Week in Review: April 28, 2023 - with Heather Weiner

Week in Review: April 28, 2023 - with Heather Weiner

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner. They talk about the newly uncovered messages that reveal former Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan allegedly ordered the abandonment of SPD’s East Precinct, where the “Blake fix” stands after its failed vote in the legislature, the remaining need to address renter protections after the legislature passed major legislation to address the housing supply and affordability crisis, the success of the King County Crisis Care Centers levy, and the failure of the Kent School District bond underscoring the need for bond reform and for putting school measures on primary and general election ballots.

About the Guest

Heather Weiner

Heather Weiner (she/her) is a political consultant with 30 years of experience on labor, environmental, LGBTQ, racial justice, and reproductive rights issues. She focuses on ballot initiatives, independent expenditures, legislative, union organizing and contract campaigns. She's a recovering lawyer.

Find Heather Weiner on Twitter/X at @hlweiner.


Teresa Mosqueda, Candidate for King County Council District 8 from Hacks & Wonks

“Please Stop on the Teams Chat”: New Records Expose Mayor Durkan’s Role and Others in Abandonment of East Precinct” by Glen Stellmacher from The Urbanist

WA Legislature fails to pass new drug law; special session likely” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

No Clear Path Toward Criminalizing Drugs in Washington” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger

5 big things Washington's Legislature passed in 2023” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Final state transportation budget boosts funding for highways, ferries, traffic safety and the Climate Commitment Act” from Washington State House Democrats

Washington Legislature increases support for free school meals” by Griffin Reilly from The Columbian

Washington State Rakes In Revenue From Capital Gains Tax” by Laura Mahoney from Bloomberg Tax

Voters approve King County’s crisis center levy” by Michelle Baruchman from The Seattle Times

Voters turn down Kent School District bond measure” by Steve Hunter from The Kent Reporter

Find more stories that Crystal is reading here


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I am 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 to 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 chat with Teresa Mosqueda about her campaign for King County Council District 8 - why she decided to run, the experience and lessons she wants to bring to the County from serving on the Seattle City Council, and her thoughts on the major issues facing residents of the County. Today, we are continuing our Friday shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show, today's co-host: political consultant and urban farmer - who now even has chicks - Heather Weiner.

[00:01:26] Heather Weiner: Hi, Crystal - so nice to talk with you again.

[00:01:29] Crystal Fincher: Nice to talk with you again. I guess I should clarify - chicks as in mini-chickens.

[00:01:32] Heather Weiner: Well, I have had many chicks, but now I'm married. Yeah, I have four baby chicks in my office right now under a heat lamp - getting them settled and we'll move them out to the henhouse probably in about five or six weeks. So you may hear a little bit of baby chirping in the background here.

[00:01:48] Crystal Fincher: A little bit of baby chirping. I did hear the chirps - they are adorable. I actually got a sneak peek and now I want some chicks.

[00:01:57] Heather Weiner: Everybody does - you can't go back.

[00:01:59] Crystal Fincher: Yes, yes, yes. Okay, I guess we'll start out talking with the news that broke yesterday on a long-standing story - stemming from the abandonment of Seattle PD's East Precinct, which happened in the middle of the 2020 protests amid a lot of controversy - sustained abuses and excess physical abuse by police against protesters and residents of the City. And in the middle of that, the abandonment of the East Precinct - which was at first almost tried to, spun as protesters forced them out - lots of hyperbole on Fox News and conservative media, all that kind of stuff. But for quite a long time, they said they had no idea who made the call to abandon the precinct.

[00:02:48] Heather Weiner: But you know that Spiderman meme - where the Spiderman is, all the three Spidermans are standing in that triangle pointing at each other? This was a live-action Spiderman meme where we just had all of these high-ranking officials, high-paid officials within Seattle City government and the department pointing at each other and saying - It's your fault. No, it's your fault. No, it's your fault. But look at this news from internal chats that are coming within the Seattle IT department - who know better than to delete their text messages and their chats - saying the order came directly from Durkan, at exactly the same moment that Chief Best, then-Chief Best, was telling reporters there's no order to evacuate the East Precinct building. So liars are lying.

[00:03:31] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so it turns out Jenny Durkan ordered the Code Red and wow, there's been a lot of obfuscation about this. And even in these - in this records request and what was released - it is clear they are bending over backwards to avoid discussing this in a disclosable way, to avoid discussing this in a way that would be illuminated by issues like this. But they didn't get everyone in on the conspiracy in time. However, they did catch someone being like - Hey, hey, hey, hey, don't discuss this on the Teams chat.

[00:04:01] Heather Weiner: Right. It literally says - Do not discuss this on the Teams chat - which was revealed in the public disclosure request.

[00:04:07] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and -

[00:04:08] Heather Weiner: I wonder why all those text messages between Best and Durkan were lost forever.

[00:04:13] Crystal Fincher: Lost forever.

[00:04:14] Heather Weiner: Oops, I dropped my phone in saltwater.

[00:04:17] Crystal Fincher: And there's still an ongoing investigation into that. As a reminder, public employees can't delete records, not disclosable records. And this may be something for - we've talked about this before in the program - but for people outside of government, outside of politics, outside of that world may be like - Texts, they're deleted. I delete texts all the time. Everyone in the public sector knows that you don't do this. There are people in positions who handle these. You're constantly getting - Hey, this request came, do you have this document? Or where was this? We're responding to this. This is a regular course of business, and they clearly were trying to hide what was happening. Big controversy - texts from Carmen Best, from Mayor Durkan were deleted. Mayor Durkan is a former federal prosecutor who has been living in this world forever, who had to be retrained even on prior issues when she was with the City. And then those mysteriously deleted texts, which looks more and more like they were intentionally deleted in order to hide this information.

[00:05:19] Heather Weiner: And now former Chief Best is now directing security at Microsoft, right? She got a nice hefty landing pad there for when she left. And so despite the fact that her veracity and her transparency are now deeply in question, she is getting paid - I'm going to say a lot of money -

[00:05:38] Crystal Fincher: Oh, a ton of money.

[00:05:39] Heather Weiner: -working across the water for Microsoft. I saw former Mayor Durkan at LAX a couple of weeks ago walking by and I have to say -

[00:05:48] Crystal Fincher: I was about to be like - in Seattle? I could just see her -

[00:05:50] Heather Weiner: No, at LAX - she was walking at LAX.

[00:05:51] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that doesn't surprise me at all.

[00:05:53] Heather Weiner: I just kind of stopped and looked at her. Of course, she didn't recognize me - who would? But I just -

[00:05:57] Crystal Fincher: I would, Heather Weiner.

[00:05:58] Heather Weiner: Ah, thank you - how many five foot tall - anyway, I'm not going to put myself down. So anyway, I did see her walking by and I did almost want to walk up to her and be like - What were you thinking, lady? But I didn't - nobody's happy transferring planes at LAX - even somebody who did that, I don't need to heckle them. It's also super interesting because there are so many lower-level employees, whether they're employees of the Seattle Police Department or Parks Department or wherever, who know that they will lose their jobs if they delete emails, text messages, anything that is subject to public disclosure requests. And so to have your highest ranking people doing that - you know who has not been mentioned in any of this is the current Chief of Police, who was an Assistant Chief at that time. How is, how, I'm always curious about why Diaz somehow was either not included in this chain, or hasn't ever been implicated in what's going on here. Was he just really - just not involved at all? That's crazy to me.

[00:06:56] Crystal Fincher: I have no idea. Also haven't seen his name mentioned in this, but -

[00:07:00] Heather Weiner: No, I know. I've asked reporters - Is Diaz literally nowhere here, or did he just do a spectacular job of cleaning out his records?

[00:07:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:07:09] Heather Weiner: Don't know.

[00:07:09] Crystal Fincher: Don't know, but this is the saga that won't end. And to your point, this is really about accountability. This is about - do rules apply to everybody, and do people - do public servants have an obligation to the people?

[00:07:22] Heather Weiner: You're starting to make a case now about what's happening in the State Legislature with transparency there, and where reporters and open government folks are really putting a lot of pressure on the State Legislature to open up their records. And legislators say - Look, I can't make decisions, I can't go through drafts, I can't do any of this - if I feel like all of it's going to be subject to public scrutiny when it's not final yet. It's legal - involving lawmaking, so therefore it is protected under legal exemptions. What do you think about that?

[00:07:52] Crystal Fincher: I wonder why that's different than any of the other legislative bodies, like city councils across the state or county councils, who have more generous and open transparency policies. And again, this is happening on the public dime. There is a measure of accountability here, especially when so consistently through these records requests, we find out such egregious information. Just as a reminder - it wasn't any external investigation, it was a public records request that - in the City of Kent - uncovered that there was a Nazi assistant police chief. And that is a literal statement - literal Nazi, with Nazi symbols, and a Hitler mustache, and literally all of that - that only came to light because of public disclosure requests. And in this time where we have so many fewer reporters covering what's happening across the state and they only make it to the biggest things because they're stretched that thin, transparency becomes even more important. Because there may not be someone there to answer the questions, to cover how something came to be - this is our only record of how it came to be. And people should see who is influencing policy.

[00:08:58] Heather Weiner: Right, and how the sausage was made. Listeners, you will be shocked to hear that good and bad politicians out there get around this by using their personal phones. Now, they're not supposed to use their personal phones for official taxpayer funded business, but they do. And so even if we did get a lot of those text message records about what was happening around the East Precinct, one can imagine that probably there was a lot of conversations going on - unrecorded conversations on the phone, in person, undocumented conversations, but also conversations on personal cell phones. Now again, I just want to point out - if any other lower-level employees were caught doing this, they would be fired, right? Cops would be sent to OPA. All kinds of things would happen. But when you're a higher-level political appointee, apparently, you get off scot-free.

[00:09:41] Crystal Fincher: You do.

[00:09:42] Heather Weiner: Speaking of cops - you want to talk about the Blake - what's happening with Blake, and what's happening there?

[00:09:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, let's talk about what's happening with the Blake decision. So we just had the end of the legislative session - a lot of bills were passed before then, but some of the most contentious bills took 'til the very last day or two to get decided.

[00:10:04] Heather Weiner: Last hour. Oh my - as usual - I just feel for everybody working three in the morning, four in the morning. It must be just absolutely exhausting.

[00:10:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, when the Legislature does that - just the amount of work that support staff have to do to support the entire operation, to keep information moving under these incredibly tight deadlines. They're working so hard and so long. I think - so the Blake fix, in year's time? Time is an interesting thing for me these days. A few years back - yeah, our State -

[00:10:35] Heather Weiner: Not yesterday, but also not 10 years ago.

[00:10:37] Crystal Fincher: Yes. More than a year ago, less than 10 years ago - which anything in that zone consistently gets confused for me now. Yes. Our State Supreme Court invalidated - basically said the law about personal possession of substances, of drugs, was invalidated - took the law away. And so it instantly made possession of drugs legal. There was nothing illegal to do with the possession that didn't do with anything with paraphernalia, with selling or distribution, all those other peripheral things still remained in place. But for possession -

[00:11:14] Heather Weiner: Personal use possession.

[00:11:16] Crystal Fincher: Yes. And so under a certain threshold, or thresholds that come into play sometimes in policy with this. So in year before last, our Legislature - this happened during the legislative session, actually. And so they said - Oh my goodness, we can't let this stand. Even though best practices, sound public policy says that our really expensive and damaging War on Drugs has failed and treating substance abuse issues like a public health crisis and problem is the way to make progress in actually dealing with addiction, actually getting people off of drugs and getting people healthier, and reducing all the impacts surrounding that by crime and different things. But our Legislature basically said - We are not comfortable with that, and so we're going to re-institute a penalty - a misdemeanor - add some diversion in there, fund some kind of diversion-root-cause-drug-court-type things across the state. But they put a sunset clause in that law and said basically - Summer 2023, this is going to sunset, basically expire and terminate on its own. And in the meantime, that'll give us time to figure out something else that we want to do, or stay on the course.

But the concern about invalidating that law at the state level was that municipalities, localities, counties, and cities, and towns can make their own laws if they want to in the absence of a state law on that issue. So some have said - Well, it's going to be more confusing to have a patchwork of different drug possession laws across the state, which is not ideal. It's not ideal. But the question is - is that more harmful than what this proposed fix was, which wound up being a gross misdemeanor - which is different than a simple misdemeanor and can come with sometimes financial penalties and jail time that exceeds that of the lowest level felonies. And so from a - we have talked about on this show - but jail, carceral solutions, do not reduce recidivism any more than non-carceral solutions. Throwing someone in jail doesn't reduce their likelihood of committing a crime in the future. And certainly in the case of substance use disorder, it does not address any of the issues about that. And all it does is destabilize and usually throw people further into addiction, further away from being able to rebuild their lives and get healthy again. So this debate is taking place, while evidence and data and lots of people are saying that. But you also have people who really advocate for punitive punishment measures. And even though we have spent decades and billions, if not trillions, of dollars on this War on Drugs, domestically and internationally, it's as bad as it's ever been.

[00:14:06] Heather Weiner: Yeah, and it's a war on people who have an illness. It is a disease. And it's a public health issue, not a crime issue. And so to put people in jail who have alcoholism - we've already been shown that does not work. It's the same thing with addictions to other substances. It just doesn't work. And in fact, you're right - it makes it worse. So now we see local folks - Reagan Dunn, three of our City Councilmembers here in Seattle - who are proposing instituting their own gross misdemeanor rules in their jurisdictions. And it's going to cost more in taxpayer dollars to house people in jail - who are going through withdrawal, who are going to have massive health problems, and then are going to get out and not have money and not have support - than it would to put them in housing.

[00:14:54] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And to -

[00:14:56] Heather Weiner: And if the real problem here is that we, as the public, don't want to see people suffering on the street - how is it that paying more for them to go into jail than to put them into supportive housing is going to solve the problem? It doesn't make any sense to me. It's not a solution. It is painting over the parts of your house that are disintegrating, that are moldy and disintegrating, and they're trying to paint it over instead of dealing with the leak in the first place. Wow. That was a really stretched out analogy. Not sure that anybody should use that. All right, anyway. So it doesn't make any sense to me - you're right. It's political posturing, coming into election time and municipal election time. Yeah, it's going to be super interesting to see how this is used. And the local news media has been doing this, not just here in Washington state but around the country, has been using this fear around people who have a disease - and they are using that as a fear to other people, but also to cause political dissension in our country. And it is not as bad in Seattle as everybody is saying. Yes, we do have a problem, but it is not as bad as what the news is portraying. It is part of the fear mongering.

[00:16:10] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I don't think there's anyone who really, who doesn't want to do more to address this problem or doesn't acknowledge that substance use disorder is a problem - that we don't want to be seeing this, that it can lead to other things. We all know and understand that. We just want to do something that actually fixes it instead of landing us in the same place we've been for the last 30, 40 years under this War on Drugs, where we just punitively punish people for that. And -

[00:16:38] Heather Weiner: For a disease.

[00:16:39] Crystal Fincher: For a disease and I - or, there are also people who just use substances who are not addicted and based on what we classify as an illegal drug or not - there are people who drink alcohol socially.

[00:16:53] Heather Weiner: I'm one.

[00:16:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that's a drug.

[00:16:54] Heather Weiner: I'm one. I have been seen with - the fact that the mayor is now proposing open container rules in certain neighborhoods, where people can walk around with open containers - but they're not allowed to be seen with a different substance? Yeah, just the irony, the inconsistency - call Alanis Morissette.

[00:17:10] Crystal Fincher: The irony and inconsistency and - look, drug laws, very punitive drug laws have been a major contributor to mass incarceration, to an incredibly disproportionate impact on Black and Brown people. And what we're seeing now. Yeah, I have some thoughts. So one -

[00:17:32] Heather Weiner: Do you?

[00:17:33] Crystal Fincher: I do.

[00:17:33] Heather Weiner: Maybe you should start a podcast.

[00:17:35] Crystal Fincher: This should not be a surprise to a lot of people. But this posturing and grandstanding, just - number one, there is talk of a special session. And they're trying to figure out if they can get to a place on this, where they can agree and do something that's actively being talked about. There may be a special session. This has been reported on. So because they're working on this and because people at the county level are talking about dealing with this - all this talk from mayors and city council members is just premature. It's putting the cart before the horse. And it's grandstanding. And it's so plain to see. Allow the people who are working on this to continue working on this. Notice they didn't have any issue with doing that over the past few years. They just recognize that - Ooh, maybe this is an issue we can capitalize on. But I would caution them that it didn't turn out too well for them last year when they tried to bombard, to flood the zone with all of the voter, direct voter contact, media talking about crime and drugs. And they're gonna try and crack down and make drugs illegal again, all that kind of stuff.

[00:18:48] Heather Weiner: Look, let's go ahead and let's blame people who are actually symptoms of the larger problem. And the problem is number one, we don't have enough affordable housing. Number two, we have a ton of people who are suffering from trauma and for all different kinds of way - whether it's in the military, in their own households, in their own family. And one of the ways that the body responds to trauma is to try to find a way to not feel the trauma. And that's a lot of what substance use disorder is. Three, we - the Republicans and some Democrats 12 years ago - cut massive funding from mental health and addiction services. And now we don't have enough places for people to go, as we see where the hospitals are overloaded with people who are suffering from mental health disorders. And now the chickens have come to roost. Look, I brought it back to chickens.

[00:19:33] Crystal Fincher: There you go. You have brought it back, we're full circle.

[00:19:36] Heather Weiner: Brought it back to chickens, to the chickens.

[00:19:39] Crystal Fincher: To the chickens.

[00:19:40] Heather Weiner: So these are all symptoms of this massive problem. Inslee tried to do something where he wanted to float a massive bond to raise money for housing - that didn't pay out. Some Democrats at least tried to raise some money from a REET on luxury housing and massive buildings that would fund affordable housing - a tax on real estate sales. The real estate lobby killed, the realtor lobby killed that. We tried to get rental caps this year to make sure that landlords, corporate landlords are not egregiously raising rents and causing economic evictions and destabilizing communities - that didn't pass. So let's just crack down on people and put them in jail. Are the jails empty? Is that what's going on? Is there a massive demand?

[00:20:20] Crystal Fincher: Oh, totally empty. We're totally not experiencing issues of overcrowding, suicides, deaths from illness, injuries, understaffing - none of that is a problem that they're actively having to spend millions of dollars to deal with and facing lawsuits. No, not a problem at all. But yes, that whole situation is there. So we'll see how this unfolds.

But I also want to - some people have tried to characterize this as a Democrat versus Republican issue - on the drug - it is not. This is an issue where there are a variety of stances on the Democratic and Republican side, really. And Democrats control the Legislature and they came forward with a bill, after all the talk and compromise, that landed at gross misdemeanor. The sky-is-falling argument was - Well, we have to do this because otherwise they're going to really criminalize it locally. So this is good enough. I have noticed that no proposal from conservative or Republican mayors or city councils have gone further than the Democratic legislature did. So were they negotiating themselves down? Again?

[00:21:21] Heather Weiner: Fair.

[00:21:22] Crystal Fincher: And is what we're actually going to wind up with worse than having that statewide? Would we rather have a significant recriminalization statewide, or have lower penalties and more treatment access across the board, or in more places in the state? That's something that they're going to have to deal with, but -

[00:21:41] Heather Weiner: When do we think this special session might be called? It feels like there is a hard deadline, right? Of June.

[00:21:47] Crystal Fincher: It feels like it, but I don't know. I have no inside information on those conversations or anything.

[00:21:53] Heather Weiner: And when they have a special session, they can only address the issue that the special session has been called for. So there's no sneaking other things in there at the same time, which is good. Although there's a lot of things that were left unfinished.

[00:22:04] Crystal Fincher: There is. And also legislators don't like special sessions often because it takes them away from campaigning - because they can't raise money while they're in session.

[00:22:14] Heather Weiner: That's another reason why we need a full-time legislature and not a legislature where people have other jobs that they have to go do. They're paid so little, they have to have other jobs. And as a result, they just don't have time to do all the things that need to get done. And they don't have time to do it in a really thoughtful way, unfortunately - that things do get rushed.

[00:22:30] Crystal Fincher: And that's why we have a disproportionate amount of wealthy and out-of-touch people in our legislators.

[00:22:36] Heather Weiner: And white. Yes. And why we keep losing our legislators of color.

[00:22:40] Crystal Fincher: Talking about some of the other things you touched on that we were able to see at the conclusion of the Legislature, of this legislative session - certainly, as we talked about last week, some significant movement on some housing bills. But as you mentioned, no relief for renters, which is a major component of keeping people in housing, preventing displacement, and keeping housing more affordable.

[00:23:03] Heather Weiner: Yeah. 40% of Washingtonians are renters - 40%. That's a significant portion. And our rents are skyrocketing. There's articles in Crosscut about Walla Walla - retirees who are getting pushed out, they're having to do all kinds of crazy things in order to keep their housing. And a lot of this is because corporate landlords are using algorithms - kind of like what Airbnb does - to jack up prices in response to how the other corporate landlords are doing things. And so I wouldn't really call it collusion, but they are using these formulas to maximize the amount of profit that they make. And as a result, what we're seeing is massive community destabilization. Single parents with children have to move their kids from school district to school district. Retirees, our elders are leaving their neighbors - they don't know anybody around them, they don't know how to ask for help. Our veterans, who may already be facing a lot of challenges, are also being moved and destabilized. It's not good for communities. It's not good for Washington state. And when I see things like in today's news where they say - Half of people are thinking about moving out of Washington state - they don't really say why, but the reason is the rent is too high. It's time for the State Legislature to do something to provide relief for 40% of the state's residents. And I myself am a landlord - I have a small house that I rent out and I 100%, like many landlords, support rent caps and rent stabilization.

[00:24:35] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I didn't even know you were a landlord.

[00:24:36] Heather Weiner: Well, landlady. I don't know. It's kind of gendered.

[00:24:40] Crystal Fincher: And yeah - I could talk a lot about that. But there are, we are suffering certainly at the hands of big corporate landlords. And they love nothing more than to try and paint all of the landlords - it's we're just little ma and pa, just we just had an extra house, and we're just out of the kindness of our hearts, just being housing providers. Some lobbyists are calling them housing providers. They're not housing providers. They're housing dealers.

[00:25:05] Heather Weiner: I know - it's like job creators, right?

[00:25:07] Crystal Fincher: Which is fine, but let's call it what it is.

[00:25:10] Heather Weiner: Look, the way that the law was drafted, that was supported by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, the way that the law was drafted is for the first 10 years of a building's - that a building is, or a unit, is being rented out - there's no rental cap on there as it adjusts to the market rate, figures out what's going on. And then you could always increase the rent once somebody moves out. But if somebody is living in that unit, you can't raise the rent - according to this law, you couldn't raise the rent more than 7% based on inflation and essentially economically evict them. And there is nothing wrong with that. There were lots of landlords who came out - family, mom and pop landlords, like me - who came out and said - Yeah, that sounds completely reasonable. That's what I would like to do. But it's the big corporate real estate lobby that once again came in and killed it.

[00:25:56] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - once again. And so I guess what I would say is - there was a big, broad coalition that was put together by the legislators who sponsored this legislation - by organizations, activists, Futurewise certainly was huge in helping to get this passed. I hope that coalition stands up as strongly over the next year - through the next session - for mitigations, for rent relief, for helping people stay in their homes. Because that is as critical to getting costs in line, to keeping people in the communities where they are and their houses where they are, and reducing homelessness. It is as critical - this isn't an either-or - this is we absolutely need both. And so I hope this coalition continues to show up for the communities that have showed up for them and work to get this passed.

Also, just want to talk about a couple other things they were highlighting. The budget was worked on until the very end. Democrats are touting investments in ferries, some modest investments in traffic safety. We had the first allocation of funds from the Climate Commitment Act that came in - still need to dig more into that to see where it's going and if they are living up to their promises to make sure that they are centering communities that are most impacted by climate change and pollution. And also workforce investments, workforce equity investments across the board. They did increase the cap for special education, which does increase funding, but not nearly at the level that is needed. There was a bill that didn't make it through that started off as free lunch for everyone, which we've talked about a few times before on this show, which - was a huge supporter of and thinking that - Of course, that totally makes sense. How is this controversial? Unfortunately it was - there was a trimmed down bill that increased access, that increased the number of people that could get school lunch programs. Basically, I think it's in schools or districts that met a certain threshold - if a kid asked for a free lunch, then it could be given to them in those districts. I want to say that it was 50 - I'm just throwing out numbers, but I'll figure that out and put it in the resources and show notes. But it was a trimmed down bill. A lot of good things happened - like many sessions - a lot of good things happened. A lot of disappointing things happen, and we just move forward and we continue to work and we continue to push and we hopefully continue to hold our legislators accountable for the decisions that they're making.

[00:28:29] Heather Weiner: Let's have - let's end on a good note, on a positive note. Here's some good news. So article just came out in Bloomberg Tax - I know you read that every morning, Crystal, I know you do - and the new capital gains tax that was passed about two years ago is now finally being collected. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that it was legal and it's now being collected for the first time. There were estimates by policy experts that it would be, probably in the first year, somewhere around $450, maybe $500 million raised from taxes on the sales of huge stock market gains. Doesn't apply to 99.8% of us. And they thought it would raise maybe $500 million. According to the Department of Revenue, $833 million raised for schools, childcare, preschool, and other education. Amazing amount of money. But here's what you got to think about is how rich are people that they are having stock market gains where a 7% tax on their stock market gains over a quarter of a million dollars is raising nearly a billion. That's a lot of money being moved between stocks over there in rich people land. I couldn't believe it. It blows my mind.

[00:29:37] Crystal Fincher: It is - absolutely, and more there. So I also hope that the work of the wealth tax picks up next session because it's absolutely needed and we can see how much of an impact that it does make.

Also, we had a special election this week. In King County, there were - depending on where you were at - everyone voted on the Crisis Care Centers Levy, which passed. And so we are going to be having five new regional crisis care centers in the County. There are also provisions for helping to boost the workforce, increase the staffing levels in an area that's already really stressed and really hurting for staff. And what was your take on this?

[00:30:18] Heather Weiner: I think it's great, but also people are going to come into these crisis centers and where are they going to send them? There's not any housing. So I think it's a great idea. It's a good first step to get people through. But I'm concerned that you're still in crisis at the end of the day.

[00:30:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I feel similarly - a lot is going to be about the implementation. We absolutely need more resources. And if this is done well, and if this is done right, it'll be helpful. We have also heard a ton of stories about challenging care, especially when that care is involuntary - when someone is in a major crisis. And so I think it's going to be really paying attention to the implementation of this and making sure that they are following best practices, and that people are treated with dignity and respect, and really the focus is on their healing over everything else. We'll see how it turns out, but I deem it to be a helpful - these are absolutely resources that we need. And we can do this better than we have done it before. And we should - we owe it to everyone to do that, so we'll see.

Also, Kent School District had a bond vote, also on this same ballot, that failed. School bonds raise for buildings, for capital expenditures - those races, elections carry a higher threshold to pass a bond. It's 60% as opposed to 50% - which is a big, big difference between 60% and 50%, when you just look at elections across the board. This one actually didn't even make 50%. And I, once again, am begging school boards, people in school districts to stop putting these ballot measures on special election ballots. Put it on the general election ballot. If you must, put it on the primary ballot. But stick to those, especially in a district like King County, when turnout is everything. When it comes to these school levies, school bonds - having them in higher turnout elections obviously is going to increase the support. In the same way that we know in Seattle - if it's a very high turnout election, that's going to be a more progressive election than a really low turnout election. So let's just stop doing this, please. Do you have any thoughts about special elections and school levies?

[00:32:25] Heather Weiner: Look, the big thing is we keep going back to the people over and over again to pass what are essentially regressive taxes, whether it's for the school levies or for the crisis center. I want to point out that one of the major funders of the crisis center levy - which I supported - one of the major funders was John Stanton, who is on the wall of shame for his work to kill the capital gains tax, to hit up the taxpayers to pay for his stadium to the tunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. And yet he wants to put a regressive tax on the rest of us. The solution here is not to keep passing, or trying to pass, these little regressive taxes to patch the leaky roof. See, I'm back to that analogy. It is to pass wealth tax and other taxes on the incredibly super rich billionaires and ultra millionaires that we have in this state.

[00:33:13] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, April 28th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner. You can find Heather on Twitter @hlweiner, that's W-E-I-N-E-R. You can follow me on Twitter at Hacks & Wonks - that's @HacksWonks. Or you can follow me on Twitter @finchfrii, or on Blue Sky, or basically any platform at finchfrii - that's F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical and Friday week-in-review shows 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 official hacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.