, especially in government and in nonprofit contracted work. So yes, I support, you know, making sure they have living wages because as a policy matter, like you sort of, your priorities show up in what you support and what you fund. So that doesn't also mean at the same time, you know, wouldn't look for - in the issue of homelessness, for example - wouldn't look for opportunities to perform, you know, like initial or like regular ongoing systems checks to analyze performance and, you know, figure out what's working well and, you know, knock down barriers to success and, you know, things like that. But yeah, I mean, I, these workers have a tough job. So I support living wages. [00:43:03] Crystal Fincher: And I wanna talk about the larger economy - well, larger to the City and district, at least. And the City has a very, very vibrant business economy. Some of the largest corporations in the world headquartered here and nearby, as well as a really vibrant small business community that really spans the range across the board. But they have a number of challenges that they're trying to deal with and get beyond. So when it comes to your district, what can you do? I guess, one, what do you think the biggest challenges facing small businesses in your district are and how can you address those needs? [00:43:43] Rob Saka: Yeah, the biggest challenge is facing this district. You're right, like, to first address - kind of how you prefaced that question, I like that framing - yeah, we have a vibrant economy with companies and businesses of all sizes. And, you know, the only challenge is it's not - the benefits that provides our region, you know, aren't always equally shared and distributed and those opportunities aren't always equally shared. And look, I grew up in Kent, you know, and - in the valley in Kent, like I said - and my dad, if we know what we know about Kent, the economy runs on two things - agriculture and warehousing district. It's always been a warehousing district. Today, there's this big, fancy Amazon fulfillment center - it's like the crown jewel of the Kent warehousing district. And I'm glad it's there, personally. And great, you know, but before that was there and long after it, something else, maybe. It's always been a warehousing district, always will be. And my father was a frontline warehouse worker in Kent. And I found my path to other opportunities in tech, you know, through the military and law school and other things, but we need to make sure more people have access to those opportunities. But to answer, you know, that kind of follow-up question there about what can I do? What can I best do to support small businesses if elected? Well, one, I don't view my role as like prescribing, you know, setting forth prescriptive menu changes for a restaurant, for example. But where I can help, and I've talked to small businesses - small business owners, their workers, their customers - and the number one opportunity that I see to help support them and help make sure that they're successful is public safety. There, someone told me the other day - a small business owner with an office downtown told me the other day that their workers don't feel safe coming to downtown. So how can you impose these hybrid work requirements, which I generally support, as long as there's some - I also like the flexibility, especially, and value the flexibility as a parent of young kids to have, you know, like a couple of days to work from home, work remotely. But how can you impose these across the board, agnostic of whatever the attendant circumstances is, you know, requirements for working from the office based on some arbitrary number or some executive's gut feeling about what sparks innovation the most when people, when their workers don't even feel safe. And then their customers oftentimes don't feel safe. How are we going to stimulate the economy if people - we need to get more people, not just from this district, into these businesses across the district and across the city, but we need to get more people from, you know, South County and, you know, people from the Eastside and other parts of the state and like wanting to come here and spend their money and feel comfortable and invest here as well. So I think public safety is the number one opportunity that I see and I hear over and over and over again from small business owners, their workers, and customers. [00:47:30] Crystal Fincher: Right, and I wanna ask you about childcare, which is a challenge faced not only by people with kids, you know - challenge faced primarily with them - but the effects are felt throughout the entire community. It's people's largest expense next to housing, frequently. And now the annual cost of childcare tops that of college annually. So it's just an astronomical expense and sometimes just the accessibility - just is there childcare available near you - is a challenge. What can you do as a City councilmember to help families in your district with this? [00:48:10] Rob Saka: Yeah, it's a unique problem that I understand firsthand, not only as someone with childcare responsibilities - my number one job in life is the parent of these three kids - but also someone who experienced, you know, like pre-K childcare from a place of need in under-representation. And look, I mentioned I grew up in and out of foster care for the first nine years of my life - mostly in. And, you know, when I wasn't in foster care during that time, you know, sometimes I was in a, like a Head Start program or a funded program of some sort. Usually it was not being watched by whoever could watch me. And raised by soap operas. And I'm grateful, like I said, where I am today personally and professionally, not because of some of those, you know, lousy experiences, but I'm grateful because I am where I am despite some of those lousy circumstances. And you look at the research and you look at the data on people, on kids who have been exposed to like, like pre-K programs and preschool programs, been in those programs. And you look at their life outcomes. They perform generally better in school than their peers who don't have some sort of preschool program and are just sort of like, kind of how I was describing and how I grew up most of the time. Their graduation rates are higher, their college attendance rates are higher. Like their life outcomes are generally better. And so one opportunity that I see long-term - I got two terms in me if I win. One is not enough to get done what I intend to get done, and two is like just a sweet spot. I don't believe in mandatory term limits, but there's nothing wrong with self-imposed ones. So I have two terms - towards the end, I wanna actually build out and fund preschool program for all. And make sure that more people have that opportunity. And make sure more people have access to quality affordable childcare - and educational, like a learning environment that's gonna help them, and help communities, and help us long-term. So really, really urgent challenge. And also part of that, like childcare workers are some of the most underpaid folks too. And they do work, and they do work for us. And I know firsthand, a lot of them put their - they were some of the most unsung heroes during COVID. They, a lot of workers, but like talking about this specific question, a lot of them put their health and safety on the line for poor wages, uncertain working conditions - to make sure more people could work. And make sure more kids are able to be successful long-term. And so they're grossly underpaid. So there's been other jurisdictions that have been successful, at least in terms of like starting to think about, how to better pay and how to better fund universal preschool programs for all. And so I'm curious to figure out creative ways to do exactly that on Seattle City Council. [00:51:38] Crystal Fincher: And the last thing I just wanna touch on is - back to a budget issue - those Progressive Revenue Task Force recommendations that did come out, especially now before this revenue shortfall. So if dramatic cuts are to be avoided, there does need to be some new revenue in place. Do you support, or will you be advocating for any of the recommendations from the Progressive Revenue Task Force, or any other ideas you have? [00:52:11] Rob Saka: Yeah, thank you, Crystal. So, we talked a little bit about my, like kind of how I view the budget and operating with the existing - looking to additional government partners at all levels, and funding sources, and public-private partnerships - and then expanding, looking at new revenue sources. But you asked a question about potential new revenue sources. And from this report, I'm most keenly interested in learning more about the vacant home, vacant lot tax idea. That seems to be - potentially, I don't know - I would love to learn more and explore and closely study, examine the feasibility of that. But that seems to be just the most low-hanging fruit opportunity in terms of one, creating revenue. We shouldn't just create revenue for the sake of it. You know, it should have a purpose and an incentive and disincentive structure behind it. I think that will help address the affordability crisis, and making sure we have beneficial use of living space at all times, and incentivize people to actually use stuff. So, but, so that's one thing I'm keenly interested personally in learning more about and exploring. Yeah. [00:53:41] Crystal Fincher: Got it. In the last couple minutes we have here, there are people trying to make a decision between you and your opponent - and two new candidates, no incumbent in this open seat race - and people just searching for who best aligns with their values and who is best suited for this role. What do you tell voters who are trying to make up their minds? [00:54:04] Rob Saka: Yeah, so we have a very clear choice in this race. The contrasts have never been more clear. We can choose the business-as-usual approach and, or we have an opportunity to bring about some change. And I'm a strong Democrat, you know, make no apologies about that - matter of fact, I'm the strongest Democrat in this race 'cause I'm the only one that's been endorsed by our home local Democratic Party, the 34th District Dems, shout out to them. And I'm a strong progressive. And, you know, I also need to think we need to better incorporate progressive values, equity, and make sure things not only are equitable by design - I think we do that well in Seattle - but also equitable in implementation. And is it truly equitable in implementation? And being willing to humble ourselves and figure out if that's not the case, what's the solve? What's the fix? What's the solution? And the issue of public safety, there's - I've been entirely consistent about this whole time. We need to stand up civilian-led responses. We need to hire more police and empower them to carry out their public safety mandate and hold them accountable. We need to also focus on crime prevention in parallel. So that's my plan. There's complexity and there's nuance there. And, you know, despite some of the rising crime and gun violence in this district - South Park, someone was shot and I think killed earlier today. And the issue of gun violence isn't one shared equally across this city and across this district. Certain communities, including the one I live in - in Delridge, are more impacted and bearing the brunt of it more than others. So it's just remarkable to see that after all these shootings, my opponent still thinks that defunding the police by 50% was a good idea. I think it was a bad idea. And that doesn't mean we can't hold bad police accountable. I fought to do that. I fought to do exactly that at the county level and I'll continue to do that and accelerate that work. But yeah, the issue of public safety has never been, the contrast has never been clear. And look, if people like the current direction of the Seattle City Council - the current approach, the toxicity, the divisiveness, the performative ideological-based, you know, acts and gestures rather than a collaborative approach focused on solutions, I'm probably not their candidate. But I am here to bring about the change I think people so desperately want and need - a collaborative, responsive government that centers equity, progressive values, and a little healthy dose of common sense as well. So yeah. [00:57:23] Crystal Fincher: Well, thank you so much for your time and for sharing more about your candidacy with us today - much appreciated. [00:57:32] Rob Saka: Thank you, Crystal - appreciate you. [00:57:34] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.
Jill Schlesinger on the importance of securing life insurance // Diane Duthweiler with the shocking results of a Washington littering study // Paging Dr. Gordon Cohen on how to get restful sleep // Casey McNerthney with the latest on how King County is dealing with gun related domestic violence cases // Dose of Kindness -- "Pay it forward 9/11" honors those who lost their lives 22 years ago // Gee Scott on the demoralizing loss by the Seahawks over the weekend // Aaron Granillo on the Mariners' raising money for pupsSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank! They discuss a poll showing that Seattle voters want a more progressive City Council, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction overseeing more and more school districts in budget crisis, gubernatorial candidate Mark Mullet getting financially backed by charter school advocates, and Bruce Harrell's ethnic media roundtable not going very well. The conversation continues with the possibility of a $19 minimum wage for unincorporated King County, internal drama within top brass of the Seattle Police Department, and reflection on a consent decree ruling that ends most federal oversight of SPD. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today's co-host, Robert Cruickshank, at @cruickshank. Resources “Ending Youth Incarceration with Dr. Ben Danielson of AHSHAY Center” from Hacks & Wonks “Poll: Seattle voters want new direction on City Council” by Josh Cohen from Crosscut “State will keep fiscal tabs on three cash-starved Washington school districts” by Jerry Cornfield from Washington State Standard “WA Supreme Court sides with state in suit over school building costs” by Dahlia Bazzaz from The Seattle Times “Big checks for a pro-Mullet PAC” by Paul Queary from The Washington Observer “Harrell asks for better relations with ethnic media” by Mahlon Meyer from Northwest Asian Weekly “King County looks at $19 minimum wage in unincorporated areas” by David Gutman from The Seattle Times “King County Councilmembers propose $19 minimum wage for Skyway and White Center” by Guy Oron from Real Change “Seattle police chief's alleged relationship with employee prompts inquiries, roils department” by Ashley Hiruko & Isolde Raftery from KUOW “Judge ends most federal oversight of SPD, after 11 years and 3 chiefs” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times Find stories that Crystal is reading here Transcript [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 Tuesday topical show and our Friday week-in-review 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. If you missed our Tuesday topical show, I welcomed Dr. Ben Danielson, director of AHSHAY (Allies and Healthier Systems for Health and Abundance in Youth) Center for an important conversation about ending youth incarceration. Today, we're continuing our Friday week-in-review show 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: Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long-time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank. [00:01:19] Robert Cruickshank: Thank you for having me back again, Crystal. It's always a pleasure to be here reviewing the week with you. [00:01:23] Crystal Fincher: Always a pleasure and I wanna start out talking about a poll that came out this week, sponsored by Crosscut - an Elway Poll - showing that voters seem to want a more progressive City Council. What did this poll reveal? [00:01:38] Robert Cruickshank: It's a really interesting poll. Crosscut's headline says - Seattle voters want a new direction on the City Council - but if you dig down with the poll itself, it's clear that there's strong support for a more progressive direction. One of the questions they ask is - Who are you more likely to vote for? A progressive candidate, a centrist candidate, or no opinion. The progressive candidate, 49%. Centrist candidate, 37%. And no opinion, 14%. That actually matches pretty closely some of the results we saw in key City Council primary elections last month. In District 1, for example, District 4, District 6 - you saw pretty similar numbers with a progressive candidate getting close to or around 50% and a more centrist candidate getting somewhere between the upper 30s and low 40s. We have a poll, we have the actual election results from the primary - now that doesn't guarantee anything for the general election. But evidence is starting to pile up that - yes, Seattle voters do want a new direction and it's very likely they want to be a more progressive direction. We've lived for the last three years - certain media pundits and media outlets, like KOMO or The Seattle Times, pushing really hard this narrative that Seattle wants a right-wing turn, Seattle's fed up with a progressive City Council, we're fed up with homelessness, we're fed up with crime - we want to turn to the right, darn it. The poll results and the election results last month just don't support that argument at all. Yes, voters are unhappy and voters are looking at what the progressive candidates are saying and thinking - Yeah, that's how we want to solve this. Yes, we want to solve homelessness by getting people into housing. Yes, we want to solve crime by having all sorts of solutions - including alternatives to policing, alternatives to armed response - to help address this problem. And I think that some of the media outlets and Chamber of Commerce and others, who keep pushing this Seattle-wants-to-turn-right narrative, are just trying to will a story into existence, try to will that reality into existence - but voters are making it clear they're not going along with that. [00:03:28] Crystal Fincher: It really does make some of the rhetoric that we hear over and over again sound like astroturfing, sound like a marketing project - because like you said, over and over again, these election results and these polls just repeatedly tell a different story. For example, we've talked on this show before about stopping with just - Hey, are you happy with the way things are going or are you dissatisfied? And if people say they're dissatisfied, there's been this assumption - that means that they want to get rid of progressive councilmembers and progressive policy. And that has never borne out in the data. One of the questions - On the issue of homelessness, if you had to choose, what approach should have the higher priority for city government resources? One option is: Moving the tents out of parks and public areas and moving their occupants into temporary shelters - which is a nice way to say sweeps - 41%. The other option: Developing permanent housing and mental health services for people experiencing homelessness - 55%. This is not controversial - we've been talking about this on this show for quite some time, lots of people have - these are serious policies backed by evidence and it just makes sense, right? And it makes you question how deeply invested are people in the narrative that Seattle is fed up and they want a really punitive law and order, harsh lock-'em-up approach to things - that just doesn't play out. What we're gonna see in this general election, as we've seen before - it looks like we're anticipating some of the same type of communication, same type of commercial, same type of mailers trying to use those same tired depictions of homelessness as if the people who are homeless are the problem and not the fact that they don't have homes to live in. And Seattle sees that. They see that over and over again. And what we see is there is this attempt, especially around public safety rhetoric, to make it just very flat. Either you want more cops and you support cops and Blue Lives Matter and all of that, or you hate safety and you love crime and you don't want anything. And just making it either you're defund or this Antifa radical, or you're wanting more law and order on the streets. It just doesn't turn out that way. People want serious solutions. We've been doing the same things over and over again. And the public is begging these people to keep listening, but it just doesn't work. Like you said, a plurality here prefer a progressive candidate - 12 points higher than a more moderate candidate, as they put it - conservative wasn't a choice in here. Centrist and progressive - as is the way in Seattle - the way things are usually discussed. Also, when they asked about priorities - How are they evaluating candidates for City Council? It's really interesting. The top answers were: Do they support creating a new department for non-police emergency response, Do they support city funding of substance abuse treatment for people in public housing - both of those at 72%. If you're in the 60s, that's automatic win territory. 72%, it's - how wild is it that this is not on the top of everybody's agenda? Then we move down to - looking at the lower end - the lowest, actually, was: Supporting a three-year moratorium on the Jumpstart tax - that actually made people more likely to vote against someone for voting against a moratorium on that tax, which we've seen the Chamber float and other allied business interests trying to siphon some of that money or reduce the tax that they're paying. And voters are clearly saying no. And people who advocate for that are going to be hurt by taking that position in this general election. So this is just really interesting. One of these questions: Support for Bruce Harrell's agenda. One, I want someone to define what that agenda is - great to ask that in a vague way - what does that mean? And I would love for people to talk - when they talk about the mayor's agenda, Bruce Harrell's agenda - define what that is. I think that's a tougher task than many people might assume at first glance. What else did you see here? [00:07:38] Robert Cruickshank: There are a couple of things that stood out. You talked about taxes. They asked - How should Seattle cover a budget shortfall? 63% want a new business tax, 60% are willing to tax themselves - this just bolsters the point you just made that, contrary to what the Chamber wants, there's no support out there for slashing business taxes. We want to tax the rich more. And so that's another reason why progressive candidates are going to do well. Something you said resonated about the astroturfing. And you see these efforts to try to create outrage about different public safety issues. We saw some of that this week, where Sara Nelson had a stunt press conference in Little Saigon - which is facing issues, and the community of Little Saigon deserves to be heard and deserves to have their needs addressed. That's not what Sara Nelson was there to do. She was there to have a press conference stunt where she could stand there with Tanya Woo and say - Where's Tammy Morales? Why isn't Tammy Morales here? The answer is, as Tammy Morales explained, Tammy wasn't invited because Tammy was also at the Transportation Committee hearing in City Hall doing her job and asked where's Sara Nelson? The answer is Sara Nelson's out grandstanding. She's also the same person who's floating things like moratorium on the JumpStart Tax, floating things like sweeps and crackdowns on visible drug use. Sara Nelson somehow snuck into office in 2021 and thinks somehow that the City is supporting her agenda - whatever that might be, whatever right-wing cause she has at the moment - that's not where the electorate is right now. And I think that's all they have - are stunts - because their actual agenda is unpopular. And I think you're going to start seeing - as a campaign heads into the heat of the general election, the same playbook we've often seen from more centrist candidates. And Jenny Durkan was an expert at this - of just bear-hugging progressive positions, making themselves sound more progressive than they truly are - to try to get elected because they know that's what the electorate in Seattle wants. And then once in office, the mask comes off and they turned out to be the Chamber candidate that they always were. So that's something that the actual progressive candidates are gonna have to watch out for. And voters are going to need to be very careful in discerning between these candidates. Who's just mouthing the rhetoric that they think is going to get them elected? And who's a genuine and proven commitment to these ideals? - Who's really fought hard for taxing the rich? Who's fought hard for affordable housing? Who's fought hard to get services and shelter to people who are unhoused? - rather than people who are just maybe grandstanding on it because they think that's how they're gonna win. [00:10:00] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I think you bring up a really important point. It is that discernment. Some of the justification I've heard for people who are very invested in the "Seattle has taken a right turn" try and retcon the justification - well, voters wanted a conservative business owner and they really want that perspective on the Council. They want someone who's gonna knock heads and get tough. But people so easily forget - that's not at all how Sara Nelson ran. Sara Nelson ran as an environmentalist, as someone who wanted to reform the police department - those were her top-line messages in her communications. She wasn't talking about being a business owner, she was not talking about being tough on crime - she initially started that in the very beginning in the primary and that fell flat. And so they switched up real quick and all of the communication looked like it was coming from a progressive. They used the word "progressive" 72,000 times - Oh no, we're the real progressives here. And it didn't turn out that way. And as you said, once she was elected, the mask came off and we continue to see this over and over again. The moderate playbook, the conservative playbook is to mimic progressive. It's to use that same language. It's to talk about issues in a similar way. Leave yourself a little wiggle room to not commit, to not give a hard and fast answer to something so that when you are elected, you can say - Well, I didn't exactly say that - or - I didn't take a position on this. And we see this over and over again. I hope it doesn't happen again this time, but there's going to be a lot of money spent to try and do this again. And at some point we just have to say - We've seen this before and we've had enough, and we want people who are seriously engaging in how to solve the biggest problems that we face. Because Seattle voters are really frustrated - they are fed up, but fed up with not being listened to. I do congratulate this poll for going beyond just the - Are you happy and unhappy? - and asking the why - What direction do you want to go into? What policy solution do you prefer? And as I suspected, the answers are very enlightening and give you an eye into what voters are really thinking and considering. And I hope all of the candidates - and the electeds who aren't even on the ballot - take heed. I also want to talk about school districts - right now, just as school is starting over again - facing budget crises and just a world of hurt. What's happening here? [00:12:28] Robert Cruickshank: As schools are starting across Washington state this year, there are some schools where teachers have gone out on strike, mostly in Southwest Washington - places like Evergreen Schools in Vancouver, Camas in Clark County - and that's worth watching and we're supporting teachers. In addition, we're starting to see an even more ominous trend of districts needing the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, OSPI, to actually oversee their budgets. They need OSPI monitoring because they're in such deep financial straits, primarily because this Legislature continues to underfund our schools. The Legislature doesn't give schools enough money to cover their basic operations, especially in an era of inflation. And so you have at least three school districts that we know of so far, Marysville, La Conner, Mount Baker - these are all in Northwest Washington - are under OSPI oversight for budgets. It's the most, at any one time, in several years - since at least a great recession. OSPI is quoted as saying this is unprecedented. And they don't think it's gonna stop there. It's just the tip of the iceberg - as more and more districts face problems, as federal stimulus money goes away, as levy equalization dollars start to drop, as regionalization money - which is designed to help districts afford to pay teachers what it actually costs to live in their community - that starts to go away from the state. The state continues to underfund special education. And just this morning before we went on air, we saw the State Supreme Court ruled against the Wahkiakum School District in Southwest Washington, their case where they were trying to get the state to be held responsible for the cost of school construction. The Supreme Court said - No, the state and local governments, local districts are gonna have to share that - even though it takes 60% of voters to approve a school bond for construction, those often fail. And small communities like Wahkiakum, small logging community on the Columbia River, don't have the property tax base to keep their schools in good repair. So what we're seeing is the Legislature, and now the Supreme Court, continue to hand blow after blow to local school districts. And this is alarming, not just because it leads to cuts and even school closures - something they're considering in school districts like Seattle - that's bad enough. But when you start to see state oversight in management of districts, that's when I think red flags should really go up. There's things like appointing emergency fiscal managers - in the state of Michigan and other states where Republicans took over - that led to huge cuts to schools, where these emergency fiscal managers would come in and turn schools over to charter school operators, they tear up union contracts, they would make all sorts of cuts to libraries and music and other important services. Now, we're not seeing that in Washington state yet, but that architecture is now in place. And if the wrong person gets elected governor or the wrong party takes over the Legislature, all of a sudden these school districts could be losing local control over their basic dollars and spending to the state. So this is a unfolding crisis that the State Legislature and the Democratic majority there continue to ignore, continue to not take seriously - even though it remains in the Constitution, literally their paramount duty, to provide ample provision for funding, not just enough. The open dictionary says more than enough. No one can look at a public school district anywhere in Washington state and say schools are getting ample funding. They're just not. And this crisis is only going to grow worse. We're only going to see further cuts to schools, further closures, larger class sizes, teachers leaving - unless the State Legislature steps in. [00:16:00] Crystal Fincher: We do have to contend with the fact that this is happening with the Democratic majority, right? Even more frustrating where - this is another issue voters support in such huge numbers - adequately, amply funding education and raising the revenue because revenue is needed to amply fund education. It's really frustrating. And so I guess my question for you, because you do pay such close attention - I do recommend people follow Robert for a variety of things, but his insight on education policy is really valuable - how do we fix this? Is it all on the Legislature? Where is the fix here? [00:16:39] Robert Cruickshank: The fix is at the Legislature. Local school districts can only do so much. A 60% threshold has not been changed by the Legislature - they have the ability to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change that, that never happens. But even more, the Legislature has also capped a local operating levy. Seattle, which has a very pro-tax population, would happily tax ourselves a lot of money to have amazing public schools. We can't do that because we're prevented by the State Legislature. And the obvious reason, of course, is Seattle has such valuable property because we have Amazon, Vulcan, other large corporate property owners here who will ensure that the Legislature doesn't do that. So we have a State Legislature and a Democratic majority that is just unwilling to take on the big corporations and the wealthy to fund our public schools. They point to the capital gains tax. And yes, that was an important victory in 2021. And it's raising almost double what was expected. But of course, there's a caveat there. They cap the amount of money that goes to the Education Legacy Trust Fund - anything above that is supposed to go to school construction, which is great - we just talked about the Supreme Court decision and how local governments and local districts in rural Washington definitely need help funding schools. That's great. But what happens when you don't have the ability to pay the teachers to go into those buildings? When you don't have the ability to provide the books, materials, the music classes, the arts classes, the small class sizes that we voted for in 2014? The Legislature proposed a wealth tax last year - 20 out of 29 Senate Democrats, 43 out of 58 House Democrats supported it as co-sponsors. Surely there were many more who weren't sponsors who were on board. The bill never even made it out of committee in either chamber. At some point, we have to look at the State Legislature and the Democrats, even the progressives - even the Democrats we like and support strongly - haven't stuck their necks out for education, haven't stepped up to say we're gonna fix this. They aren't recognizing the crisis that's there and that's what we have to do. We have to point the finger at the Legislature and go to them at their town halls, to their offices, committee meetings in Olympia, testify virtually if that's possible again in January and make it crystal clear - this is a crisis, it is dire, and you have to fix it. And the only possible source of the fix is the Legislature. [00:19:02] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Thank you for your insight on that, and we do have to get involved. We have to make sure they hear our voices, demanding that this happens. And while they're at it - to provide free school lunches for all school kids. Also several other states - I think we're at 11 so far - are doing the same, putting us to shame. All states should have this and so we have a lot of work to do. Also wanna talk about a candidate for governor - Mark Mullet, current sitting senator out of the 5th legislative district, being backed by charter school money. What's happening here? [00:19:42] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, Mark Mullet, a very right-wing Democrat - he probably would have been a Republican if he didn't realize that being a Democrat would get him elected more easily out there in Issaquah. He's been hostile to teachers' unions for a long time, notoriously hostile to other unions - very nearly lost his reelection in 2020 to Ingrid Anderson, a progressive nurse. Mullet only prevailed by 58 votes, but continues to act as a very right-wing Democrat. And he's always been in love with charter schools - he's been a major obstacle to getting the Legislature to fully fund our public schools. He sits on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He works with centrist Democrats, corporate Democrats, and Republicans to try to block bills that would fund our schools. And in return, he's now gotten at least $25,000 from a charter school PAC to help fund a super PAC in support of Mark Mullet's run for governor. Polls continue to show so far that Mullet is trailing pretty badly here in the governor's race - Ferguson still has the lead, but it's early. We're well over a year away from the general election for governor. But Mullet clearly is staking his claim as the right-wing Democratic candidate, and the candidate of now folks who wanna privatize our public schools and spread charters everywhere. And as we've seen in other states, charter schools are really problematic. They don't really meet student needs on the whole. Their outcomes aren't better for students. And they're often fly-by-night operations - they'll close in the middle of a school year and then leave students just high and dry. But it's really revealing that Mullet is taking, or at least getting supported by, so much money - that's not a direct donation to his campaign, but it's clear that they are running a super PAC explicitly in support of Mark Mullet. It's a real sign - that's where his bread is buttered - by big corporations and school privatizer money. So something that I think voters are gonna wanna pay pretty close attention to as the campaign for governor starts to heat up next year. [00:21:33] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I do have to tell you, it is very concerning how unstable charter schools seem to be. How many - we see openings and then we see closings. And that just hardly ever happens with public schools. When it does, it's under financial duress and usually over the objections of all of the parents. But this has been something that we've seen with frequency with charter schools here in Washington. But yeah, definitely worth paying attention to that - and what that agenda is by the folks who have that super PAC and what other interests they're in-line with are really troubling. So we'll continue to pay attention to that. I also wanna talk about a story that came out - I actually think it was late last week, this is a short holiday week and so kind of trickled out - but it was a story about Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's roundtable with some of our local ethnic media outlets. We have wonderful, rich ethnic media outlets here in Washington State - all throughout the state, definitely here in King County. And the mayor's office seemed troubled by the lack of positive stories coming out, and so invited a number of these journalists to - it looks like City Hall - to have a little roundtable conversation. How did that turn out? [00:22:56] Robert Cruickshank: Well, it's interesting. Many mayors have met with our local ethnic media - it's a good thing for them to do in and of itself - Mike McGinn did a great tour of them back when I worked with him in 2011. So it makes sense for Harrell to try to reach out, but it doesn't seem to have gone very well. And according to at least one of the reports that was there, the mayor wasn't happy about the meeting being recorded - said he could speak less freely. But I think when you're dealing with journalists, any public official should know that's how journalists like to operate - they wanna record everything. And it just seemed like the mayor wanted to make it very personal and wanted to get good coverage out of these outlets. And that's just not how you actually should be approaching these media outlets to begin with. These folks want respect, they wanna be treated as serious journalists - which they are. And I think that for a mayor to come in the way it appears Mayor Harrell did, I don't think it's gonna serve his needs and certainly not the needs of those ethnic media outlets. [00:23:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, this was covered in Northwest Asian Weekly and it was really a jaw-dropping read because it does seem to start off - Bruce Harrell is a charismatic guy and there's nothing wrong with that, there's nothing wrong with wanting to open lines of communication, to air out any challenges - I think that's a positive thing. Where I think this took a bad turn was this assumption that they should put aside their professionalism, put aside the obligation they have to report - and to seek information and accountability - and just play along, go along with what he says. And the one thing that caught my eye, which maybe it didn't - well, a few things caught my eye - but one thing that I found troubling in here, which may not be an overt red flag and who knows what he actually meant by that, but there was an allusion to - Hey, there's Comcast money - anyone who works in the City of Seattle is aware of how much Comcast money there actually is in the City. But he said - Hey, the city might be able to facilitate ethnic media getting involved in Comcast channel 21, while also him saying that they were dying - which those ethnic media outlets directly challenged and he seemed to not accept or be willing to do. But dangling - Hey, there's more access, there's more information here for you if you play along. And that's the unspoken part of this. And even if that wasn't intended - I don't know what he intended - but as a public official, you have to be aware of when you're holding that much power, when you have that much control of resources and influence over people who are wielding those resources, and you have access to a bigger platform, and you're saying - Hey, I can help you out with this - there's the implication, if you aren't explicit and careful, saying - If you scratch my back too, if you ease up on the criticism, if you stop asking troubling questions. It seems like they heard that in this meeting and seemed to react - one, just mischaracterizing where they're at and they're not sitting here asking for handouts, they're not asking for anything unearned - they are professionals who put out great products, who many of us consume regularly and they're a part of our media ecosystem that too many people just leave out. And they're saying - No, we're not dying, we're here and we're thriving and we just want answers to our questions. We just want invitations to invites that other reporters are getting invites to. And there seem to be questions with that, as well as some offense taken to them asking just regular general questions. One reporter, a Black reporter from a Black media outlet, brought up - Hey, we're having a really hard time getting straight answers from your police department. Bruce Harrell is literally the executive to talk to for that - they answer to Bruce Harrell, he is in charge of the police department. And his response - You're the only one who's had that problem. I think everyone listening knows that they're not the only ones who have that problem. We've seen that across the ecosystem in various places, particularly to people who don't cover City Hall sympathetically, and that's just really troubling. You're there and you're not listening to the reporters who are reflecting their communities and trying to get information that is really important to the communities they serve. And the dismissiveness was just really troubling. [00:27:27] Robert Cruickshank: It really is. And I think it goes to the concerns that those media outlets have had for a long time. They wanna be taken seriously and deserve to be because they're serious journalists - doing serious journalism that is read and respected, not just in those communities they serve, but around the City. And yet they struggle to get invites to press conferences, they struggle to get responses from City departments, they struggle to get included in stories, they struggle to get their basic inquiries addressed. And they understand that a lot of the City's media relations folks, whether it's the mayor's office or City departments, don't always take them seriously. So to have the opportunity to sit down directly with the mayor is hugely important for these outlets - not only to show that they matter, but to get answers and to get things fixed that need to be fixed in the way the City is interacting with those media outlets. And yet for it to go this way, it just, in their minds, likely justifies a lot of concerns they had all along. It's not going to assuage them at all. And from the perspective of supporting local media outlets, it seems like this should have been handled better. Even from Bruce Harrell's own perspective, it could have been handled better. 'Cause now he's got a story that makes him look bad and raises questions about the way his office is responding to some of the most important media outlets in the City. I think it's - to insinuate that they might be dying goes right to the heart of the problem. These media outlets have been thriving for decades. And it's not easy for any media outlet to survive these days, large or small, no matter what community they serve. And the last thing they want is to be dismissed again - in this case, dismissed as potentially just on the brink of death. I mean, who knows how many of the TV stations are on the brink of death, right? Seattle Times - who knows how long the Blethen family is going to want to keep running it until the family decides to sell it out to Alden Global Capital, which will just gut everything for parts. It's important to treat these media outlets and their reporters with respect, no matter who it is in elected office or whatever City department you're in. And so I hope that the mayor's office puts that right. [00:29:29] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely agree. Also want to talk this week about a potential $19 minimum wage coming to unincorporated King County. What's being proposed? [00:29:42] Robert Cruickshank: King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay is proposing a $19 an hour minimum wage for unincorporated King County - so that's outside of a incorporated city. So cities like Seattle, SeaTac have obviously raised minimum wage. Tukwila has raised it, Renton - which is on the ballot this year - likely to pass. But there are about a quarter million people in King County who are not in a city. They live in a community, sometimes, or maybe they don't live in a formal community, maybe they're out in more rural parts of the county - but they're part of King County. And what Girmay is recognizing is there's an opportunity to help them. So what he wants to do is raise the minimum wage for those parts of King County, for those 250,000 people - which is a substantial number of people - to make sure that they can also benefit from a higher minimum wage and raise it to $19. We all know how inflation is hitting people, especially the rise in cost of housing - and Girmay's done a great job trying to address housing as well in his role on the King County Council. But this is a great step forward for the King County Council to not just sit by and say the minimum wage is a city issue or it's a state issue. No, they have a quarter million people they can help right now. And to step forward and propose this, I think, is the right thing to do. I hope that all candidates for King County Council embrace it. I hope that the current councilmembers embrace it and pass it as quickly as they can, because I think this is an important step for folks living in those communities. [00:30:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And they shouldn't be left out of the progress that many of the people who've been able to live in cities have been benefiting from. And sometimes we think unincorporated King County and people just think - Oh, it's just a few people living out in the boonies. You talked about how many people there are, and these are places like Vashon Island, Skyway, White Center - where there are a lot of people - these are our neighbors. They just happen to be in an area that wasn't formally incorporated. And so I see this as definite progress. We have a ways to go to get wages to a place where they're really funding people's lives today. Rents are so high. The cost of living has increased so much. Rents, childcare, these massive costs that are so huge and that are preventing people from being able to fully participate in society, to be upwardly mobile, to live the life that they choose. We know we can do better. We know we owe this to the residents. And I think this starts for businesses that employ more than 500 people. This is [not] burdening small businesses. It just seems like this is really the logical thing to do. Medium-sized businesses with 16 to 499 employees would be given a four-year transition period, but it's really important to get this on the way. This is a very popular policy also, fortunately. And so I am optimistic that this will pass and hope it has the unanimous support of the council. [00:32:25] Robert Cruickshank: I hope so too. It should be unanimous. I'd like to see Dow Constantine come in strongly for it as well and help use his power and influence to get it done. It should be an issue in the council races - between Teresa Mosqueda and Sofia Aragon, for example. I think it's a really important contrast that can be drawn. [00:32:40] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. I wanna close out talking about a couple of stories revolving around the Seattle Police Department. The first is a story that broke - I think it was KUOW reported on it - but there have been rumors dogging Seattle Police Chief Diaz about an alleged affair or rumored affair. However, lots of people are really wondering whether to question this because it also may be rumors intended - falsely made up - intended to de-credit the chief and speed his way out. And people are trying to weigh which one of these this is. What happened here and what do you see going on? [00:33:26] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, this is a sadly typical situation that we've seen in SPD over the years - where different elements of the command staff start sniping at each other and trying to take each other down, rather than focus on their jobs. It's unclear and we don't know - and I don't really care - what Chief Diaz is doing his personal time. Obviously, if it's an employee, then you gotta make sure all rules and ethics are respected - but if people are also throwing around insinuations, that hurts the woman in question. You don't wanna make a woman who's working in SPD subject to these rumors - not just that makes Chief Diaz look bad, the department look bad - you're sullying someone's reputation here. It shouldn't be sullied. But the bigger question here is - what does it say about SPD and what does it say about how it's being run? We're in the middle of a wave of burglaries that people are complaining about, and complaining about slow SPD response time, people complaining about safety on our roads. And I will say just yesterday near my home in Northgate, I saw a driver go right through a red arrow, turning into an intersection - it wasn't like it turned red right as they were entering, it had been red for some time when they entered - in front of a police car. And the officer did nothing - just let it happen and no enforcement at all. People complain about the number of homicides that are happening. It's a real crisis out there, and concerns about is SPD really doing all it can do to investigate these? Is it doing all it can do to close burglary cases? And yet what do we see SPD doing? Their command staff are sniping at each other and spreading gossip and rumor, whether there's any truth to it or not. And I think it's just a sign of how dysfunctional SPD has become. I think it's also a sign that we need strong leadership to reform this department. We'll talk about, I know, about the consent decree in a moment, but it's clear that there are ongoing management problems. And it raises the question - do we need a external chief to come in, who isn't part of all these rivalries and gossip and jealousies, to come in and put a stop to a lot of this? But it's just a sign - that these rumors are reaching the media - that SPD's commanders are not focused on the job they say they're focused on. They're happy to blame the City Council, which has no operational control over SPD, which hasn't said a word about defunding the police since they - for a hot minute in the summer of 2020, very gingerly cut a piece of SPD's budget, ever since then they've been showering as much money as they can on the police department - trying to ply them with recruitment bonuses and making it very clear - Oh no, we're not gonna defund you anymore. Sorry, forget about that. The City Council is not the problem here. There's a real problem with how SPD is managed. There's a problem with the command staff. And Council doesn't run that department - as you said earlier, the mayor does. And so we need to see how Bruce Harrell's going to respond to this too, because it's becoming increasingly clear that SPD isn't getting its job done. [00:36:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and it's not getting its job done in any way - people are suffering - and the most cynical thing is there've, no surprise, been SPOG communications in various places literally touting - Detectives haven't been able to respond to this commercial burglary for two weeks and it's 'cause we were defunded. As you said, defunding did not happen. In fact, their funding has increased. They keep giving money to these people despite staffing shortages in other departments too. If that would help, that would be one thing. But even police officers are on record saying - Yeah, these hiring bonuses are not gonna get more people in the door, keep people. Retention bonuses aren't gonna keep people. That's actually not the problem. The problem is not financial anymore. But it's really troubling just that everyone's eye seems to be off of the ball. And everyone's eye seems to be in a different place than where Seattle residents can see they need to be. As we talked about earlier with those poll results, Seattle residents want a more comprehensive response. They want responsiveness from the police department and they want to shift out responsibilities, assets to manage things in a way that does ensure they can get the service level they expect from the police department - and get other community violence interventions, diversion programs, other community safety initiatives up and running. And they just seem to be focused on literally everything but that. And at a time where everyone is facing this challenge of trying to manage, whether it's crime or behavioral health crises or everything that we're dealing with, they need to do better. We need Bruce Harrell to get this under control - what dysfunction and what disarray - he needs to get a hold of this. [00:38:01] Robert Cruickshank: He really does. Again, the mayor runs the police department. The mayor has operational control. It's not the City Council. And I think we need to see that leadership from the top to really fix what's gone wrong at SPD. [00:38:12] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Now I wanna talk about big news that broke last night - that a judge just ended federal oversight of SPD after 11 years. Now you were in the administration that saw the consent decree established. What is the legacy of this consent decree, and where do we go now that federal oversight is largely ending? [00:38:34] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, the consent decree has its pros and cons. The upside is, and always was - and this is why many in the community demanded it and went to the DOJ in the first place in 2010 and 2011 - they felt they needed a federal judge, a federal monitor and the US Department of Justice to come in and force SPD to improve its use of force policies, to address concerns about biased policing, and ultimately also added in were - later in the process - concerns about how it manages demonstrations. So it's a pro - is that you get an outside body that is widely trusted, certainly when Obama ran the DOJ and now that Biden does, to come in and force the changes that SPD wasn't willing to make and the City wasn't able to make. The downside though is it's a federal legal process that is fairly limited in what it can cover. You're at the mercy of the federal judge, the federal monitor - who wound up stepping in the summer of 2020 to undermine some of the efforts that were taken to reform the department, including cutting SPD's funding. So its coming to an end doesn't mean that SPD has been fixed. What it means is that in the eyes of this judge, the specific conditions laid out in the 2013 consent decree, in his mind, have been achieved. And what does that mean for people here in Seattle? It doesn't necessarily mean that SPD is a clean bill of health and is now operating in a much better place than it had been before. And in fact, the federal judge did retain jurisdiction over use of force and of how discipline is managed. He cares a lot about the contract - having raised significant concerns about the previous SPOG contract that was done in 2018. But it goes back to something that I remember Mike McGinn saying a lot in 2012, 2013 during this whole negotiation process around the consent decree - pointing out correctly that lasting reform isn't gonna come from the federal government, it's gonna come from the community, and it's going to depend on the ability of City Hall to make change in SPD and make it stick. And he took a lot of heat for saying that. People thought he was trying to keep the DOJ out - he wasn't. He welcomed the DOJ, he was always honest about that, direct about that. But I think he was right. He was right then and right now that with the federal government largely stepping back - not completely, but largely stepping back - bringing an end to much of the consent decree, it's now up to us. It's up to us as a city, as a community, and especially our elected officials in City Hall to actually make sure that what we want done at SPD, what we want done with public safety more broadly happens. As we talked earlier in this podcast, there's a lot of support out there in the public for non-armed response to crime. People want it, it polls off the charts. We still haven't seen it. The mayor's office keeps promising and promising, keeps getting delayed and delayed. This mayor has been in office a year and a half now, and it's time to see it come to fruition - that's going to be another important piece of how we handle policing and public safety in the City - is to have armed officers doing less of it or focusing on the things they need to focus on and not the things where they don't need to be focused on. But we'll see what happens there because as we've seen all along, this is really up to the community to make these reforms stick. The DOJ had its role and we can ask how effective was it really - again, the ending of the consent decree doesn't mean SPD's fixed, it just means certain boxes got checked. But I think we have to see what happens out of City Council elections this year and what the mayor's going to do to address ongoing problems with the police. [00:41:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. All with the backdrop of negotiations happening now for the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract - and that will set the tone for so much moving forward. It's going to be interesting to see how this proceeds. [00:42:16] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, it really will. And I think that SPOG contract is going to be crucial - and who gets elected to the City Council this fall will play a really big role in how that negotiation winds up. [00:42:26] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely will. And with that, we'll conclude this week-in-review. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, September 8th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful cohost today was Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long-time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank. You can find Robert on Twitter - and multiple platforms, I think - @cruickshank. We're all around. You can find Hacks & Wonks on Twitter. You can find me on most platforms as @finchfrii. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.
What's Trending: Seattle buys more cameras to 'prevent street racing', Dictionary.com adds gender pronouns and other weird words and GUEST: Coach Joe Kennedy explains why he's leaving Bremerton and what's next for him.Big Local: Bainbridge preparing for walk-on only ferry week and King County to raise min. wage to $19 per hour.You Pick: A man put his bare feet on a footrest and a woman was troubled.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
News Roundup - Florida education vouchers being used for non educational expenses, dress codes on airlines, Alaskan fishermen facing a bleak crab season, $19 minimum wage in unincorporated King County.//Author Steven King is obsessed with the pop hit "Mambo #5" and it almost led to his divorce.//Guest: Lisa Brooks on the theft of a treasured statueSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
3pm - King County looks at $19 minimum wage in unincorporated areas // Fauci's masking message amid rising COVID cases has doctors sounding off: 'Will not reduce the spread' // J.D. Vance Introduces Bill to Ban Federal Mask Mandates for Schools, Public Transit // Study Shows Journalism Is ‘Most Regretted' College Major As Trust In Corporate Media Sinks // This Is My Job, Not Fodder for Your TikTokSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
On this Tuesday topical show, Crystal welcomes Dr. Ben Danielson, director of AHSHAY (Allies in Healthier Systems for Health & Abundance in Youth) Center, for an important conversation about ending youth incarceration. With King County's commitment to end youth detention by 2025 looming and AHSHAY's goal to end youth incarceration in Washington state by 2030, they discuss how punishment does not equate to community safety and is in fact harmful. Dr. Danielson describes how their work includes both the building and unbuilding of systems - building through support of proven community-based programs and unbuilding through recognition and tearing down of ingrained systems that only add trauma to young people's lives. By amplifying the brilliance he sees in community, working to break down silos and barriers, and loving those who are loving our communities, Dr. Danielson hopes we all can take collective action to promote the ability to thrive for young people everywhere. 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 out more about Dr. Ben Danielson's work at the AHSHAY Center here. Dr. Ben Danielson Dr. Ben Danielson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UW Medicine, community leader in health equity, and the director of Allies in Healthier Systems for Health & Abundance in Youth (AHSHAY) Center. Resources AHSHAY Overview Slides “Program led by Dr. Ben Danielson to keep youth out of jail” from UW Medicine Newsroom “King County's ‘Zero Youth Detention' plan goes forward even as $232 million youth jail goes up” by Marcus Harrison Green from The Seattle Times “King County Executive Dow Constantine commits to depopulate youth jail by 2025” by Elise Takahama from The Seattle Times Care & Closure | King County - a plan for youth healing, accountability, and community safety “This UW pediatrician has helped young people for 30 years. Now, he's on a mission to end youth incarceration” by Kim Malcolm & Andy Hurst from KUOW “Uncommon partners joining forces to tackle youth incarceration: ‘We can't throw away human lives'” by Naomi Ishisaka from The Seattle Times “Focus on children and change the trajectory of generational trauma” by Ben Danielson and Victoria Peattie Helm for The Seattle Times Pro Se Potential - prevention based, restorative program empowering youth of color to become proactive leaders in society Choose 180 - transforms systems of injustice & supports the young people who are too often impacted by those systems Community Passageways - create alternatives to incarceration for youth and young adults by rebuilding our communities through committed relationships centered on love, compassion, and consistency “UW systems experts put health of kids at the center as King County seeks to reach ‘zero youth detention'” by Jake Ellison from UW News YouthCare - works to end youth homelessness and to ensure that young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential Lavender Rights Project - elevates the power, autonomy, and leadership of the Black intersex & gender diverse community through intersectional legal and social services Transcript [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 week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical 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. I am thrilled to be having this guest and conversation today on the show. I want to welcome Dr. Ben Danielson, clinical professor of pediatrics at UW and director of AHSHAY Center. Welcome, Dr. Danielson. [00:01:08] Dr. Ben Danielson: Thanks so much - I'm really happy to be able to join you today. [00:01:11] Crystal Fincher: I'm really happy to have this conversation today - it's a very important conversation to have. And that is because King County has made a commitment to end youth incarceration by 2025, which is just around the corner - there's a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that we deliver on this commitment - and that is informing and underpinning the work at the AHSHAY Center. Can you tell me a little bit about what went into the formation of this and what brings you to this work? [00:01:42] Dr. Ben Danielson: Well, I'm a pediatrician - a primary care pediatrician - that worked in Seattle's Central District for a couple of decades and served an amazing community of mostly low-income, very diverse, incredible families and kids - such an honor to be part of that space. And as a Black man, I was also very aware of the great disproportionality of the youth that were being drawn into youth detention at the facility that was almost around the corner from the clinic I worked in in the Central District - and how the injustices that were stacked and piled all the way back, to maybe early childhood and before, that were leading to that vortex was really, really deeply concerning. Came to a point of deep reflection for myself and had to really ask - What can I be doing to actually be promoting the well-being, the wellness, the health, the ability to thrive for young people, especially Black and brown people, in this area? And I could not keep from seeing how youth detention was ruining lives, is ruining lives - especially Black lives - in this county and across this country. I'm surprised there aren't more physicians and pediatricians involved directly in this work, and I'm also hoping that the opportunity to contribute to helping end youth incarceration will be something that more and more people can get on board with. I wish there was more of a strong health presence in this space. I wish we had less silos and more collaborative work in this space, and I really started the AHSHAY Center to help support the brilliance that has already existed for a long time in communities and around us trying to end youth incarceration. [00:03:40] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Now, there may be some people listening who think - Well, isn't youth incarceration a public safety issue? Shouldn't police be dealing with this? Why is a doctor concerned with this? - What do you say to people thinking that? [00:03:56] Dr. Ben Danielson: Well, first, I back up - and one thing I've learned, as my hair grows a little grayer, is the importance of just being willing to engage in conversations with people who might start from a very different place than me and really trying to understand what their concerns are, where we might share common ground, what the relevant issues are. You asked that question from what sounded like a public safety perspective. If I'm being my usual nerdy self, I would look at the data - and I would know for myself that if you're trying to make communities safer, then the last thing you want to do is incarcerate young people. The data just proves that that does not work. In fact, it works in the opposite direction - it creates more likelihood that young people will be arrested again and again. And we have great solutions in communities, done by amazing people for a long time now, that actually reduce what they call recidivism - crime from happening more and more - and it makes the communities safer. So if someone's coming to me with - We need to be making our communities safe - then what I know in my heart, what my community tells me, and what the data says is that you should not be incarcerating young people. [00:05:13] Crystal Fincher: Definitely. Absolutely true that the evidence shows that youth incarceration is harmful, actually - not helpful. It doesn't make us safer, it actually makes us less safe. Just wondering about - when we talk about harm and we talk about recidivism rates, what does that look like on the ground and in our communities? [00:05:33] Dr. Ben Danielson: Well, I guess I think a little bit about a young person's journey through our communities and how, as a young, young child sometimes - if you're a low-income or Black or brown, sometimes the images of what society says you can be, what maybe privileged society and white society says you can be is constrained and limited. The images around you of possibilities are sometimes less than they should be for a young person whose mind and heart are full of possibilities and ideas. As I think about them entering the school system, I know that the very same behavior for a Black child, for instance, that is also seen in a white child will lead that Black child to greater disciplinary action across our school systems, across this country - despite those school systems having wonderfully good intentions, people in them, and lots of people who really care about things like social justice and anti-racism. I know that that means that for that child, their chance of suspension and being sort of seen as somehow troubling to a school system can be started and reinforced - I had that very same experience myself as a young child - and that can perpetuate and spiral throughout the educational experience. I know that we have had practices like putting what they call safety officers, which are basically police in schools - and how for especially Black and brown communities, the presence of police more often in your life does not increase your safety, it increases the chances that you will be arrested. This is a concept that is not often appreciated in circles outside of Black community and low-income community, unfortunately, but more contact means more likelihood of being stopped by police. I understand that every step of the way, if you're Black and if you're low-income - but especially if you're Black - everything tilts more towards society trying to herd you towards incarceration. The chance of being stopped by a police officer goes up. The chance of that police officer deciding to detain you goes up. The chance of that police officer deciding to take you in and have charges filed goes up. The chance of those charges being more severe goes up. The chances of those charges and the severity leading to detention goes up. All of those things - the racism that's built into every part of that amplifying spiral - is really tragic. It's a tragedy. And that process leads to what we see - incredibly disproportionate rates of incarceration for Black and brown youth, especially. And what we see within the detention process is maybe still really good-hearted people trying to do their best to help young people, but in a system that is racist and in a system that - above and beyond the racism - also does not work, does not help to change or reduce the chances of a young person being rearrested. What I also see on this hopeful side is incredible community-based programs that are often maybe staffed by people who look like the young people that are serving, might have people associated with them that have had lived experiences that are really relevant and important, maybe recognize and identify people also who represent different pathways, different opportunities, different possibilities - working together to instill in a young person that sense of belonging, a sense of connection to their community, and a sense of reinvigoration of their sense of personal purpose, their meaning, their voices mattering. When that starts to happen, you see everything change - in Black communities and brown communities and white communities across this country. What I've learned on the sad side is that systems like systems of incarceration seek out young people who've already faced trauma and then traumatize them more. That feels like the most elemental of injustices to me - to take people who have faced harm, young people, and then harm them more. That is something that we all as citizens of this country, as people living in this country in any state of citizenship or otherwise, we just need to - we need to reckon with that. We need to account for that. If there weren't great alternatives - man, it'd just be a hard conversation for you and me to have. If there weren't resources out there that were showing that they were working, it'd be a theoretic conversation. We are so far beyond that. And it's a shame for us as a country and as a county - is that rather than face truth and reality and data and hearts and minds and everything else that we've seen, we continue to practice something that is harming our young people. I don't know if that answered your question - there was a lot of ramble. [00:10:39] Crystal Fincher: No, it absolutely does. And I think it lays out just what is at stake here. And I do appreciate how you concluded that - with we do have models that are working. We do have programs that are setting people up for success instead of incarceration and failure. So with all of that in mind, what is the approach that AHSHAY is taking? What is the work that you have ahead of you? [00:11:09] Dr. Ben Danielson: One thing I notice, working as part of an amazing and brilliant Black community and being part of an academic system and our healthcare system, is just how super siloed a lot of our efforts really are. Really great people doing great work and yet, structurally and sometimes for lots of other reasons, a lot of that work remains kind of siloed. And this sounds strange, but I think over the course of time - one of the privileges I've attained from going from being a low-income child sleeping in a car kind of stuff to having a lot of privilege, resource-wise and otherwise, is that maybe that also is a position of connection, of interconnection, or of bridging. And so one of the deep tenets of AHSHAY work is maybe being able to sit in spaces that others don't always have an opportunity to, and maybe to help support the chances that people can move from silos to collaboration to collective action in different ways. All of this is a learning process for me - I'm the novice in the space of legal issues, clearly - I'm not one of those doctors that pretends that they're an expert in everything. And I've learned so much from incredible people in our communities - from the most active and incredible nonprofit leaders to just those grandmothers who are doing it every single day - with love, and with heart, and with sweat, and with hope, and pouring everything into our young people. There's so much we could be doing together. There's so much we are doing. It feels like perhaps AHSHAY just has a chance to channel brilliance, to catalyze connectedness, build on relationships, to maybe try to listen again to conversations that have historically gotten shut off, and then try to play some role in helping to amplify the good work and the good hearts and the good efforts that are out there. [00:13:15] Crystal Fincher: Definitely needed. So how does this work happen? [00:13:20] Dr. Ben Danielson: Ah, thank you. The way we think about it at the AHSHAY Center is sort of it's two armed, although they are related. You think about unbuilding the fortifications of youth incarceration and building up the fortifiers of health and striving for youth, often through work in community. It seems important to think both about unbuilding and building. I think a lot of our approaches, historically, have been about either running away from something - we gotta stop doing this, stop doing that, stop doing that - it's a very almost medical related thing about stopping harm. We also have to couple that with really building the institutional resources, the connectedness, the best elements of community that allow us to work through our issues together, to maintain sustaining and thriving relationships. And so you gotta build stuff too, even as you unbuild things - another thing community has taught me. So building both a sense of the acknowledgement of hope that we can create communities that can support youth even through problem and problematic moments - that maybe if we talked about justice, we really should be talking about the fullness of that, especially for young people - what it means to never feel like you got kicked out of your society, your community because of a transgression. But that that meant that the community held you even more strongly and closely, and held you accountable, and allowed you to be accountable, and allowed you to grow through a moment. And allowed you to be sort of healed and restored through that process, because a lot of what was happening in that moment was because of things that have been happening to you and to your generational line for a long time. The building also means a true reckoning, I think, for the racism that is so built into our systems, and requires that we actually build new systems rather than try to do little patches on the existing ones 'cause that just has proven itself not to work. The building means being able to build relationships and think about where we're going to - not just where we're running away from - and develop programs, policies and opportunities to feed into that building, that opportunity. The unbuilding is roll-up-your-sleeves work, right? Working with the county on its decommissioning plans for the detention center, working with community-based organizations on supporting their ability to get up into broader scale to amplify their work, helping to do things that might sound boring but are really important - like understanding what resources actually exist out there across our county, understanding how they interconnect, understanding how youth relate to them, and understanding how we sort of know the landscape that is around us in a way that pulls us out of our silos and helps us see each other - all kind of stuff like that. So we're working on the dreamscape and the landscape at the same time. [00:16:21] Crystal Fincher: I appreciate that approach so much. And obviously, you have been so well known for so long for the work that you have done - particularly in our Black local community - but this work of both building and unbuilding is absolutely necessary and I love that you articulate that so well and have built that into the work. When I talk to people kind of across the spectrum, even for people who are very supportive and encouraging and in-line with this vision, sometimes they have questions about - Okay, I know we need to invest in people, I know we need to unbuild harmful systems and build ones that will help keep us healthier and safer - but they don't really know what those programs look like, what that work is, and what specific kind of support is needed. When you talk about that and you're considering that with AHSHAY, what kinds of infrastructure, systems, supports are necessary to achieve the end of incarceration, but ultimately healthier and more positive and productive systems? [00:17:35] Dr. Ben Danielson: Yeah, it is interesting. Even in our dialogue around this, we're talking mostly about stopping something - ending incarceration. And I would just wonder if we'd approach it differently - if the title were about what we're building towards instead of what we're eliminating - 'cause I do really believe that when you build towards something really powerful and positive, you actually obviate the need for the thing that was negative on some level. I know that sounds too idealistic, but I'm gonna stay in that abundant space for as long as I can. The programs that I see out there that are really inspiring to me - some of them, the nature of them is perhaps a formerly incarcerated person who saw a path, and really understood an experience, and wanted to pour back into young people all of the knowledge and wisdom - most importantly, the mentoring and guidance and coaching and support - possible. And so you see these programs like Pro Se Potential, that are just directly connecting with young people and instantly creating a sense of belonging - absolutely credible to the young folks that are part of that, 'cause these young adults are seeing other older adults who've been in the same spaces and places. And helping young people find their voices and articulate their souls, understand their traumas - and more importantly, also see their potential. Those programs are amazing. And the more of those we can have in our communities, the better. You also see other programs that have been really strongly integrated into systems and really help to support a interceding at moments where incarceration could have happened, so great diversion-oriented programs that offer alternatives to incarceration. And again, wrap a supportive hug around young people - create skills, help them understand trauma, and help them move through their lives in ways that are really affirming to them. Programs like Choose 180 and Community Passageways and some of the others in our county are really, really incredible. And again, scale those up and you've got a whole different perspective. 'Cause most importantly - if I could mention just quickly - what we've seen in youth incarceration has been an interesting kind of almost J-curve. From the time that I started working as a pediatrician a few decades ago - when the King County Detention Center had 200 young people in it on any given day, to 2019 when that number was down to more like 20 or less. All of those efforts of people working together in different ways went - to me - from an idea that, of closing youth detention, that seemed kind of hard to imagine when there's 200 young people in there, to something truly possible. 'Cause 20 - like 20 could be zero. 20 allows you to see something different. And so we've had all of these experiences that tell us what's possible. And this county, like other parts of the country, has done a lot of work towards that. Now sadly, since around 2018 or 2019, the number of youth in detention on any given day has been kind of creeping back up again. And I think, in a way, we need to be redoubling the efforts that we were investing in for a while there. We have programs at work - they've demonstrated benefit, they've shown what could be, they've opened the possibility from 200 to 20 to maybe seeing zero. There have been plans in place. And we've been ambivalent in this county. We built a brand new detention center, which opened - I don't know, what - early 2020. And then we announced the decommissioning of that detention center in mid to late 2020. We've had a roadmap to Zero Youth Detention that was active for a long time. And in some ways, the emphasis on that work got distracted by other things. We've had people working on this decommissioning work in something that the county calls Care & Closure. And there hasn't been as much community engagement as there should have been from the very beginning. So all of these things, I guess - I just introduce the idea that ambivalence is still part of human hearts in a lot of this work too. [00:21:45] Crystal Fincher: Ambivalence is a roadblock that we do have to get beyond. Appreciate your detailing those great programs - I think you really hit the nail on the head - talking about those programs have demonstrated their value in keeping the community safe and building relationships and connections with youth, with investing and pouring into them. And you can see the outcomes and you can see how powerful that work is, but it's really an issue of scale right now. You can look at funding, you can look at staffing, you can look at scope - and the traditional models that we're trying to unbuild that are harmful just have such a broad footprint, almost a ubiquitous footprint, in our society right now. And these pilot programs and organizations - and some substantial and doing great work, but just still needing so much more to address the need. And I wonder, especially just looking at some of the political situations upcoming - we've got elections right now, we've got forecasts for lower budgets, lower revenue. And so as we talk about building and investing, I've already heard some people say - Well, I don't know that we have the money for that, and maybe we just need to focus on trying to clean up our streets the traditional way or just investing more in the current system. And so we do have conflicts over resources and where those are going to go. How do you navigate that? [00:23:18] Dr. Ben Danielson: First, inside my head - this is what I think - I don't necessarily say this right away because sometimes you need to engage with people first before you get to the point of dropping certain things. But I think it's a stronger argument that we can't afford to keep doing things the way we're doing them. A sad fact is that King County is probably one of the lesser costs for incarcerating a youth for a year. The average in the country is somewhere in the $115,000/year, or something like that. King County - it's around $87,000/year. $87,000/year to incarcerate a young person. Any of the programs I mentioned, and many other programs that could be built up to scale, would not even come close to costing - on a per-youth basis - that kind of expense. So if we really want to have a dollars conversation, I'm happy to have that one 'cause the cheaper approach is the more effective approach - is to not incarcerate youth. If it's about people's roles and work in this, I also want to say just that there's a lot of stuff that we try to do at the very end point, right when crisis is happening, that would actually probably work better if we were doing it way earlier, way further upstream, way more effectively. The return on investment for maybe even doing some of the same things in communities instead of in prisons, at points where we know trauma and supports are there and are necessary, instead of waiting towards the moment of arrest or the moment of being in front of a judge. We have to be thinking - if we really want to talk about being good stewards of resources, then we have to be talking about that. And again, I'm kind of on solid ground in supporting communities that have been trying to end youth incarceration forever. I do want to say that it's been partnerships also that have helped us see that possibility - it's taken judges being willing to engage in diversion programs. It's taken incredible efforts from the legal systems - we even have advocates in the DA's office, in addition to the Public Defender's office. This is a place that has great human resource with lots of brilliance that is capable of really - not just envisioning a different community, but actually contributing to it and feeling great about their contributions. [00:25:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up because I think many of us have seen so many allies and partners within and throughout systems in this work, and people who understand that the way we're doing things is not the best way and is harmful and trying in their roles and in their positions and working with others to help. I also see and hear from some of our leaders, whether it's in public safety or politics or prosecutors, saying things like - We're having an increasing problem with youth violence and crime, and part of the problem is that these youth haven't experienced consequences and we're too lenient on them. We heard this during the legislative session last session and we hear it during some council meetings - and their prescription is that we need to get tougher and that they need to experience consequences - and for them, that means that they might have to experience jail and being locked up to really teach them that lesson. How effective do you think that is? [00:26:40] Dr. Ben Danielson: Thank you for that question, 'cause I think that last part of that question sort of answers itself. We have tried and tried again the idea of consequences and punishment as the only form, or the primary form, of addressing issues and we've seen it fail. Since the late '80s, maybe even earlier, we've been addicted to the idea of doubling down on consequences as a way of addressing issues that we talk about as community safety or crime - however we label those things. Doesn't work, hasn't worked, still not working. I don't always like using mental health terms inappropriately, but there is somebody named Einstein who talked about - the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and hoping for a different result. We have proven beyond a doubt that that - let's just get tougher - just hasn't worked. It also - if we really cared about these things, we'd be actually talking about the roots, the deeper issues, the ways in which we create or take away opportunity for young people, the way we make it almost criminal to be poor in this country, the ways in which we so divest in infrastructure and supports. And maybe humane being - like just human beings at a civil level, the humanity that we owe ourselves and each other - our lack of investment in those, I would put forth have way more to do with what we're seeing, or perceiving, or the news cycles are telling us are happening around crime than something else. [00:28:24] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's a challenge - we hear it all over. And I think we do conflate punishment with safety. And we have to untangle the public conversation around those things, which I appreciate you having this conversation and helping to do that, but it really is - it hasn't worked. And I do think that, as you say, there are a lot of well-meaning people who just don't really consider that there is an alternative. But as you said, there are alternatives - they're working, they're thriving. It's really a matter of scale and coordination, really, and institutionalizing what is helping instead of what is hurting. As you are doing this work and looking at what's necessary, for people who are listening and saying - This is really important, I support this, I wanna be a part of this, I want to help build and not just fight against what is harmful - both very important things - what would you say to them? How can they help? [00:29:19] Dr. Ben Danielson: There's so many different ways to help. I'm a strong believer in that there is not one path or two paths. I'm very thankful to you, Crystal, for not asking me - What are the two things we need to do? - 'cause I feel like that is a, that's almost a white supremacy question that creates an impossible, or a really strange set of alternatives. Communities know that there are many paths to getting to places you need to, so there's so many ways. I really appreciate what happens across the University of Washington. There are such champions, like Sarah Gimbel at the School of Nursing and the work that Sarah is doing to make sure that healthcare is being supported, not only in detention, but outside of detention. There are so many champions in our health department who are trying to instill a stronger public health and Health in All things in this work. Maybe most importantly though, I'll just go back to mentioning - there are incredible community-based programs that - not only the ones that are just, that are focusing on alternatives to incarceration, but just the ones that are just loving our young people. YouthCare and other programs that really help young people experiencing, who are unhoused, and who are pushed towards being unhoused by so many oppressive practices. Incredible advocacy and rights organizations like Lavender Rights that really sees people that other parts of society seem to not want to see - our LGBTQIA2S+ young people and adults who are deserving of every, every fulfilling opportunity to thrive that we should be thinking of. There are so many important community-based programs and I will just say, I feel like there is a significant threat to our nonprofits and community-based programs right now as resources - just that old scarcity diet that they've been functioning under for so long - it's just, it just wears and tears on an organization's ability. A lot of leaders are burned out and things like that. So we need to, we need to show how much we love those who are loving our communities with us and support them with our time, with our dollars, with our words of support. If you are LGBTQIA2S+ and every message across this country is about how much you might need to worry about your own safety right now - a county like ours, we should be yelling out - We support you, we see you, we want you to thrive, we believe in you, and we reject any energy that is trying to make you feel afraid, alone, lost or unsupported. We need to model the behaviors that we say we want our young people to grow into. And as long as they're not seeing us standing up and doing the things that we should do - from our moral hearts, from our heads, from, I don't know, from the evidence tells us, from what the budgets tell us, from every direction - if we're not doing that, I don't know why we expect young people to see anything different in the world around them either. So let's be the people that we wish other people would be - probably somebody famous said that before - but let's just try that for a while, right? [00:32:22] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, definitely appreciate that. And I love "the organizations and people who are loving our community" - I absolutely love that, that is excellent advice and very well put. I really do thank you for your time today. And for people who wanna learn more and get engaged with AHSHAY, how can they do that? [00:32:41] Dr. Ben Danielson: Well, we're in startup phase in many ways - still working on getting our website together - look out for that in September, October kind of timeframe. We're just looking to support the brilliance that's out there, so if you're part of a community-based program that's just doing great work - we'd love to connect with you and find how we can support you. Trying to be able to support conversations that maybe America has not gotten good at - like talking across difference, and actually holding space for that, and being willing to keep talking - because it's for our young people, because it's more important than maybe whatever feelings we have about other folks around us. And if there are ways in which you have an idea, a thought, a way that you can personally contribute to the life of someone else around you - if there's somebody who needs to see you in order to see the possibilities in themselves, I just encourage you to get out there and be in the lives of people who would really benefit from your presence and your brilliance and your wisdom. [00:33:46] Crystal Fincher: Well, thank you so much for this conversation today. Thank you for everything that you have done and you continue to do. You truly have been doing incredibly heavy lifting for quite some time - and I thank you, and we all thank you so much. Dr. Ben Danielson. [00:34:02] Dr. Ben Danielson: Thank you for the opportunity to talk. [00:34:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.
A convicted attempted kidnapper in Auburn, Wash. who tried to lasso a bikini barista by the arm with a zip-tie while inside his pick-up truck at the drive-through will only be sentenced to 50 days in King County jail. KVI's John Carlson says the incredibly lenient sentence is another example of pro-criminal legal system in King County.
GUEST: UW atmospheric sciences professor, Cliff Mass, responds to a Seattle Times report that glaciers in King County's Cascade Mountain peaks are disappearing. Mass notes that Cascade Mountain glaciers in King County have been shrinking for the last 100 years. Mass says "natural decline" from the Little Ice Age between 1600-1850s play a part along with human discharged fossil fuels/CO2. Mass says higher elevation glaciers (in the Cascades) are in much better shape than lower elevations, "the impacts (of the Cascade glaciers) are not that large..I think that's the truth", Mass addresses the status of Western WA river water temperature.
6am hour -- Seattle Mariners have become a baseball juggernaut, Democrat city councilwoman in Jacksonville FL admonishes crowd heckling Gov. Ron DeSantis at prayer vigil following racially motivated mass shooting, NASCAR driver walks away from one of the most stunning race car crashes you will ever see, important context to the local news coverage of the $28 million Marysville School District budget shortfall, why parents putting their kids into private school and home schooling is creating budget problems for districts like Marysville. 7am hour -- GUEST: WPC's Todd Myers explains the new tax hike on WA energy bills, Washington State Utility Commission's brazenly dishonest ruling admits climate tax increases prices per a recent rate increase for natural gas; Biden Admin. wields border wall gates OPEN so illegal aliens can simply walk right in to America, meanwhile LA's new mayor complains about influx of illegal aliens bused into city from Texas, Rest In Power Bob Barker at age 99. 8am hour -- GUEST: UW atmospheric sciences professor, Cliff Mass, responds to a Seattle Times report that glaciers in King County's Cascade Mountain peaks are disappearing, Mass asserts that both "natural decline" and human discharged fossil fuels/CO2 are effecting the glacier size and coverage; Gov. Jay Inslee keeps repeating vague plan to "defeat climate change" without explaining what the metric for that would actually be, GUEST: KVI senior baseball analyst Matthew Carlson, son of host John Carlson, examines the current M's hot streak and the upcoming opponents to see if the M's can hold on to first place, 50 days jail sentence for Auburn WA attack and attempted kidnapping of a bikini barista underscores the pro-criminal prosecutions in King County.
For this Friday show, we present Part 2 of the Hacks & Wonks 2023 Post-Primary Roundtable which was live-streamed on August 8, 2023 with special guests - journalists Daniel Beekman, Guy Oron, and Melissa Santos. In Part 2, the panel breaks down primary election results for Seattle City Council races in Districts 6 and 7 - which both feature incumbents employing different strategies to hold their seats - and explore whether any overarching narratives are on display in the Seattle results. The discussion then moves on to contrasting races in King County Council Districts 4 and 8, before wrapping up with what each panelist will be paying most attention to as we head towards the November general election. Find Part 1 on our website and in your podcast feed. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today's special guests, Daniel Beekman at @DBeekman, Guy Oron at @GuyOron, and Melissa Santos at @MelissaSantos1. Resources Hacks & Wonks 2023 Post-Primary Roundtable Livestream | August 8th, 2023 Transcript [00:00:00] Shannon Cheng: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Shannon Cheng, Producer for the show. You're listening to Part 2 of our 2023 Post-Primary Roundtable, with guests Daniel Beekman, Guy Oron and Melissa Santos, that was originally aired live on Tuesday, August 8th. Part 1 was our last episode – you can find it in your podcast feed or on our website officialhacksandwonks.com. You can also go to the site for full video from the event and a full text transcript of the show. Thanks for tuning in! [00:00:42] Crystal Fincher: So also want to talk about the next district here - a race with an incumbent here - Dan Strauss and Pete Hanning. One where there was quite a bit of money in this race, quite a bit of spending. Dan Strauss - this was really interesting because as we touched on before, we saw with Tammy Morales really leaning into her record and a seeming justification and approval of that and almost a mandate from voters to continue on in the same direction based on how she represented herself - different strategy here and someone looking like they're running away from their record a bit or saying - Hey, I'm course correcting here. So do people know what they're getting? Do people know what they're expecting? But still a strong result for an incumbent here, with Dan Strauss currently at 51.77% of the vote in District 6. And then Pete Hanning, who was the Seattle Times-endorsed candidate with 29.32% of the vote, despite almost over $96,000 raised. How did you see this race, Melissa? [00:01:58] Melissa Santos: I think Dan has probably looked at this a little more closely, but I did find it interesting that Dan Strauss - getting back to Dan Beekman's point earlier - was Dan Strauss was just saying "Defund the Police" was a mistake - he just said it straight up. That's just - he was emphasizing that. And I - that has to be a reflection of his district. And I - gosh, I should be more familiar with the new district lines, but we are talking about a different district than District 3, which is central Seattle, here. We're talking about - I actually mix up the two guys on the council not infrequently, it's super embarrassing - but anyway, so Dan Strauss's district though is very different than central Seattle. It's not Andrew Lewis's district, which is different, but we're talking an area that does have more conservative pockets - conservative as it gets in Seattle in a way. So "Defund the Police" he's saying was a mistake, but then other people - that message hasn't resonated in some of the other races. So we are talking about a district that is very unique, I think, from some of the central Seattle districts in that apparently Dan's doing really well, just completely acting like "Defund the Police" was a discussion that never should have happened. So will be interesting seeing what happens there. [00:03:16] Crystal Fincher: What do you think, Dan? [00:03:19] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, I don't know. I think Dan Strauss is definitely benefiting from being an incumbent to the extent that people - they may not feel like they love the guy, although some voters, I'm sure, do - but they know who he is, they know his name, he's been in office. He gives off - or tries to give off - a sort of I'm-just-Dan-from-Ballard vibe, your local guy who you know, a nice guy. Maybe that probably puts off some people, but I think he benefits from that in people just looking at the ballot and they may know The Red Door, but they may not know Pete Hanning's name. The one thing that I thought - I was looking at - that was most interested in was this is the district that changed most dramatically in redistricting. So it used to be the west part of north of the cut - Ballard, going up all the way up to Blue Ridge, etc, Broadview, and then over towards Green Lake. But now it hops the cut and basically is like Ballard, Fremont, and Magnolia - and looking at sort of the maps, all that's been released mapwise in terms of precinct level results is Election Night, so it's not the full picture, but you get a sense for the pattern. And overall the map, I don't think looks any different from any other Seattle election map, but this is a new configuration for that district and so interesting to see. Dan Strauss did very well in central Ballard, the more apartment-heavy part of Ballard and Fremont. And that Pete Hanning's stronghold, to the extent he had one in the primary, was in Magnolia, which isn't necessarily surprising. But it's just - it's a new map, so it's fun to see a new map. [00:05:32] Crystal Fincher: It is fun to see a new map. How did you see this, Guy? [00:05:37] Guy Oron: Yeah, Dan Strauss had a very impressive personal mandate - I think he got the most votes by far out of any of the Seattle City Council races - and this was the only district that reached like 40% turnout. So I wonder if that's in part because of just the demographics - being wealthier, whiter, more middle class. But I do wonder how much of that mandate is just because he's the default, milquetoast, moderate white guy. Or if it's just like people are passionate about him. Or I think a lot of people read The Stranger and voted for him - that would be my guess. And also he's incumbent and he's somehow managed to spin himself as not being that inoffensive. And also, I'm curious about Pete Hanning - if his candidate quality was as high as some of the other candidates in terms of getting his name recognition out there and actually making a mark - and so that would be his challenge going into the general election. But I would be very, very shocked if Strauss doesn't win at this point. [00:06:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it would be unprecedented for someone in Strauss's position, or really someone in Morales's position, not to be successful in the general. The power of incumbency is real. It is really, really hard to take out an incumbent, which is why sometimes you hear with a number of challengers, excitement - that it takes the electorate being in a place where they're ready to make a change and signaling they're going to make a change - and then takes a candidate who can take advantage of that. It looks like some were banking on the electorate being in more of a mood for a change than they actually are, which I think changes perhaps some of the strategy that some of the challengers had going in. But I think this is a case where there's an incumbent and people may have their feelings - I think he does try to be generally inoffensive and it's hard for a lot of the district to really, to very strongly passionately dislike him. But even those who were open to a change, it's one thing to say - Okay, I'm willing to hear other points of view - but it does take a candidate who can really articulate a clear vision and connect with voters to give them something that they can say - Okay, I can say yes to this, there is another vision here that I'm aligned with. And I don't know that voters heard another vision that they're necessarily aligned with unless they were really unhappy in the first place. It just looks like the amount of people who were really unhappy with their own councilmember just is not that big of a number, not one that's automatically creating a shift on the council. And so I think the job of a number of these challengers is a little bit harder than they bargained for. And I think here in another race - a closer race with an incumbent - in District 7, Andrew Lewis finished with, or currently has as of today the 8th, 43.47% of the vote to Bob Kettle's 31.5%. How do you see this race shaping up, Guy? [00:09:12] Guy Oron: Yeah. I thought - this was really a little surprising to me that Lewis did so poorly here. He still got the plurality, but he didn't have any challenges from the left, so it was a lot of pretty right-wing candidates or center who were really attacking him for his drug ordinance vote, policing. And I think this is probably the place we can expect a Chamber of Commerce or their successor organizations to pour in a ton of money to unseat him, to unseat Lewis. We also saw very low turnout in part because I think places like South Lake Union have a lot of expats and a lot of folks who are from around the country who don't pay attention to local politics. And so it might be important to have a ground game and activate those voters, and for Lewis just to find new voters instead of trying to look weak and flip-flop on issues. But that's just my two cents. [00:10:23] Daniel Beekman: Go ahead, Daniel. Yeah. I was just thinking that Guy was making some good points there and in theory, turnout should grow from the primary to the general election just as a rule. So yeah, Andrew Lewis is going to need to go after more voters. And in his 2019 race, he had the advantage of not just, I think, ad spending outside, but he had - I remember because I went out with them - hotel workers, union hotel workers knocking doors, turning out the vote for him on their own through independent work from his campaign, independent from his campaign in that election. And certainly he would hope to get that kind of support to turn out those additional voters in the general or else maybe he's in trouble. But yeah, I always like to look at the map. It was interesting looking at this one too, where you just had some real clear like top of Queen Anne and Downtown to some extent anti-Andrew Lewis voting or pro his challengers. And then the rest of the district, I think he did fairly well. But if turnout is a lot higher on upper Queen Anne than lower Queen Anne - doesn't matter what the map looks like in terms of space on it. [00:12:06] Crystal Fincher: Is that how you size it up, Melissa? [00:12:08] Melissa Santos: Yeah, I just think Andrew Lewis has a lot of work to do going forward to the general because theoretically you expect - I think it's reasonable to expect voters who voted for, for instance, Olga Sagan, the restaurant owner who is very anti-the work of the city council and anti-Andrew Lewis's record - they're more likely those voters are likely to vote for Bob Kettle, I would think in this particular case, than suddenly say maybe he's okay now. So and that would get - that alone - she only got 12% or something like that. But that's a sizable chunk to add to Bob Kettle's total there. And I do notice that Andrew Lewis seems a little worried. I do think he's trying to make sure his name's out there for stuff he's doing on the council right now - which all of them are doing who are incumbents - but I feel like Lewis especially is aware that he has some ground to make up. [00:13:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think that's right. And I think that Lewis has some reassuring to do of a lot of his base. I think that - right or wrong - but I think that there's cause for it, that there are people wondering if he really is a champion on their issues or can be pressured to not vote a certain way. I think more than other - certainly for the incumbents that are there - I think he's viewed as more of a swing vote than some others, which really says you may not know exactly what you're getting from him if you're in his base. And I think that's a challenge. I think that candidates - certainly incumbents are in a stronger position if they do have a well-defined persona, defined stances - that at least your base knows what they're going to get. And then you try and expand that a little bit. I think he has more of a challenge than the other incumbents there. With that said, I think that he is probably in a stronger position to win the general election. Not that this won't be competitive certainly, but I think if you're looking between the two of them and you're a betting person, he's more likely to be able to consolidate the vote and pick up people who vote in the general who don't necessarily vote in the primary than a more moderate candidate. But I think this is a race that has a lot of attention and a lot of interest, and one where we're likely to see outside spending playing a significant role in this race. [00:14:44] Melissa Santos: Yeah, and you are right that he didn't just annoy centrist people who wanted to see more prosecution of drug arrests. He actually has annoyed the progressives at various times by flip-flopping - I'm thinking about the capping rent fees as one vote he had where at first he was supporting a higher cap fee on, a higher maximum fee on late rent, than maybe the progressives wanted. And then went back to supporting a lower one - it was like $10 versus $50 or something like that. I think that some of the progressives were - Hey, where is this guy at on this - with that when they wanted to see that cap on late rent fees. I feel like it's hard to me for me to say all those words together correctly, but we wanted to see a very tight cap on how much landlords could charge for late rent. And Lewis was a little more willing, at one point, to consider letting landlords charge a little more for that. And that was something that disappointed progressives too. [00:15:43] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, and it's - are you threading - he may be trying to thread the needle on some of these issues, but if he can't thread it correctly, does it look like you're flip-flopping or being - are you wavering rather than threading? [00:15:59] Guy Oron: It does seem like Lewis has been a little less successful with that strategy than Strauss. And maybe that's also because of their districts, but I think he should be worried a little bit about alienating those people who would maybe support him otherwise, for Stranger readers or that labor, for example, are labor unions actually going to come out and bat for him at this point like they did in 2019. So that will be something he has to work on in the next couple months. [00:16:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is. And so we've covered all of these Seattle City Council district races. Looking at them - is there a narrative to all of these races? Before this, Mayor Bruce Harrell had talked about recruiting against some of the incumbents here, having some candidates here. Do you see this as an acceptance, or repudiation, jury still out on what this says about where people stand in alignment with the mayor based on these results? Guy? [00:17:18] Guy Oron: I think, firstly, all the races are very competitive. So that was a little different than expectations. I think progressives do have a shot of actually winning back control a little bit, or retaining control, depending on how you define that. But I think the biggest narrative for me is just how low turnout we had. We had only 15% of 18 to 24 year olds vote across King County, so that shows that the political process isn't engaging a big amount of people - which is probably the most concerning fact out of this primary. [00:18:01] Crystal Fincher: What do you think, Daniel? [00:18:08] Daniel Beekman: I don't know in terms of big takeaways overall, I guess we wait and see for the general. Some of the - some sort of fundamentals in Seattle politics aren't going to change that much generally from year to year and a lot of that is present in this election. Especially when, as Guy was saying, turnout wasn't high. There didn't seem to be tons of energy, even relative to other City elections, for this primary. And like I was mentioning before, that might not change unless there's one of these sort of big narratives that sort of - and they can be unpredictable like that Amazon money bomb, or who knows, maybe there's going to be another one of these tree protests - that really galvanize the voter imagination at the right moment and, or something around drugs and make it - pull an election out of the normal sort of rut of where you have these two general political factions and electorates in the city that are fairly evenly balanced. So it'll be interesting to see if there's something like that that grabs people and makes this time different in some way. [00:19:31] Crystal Fincher: What are your thoughts, Melissa? [00:19:34] Melissa Santos: While I think there's a lot of potential for change on the council, that's mostly - to me - the function of there being four open seats. And then, actually, we'll probably get to this in our last moments, but probably there'll be five seats that change over on the council, it looks like - which is five out of nine, that's a majority. So there's a lot of potential for change. However, it doesn't strike me that the incumbents are in danger of losing necessarily. So the change is just from new people coming in, but not throwing the old people out - is what it looks like. Lewis might be the one exception. He's the closest to potentially losing his seat, but I'm not certain that will happen either. So we could just end up with a lot of new voices and a lot of the incumbents all staying, which - the new voices may be aligned with the mayor, it's hard to say - I was just doing napkin math and looking at vote counts and how it will work out. But to that point, though, we don't know how some of these folks yet would vote on certain issues. So it's even hard to do that. Do I know where Joy Hollingsworth stands on certain, every single vote that the council's had on housing policy and taxing in the past five years? You know - I actually don't. So I don't know how those votes would shake out even if, whichever faction is elected. But I do think the progressive candidates are doing well in a lot of these races, so that will be interesting to see. [00:20:56] Daniel Beekman: It might just be that the biggest change in dynamic is something that has nothing to do with November, and it's that - no more Sawant on the council. Not that she always gets what she wants - that's hardly the case, but that's just been such a constant dynamic at City Hall for the last 10 years. And that could just change the way things are done and the sort of the whole political landscape up there on the dais at City Council as much as some of these other seats swapping out or who gets in those seats. [00:21:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I tend to agree with that. And I think - once again I hope people, whether you're an organization who's going to be doing forums or examining that or voters as you have opportunities to have conversations with these candidates - that you ask them where they stand and you hold them accountable for stating their position, for stating how they would have voted, for talking about how they did vote when they voted on different things so that you know what you're getting in terms of a councilmember and their vote. I think that there's growing frustration around looking at some of these challenges that we're facing in the City of Seattle and around the region, whether it's homelessness or public safety or climate change or taxation or progressive revenue, that there's been a lot of rhetoric over the past several years but maybe not the kind of change that people would expect based on some of the broad rhetoric that people have heard. And so I think the lesson to take from that is to really drill down and not just have people give you their very rosy, I-believe-the-children-are-the-future type sayings, but when they can't get everybody to agree, when everyone gathered around the table doesn't come up with one solution, what are they willing to step up and advocate for? What are they willing to stand up and say - Okay, I know this may not make everyone happy, but this is what I believe we need to do and how we need to move forward. I think those will be the most enlightening conversations that come out of this general election and will be the most helpful for voters making decisions. I do want to talk about these King County Council races. And one of these races features a current Seattle City Councilmember, Teresa Mosqueda, in the District 8 race against current Burien mayor, Sofia Aragon. This had a very strong showing - again for a Seattle City Council incumbent - Teresa Mosqueda with 57.56% of the vote right now, Sofia Aragon 37.57%. I don't think it's controversial to say that this is extremely likely to result in Teresa Mosqueda winning this race in the general election. We still have to go through it - nothing is absolutely set in stone, but this is about as safe as you can look as an incumbent. And interestingly enough, another Seattle City councilmember who has been on the forefront of big progressive policy wins - probably at the top of the list, the JumpStart Tax, which has been very consequential for the City of Seattle. What was your take of this race, and what do you think the big issues were or what this says about voters here in this race? - starting with Guy. [00:24:47] Guy Oron: I think the first outcome, I think, is just it shows how important high quality candidates are. I think Teresa is exemplary qualified. I think she has a lot of connections with local labor organizations, local community groups. And so she was really able to outmatch Sofia Aragon in that. And it also showed that I think that district was looking for more than just platitudes about policing and homelessness. And the third thing is maybe it's also a backlash against Aragon's handling of the recent saga over homelessness in Burien, and just how much the city has intensified vitriol against its unhoused population under her majority control. So those were my three takeaways. [00:25:45] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And for those unfamiliar, a dramatic saga currently playing out still in the City of Burien, where there have been a number of sweeps that have taken place with some homeless encampments there in the city. Those sweeps have to operate in a constitutionally legal framework. It looks like the City of Burien got outside of that framework - they were warned by the King County Executive that they were outside of that - you can't sweep people without an offer of shelter. But sometimes in cities, a major issue is that they don't have the resources to do that. Uniquely in Burien, King County offered to provide shelter and a number of Pallets [shelters] , a million dollars worth of that basically - Hey, work alongside us and we'll help you work through this with your population. And from the mayor, the deputy mayor on down basically rejected that offer and would rather not take that up, not house the population, and double down on more punitive criminalized efforts, which it seems may not be very popular in the city. And whether people favor more punitive or more evidence-based solutions there - seems like the one thing people do want is action taken. And when it looks like that isn't being taken, that's a challenge - that may have been a factor here in this race. I'm wondering what kind of addition to the council, or what does it look like voters voted for in terms of policy here and in terms of potential budget impacts or taxation? How did you see this, Melissa? [00:27:32] Melissa Santos: As you mentioned earlier, Mosqueda was really active in getting a tax on big business. This was the Amazon tax that actually ended up passing, after the head tax - kind of was an effort that failed in 2018. Mosqueda picked up the pieces and there were others, too, but she led this effort to actually get a tax on business passed in Seattle, which I think is a pretty big achievement, given how spectacularly that effort fell apart previously. And so she's sometimes been vilified by this - Sawant, for instance, as being too willing to work with people or something. But if you do get an Amazon tax out of it, then that seems to please progressives for the most part. So I think you will get some progressive views on tax policy on the County Council if Mosqueda is elected, which she is likely to be, it looks like. And Mosqueda is interesting because she is not - she has not, I don't think, walked away from the idea of saying - I don't, the number of police is not necessarily equivalent to having great public safety. I don't think we need all these police. She hasn't really walked back from her statements on that so much as maybe Dan Strauss and others here. And this was a real interesting contrast, because that's exactly where Aragon was going after her, saying - Defund the police has failed. Has the City Council of Seattle actually - did they actually follow through with actually defunding stuff? Not quite exactly, but the discussion certainly happened and that was a side that Mosqueda was interested in - looking at other solutions as opposed to hiring more cops, for sure, that's certainly fair to say. The voters in that area seem to think that's fine - 20 point spread here, it's not close. So I think that the thing that interests me most - I think the County Council is interesting, and then Mosqueda will join that and it will create another progressive voice in the County Council. But then we're going to have a fifth City Council seat that needs to be filled, and that will happen by appointment. And that's wild - voters aren't really going to be involved in that. And again, getting ahead of myself - the election has not happened, but 20 point spread, like we can probably assume there's going to be a fifth opening on the City Council. So that's the fifth seat that we aren't even really talking about on the ballot, which then there'll be people who parade through the City Council presenting themselves for the job. And they will have that happen probably toward the end of this year after the elections are over, or maybe early January, depending on the timing. But that will mean a majority of the City Council is changing over, and it could be not a progressive person replacing Mosqueda on the City Council. They won't be super far right or anything, but you could get a more centrist person than she is in that role because voters don't really have a say in it. [00:30:23] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and certainly whoever winds up on the council is going to be very consequential in that decision. What are your thoughts, Dan? [00:30:31] Daniel Beekman: Oh, I was just looking at the Election Night results map - and I should plug Washington Community Alliance because they did this and then put it out there, so that's what I'm looking at. But the interesting thing - I think it might be a little bit tempting because Sofia Aragon is an elected official - is she the mayor right now of Burien? Yeah, she's a mayor of Burien. So it might be a little tempting to read views into the whole Burien brouhah in this result. And maybe there's some of that. But looking at the map, Burien was actually - relatively speaking, she did decently. And the district also includes the dense part of Capitol Hill and the dense part of West Seattle - and that's where Mosqueda cleaned up. So I think you could a little bit more look at this and say it's the opposite of a repudiation in terms of Mosqueda's work on the City Council. But I would be a little bit more hesitant to read into it all that much about Burien, even though maybe some of that could be going on. [00:31:54] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think that's an interesting point. And again, I think that the mapping - more mapping options is wonderful. Kind of similar with first night results, I caution people against looking at first night precinct results - those tell a different story in the same way that the numbers tell a different story. So I'm super eager to dive into these when we have full results on those. And looking at that seems to be more enlightening and more accurate as to where things wind up there, but a really interesting view. And then in the other competitive King County Council race, District 4, where there were three pretty progressive candidates actually in this race in the primary where there was Jorge Barón, Sarah Reyneveld, and then Becka Johnson Poppe. Looking at this in comparison to the City Council races, the other County Council race, this is a race where all three of these candidates were, I think it's probably fair to say most people would consider them all to be progressives. And I've moderated one or two forums for this in the primary election. And these answers were routinely to the left of several of the city councilmembers here. But it looks like - in this race, an interesting dynamic - Jorge Barón got in the race a little bit later. He was previously involved in the legislative session, and so had to finish that up before joining the race, but ended up securing the endorsements of both The Times and The Stranger, which most people don't generally do. Usually there are only select few candidates each cycle who wind up getting both of those endorsements. He did. And it definitely shows in the results with Jorge - usually you don't see someone in an open seat primary getting over 50% - jorge Barón is currently at 50.65%. Sarah Reyneveld also advancing through to the general election at 28.7% here. How do you think this race shaped up and what did you see from this race, Melissa? [00:34:18] Melissa Santos: Jorge is just such a - has a big, big lead, as you said - and getting, again, this is not an incumbent getting almost 51% of the vote. This is a new candidate. But I do think this speaks to Jorge having done a lot of work. When we go back to 2017 and people rushing to SeaTac airport to respond to President, then-President Trump's ban on travel from certain Muslim countries, Jorge Barón was at the forefront of a lot of work. He was at the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, I believe - off the top of my head, I think of it as the acronym, so I hope I have the full name correct here - but he's done so much work there where he's gotten a lot of earned media coverage because of doing a lot of work on behalf of people in the community. I think that, even if he hadn't campaigned at all - which I know he didn't just sit on the sidelines - but that did a lot of work before he even started campaigning. And I think that's reflected in the numbers here. [00:35:17] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I would agree with that. And to people looking to learn lessons when you're running - this is an excellent example of someone building their profile through serving in the community and people being aware of the work that they're doing, seeing tangible ways that that is playing out in the community. I think Jorge certainly benefited from that and benefited from just people saying - I certainly was a supporter of the work at the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project and so impactful and important in the community. How did you see this, Guy? [00:35:55] Guy Oron: Yeah, I think it really shows Jorge Barón's ground game kind of making, or rather the opposite of ground game, the networking. And just having served in the community for so long, I think, was probably what got him that endorsement - and familiarity with policy issues for years. Yeah, and I think it's a bit of a unicorn endorsement. I'm very curious what the deliberation was between The Seattle Times and The Stranger editorial boards. And it does show just how much power they have as gatekeepers, particularly in more low-turnout elections like these August primaries. [00:36:38] Crystal Fincher: How did you see this, Daniel? [00:36:40] Daniel Beekman: I don't have that much to add - I think Melissa and Guy nailed it. Only one anecdote is that The Stranger/Seattle Times double endorsement is like a unicorn, should be a slam dunk - but actually, Jon Grant in 2017 had both - got defeated, I think, pretty handily by Teresa Mosqueda, who we were just talking about. So it's not an absolute slam dunk always, but in this case, it looks like it probably will be. [00:37:14] Crystal Fincher: Definite themes of Teresa Mosqueda as a powerhouse in a number of different ways, it seems like. Now, as we've talked about a number of these races and we're almost done with time, so I guess just going around the horn here - What are you paying attention to most? What do you think is going to be the most interesting or impactful thing in the general election, either as a theme for these races or in any particular race that you're following? starting with Melissa. [00:37:46] Melissa Santos: Oh, geez. Okay. Yeah, I am really interested to know what people think about tax policy and whether they're supportive of new taxes that go beyond the JumpStart Tax because the City does have a budget deficit - not right at this precise moment over the next six months, but pretty big projected budget deficit going toward 2025 - and I'm curious how candidates will respond with specifics about what they'd support to deal with that. And then I'm also interested in where the candidates are on these police issues, because it's again - when you talk about slogans like "defund the police," that isn't even exactly what happened in Seattle. So it's - what are we talking about? And so that's what I'm watching - is what candidates actually have to say about that and what they mean when they say - I don't like defund the police - or, what does this mean? So I think I'm just really, now that there's not 10 candidates in a race, looking forward to actually figuring out where people stand on issues - hopefully. [00:38:46] Crystal Fincher: And Guy? [00:38:52] Guy Oron: Yeah, I think I'm looking forward to see if the economy rebounds a bit and if people start feeling a little less burned out from politics - and whether candidates and their ground game can really go upstream and try to convince some of the disillusioned young folks, and especially more of the progressive folks who are not as happy with Biden and are not looking forward to voting, and just convince them that voting matters and that they're not throwing away their time by filling out the ballot. [00:39:29] Crystal Fincher: And what about you, Daniel? [00:39:30] Daniel Beekman: I guess in Seattle City Council races, I'm just curious to see, I think the more conservative, moderate candidates - maybe unfair to paint with a broad brush, but that sort of side of things - will probably, whether there are policy solutions that are realistic to go along with these, but they'll bang on - Oh, we need to crack down or get tough with crime and drugs - and that kind of thing. I'm interested to see, though, what the left-wing candidates try to use or wave as the banner, policy-wise. Is it raising taxes on businesses more? Is it the rent control? Is it another minimum wage hike? What is it? Can they find something to latch on to that's going to capture the voter's imagination? And then I'm also just curious about some of these suburban races, like I was talking about before we went live - about Bothell and Burien and some interesting stuff up there. Bothell has this sort of growing urbanist political streak, and will that continue with one of the races up there? Looks like it could. And Kenmore finding itself dealing with affordable housing issues more and maybe getting a little bit of a lefty push - and will that continue? So I'm going to keep my eye on those. [00:41:06] Crystal Fincher: What I'm most looking forward to is to see where donors settle in these races. Certainly donors were spread out amongst a variety of candidates in the primary, but in some of these races, it's not super clear at the moment where the candidate stances are on all the issues. Some races it's pretty clear to say that there's a progressive and a moderate, others it's to be determined and the details of that are yet to be determined. So it's going to be interesting to see where donors consolidate - who more corporate-type donors feel are the candidates that are going to be on their side, where they invest - usually they do not donate to places where they don't feel pretty sure they're going to get a return on that investment of the candidates. So that's going to be interesting to see, and I will be paying attention to that throughout the primary, certainly. And with that, thank you for listening to this roundtable as it now comes to a close. I want to thank our panelists - Daniel Beekman, Guy Oron, and Melissa Santos - for their insight and making this an engaging and informative event. To those watching online, thanks so much for tuning in. If you missed any of the discussion tonight, you can catch up on the Hacks & Wonks Facebook page, YouTube channel, or on Twitter, where we're @HacksWonks. Special thanks to essential member of the Hacks & Wonks team and coordinator for this evening, Dr. Shannon Cheng. If you missed voting in the election or know anyone who did, make sure to register to vote, update your registration, or find information for the next election at myvote.wa.gov. And as a reminder, even if you've been previously incarcerated, your right to vote is restored and you can re-register to vote immediately upon your release in Washington state, even if you are still under community supervision. Be sure to tune into Hacks & Wonks on your favorite podcast app for our Tuesday topical interviews and our Friday week-in-review shows or at officialhacksandwonks.com. I've been your host, Crystal Fincher, and we'll see you next time.
3pm - 'People want cooling:' King County's program to get heat pumps in homes that need it the most // Massachusetts couple denied foster care application over LGBTQ views, complaint says // ‘Blind Side' Subject Says Family Lied About His Adoption and Made Millions Off Him // Tuohy family responds to Michael Oher's allegations of his false adoption // Google Tests an A.I. Assistant That Offers Life AdviceSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
3.8 magnitude earthquake shakes people awake near Fall City // ANOTHER TREE?! Doug's Defenders: Community activists rally to save Douglas Fir in Maple Leaf neighborhood // School bus stop sign violators skirt consequences in King County // $1.55 Billion Mega Millions prize balloons as 31 drawings pass without a winner // Zoom calls workers back into the office // We Need to Talk... about what people on airplanes call Gee ScottSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Our guest today is Mike Millman, mayor of Woodinville, WA -- a growing suburbia outside of Seattle. Mike joins us to share his life of civic service as a long time firefighter in Everett, fire commissioner for Woodinville and volunteer of Woodiville's city planning committee. Later recruited to fill a role on city council and eventually elected Mayor of Woodinville. King County otherwise known as outside Seattle is facing massive population growth and therefore, new infrastructure demands. Woodinville, and locations of the like, feel like they are bursting at the seams in regards to the flow of foot and car traffic. Millman talks about local government, city planning and upgrades to the area that will help unburden locals. Normally, we hear these conversations around the dinner table as complaints and frustrations. This refreshing take on city growth and progress gives the audience a look at how areas outside larger cities manage and evolve due to urban sprawl. Doubly refreshing to hear from a local politician who sincerely cares for the future vision of his home and families in the area. We hope you enjoy today's episode.
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank! They run through results from Tuesday's primary election for Seattle City Council, Seattle School Board & King County Council, and then take a look at Tacoma City Council, Spokane City elections, and the recall of gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird from the Richland School Board. The show concludes with reflection on the influence of editorial boards and their endorsements, particularly those of The Stranger. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today's co-host, Robert Cruickshank, at @cruickshank. Resources “RE-AIR: The Big Waterfront Bamboozle with Mike McGinn and Robert Cruickshank” from Hacks & Wonks “Backlash to City Council incumbents doesn't materialize in primary” by Melissa Santos from Axios “Seattle Public Schools primary election results 2023” by Dahlia Bazzaz and Monica Velez from The Seattle Times “3 things we learned from the Pierce County primary, from council races to tax measures” by Adam Lynn from The News Tribune “Voters favor recall of gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird from school board” by Jerry Cornfield from Washington State Standard Find stories that Crystal is reading here Transcript [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 Tuesday topical show and our Friday week-in-review 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. If you missed our Tuesday topical show, we re-aired an episode highlighting how the leaders we choose make consequential decisions that affect us all. Check out my conversation with Mike McGinn and Robert Cruickshank about how the SR 99 tunnel and today's Seattle waterfront came about. Today, we're continuing our Friday week-in-review 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: Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank. Hey! [00:01:26] Robert Cruickshank: Thank you for having me on again, Crystal - excited to talk about election results this week. [00:01:30] Crystal Fincher: Yes, and we have a number to talk about. These have been very eagerly awaited results - lots of candidates and contenders, especially with the Seattle City Council elections - 45 candidates all whittled down now to two in each race going into the general election. We should probably go through the results here - District 1 and going through - what did we see and what did you think? [00:01:58] Robert Cruickshank: There are some trends you'll see as we look through these races and it's good to start district by district. And in West Seattle, in District 1, one of the trends you see is that some of the establishment candidates, the candidates Bruce Harrell's side, is really putting kind of anemic performances. You look at Rob Saka in West Seattle, who's barely ahead of Phil Tavel who's run for office several times before. And Maren Costa, the much more progressive candidate, labor candidate - is the one of the two women who was fired by Amazon for doing climate organizing before the pandemic - so she's a strong climate champion, Stranger-endorsed candidate. Maren Costa is in the low 30s and will probably go higher as more ballots come in this week. But Rob Saka is one of the two candidates who benefited from a independent expenditure by right-wing billionaires and corporate donors. The reason they targeted him in this race and Maritza Rivera in District 4, which we'll talk about in a moment, is they knew that those two candidates were struggling and needed that huge influx of cash to help convince voters to support them and not - maybe in this case - Phil Tavel over Maren Costa. So Rob Saka at 25% or so right now - it's not really a strong showing. Maren Costa in the low 30s - your progressive candidate, you'd like to be a little bit higher - she's in a great position right now. And one of the things you're seeing in this race - and you will see in the others - is in addition to the fact that the establishment candidates did worse than expected, in addition to incumbents doing well, you're also starting to see that a number of progressive candidates are surviving this supposed backlash that never actually happened. If you talk to or listen to Brandi Kruse, or watch KOMO, or read some of the more unhinged Seattle Times editorials, you would have assumed that coming into this election, there's going to be a massive backlash favoring genuinely right-wing candidates who really want to just crack down on crime, crack down on homelessness - that just didn't happen. What I see in District 1, and you'll see in all these other races, is a reversion to pre-pandemic politics between corporate centrists and progressive candidates. That's where you're starting to see the things shake out - you're not having right-wing candidates like Ann Davison getting traction. And candidates on the left, there weren't very many of them this year - had a little bit of traction, we'll see, in District 5, but otherwise it wasn't really a factor. So I think you're coming back to pre-pandemic politics where a progressive candidate like Maren Costa can do well in West Seattle. If you remember in 2015, when we first went to districts, the race in West Seattle was very close - Lisa Herbold only won by about 30 votes. Looking at the numbers in District 1 so far, I would not be surprised to see a very close race between Maren Costa and Rob Saka, but Rob Saka is not the strong candidate that his backers expected. And Maren Costa has a lot of momentum and energy behind her - in West Seattle, you're seeing voters responding to the message that she's giving. [00:05:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I would agree with that. I also found it surprising to see how anemic the performance by some of those establishment moderate candidates - not only did they need that conservative PAC money to get through, but they were leading in fundraising by quite a significant bit - Rob Saka was far ahead of others in terms of fundraising, we saw the same in some other districts. So it was really interesting - it's hard to finish poorly in a primary or to not run away with the lead, really, in a primary when you have a significant fundraising lead - especially when you have additional money coming in. Seattle voters are starting to get a little wiser - still the challenge is there - but starting to get a little wiser at looking at whose donors are there and do those donors indicate how they're going to vote? Looks like in the history of Seattle politics - maybe drawing some conclusions on that. I think there are interesting conversations about the, whether this is a change election or stay the course election, whether people want something different or the same. And I think that's a more complicated answer than just change or different. One, we don't have a uniform city council. There's a range of positions and perspectives on the council, so to try and characterize it as "this progressive council" isn't necessarily correct. And now we're going to have a lot of turnover, we're going to see what this new composition is going to be, but it's hard to characterize that. And then you have the mayor on the other side - who is definitely a moderate, not a progressive there - and so the mayor is still dictating a lot of the policy in the city. Even some things that have been funded by the council, direction that has been moved has not been taken action on by the mayor. Saying that you want to stay the course really feels like a more moderate course these days, especially when looking at the approaches to public safety with a lot of criminalization of poverty - when you talk about homelessness and the outsize focus on sweeps, instead of trying to house people and connect them to services consistently. So that whole conversation is always interesting to me and feels a little bit reductive, a little too simplistic for what is actually going on. But we should probably talk about some of the other races, too. What did you see in District 2 with Tammy Morales and Tanya Woo, along with kind of an also-ran - another candidate who I don't think topped 5% - but that is a closer race than some of the others appear to be on their face, although there were a lot fewer candidates in this race. [00:07:34] Robert Cruickshank: Again, we can think back to 2015 where Tammy Morales nearly beat the incumbent Bruce Harrell, losing by a little less than 500 votes. She won by a larger margin when the seat was open after Harrell stepped down in 2019. A lot of the sort of conventional wisdom from the establishment class is that Morales was in real trouble, but she's hovering around 50% right now. Tanya Woo's close - it'll be a close election in the fall, but you have to say that Morales has the advantage here. Incumbency does matter. We need to look at the maps, but I know that there's been a lot of frustration in the Chinatown International District with Morales and with City Hall more generally, but the rest of District 2 seems to still have confidence in Tammy Morales' leadership, and still willing to send her back to City Hall for a second term. The exception to that was in noticing that the closer I get to Lake Washington, the Tanya Woo signs pop up a lot more. The closer I get to Rainier and MLK, more Tammy Morales signs. That's a typical split in terms of the electorate in the South End, and I think it favors Morales. She's done a great job on a lot of issues facing the community, she's been there for the community. Tanya Woo is running a strong campaign - Woo is not a right-wing candidate, Woo is much more of a center-left candidate who is really close to the Harrell administration. And again, it'll be a close race. If you're looking for a backlash, if you're looking for a rejection of a progressive city council, you are not seeing it in District 2. Morales, I think, has the advantage here going into November. [00:09:01] Crystal Fincher: I would agree. Now, District 3, coming on the heels of our announced departure of Councilmember Kshama Sawant from the council, there's going to be a new councilmember here. This is an open-seat race. We see Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson making it through to the general election. What's your take on this? [00:09:22] Robert Cruickshank: Joy Hollingsworth has probably hit her ceiling - she's pulling around 40% right now. If you look back - ever since we went to districts in 2015, obviously being on the ballot changes the dynamics - you can get some pretty liberal people who are - I don't know if I like the socialism, 'cause they could get close. And so there's at least, you would assume, 40 to 45% for a more centrist candidate even in District 3, but not much beyond that. And what you're seeing is that as more ballots come in, Alex Hudson's numbers are growing, and there are quite a few other really good candidates in that race who also split the progressive vote. Hudson will almost certainly unite that progressive vote. I think very few of those voters are going to go from someone like Andrew Ashiofu or Ry Armstrong or Alex Cooley over to Joy Hollingsworth - a few might. But I think Alex Hudson is going to have the advantage here going in to the November election as well. [00:10:15] Crystal Fincher: This is an interesting race. There are eight candidates in this race, one - so very, very crowded race - number of progressive candidates in here. So there definitely was some splitting going on. This is a bit different than some of the open seat races that we see where oftentimes there is a candidate who feels like they're carrying on the same direction or philosophy or policy stance as the incumbent, but the incumbent decided not to go anymore. And so there're oftentimes as well, the choice of maintaining the same kind of policy direction or going different. I don't think that's the case here. And also to your point that Kshama Sawant not being in this race - yes, some people see the socialism in question, but Kshama had the ability to motivate a whole entire squad of volunteers that blanketed that district. And so looking at the absolutely impressive ground game - we've talked about it before on the program - lots to learn from for Democrats looking at that and others at how to expand the electorate and really get people to turn out to vote is something that Kshama and her campaign did extremely well. There's a different dynamic here, and it's going to be interesting to see if one of these candidates can motivate and galvanize younger people to a degree that comes close to what Kshama did. It looks like that was not the case in the primary, probably - we're still fairly early in the returns, but turnout looks concerning, especially among younger people here. So the entire dynamic of that race in that district just feels a lot more different than some of the other ones. And so this is going to be an interesting one to follow. [00:11:50] Robert Cruickshank: I agree - you're right to point to Sawant's just political genius. Sawant is one of the most effective candidates, campaigners, and politicians we see in the City in a long, long time. She has a really strong ability to speak to a broad progressive base in Capitol Hill. And in District 3, she speaks well to renters and people who are lower wage workers - they know she has their back. Her campaign operation is one of the best the City has had. Talking to people who live in District 3 - they would report every time Sawant's on the ballot, they had Sawant organizers at their doors almost every day until they turned in their ballots. They got the work done. They were really good at that. And that is a infrastructure that is unique to Sawant. Sawant always wanted to turn that into a movement, into an organization - was never quite able to. And so none of the other candidates have built that yet. As you point out with turnout, they're going to need to. Alex Hudson, looking like the more progressive candidate in this race, is going to have to figure out how to build something close to what Sawant had without having the sort of once-in-a-generation political charisma and skills that Sawant had. Now, Hudson is a great candidate. Hudson has a lot of experience at City Hall, knows the policy well. But to actually win the election, they're gonna have to figure out how to build some of that momentum and movement going for her to make sure that she wins. My guess is Hudson probably gets around 53% in November, but she's gonna have to work hard for it. [00:13:19] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, she's gonna have to work hard for it. I will say a couple things. One, just on legacy, I guess, moving forward - absolutely galvanized the public. I have seen several people say - Out of everyone, I know that I can count on Sawant to represent my interests. That's important. If you have a voter saying that, they are a loyal voter - unless you do something completely out of character, they're gonna be there for you like you've been there for them. There are questions about how well Sawant worked with her colleagues. There's ongoing debate about leading on an issue and pushing for progress versus how much to try and work with, potentially compromise with colleagues. And Sawant was not one who led with compromise. And that is something that a lot of people admired. I've said over and over again that a lot of times, especially speaking with more moderate people, they seem to always view Sawant's election as a fluke almost - Oh, some other condition, some other thing helped Sawant get in and that's the only reason why - which I think is why you saw so much energy around the recall elections and her re-elections. But she represents that district - there is no getting around - the people voted for her on purpose. She's a good example of looking at some people in some positions and saying - Hey, just move forward. Obviously $15 an hour minimum wage started in SeaTac, but then Kshama certainly picked up that mantle for Seattle and said - We need to get this done. Probably without her very direct and overt support for that, $15 an hour does not happen in Seattle when it did, how it did. If you follow me online, I often ask for mail or feedback from people in different districts. And I will say I had a couple people in District 3 who consistently showed me the mail that they receive - a couple of them in some harder to find places, harder to canvass places who don't get many canvassers - even with Sawant, they definitely did, but not as much as some of the other ones. Alex Hudson's campaign team made it there to drop off lit, made it there to knock on some doors. So that was encouraging. I'm always a big fan of candidates getting on those doors, talking to their constituents, their neighbors directly. Alex Hudson did a better job of that in the primary. And so hopefully that is something that can be built on and expanded upon. Want to talk about District 4, which is another interesting result. We had, in this race, a different dynamic where there was one clear progressive candidate and then a number of different shades of moderate to conservative candidates. This race even featured a self-described climate skeptic - just a number of different perspectives on the center to the right. And here we had Ron Davis with a pretty strong finish, considering the split in this race - we're sitting right about 42% right now - and as we record this on Thursday morning. And then Ken Wilson not making it through the primary, Maritza Rivera making it through - both of those fundraised pretty significantly. Maritza, another recipient of some PAC support. So looking at this race, how do you see the primary? And then how do you see the general shaping up between Ron Davis and Maritza Rivera? [00:16:31] Robert Cruickshank: The corporate PAC for Rivera was key because I think there's recognition that without it, Ken Wilson probably would have come in second. Wilson had a strong base of support - he raised, I think, the most Democracy Vouchers in the city, Ron Davis quickly caught up. Wilson had a genuine popular base of support among the NIMBYs and right wingers in District 4, which there are many. That's why you needed the right wing billionaires and corporate CEOs to come in and help drag Rivera up into second place. Going into the fall, I wanna acknowledge that there are people out there who take a more skeptical view of what this means for progressives - like Erica Barnett, for example - arguing that this isn't actually that great for progressives, they're getting into the upper 30s, low 40s, but things could unite against them in the fall. And we can look back at 2021 and say - Yeah, that's what happened in the mayor's race. I was looking at the numbers earlier this morning. After all is said and done in the August 2021 primary, Bruce Harrell had 34%, Lorena González had 32%. It looked like it was a real horse race. It turned out that was almost González's ceiling - she got, obviously, a little bit more than that, closer to 40%, but not quite. And Harrell scooped up almost everything else. I don't think that's gonna happen in District 4 and I don't think it's gonna happen elsewhere. For a few reasons - one, I think the mayor's race is a unique animal - citywide. I also think 2021 was a difficult moment for progressives in Seattle - they hadn't quite figured out how to handle this backlash to defund, concerns about crime and homelessness. Candidates are starting to figure that out a lot better. So Ron Davis is a very smart campaigner. He has really sensible answers on the issues that resonate even with more older conservative voters. He's got a real upside. I also think there are a non-zero number of Ken Wilson voters who might go over to Ron. Ken sent out a really interesting mailer in the last week of the election with a bunch of check marks about different positions - designed to contrast Ken with Rivera, but a lot of the check marks are for Ron as well. And what Ken's campaign was saying is that Rivera is the insider - she's been inside City Hall for several years, corporate backing, establishment backing. Ron doesn't have that. And I think a lot of Wilson voters will see in Ron someone who's also not of the establishment. I wouldn't want to overstate that, but a wider electorate in the fall, Davis getting a few votes here and there from Wilson - he's got a shot at winning. [00:18:58] Crystal Fincher: That's a really important point. And the way these votes consolidate is probably going to matter in this race - looking at how they stack up, this is going to be a competitive race. This is not one where the primary winner is automatically going to be the general election winner. Overall, looking at just how this district has trended over the past decade - the district is unquestionably moving left, which is really interesting. This is one of the districts that had been reliably moderate to conservative for a long time. That's not the case - we would not have seen even over about 42% right now - this result would not have happened half a decade back. This is just a different place. I think that is what's informed some of the odd policy choices of people like Gerry Pollet, who has received a lot of backlash, but I think he was counting on the composition of the district as it used to be and not as it is today. There were rumors of him potentially getting in the city council race - there weren't rumors, they were confirmed, I think, by someone close to him. Looking at it, he no longer really fits the district or provided a contrast that people felt comfortable moving to to support a candidacy. So it's going to be also interesting to see how things progress with him after considering and not deciding to do local stuff and going there. But this will be an interesting race. This is going to be one where we might see more of a focus and highlighting on the role of these donors, the role of the corporate support, how close Maritza is to the current administration. If people want a change, that really doesn't seem to include Maritza at all. She would be the last person you'd vote for if you wanted a change. So this is going to be a really interesting race to follow. [00:20:45] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, and it's an interesting race also because it is a chance for progressives to pick up a seat on the City Council. The assumption, as we talked about going into this election from the conventional wisdom centrist pundit classes, that progressives are going to get dealt a pretty harsh blow here - these results suggest that's not necessarily going to happen. And in fact - Ron running a really strong campaign - he could flip that seat for progressives. He's a really sensible candidate for that district as well. He's a dad in his early forties. He's run a small business. He's been active in his neighborhood association. He knows the district well. He's a really good fit there. A lot of those voters, as you've said, are not much more overtly conservative, Pollet, Alex Pedersen types. They're there, clearly. But a lot of younger families are going to be there - ready to vote in November. And of course, in November, which you don't have in August, is a UW student body that is on campus - that's something that is in Ron's back pocket that can really give him a significant boost in the November election. [00:21:48] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely agree. We could change when we have this primary. We could change how we have this primary, frankly, and change our style of voting. We can move to even-year elections as the county has done and has voted to do. Why are we voting in August when people are away for the summer, when younger people are gone? [00:22:09] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, to move up to where I live in District 5 - talking about what happened here - those changes would have made a huge difference. Ranked choice voting here would have gone a long way because we had quite an interesting field that didn't necessarily match what you see elsewhere. There isn't an obvious centrist-Harrell candidate. Cathy Moore seems closest to that, but she's also not the City Hall insider. Cathy is a much more traditionally liberal candidate, someone who sits between progressive and center - got around 30-something percent of the vote, not a huge showing. There were a number of progressive to genuinely left-wing candidates up here in the far northern reaches of Seattle, which 10 years ago is considered one of the most conservative parts of the city. We're seeing that's not necessarily the case - you have Tye Reed, who jumped in almost at the end of filing, presenting a very left-wing perspective. Christiana ObeySumner jumping in - they present a also-left perspective and appear to be the second place candidate - backed by, of course, a Stranger endorsement - narrowly edging out Nilu Jenks, who is a much more traditional progressive candidate running strong on climate issues. Nilu's campaign fell just short. I know that a lot of Nilu supporters are really frustrated at the way the Stranger handled this race. It is an example of where a ranked choice system, or having this in an even-numbered year, or having the primary at another time rather than at the dead of summer, could have produced a really interesting and fruitful conversation between these different candidates and campaigns about what it means to be progressive, especially up here in a part of the city that is often overlooked or neglected. I know the South End really has a pretty significant, legitimate beef on that front - but so does Lake City, so does Broadview, so does the far northern reaches of Aurora Avenue once you get past Green Lake. So it's gonna be interesting to see how this plays out here. I don't think that the race between Moore and ObeySumner is going to resemble races in other parts of the city. They're much more interesting and unpredictable candidates. [00:24:05] Crystal Fincher: It's too close to officially call right now, as of pre-drop on Thursday - we have Christiana ObeySumner at 22.1% and Nilu Jenks at 19%. It's hard to see this shift change. It's hard - as I'm looking at it, what I bet - that Christiana's the one that makes it through, I'd say that's likely. Would I say it's absolutely conclusive, we don't need to consider any more drops? No. But odds are, with the way that votes typically shake out, that this isn't going to change radically. There are a few different left candidates. It's not like there's consolidation to just one candidate. And because Christiana also got The Stranger endorsement, which a lot of late voters are relying more heavily on - they already don't have a formed opinion - so it's hard to see the vote shifting away from Christiana. As we look at this race in District 6, which does have an incumbent, Dan Strauss, who is over 50% - 50.7% right now, followed by Pete Hanning at 30%. This is another one where the moderates didn't seem to get a great bang for their buck. [00:25:17] Robert Cruickshank: And this is a race where it's clear that - one, the power of incumbency still matters. And two, the supposed backlash to the progressive city council is overstated. Dan Strauss getting above 50% is a big deal. He voted, I think, once for defunding the police in the summer of 2020, and then fairly quickly walked that back. But that didn't stop his opponents from sending a bunch of mailers to houses in District 6, explaining that Dan Strauss had voted to defund the police. That doesn't appear to have hurt him at all. The fact you have Pete Hanning, who is head of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, small business guy - you would think that he would be a ideal candidate for that part of the city. It turns out he's not. He's languishing there at 30%. Strauss is above 50% before even more progressive ballot drops happen on Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon in the dead of August summer. We're learning a couple things here - not just the power of incumbency, not just the fact the right wing backlash doesn't exist - we're also learning that Ballard and Fremont are more progressive than people assumed. It'll be interesting to see the map of where these votes come in. The Magnolia portions of the district, anything on the water, on the Sound, probably voted for Hanning or other candidates like that. Where the population base is - in Ballard, up to Greenwood, Fremont - I bet they're probably voting for Dan Strauss. And I think it is a endorsement of Strauss's attempt to straddle the fence. He gets a lot of criticism, I think justifiably so, for the way he flip-flops often. But appears to be working for Dan Strauss. Progressives have a bit of work cut out for us. I posted about this on Twitter - got a lot of people responding to me that Strauss is not a progressive. I would agree with that, but he's willing to listen to and vote for progressives if we organize him correctly. So I see it as an opportunity here. And also just the fact that the right-wing backlash didn't show up in this district at all is, I think, a big win. And I think it's a significant sign going forward that progressives have more of an opportunity than we thought. This race in particular reminds me of 2022. At the state level and especially the federal level - going into the November election, there was a lot of concern, worry, even predictions of doom that the Democrats were just gonna get wiped out. That didn't happen at the state level. In fact, Democrats picked up seats. At the federal level, barring a meltdown of the Democratic Party in New York State, Democrats could have held onto the House. They did hold onto the Senate. And I think you're seeing something similar here - that this assumption, I think, especially from the establishment media and that pundit class that - Oh, this is a center-right country, maybe a centrist city - it's not true. There is more support for a progressive agenda in the city, and in this country than is assumed. I think progressives need to internalize that and realize we have real opportunities here to move forward. And if we're making sure that we're listening to what voters are saying and bringing them along with us. [00:28:09] Crystal Fincher: That's a really important point. A lot of times people talk about - People are dissatisfied with the council, people think things are on the wrong track. Sometimes we use things like progressive and moderate - these broad labels - as a shorthand for policy. If you look at policy in practice in Seattle, it's hard to call a lot of it progressive on the issues that have been plaguing Seattle the most - on public safety, on homelessness, on issues of inequality. Policy has not been what progressives would call progressive. Moderates love to call things progressive. Moderates are extremely emotionally invested in being called progressive. And what we've seen is policy passed by those moderates with messaging calling it progressive - we've seen sweep after sweep after sweep, hot spot-focused policing, which doesn't seem to accomplish much in the longterm. And so when we just ask - Are you satisfied? And someone says - No. Somehow it's always characterized as - Well, people don't like progressive policy and they want something different. Or we're characterizing the council as progressive, which is not a clean label for that council - it's a lot more varied than that. And saying - Clearly, they want more moderate policy. And that's not true, especially in the City of Seattle - some people want to go to actual progressive policy and are thinking that - Okay, I hear this rhetoric, but I'm not seeing it in practice. I want what they talked about. I want what they're selling. That's also why you see so many candidates - who people who aren't moderate would call moderate, who progressives would call moderate - mirroring progressive messaging. Even though they're getting support from some really right-wing people, some people who traditionally support Republicans, are very opposed to taxation. Still, if you look at their mailers, if you look at different things - I'm a progressive champion. I believe in progressive policy. Sara Nelson ran on police reform. And you can see she was more aligned with her donors and different things - that's a lesson that Seattle is starting to learn. But just because there are some progressives on the council, a couple of progressives on the council, just because there's a label calling it that by people who most do not consider to be progressives - that's just a messaging trick. You have to follow up on that question - Why are you dissatisfied? Those answers are a lot more interesting and a lot more informative about why people are voting the way they are and why the reception to different councilmembers is the way that it is. [00:30:36] Robert Cruickshank: That's right. And I think it is going to be interesting to see who actually makes it onto the council because the fence sitters - we talked about one, Dan Strauss, we'll talk about the other, Andrew Lewis, in a moment. If there are other genuine progressives on the City Council - if we get people like Ron Davis and Maren Costa and Tammy Morales reelected, Alex Hudson elected - it becomes easier to pull those fence sitters in the direction of more progressive policy. We got to get them reelected. And this is where - you look at our last district here, District 7 - Andrew Lewis is ahead. He's in the low to mid 40% range. We'll see what happens over the next two ballot drops where he lands in the primary. It's good, it's not as strong as Dan Strauss. But Lewis, I think, understands what he needs to do to win and will do things that lead him down policy paths that progressives don't like. We saw this on Monday where - he signaled he would do this at the vote in June and he did - stood with Bruce Harrell to agree on a plan to pass the ordinance criminalizing drug possession in Seattle, incorporating the recently passed state law. And I'm not a fan of that ordinance, not a fan of that state law. I'm also not shocked at all that it played out here exactly the way it played out in the Legislature. Progressives and progressive-ish candidates and electeds said No, voted it down the first time. It came back. They won a few concessions, more money - but I think as Erica Barnett has pointed out, it's not new money. They won promises of diversion first, but they're promises - it's all going to be overseen by Ann Davison - we'll see what happens here. This is an example of Andrew Lewis trying to straddle the fence. And there's a political logic to that. Lewis won a very close race over former SPD chief Jim Pugel in 2019. It looks like he'll be up against Bob Kettle this year, who I think is running - clearly the strongest candidate of the people chasing Andrew Lewis, not surprised that Olga Sagan didn't really pan out - she got 14%, which is nothing to sneeze at. But again, the right-wing backlash is not real. We'll see what Andrew Lewis winds up doing. Lewis is someone who is clearly susceptible to being pressured by progressives - that's a good thing. I think those of us who are genuine progressives would love to see someone who's more progressive in that seat. We're not going to get that this year. It's not going to happen, nor in the District 6 seat. Most progressives I've talked to understand that and recognize that our interests are better served by the reelection of Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis than by just abandoning them. Because sometimes you have to work with the electeds you've got - I think that's where it stands in those two districts. Lewis has a higher hill to climb than Strauss, but it's doable. We'll see how that plays out in the fall. [00:33:16] Crystal Fincher: Yep, I agree with that. I also want to talk about the school board races, which you have talked about, written about. How did you see this playing out? [00:33:24] Robert Cruickshank: It's interesting. The power of incumbency matters. There were two races on the ballot where there were genuine contests. District 1, which covers far northern Seattle - almost overlaps District 5 in the City Council - it'd be nice if these numbers matched. This is where Liza Rankin, the incumbent, is hovering around 60% of the vote - that's partly because she got the backing of The Stranger, it's also partly because she's the incumbent. It's also partly because - while there's a lot of discontent among parents in Seattle about the way the district is being run, that hasn't crystallized into any real organizing momentum yet. Rankin's main challenger, Debbie Carlsen, who is LGBTQ, has a LGBTQ family, has done a lot of work as an educator and nonprofit leader - Debbie's one of these candidates who files for school board during filing week - that is pretty common thing to happen and it takes you a little bit of time to get your feet underneath you as a candidate. Debbie's done that over the course of July, but a lot of the endorsement meetings were held in early June when she was still figuring it out - probably didn't give the greatest Stranger interview and is unusually closely allied with the current majority of the school board. Even if The Stranger had endorsed Debbie, Liza probably comes out well ahead. It's partly, again, the power of incumbency and the fact that a lot of voters just don't really know much about what's happening with the schools. That could change in a matter of weeks if the district does, as is expected, announce a list of schools they intend to close. That's the sort of thing that gets people's attention real quick. Similarly, you look over at District 3 where there's an opening - District 3 School Board overlaps District 4 City Council, so we're talking now about northeastern Seattle, Laurelhurst, Bryant, Ravenna, part of Wedgwood. That's a place where three really interesting candidates - Evan Briggs, who seems to have the most support so far at 38%, backing of The Stranger, backed by the incumbent majority in the school board. Ben Gitenstein, who's an interesting guy - running as a protest candidate, but has smart background in finance and understanding how districts work, backing of The Stranger - he's at 33%. Christie Robertson, I think, really ran a strong campaign - having the backing of Seattle Student Union, Seattle Education Association, MLK Labor, didn't get either of the newspaper endorsements, and I think that's why she's in a very close third place. That's a disappointment there, because I think she ran the best campaign she could, but coming in a close third. I thought she was the best candidate of the bunch. But August, where a lot of parents aren't paying attention - their kids are in camps or a lot of them are traveling. August also being a time of not great turnout. And people just don't know much about the schools - school board gets less coverage these days than it used to even seven, eight years ago. We'll see what happens in the fall if school closures are put on the table, with schools being named - that changes everything immediately. Now, it's also possible the school district recognizes this and wanting to protect their allies on the school board may punt that until after the election, which will merely infuriate everybody further. We'll see what happens in the fall. This is one of those where you see a 20% approval rating of the school district, but incumbency is a powerful thing. [00:36:31] Crystal Fincher: Incumbency is an extremely powerful thing. And one thing that we did not see in the King County Council races on the ballot was any incumbent in the race. There were two open seat races on the primary ballot. What was your take on those? [00:36:46] Robert Cruickshank: Unsurprisingly, Teresa Mosqueda doing very well in the District 8 seat - that's West Seattle, Vashon Island area. She's a great campaigner and is well-liked and well-respected. She won the city council race by 20 points in 2021, while Lorena González went down to defeat and Davison and Sara Nelson won. It's a clear fact that Mosqueda knows what she's doing - she connects well with the voters and she has a really strong record. Mosqueda has got a real clear advantage going into the fall. The District 4 seat for King County Council - we're talking about northwestern Seattle from roughly Queen Anne, Magnolia, up towards Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood - that's an open seat with a set of three very progressive candidates. Jorge Barón who's hovering around 50%, will be the clear front runner going into the fall. Sarah Reyneveld, who's at 30%. And then Becka Johnson Poppe, who had 20%. And that's gonna be interesting. Jorge, again, the clear front runner, but it's not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. You had the other two candidates splitting the vote. I think Sarah has a really good shot of scooping up a lot of people who voted for Becka and that could be a very close race too. And I think this is one where - when you have two good progressives in a race, you want to see a good contest. You want to see them push each other to be better. You want to see them fight hard on key issues like who's gonna save Metro? The school district is talking about closing schools - Metro's talking about deleting routes. In a city this wealthy, that is this supportive of transit, that is this interested in doing climate action - for King County to be deleting routes is a huge problem. We need to be expanding the number of routes we have, the frequency on those routes. And so whoever of those candidates can really speak to the issues of transit in particular could have a real advantage going into November. [00:38:22] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree with that. The existing routes that are left is falling through the floor. I know people are calling them "ghost buses" just because of not showing up. People have bought cars that they can barely afford. But what they can afford even less is to not get to work on time, to lose the only source of income. They have to do better with Metro. I'm looking forward to that being discussed often and robustly in the general election. [00:38:49] Robert Cruickshank: We need to name it. Dow Constantine, King County Executive, is falling down at his job on transit. For most of the 2010s, he was seen as a leader on transit - he did good work to get ST3 on the ballot and approved for Sound Transit, he did good work getting more funding for Metro. But here in the 2020s, it's a different story. He has not provided the leadership or presence that we need to save these bus routes, to address their reliability concerns. This is unacceptable, right? For people to be going out and buying cars - we can't trust the bus system. In a city where we had more of our commuters riding buses than any other big city in America before the pandemic. Obviously the pandemic shakes things up - there are challenges recruiting and retaining operators, but it has to be a top priority for the King County Executive and right now it doesn't look like it is. And this city, this region, can't survive without strong transit. Our climate goals are never going to be met - transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions in our city and in our state. And that's why these King County Council races matter because we are not seeing the leadership we need to be seeing from the top. It's going to have to come from the County Council instead. [00:39:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I agree with that. Both the executive and the council - because they had done the work to set it up, were just - Great, it's on autopilot and it runs. But there were signs of these shortages before the pandemic and the pandemic made it worse. And on the police side - Oh my goodness, there are shortages for police, we need to give bonuses, we need to give retention bonuses and recruitment bonuses and are doing everything we can - just a laser focus on these. I think a lot of people have noticed the lack of focus on so many shortages in so many other areas. From the school board perspective, the transportation situation, the bus drivers, a shortage there - just in so many areas, not having that kind of focus. This race in particular - speaking with a number of the candidates, they did say that they believe that we should be treating some of these other labor shortages with urgency and that we should consider the same kinds of bonuses - for example, transit drivers - that they have for sheriff's deputies, which I think would help. There needs to be active and involved management there - that's something that the council overall as a body needs to do a better job with. I hope this new injection of members with this election brings that about, helps to influence the other members. And I'm looking forward to a robust debate. The other thing about the Teresa Mosqueda and Sofia Aragon race that I thought was interesting was Teresa Mosqueda knew that helping renters, that helping small business owners, that helping people get affordable housing was an absolute critical need for Seattle. Even though at the time the conservative business interests were very opposed - they'll remain opposed, and that's an issue in this general election, that's motivating a lot of the conservative money in the race - she did it. It took a lot of know-how, it took a lot of budget smarts. And then ran on it. It's one of the most popular pieces of policy that has passed in Seattle in the past decade - it bailed the City out of this last budget cycle through the shortfall. Thank goodness that passed. Her ability to run on that and her expertise absolutely benefited her. On the flip side, Sofia Aragon, who's currently the mayor of Burien, who we've talked about before on this, is going through really a crisis in government. Recently there's another kind of letter of chastisement correcting errors in the record from the mayor and the deputy mayor in Burien, yet again, from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. This is another candidate where their voter guide statement and their communication - defund has clearly failed. That's where people are at - people are tired of hearing people complain and just that reactionary backlash, and are looking for people who are engaged, and what's really going to help. What is really going to solve this issue? And what they really have not seen recently, especially with the mayor of Burien, is engagement and policy and solutions that will help. That hurt Sofia - for someone who is a mayor in a city that has a significant population in the district to perform so poorly. And someone who arguably is - certainly in Burien - better known than Teresa Mosqueda. That gamble just failed. Hopefully that's a reminder to stop the infighting, stop the one-upmanship focus thing there, the clique-iness that has happened there with the majority on that council, and to get to work just to focus on solving the problems that the people have. In Burien, there's money on the table that they can take to help that they're refusing - and we're going to pass another camping ban. And people want actual solutions, not just rhetoric and - We're going to drive them out of town. That's not where people are at, even in the suburbs. [00:43:21] Robert Cruickshank: I agree. It reminds me a lot of the LA mayor's race last year between Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, where Caruso's wealthy developer was betting that there'd be a huge backlash to visible homelessness and that he could ride that to defeat Karen Bass. And Karen Bass, being much smarter and a much better politician, understood no. Voters want to see solutions. They want to see candidates step forward and offer reasonable answers that are going to treat people who are in crisis humanely - 'cause that's what we should be doing anyway - and that will actually going to solve the problem. And I think that's what you're seeing in King County Council District 8 - Teresa Mosqueda comes along. Everyone knows she's reasonable, sensible, committed to the solutions, and wanting to get this done. Sofia Aragon is just grandstanding. There's not a path to victory, even in King County Council District 8, for right-wing grandstanding. Those results show that really clearly. [00:44:12] Crystal Fincher: I agree. Other results from around the region that I thought were interesting were the Tacoma City Council races. Looking at the Olgy Diaz race - Olgy making it through, I think that was expected - she is going through the general election, didn't have a primary, but in a strong position. Particularly looking at the results of the race with Jamika Scott making it through to the general election against a more conservative challenger. And an incumbent in that race getting 70% of the vote. This is a situation where, again, lots of people were prepared in Tacoma - it's not Seattle, there's absolutely going to be a backlash. They have had lots of conversations and consternation, like so many other cities, about how to address homelessness, how to address poverty, how to address public safety - a lot of controversies within that police department and reform that has been needed. How did you see these races in Tacoma? [00:45:08] Robert Cruickshank: They are really interesting examples of the same phenomenon we're seeing in Seattle. I know that Tacoma is different from Seattle - don't want anyone listening in Tacoma to think that we're implying they're the same. There are some similar trends. We are seeing in Jamika Scott's strong showing here in the primaries that there is a appetite in Tacoma for genuine, real, deeply progressive change. You're also seeing that some of the backlash politics aren't necessarily succeeding in Tacoma either. Another place that we're seeing interesting things play out is Spokane - we're just having a mayoral race this year. The incumbent Nadine Woodward is very much one of these - crack down on crime, crack down on homelessness, really picking fights with the state over visible homelessness. But Lisa Brown, former state senator, former head of the State Senate in the 2000s, is pretty much neck and in a really good position to knock off the incumbent mayor. Lisa Brown running - again, is a much more reasonable, not necessarily progressive candidate. I wouldn't say Lisa Brown's progressive, but much more traditional liberal candidate who wants to come in with sensible solutions. You're seeing all over the place - the right wing backlash is not necessarily either showing up, or performing very well, to polls. [00:46:15] Crystal Fincher: This is a situation where sometimes, especially in Seattle, we get very focused on progressive and moderate, progressive and conservative. I think because of where journalism has ended up and because The Times and Stranger are such consequential endorsements - and they typically are in a moderate, in a progressive lane - that influences how we look at and categorize things in policy. We're looking across the board in the state at every level of government - especially public safety, issues of poverty, issues of homelessness, being something that every jurisdiction has to manage. There are evidence-based solutions, and there are ones that aren't. It happens to be that the evidence-based solutions are usually those ones espoused by progressives. And the ones that are not, like doubling down on the War on Drugs, doubling down on so many things that have already failed - sweep after sweep, that just moves the problem and makes it worse and doesn't do anything to solve homelessness - that those are just failed solutions, that the data just isn't there. And so I think what we're seeing work in a lot of different cities - and usually what I focus on - is talk about the issue, talk about the solution. The label doesn't really matter to the average person on the ground. We're in politics, we talk about it a lot. The average voter is just sick and tired of hearing a lot of rhetoric and not seeing things change. They just want someone who will do something that has a shot at fixing the problem after doing the same thing over and over again and not getting great results. Even if a progressive is talking about - Hey, we need a Housing First model. That doesn't mean housing only model, but housing is necessary for those other things that may also be necessary - whether it's behavioral health assistance, whether it's assistance with substance use disorder, whether there are a variety of things - that housing is necessary for those other things to reliably work and to get this person stably housed again. That is what is working. And so it's evidence-based versus things that aren't. And we're putting these labels on them, but really it's about what is going to solve this problem. So many people in the establishment are so invested in the status quo, even though it's not working - hopefully they'll become more open to evidence-based solutions. If not, they're going to have progressive challengers and progressive candidates like Jamika Scott, who is winning the race in the primary right now at 38% over Chris Van Vechten, who is a more conservative challenger in Tacoma. We see Kristina Walker, the incumbent, who is proposing evidence-based solutions for a lot of these things at 70% - not looking at a backlash there. But also in Spokane - dealing with a lot of other issues - and I will say in a lot of areas, especially, Spokane has been a leader in the state on housing, has been a leader on the state in many issues. If you're looking at the progressive versus moderate conservative in policy and action, Spokane is looking more progressive than Seattle in a number of ways. A lot of Seattle suburbs looking more progressive if you're looking at how policy is traditionally talked about. So I really think that it's about who has a shot at actually fixing this problem. Voters have heard the other stuff for a long time and have seen it fail. That doesn't mean that every progressive candidate is automatically gonna be successful, but it does provide an opening. And I think that explains a lot of the backlash that people are expecting that did not turn up and translate. [00:49:36] Robert Cruickshank: I think that's right. And I think Erica Barnett doing a good job explaining that - yes, sweeps are popular in Seattle. That is true. And that's been true for a while. They're not true because people genuinely like sweeps. It's true because you ask voters to choose between doing nothing and a sweep - they'll pick the sweep because they want a solution. If you ask them to choose between a sweep and an actual solution - Housing First policies, permanent supportive housing, actually building housing that is affordable at all income levels - 9 times out of 10, they'll pick that. What the right-wing backlash folks were counting on is enthusiastic support for sweeps as the best solution. And that's not where the voters are at in this city at all, and I think you're seeing around the state, they're not there either. [00:50:19] Crystal Fincher: You mentioned before, which I think was very smart - two years back, four years back, candidates on the left and progressives were struggling to articulate that they were opposing sweeps or opposing criminalization of poverty and had a hard time breaking through because other people were maliciously mischaracterizing what they stood for. In order to get beyond that with people who have a lot of money to maliciously mischaracterize what you're doing was getting beyond the - No, we don't want to do nothing. We want to solve this thing. When we're advocating against sweeps, it's not like people are happy with encampments. It's not like people are happy with people living outside. We believe everybody should be housed. There are different solutions there. The answer is not nothing. We certainly heard a lot from Jenny Durkan, we heard from others - Oh, the alternative is nothing. They want to do nothing. When you have people attend your press conference every time you stand at a pulpit, that message is going to carry. What progressives are doing a better job of is articulating - No, we absolutely don't want to do nothing. We find crime unacceptable, and we actually want to do something to fix it. We find homelessness unacceptable, and we're tired of spinning our wheels and spending so much money and taking so much time to not improve the problem. We want to do different things that actually have a shot. That message is carrying through more, there are going to be a lot of competitive races - I don't know that that's going to carry the day, but certainly a more effective message this go around. [00:51:43] Robert Cruickshank: I think that's right. What these results overall show is that progressives have a real opportunity, but it's not a certainty. They got to use it effectively. [00:51:50] Crystal Fincher: Anything else that you think is interesting to look at on the electoral spectrum around the state? [00:51:55] Robert Cruickshank: One thing that is gleeful and a positive outcome is Semi Bird getting recalled along with two of his allies in Richland. Semi Bird is the right-wing, soon-to-be former school board director in the Richland Public Schools who tried to overturn the state's mask mandate - that led to a recall effort that has been successful. Bird is also a Republican candidate for governor in 2024 - it's pretty much him and Dave Reichert at this point. We'll see what happens. But seeing Bird get recalled in Richland, which is not a progressive hotbed by any stretch of the imagination, is another sign that this right-wing backlash is not as strong as folks thought it was. So we'll see what happens from there. [00:52:33] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we will see what happens from there. And I wanted to mention that there are a lot of school board races that did not have more than two candidates across the state. Some races in the primary had Moms for Liberty candidates, aka people who are bringing in the desire to ban books, who are trying to overrule teachers and dictate what they can teach, and really attacking LGBTQ+ students - especially trans students - and really trying to bring hateful rhetoric and Christian nationalism into our education system. There's a Highline School District candidate that made it through to the general. There are others, like in University Place, several places across the state, that are going to have these general election match-ups with some candidates who are solutions-focused and others who are strictly running to basically sow chaos, is what it turns out to be in effect - to defund the schools, to strip standards-based education, fact-based education, to stop teaching history. They love what's going on in Florida, and they want to replicate what's going on there that is really hurting that state and community. I just want people to be aware that is a thing that is happening, and we can't afford to not be engaged in these school board races unless we want to provide a foothold for that kind of thing. Candidates that start on school boards wind up in city councils, in the Legislature, running for Congress. It is making sure that we're engaged in these very local races to make sure that we don't let someone in the door who's going to turn out to advocate for really fascist policies. [00:54:10] Robert Cruickshank: I think that's right. And we've seen Moms for Liberty candidates fail in Washington state before. We've seen some of them make it through. We saw a strong effort to try to repeal the state's new law that protects trans kids - they narrowly failed to make it to the ballot. So far so good - knock on all the wood that there is - that they're not getting more traction here in Washington state. They're working as hard as they can, and we have to work as hard as we can to push back against that. [00:54:33] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely agree. Wanted to wrap up with talking about the influence of endorsements in these elections. We've talked a lot about how consequential The Times and The Stranger endorsements have been over the past several years. I think there are a number of reasons why - I think that the thinning out of reporters covering government, covering politics on that regular beat is considerably less than it used to be, and that is impacting just how informed the public is in general on a regular basis - making these endorsements much more consequential. We also have fewer newspapers. And so those are just a couple of things making those much more important. The Stranger - looking last year - it had been at least a decade since a Stranger-endorsed candidate had not made it through a primary. The Times-endorsed candidate almost always makes it through also. So these have been and continue to be very consequential endorsements. How do you see this? [00:55:28] Robert Cruickshank: It's still the case that Stranger endorsement is essential if you're a progressive trying to get through to the general election. It confers more votes than The Times endorsement does. For those of us who are progressive, that's a good thing. It's also a double-edged sword. And you can see in Districts 3 and Districts 5 this year, some of the downsides of The Stranger endorsement. What it did is it winds up cutting off conversation, debate, and contests between the progressive candidates in the field. I like Alex Hudson - she'll make a great member of the city council. I also like the idea of seeing Alex and the other candidates in District 3, or Christiana, Tye, Nilu - the candidates in District 5 - really pushing each other hard to have to do a good job persuading progressive voters that they're the right one to carry the agenda forward. Instead, what seems to happen is Stranger makes their picks and that's the end of the discussion. You get a lot of - you alluded to this earlier - a lot of low-information progressive voters who wait until the very end, open their ballots, realizing - Oh my gosh, they're due, I've got to vote. What does The Stranger recommend? I'll vote that way. I get that. They're not stupid voters. They pay very close attention to federal politics, but they just don't know a whole lot about what's happening locally. And The Stranger is a trusted source. The Stranger is independent. They're not making endorsements usually based on relationship building. You have a clear agenda that you can trust, and they built that trusted brand over 20 years. But we have to start asking ourselves - I'm hearing more and more people asking the same question - Is it too influential? Is it too strong? Is it distorting the way campaigns are operating? Some of this is on The Stranger to ask themselves - do they want to be kingmakers or do they want to be the ones holding everybody's feet equally to the fire? I don't think you can always do both. It's also up to candidates and campaigns to figure out how do you overcome this? You can look around the country - there are lots of places in the country with strong endorsements, whether it's from an organization or an editorial board or whatever, but campaigns figure out how to get around that. I don't think progressive campaigns in Seattle have figured out how to win if The Stranger isn't backing them. I think it's time to try to get that answered - not as a slap at The Stranger, but it's unhealthy for one outlet to have that much influence. [00:57:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. I think that it is important just to have that conversation and cutting that off is problematic. The Stranger does a better job of actually trying to pin down candidates on answers and making it visible when someone is hedging. I think that's a very useful thing, especially in Seattle politics where lots of times people love giving a progressive impression - paint a rosy picture - Of course, I love trees and I love kids and all of that. And some people are satisfied with that, but we have to get to real specific policy answers - Would you vote yes or no on this? - to get an idea of who we're really voting for. I think The Times has really fallen down on that front. One important thing in races overall is just understanding where candidates do stand and where they're not taking a stand. And that is very predictive about how someone is going to vote and whether they're going to lean on issues, whether they can be pressured to taking a No vote on something that they may have indicated or given a nod to that they're broadly supportive of. So I hope we have robust conversations just about where candidates stan
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