Week in Review: April 7, 2023 - with Riall Johnson

Week in Review: April 7, 2023 - with Riall Johnson

On today’s Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by political consultant and principal partner at Prism West, Riall Johnson!

Crystal and Riall discuss a controversy in Burien following a homeless encampment clearing, because another encampment (predictably) reappeared a block away because the people without housing still lacked housing, and homelessness is caused by a lack of accessible or affordable housing. The King County Council approved a $3.5M contract to rent 50 beds from the SCORE facility in Des Moines, WA, despite Executive staff saying that it won't make much of a difference. They also discuss the seemingly lackluster results from the new bonuses designed to attract more SPD officers. They end with a discussion of the over 30 Seattle City Council candidates and how the upcoming election might unfold.

About the Guest

Riall Johnson

Riall began working in political campaigns in 2012 after he retired from a 9 year career as a professional football player. His first campaign was as a field organizer in Cincinnati, Ohio for President Obama's re-election campaign, which was also where he started his professional football career when he was drafted to the Bengals in the 6th round in 2001. Riall's focus in politics has always been on the field side of grassroots campaigns. He has knocked thousands doors for campaigns in six different states, organized the collection of over 900,000 signatures, and created grassroots volunteer groups that are still self-sustaining today.

For the past few years, Riall has been focusing his work in his home state of Washington, where he has led impactful campaigns focused on gun violence prevention, police accountability, and criminal justice reform. After directing ballot initiative I-940, Riall founded Prism West (formerly Prism Washington) in 2018 to focus on getting progressive candidates of color in office to increase representation in government and bring real transformative policy to fruition. Many of his clients have broken many barriers by becoming the first of their demographic to be elected to their offices. He is currently working on bringing rent control back to the State of California.

Find Riall Johnson on Twitter/X at @RiallJohnson.


The Case for the Crisis Care Centers Levy with King County Executive Dow Constantine from Hacks & Wonks

After Removing Encampment, Burien Considers the Options: Provide Shelter, Ban Camping, or Both?” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola

Burien faces hard choices around homeless encampment” by Anna Patrick from The Seattle Times

King County Commits Millions to Make Jail Slightly Less Crowded” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger

Slog AM: Trump Indictment Drops Today, Harrell Drags on Police Alternatives, Election Day in Other Places” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger

Slog AM: SPD Hiring Lags Despite Big Bonuses, WA Stocks Up on Abortion Pills, More Cringe from Elon” by Vivian McCall from The Stranger


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday midweek show, Executive Dow Constantine filled me in on why King County voters should support the Crisis Care Centers Levy by voting Yes on Proposition 1 this April. The proposed levy would raise funds to address our urgent behavioral health crisis by building five new crisis care centers across the county, stabilize and restore residential treatment beds, and cultivate the behavioral health workforce pipeline. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show, and today's cohost: Principal Partner at Prism West, Riall Johnson. Hey.

[00:01:28] Riall Johnson: What's up?

[00:01:29] Crystal Fincher: You have been jet setting all over the place. You're an - certainly an interstate, maybe an international man of mystery at this point in time - just working all over. What have you been up to?

[00:01:42] Riall Johnson: I'm Canadian, so I guess I'm international - or half-Canadian - and currently I'm in California, Southern California, working on bringing back rent control to the state of California. That's been, that's my most - my recent project. But also, I'm still involved vaguely in Washington politics - I'm still keeping a little track. And I plan on returning - probably next year for some more - help with some of my clients getting reelected as well, and trying to push things further, finish the mission that we set out to when we started Prism.

[00:02:17] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. There's a lot of news that has happened this week. We cover local government. There's a lot of national federal news that broke out this week, whether it's the arrest and arraignment of former President Trump, to a litany of anti-trans legislation, to the unjust expulsion of two Black members of the Tennessee legislature, to Biden backtracking and issuing a betrayal of sorts and saying that, and not being equivocal about trans people being able to participate in sports and saying that maybe there are some situations where they shouldn't be allowed to, or may not be allowed to - which was a completely unnecessary action to take. I do not know why that happened - it's pretty disappointing. But in the midst of all that, we have a lot happening locally.

There's been conversation in the City of Burien - and we have talked to councilmembers from the City of Burien - really interesting city to follow. And right now, they recently cleared an encampment at a site. And as predicted, as we have seen after encampment clearings in Seattle and many, many other cities - because we're not actually providing any meaningful housing, people just relocate to another location. In Burien, they relocated to another location just like a block away to another city-owned property, which caused consternation from a number of people there. Some residents concerned that - Hey, we still haven't done enough to provide these people with housing options that make sense for them and that can help them out of their situation. And other people predictably - seemingly being more worried about the visible part of the homelessness, not necessarily what people who are unhoused are going through - but mad that they have to see that and feeling that it's somehow them being spurned by people who have no place to stay moving to somewhere else where they're allowed to exist. How do you read this?

[00:04:27] Riall Johnson: It's just - it's typical city behavior. You see this nationwide - they think that if you bully these folks, you push them out of their immediate space, they're gonna just be gone forever. They're gonna disappear. And we have this constant attempt of disappearing the homeless - of trying to - and not realizing they're actually people and they have to live somewhere. They're going to live somewhere, so they can't just drive across the state or somewhere so you don't see them again. And if they're still homeless, they're gonna be homeless somewhere else. So all we're doing is taking turns pushing them back around, like a pinball machine. And it's sad to watch 'cause people need to realize - if you don't wanna see them - if you gave them homes, you wouldn't see them. Or you wouldn't know they're homeless 'cause we still have to live - when you have a home, you have to leave your home and go work and do things, even though - people don't realize about 47% of homeless people have jobs. So the whole get-a-job narrative is stupid 'cause they get a job and they're still homeless 'cause we simply can't afford homes.

And that's the main problem - is that housing is just not affordable. Even when they call it affordable housing, it's not affordable 'cause the AMI is skewed all wrong. So we need to build public housing. We need to go back to how we had - before Reagan cut the housing authority in the '80s - where we actually had federal funding for these houses, for housing for people. And we could actually treat it as a regional solution, which - I hate that term, but actually - 'cause we could provide housing throughout the country in spaces, not just in the City of Seattle. 'Cause you see this - in Burien, or any other city outside of Seattle, has no right to complain about homelessness because you look at the numbers from the regional housing authority - Seattle and I think one other city are the only ones that contribute to the fund. And Seattle contributes 95% or 98% of the funds to the regional solution. So the only ones that even put any money up, the only ones who even put any services up - so of course people are going to gravitate there 'cause there's services, but they put in the fund and then the other cities don't kick in anything. And they just push everything to Seattle and then point at Seattle like they're the problem - Look at all the homelessness. Well, you push all your people there constantly.

So it's just typical. And you see this - I see this in LA, I see this in Long Beach. You see this in bigger cities and you see it in San Francisco. You see it in New York and Denver, Miami - the bigger cities carry the load of it and then everyone wants to crap on the big cities - Look at these Democrat run cities 'cause they're, look at all the homeless people. They're the only ones that actually treat them like humans in any sense - remotely, 'cause you don't see, when you get up close, it's like they're not even treated well here - but it's the lesser of many evils that they have to face. And they're just going to where they're going to be bullied the least.

[00:07:22] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's a challenge. And I think it is just a continual reinforcement that - as you said, this is a problem that is caused by a lack of housing. There are lots of people who try to suggest that homelessness is really an addiction problem. It's really a crime problem. And if we just treat these people like they're addicts or we treat these people like they're criminals, that that will clean everything up. We have been trying that and that approach has been failing - truly for decades now, for years and years and years. And the question really is - when are we going to stop doing the thing that has been failing and start doing the things that have been shown to be much more effective? This is a problem with the affordability and the accessibility of housing. If homelessness was primarily a crime problem, places with the highest crime rates would have the most homelessness - that's not the case. If homelessness was primarily an addiction problem, places with the highest addiction rates would have the highest rates of homelessness - that's not the case. What is the case is that areas with the highest level of housing that is unaffordable to the local populations have the highest rates of homelessness. It's because people cannot afford to live where they're at. It really is that.

And so we have to provide housing to people to get them off of the street. We have to help people transition back into permanent housing. And money that we spend on criminalizing this solution, on locking people up, on putting up fencing, on making areas unavailable, on paying for security and park staff and police officers to kind of police these encampment sweeps and move people all around - it's just a recipe for failure. We know that. Why do we keep trying that? Let's provide housing and follow the evidence for what other people are doing that is working, what other cities are doing that's working. We can and need to do better. And so I did not find it surprising at all that if you sweep one location without providing people with any path to permanent shelter - yeah, you're just moving the problem around. And it sounds like the people are unhappy - a lot of people who testified were just unhappy that they didn't move the problem far enough away. But we can't keep punting to other jurisdictions, to other cities, to other counties, to other regions to help solve this problem. Every city needs to kick in and do things to meaningfully allow and provide more housing, and to keep more people in their homes, and to keep people from being evicted.

[00:10:11] Riall Johnson: Yeah, I think the other - and on top of that, this is an American problem where we just need to get over - of not accepting poor people having nice things. And then we just - 'cause we have the money for it. We always have the money. It's the richest country in the world. Always have the money. Seattle's one of the richest cities in the world - has the money. Bellevue and all these other cities around - are richest suburbs and suburban towns in the world - they have the money. The thing is, and it's funny how even when you explain to people who want these sweeps or are pro-sweep - which is mind-boggling - if you ever talk to someone who really just wants them swept and kicked out, you tell them how much more it costs to sweep them, and to jail them, and to do the cleanup, and all that stuff - and it's gonna cost us more. Because essentially - hopefully we can organize all the homeless folks that are being swept all the time to sue the cities for all the possessions that they've lost and been stolen - 'cause we're really robbing these people of their stuff. 'Cause you give them no notice, you show up, you clear them out, and they don't get to get all their things, or they literally take it from them half the time and throw the stuff out. And I think there was another city - I forget which one - that actually successfully sued the city for millions of dollars as a class action lawsuit, which I hope Seattle does at some point. And I would definitely help organize that.

The thing is - we spend so much more doing this cruel stuff, and people have said this before - that the cruelty really is the point. People relish in treating these people so badly, knowing that they would save more money if we just provided homes for them. But they don't wanna spend money on that - even being told and shown straight data that it costs more doing what we're already doing - to sweep them, and jail them, and assault them, and clean up the stuff. It costs us more money. Just give them homes and we save money. And bonus, you don't have to see them anymore. At least - and that's the problem - you'll see them. You just won't know they're homeless, so you won't be able to label them as such. And that's - we just have to get over just giving poor people nice things, which is a home. But we don't want - we just don't want to. We can do it, we just don't want to.

[00:12:30] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Speaking of another situation where it seems like there may be other better options of what we can do, but we don't want to - is this week, the King County Council voted to extend a contract or to enact a contract with the SCORE Correctional Facility in Des Moines, Washington, to offload some of the King County jail population to that Des Moines Center - in the wake of studies, calls from employees who work there, the Public Defenders Association and many others saying that the jail is overcrowded, understaffed, a hazard to the health of the people that are living there, and there just is not enough staff support to keep anyone safe, and it's a mess. And so you had an unusual alliance of corrections facilities employees - the jail guards - in addition to public defenders saying, This is untenable and unsustainable. We need to lower the jail population. You also have a prior promise from King County Executive Dow Constantine to close the jail.

Yet, it seems like policy is moving in the opposite direction, and they're spending millions of dollars to offload - what was it - 50 people to that facility. And really saying - Okay, is this meaningfully addressing this problem? Or are we just once again kicking the can down the road here to figure this out? - to spend $3.5 million to rent 50 beds in Des Moines. It was a 7-2 vote with King County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Girmay Zahilay voting against the measure to transfer the inmates, really saying that they don't have enough information to really determine that this is the best alternative and that there are functionally deeper problems than this is going to solve, and we're spending money on this kind of stopgap solution that could be really, really helpful to spend in areas that may be more likely to keep people more safe. How do you read this situation?

[00:14:49] Riall Johnson: It's funny. I think - it's not funny. It's ironic that it was just Girmay and Jeanne Kohl-Welles. And I would expect Girmay Zahilay to vote No on this 'cause - knowing him. I didn't expect Jeanne Kohl-Welles to vote for this, but it's amazing how principled some elected folks get when they're not running for reelection and they're not looking for - or higher office. And the funny thing is - this is what I've said in politics overall - is you don't have to trust people in politics, you trust their ambitions. And I had a very interesting conversation while - up in Snohomish with a prosecutor - and it opened my eyes because, and we're talking about bail reform - just letting them out. Why are we even putting these people in jail for minor stuff? Why are we even putting - they don't even have to be there. And that's the thing - why is this conversation, are we having in the "most progressive county" - I'm quoting, you can't see me - that we have a full jail? And it's because we have to just redefine what crime actually is. These people that they're bringing in for "crimes" aren't crimes in most other parts of the world. So they shouldn't even have to be there. It's minor offenses that they're in there, that they could just either pay a fine or not be a crime in the first place. And so we should - if we just redefined that, we wouldn't do that.

But we're already stuck in this narrative that we're not tough on crime at all. We're the toughest country on crime in the world. And this is what this prosecutor told me was, and it shows - 'cause he's gonna, obviously he was gonna run for reelection at the time - when he said, I want to let these people out, but all it takes is one. All it takes is one of them to recommit and do something egregious and do something really bad. And the whole thing is gone. And it made me realize that - Yeah, he's not right. He's right about himself - his world is turned up now. His reelection chances are gone. His job, it's - his future is in jeopardy if that happens, not everyone else's. Because the thing is, no matter - the longer you hold people in jail, they're gonna - and you can't put people in jail for life. You're gonna get out at some point. They're worse off - they're gonna be - and more likely going to commit something more serious because they're in a worse situation than before. They're more damaged than before.

So the effect is that we're even - why we're even putting these people in the jail, or most of these people in jail, in the first place is trivial. So we shouldn't even have to vote to relocate them or borrow beds from other states, other counties - because they shouldn't be in jail in the first place. And they're not realizing that solution. But every one of those people - all seven that voted for it - are all still planning on running for something in the future. And that's what they're scared of. They're scared of that one person that gets out of jail, commits something bad, worse, and they get blamed for it. They don't - and this happened to Chesa Boudin - 'cause he let a lot of people out of jail. And one person assaulted someone in the - actually, I think in the Asian community - and they used that as a cudgel, and just -

[00:18:23] Crystal Fincher: And that was in San Francisco, right?

[00:18:24] Riall Johnson: Over and over and over - yeah, in San Francisco. And that's what - they're all scared of that - you can see. And that's my theory, 'cause you talk to them one-on-one - they all wanna vote No, they all wanna do this, the right thing - but they know they can't because they're scared of the reelection chances, or further election chances, including Dow Constantine.

[00:18:47] Crystal Fincher: It's something that we commonly see, and unfortunately they're afraid of - they're afraid of following the data for fear of weaponization of the anecdote. Because yes, there are certainly people who are invested in the status quo in our current system, who are salivating to use anything to help bolster their position or discredit others. Because they know that they have to rely on the anecdotes, because the data is not on their side. But there's a lot of money to be made from the existing system and what they're doing. There's a ton of money to be made in a variety of facets, but really the impact of that - and what we need to not pepper over - is that you're selling out the rest of the community, you're harming the rest of the community. Because the data is what it is. We know that overall, fewer people are going to be harmed and victimized if we change the approach that we take, if we stop focusing on these punitive, punishment-based approaches - based on us not feeling like people are worthy of humanity, or we need to personally feel like we punish them. Does that feeling justify the increased likelihood and increased events of harm that are really happening to real people? It's a challenge and it's a shame.

You said Jeanne Kohl-Welles - also not running again and seeming to be a little freer in her comments and considerations - she did call on Dow to follow through on his promise to close the downtown jail. And she also expressed, as did Girmay and some other council members, expressed concern that because this appears to be such a stopgap measure that doesn't seem to be robust enough to solve the actual problem, that they're concerned about getting another request for funding, and a request for an extension, and a request for expansion of this - because this doesn't actually solve the problem, even though we're forking over millions of dollars to make that happen. So they took some votes to ensure that an automatic extension or an automatic expansion couldn't happen, that their approval is gonna be required for that. But also if you're approving this - even if that does happen, what is the logic of voting No if you voted for this? Again, I'm not quite sure what that is, but it'll be interesting to follow. We will continue to follow this, and it's a conversation that we continue to have.

Also this week, we got news that bonuses so far have not shown to recruit many new officers. And for the amount of money that's invested - not just in salaries and benefits for police, but also these signing bonuses - certainly I think most people were hoping, who viewed this as a solution, to get much more bang for their buck as they did. It's interesting in that we have heard the Harrell administration talk about data and dashboards and all that information. And the data that we have received on this doesn't seem to be too promising, yet that doesn't seem to be deterring many people. They said it's too soon to figure out that this is a failure, or to conclude that this is a failure. We did see an uptick in some of our hiring and have a bit of a larger class, so maybe there's some benefit that we're getting from this. Although we have heard from officers themselves who've said - These signing bonuses don't make a difference. If someone is leery to come, and especially given the salary, throwing an extra $10,000 at them isn't really going to be big enough to make the difference here. Now it could with a lot of other positions that have shortages in the City, but we seem to be focused on police right now. And so it is just going to be interesting to see if it's just - well, the data didn't look like we wanted it to, but we're just going to keep pushing forward and not adjust - while expressing the importance of better performance and getting data and metrics from other public safety initiatives or things that are running behind, like alternative response. And really this is money that could be invested in other areas. How do you see this?

[00:23:48] Riall Johnson: It's just another - I feel like I'm repeating myself - it's typical. It's typical American exceptionalism - thinking that the country with the most police than any other military force, with more police than any other military force, is going to solve this. There's never been a correlation of more police and less crime - never. If anything it's gone the opposite - less police, you get less crime. We're so invested as a country - that more police is going to solve our stuff. And we have more police than ever, always. And it's just never affected crime. And if anything, it just affects more arrests - and it's just arrests for bull crap - told you I wasn't going to cuss. So I think it's - sarcastically speaking - if we were just nicer to cops in Seattle, more of them would come 'cause that's what - don't take this out of context 'cause like someone's clips this, 'cause it's - that's the narrative you see in the newspaper. Cops don't want to be here 'cause they're not nice to us here. There's too much protest, and too liberal, and it's too progressive. You hear this narrative outside - that's what's deterring - if that's deterring cops, it's too bad. Your job's tough, I'm sorry. You completely say - We're proud, we support the blue, and it's the toughest job - f*cking do it. They don't want to do it. They want an easy job where they can bully people and get away with it more often. So they're not afraid of being - and it's not so much being treated bad - they're afraid of accountability 'cause they feel like Seattle might hold them more accountable.

I think it just doesn't matter 'cause - and I'm happy actually that less and less people want to be cops because probably - you see this generation's growing up - seeing more and more of what cops are doing, less of them want to be that. And I hope that's gonna be a nationwide trend overall. Gen Z and Gen A, I think are growing up - they're seeing more and more police violence. We didn't get to grow up seeing those constant videos. All we saw was a Rodney King video - we didn't have the cameras. I'm turning 45 this month. I didn't see constant police violence growing up. I grew up - I was 16 when Hillary and Joe Biden and Bill Clinton brought us the crime bill. I was a super predator in their eyes. And we were sold on that - me and my generation and everyone else - was sold on that stuff that more police is gonna solve this. And all it did was just lock more people up - for the same stuff I saw at Stanford University, tons of kids do. And boy, they weren't kicking down those doors.

So it's never - more police has never solved crime - is not going to. So I'm actually happy that it's failing because it's going to show - and you see the stats of crime is still staying the same or going down, even with less cops. If we invest more in the communities and provide more housing and more services, we'll have less crime - 'cause we'll have less poverty and we'll have less need - because most of them is just crimes of poverty. So I think this is something I want to see nationwide - is just less cops, people wanting to be cops, because we're opening people's eyes to the culture of it. And a lot of younger generation growing up don't want to be part of that culture. And I hope that - so I say, keep filming people, keep filming them all the time, put them on blast, hold them accountable as best you can. And hopefully this is a trend that we see nationwide.

[00:27:33] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And it will be interesting to see where these trends follow. It'll also be interesting just to see the electoral trends. We also saw this week, the City of Chicago opted to elect a progressive mayor who the police union was vehemently opposed to. They said that they would walk off the job if this person were elected and they're just going to do that. And well - the city's voters called their bluff.

[00:28:02] Riall Johnson: Please leave. Please don't go - oh no. We'll see if they do - they won't, they won't.

[00:28:11] Crystal Fincher: Maybe a couple might, but once again, I think this is an area where residents continue to be out ahead of elected officials in this area. Residents don't seem to have the hang up over conversations about comprehensive public safety, and public safety being much bigger than policing and having to be much bigger than policing. We have to have conversations about meeting people's basic needs. We have to have conversations about poverty and homelessness and all of that. And really addressing the roots of those problems - making sure people's basic needs are met - that impacts our public safety, that impacts how many people are victimized, it reduces the amount of people who are victimized in a variety of ways. And that really is the bottom line - we become safer when we do that. Think voters are there - there's certainly a large percentage of them - winning percentages of voters are there. And we just need actions by our elected officials that reflect that.

[00:29:15] Riall Johnson: It's funny - unless you've been in a situation where you can't afford food, can't afford rent, can't afford a place to stay, you can't judge people if they're taking from major corporations. Meanwhile, corporations are committing exponentially more wage theft than you could ever steal from the cosmetic aisle. And it's very hard to combat the narrative as a consultant or in politics when they only have to show one or three videos - one to three videos - of the same shoplifting over and over and over, and then say it's a crime spree. They have the illustration advantage to do that. It's very hard. It was very hard to combat that in 2021 and to this day. So apparently, if you listen to the right narrative - the narrative on the right - crime has been skyrocketing for so long. But the stats show it's lower or the same - it's apparently gone through the graph and come back up to the bottom to go right back where it was. But every year, crime's skyrocketing. So where is it skyrocketing to? Apparently, everyone's a criminal at this point if you say - what is skyrocketing and what is actually crime.

I used to do crime all the time when I was in college. I was at Stanford University, one of the richest schools in the country, and I shoplifted all I got, all I could 'cause I was broke. I couldn't work. I wasn't allowed to work. This is before the NIL [name, image, likeness] stuff. I stole groceries constantly. I'm admitting to the crime. I testified on this during the whole, and when we were trying to legalize college athletes getting paid. 'Cause when I can afford food, I don't have to steal it. But I have to eat somehow. And I had to eat at a level of a college athlete, of a college football player. So I stole groceries from Safeway constantly, every chance I got. And thank God I was good at it - but also, I had to. What else was I going to do? My parents couldn't send me money, and I couldn't even get a job 'cause it was illegal for me to get a job while I was in college. I was fortunate to not grow up in poverty, and my parents were middle class, but they weren't obviously able to just send me money every week while I was in college - sitting there broke. So I stole - I just stole food. And if they even had it, I was scared to ask them for it. I felt more dignified stealing food than asking for money from my parents - even if it was like 20 bucks, so I can go grocery shopping, which that could actually get some groceries back then, 1998.

So we have to understand - it's not about who's doing the crime or what's happening - it's like why? Why is this happening? And they think it's just 'cause people are criminals and we need to lock up more people. Even though as a country, we lock up more people than anywhere else in the world - at four times the rate. And we think doing that more is going to solve the problem.

[00:32:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, to me - it's just telling - okay, if that's what we have been doing for 30 years, and we feel that things now are worse than they've ever been - maybe that's a signal that it's not the best solution. Maybe that's a signal that that approach has failed and we should try something else. That is not how people invested in keeping things the way they are feel about it, by and large, unfortunately. But I guess the other news is that there - wow, is a whole lot more people who are less and less invested and actually invested in changing the way that things are. And those are becoming majorities in many cities and areas and states. And we're seeing that play out in a lot of these elections. So we will continue to follow that conversation and what happens.

Also just wanted to cover - since you're here, since we do elections and politics - so at my latest count, I believe there are 36 declared candidates for Seattle City Council across all of the districts. That is a big number - and there are a lot of people at this point in time. A lot fewer people have qualified for Democracy Vouchers. I think we're gonna get an update on Monday perhaps to see who else may have qualified. But out of everyone, it looks like in District 1, Preston Anderson and Rob Saka have completed the Democracy Voucher qualifying process. In District 2, Tammy Morales has qualified for Democracy Vouchers. In District 3, Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson have completed the qualifying process. In District 4, Ron Davis as well as Kenneth Wilson have completed the qualifying process. In District 5, no one has at this point in time via the publicly available information on the Democracy Voucher website. In District 6, Dan Strauss, the incumbent, has completed the qualifying process - as has incumbent Andrew Lewis in District 7. Those are all of the people who have been reported as successfully qualifying for Democracy Vouchers - obviously a big gate and necessary accomplishment for a campaign.

But there are a lot who are in a lot of different positions. There is a sea of candidates. So I guess I'll just open it up to you on your thoughts - about anyone in particular, or this crop of candidates overall, and what this means for the City of Seattle.

[00:34:53] Riall Johnson: I think it was - did you say 36? I think 49 ran last - four years ago. I think there was more open seats. I think there was only one incumbent. Debora Juarez was the only incumbent running. So now we only have two - no, three incumbents this time with Tammy, Dan, and Lewis. I used to work with Dan by the way - we were coworkers long time ago.

[00:35:23] Crystal Fincher: Really?

[00:35:23] Riall Johnson: Yeah, for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. I'm a fan of Dan Strauss - personally. I disagree with him a lot, but a fan of Dan. But either way, this year is gonna be weird 'cause 2019 - going off 2019 - it was a big rally for progressive and it was a big progressive wave there, especially when Amazon dropped that million dollar bomb at the end, on top of the million dollars they already spent through the Chamber. I think this is gonna be interesting. I'm a big fan of Tammy, obviously - she's a client, or former client - I'm not doing any elections this year. So I don't think - she doesn't even need help. She was one of the best campaigners I've ever seen, so I think she's going to - she'll win on her own. She's gonna win. I think she's got - working with somebody, she's in good hands - but I don't see anyone beating Tammy.

And in terms of the other races, it's just gonna be weird to see - they're not gonna have this narrative about fighting Amazon and stuff 'cause Amazon actually learned, the Chamber learned to step out of it and then distribute their money through other channels. They're still gonna put the same amount of money - they're just gonna put it so it's harder to track. So I encourage people to just look - you can still find it - look where the money's going. Look where it's going - they're gonna go through another entity. They're gonna distribute through other different donors. They're still gonna be backing the people. So just look where all the rich people, the same donors you see every year putting behind their own corporate police candidates. And you're gonna see that. And then that's gonna tell you all you really need to know - who's in what.

'Cause the thing is this is what - it always irks me about Seattle and a lot of cities nationwide, but especially Seattle - a lot of these races actually in the end are irrelevant unless you get a really super majority. The whole narrative of Seattle being this progressive place is false. Seattle has no income tax. It's a libertarian utopia, in my opinion. But they blame all their problems on a Brown woman named Kshama because she's the only socialist in there. If you're outside of Seattle or the narrative, thinks like Kshama runs the City. No, there's no way any city council member can run the City. The mayor runs the city. And we've had a corporate mayor for the last 46 out of 50 years, I think. The only mayor that actually did anything progressive was Mike McGinn. And it's funny - you look at the stats, you look at the homelessness rate after 2013 - it's gone up pretty - a whole lot since 2013.

[00:38:11] Crystal Fincher: As has the crime rate.

[00:38:12] Riall Johnson: Exactly.

[00:38:14] Crystal Fincher: I think it was lower - McGinn enjoyed the lowest crime rates in the last 40 years, which - he would be the first person to tell you - were not only because of his policies, he did benefit from policies from Greg Nickels also. But numbers don't lie.

[00:38:34] Riall Johnson: Yeah, and we stopped investing in housing overall. And the City - and even if the City Council gives and puts money in housing, it's not like - they just give you the money or approve it, the mayor's got to execute it. And Jenny - I remember seeing Jenny Durkan literally just declined to use the money in any sort of way. She promised a 1,000 or 10,000 tiny homes or whatever - she built a hundred. It's - we got the corporate mayor we've asked for - the Chamber's got their candidate for the last two decades, or the last decade. They got Murray, they got Jenny, they got Tim what's-his-name? The guy who was council for -

[00:39:10] Crystal Fincher: Briefly, Tim Burgess.

[00:39:11] Riall Johnson: Tim Burgess. Bruce Harrell twice now. And it's gonna go the same way every time. As long as you get a mayor that can't do anything unless they get approval from their corporate overlords - we all call it - we're gonna have this problem all the time, no matter who we elect to City Council. So Tammy's gonna win. Everyone else that I see on the table is just gonna be - is some semi-progressive right now that's just gonna go with the status quo. And she's probably gonna be a lone voice, lonely voice on that council. And then she's now gonna start getting the blame because they can't - they're not gonna have Kshama to blame anymore. And so it's gonna be sad to see all problems - even though it's like you got the mayor you wanted, you got the city council candidates you wanted - you're not gonna have Kshama, you're not gonna have Teresa, all you're gonna have is Tammy. And somehow Tammy's gonna be - they're gonna try and blame Tammy for the - all the problems they have when they've caused it. So it's just, it's gonna be funny to watch this after the election, but in terms of who I see - I just don't, I'm sorry - I'm not paying attention enough, but I don't see anyone outside of Tammy Morales that kind of fits my - what I wanna see in a councilmember. That's my biased opinion, so - as much as I love, I like Dan Strauss as a person, and I think he's better than the person that's challenged him obviously. Me and Dan would have disagreements face-to-face if we met, if we saw, if I saw him again.

I just don't see it. I see - either you have to get a major majority of veto-proof votes constantly that's going to actually defund the police, that's actually going to provide housing, that's actually going to fund transit. We're gonna be in this cycle over and over and over as long as we have a mayor that refuses to actually do the things and is beholden to the large corporations we have here in Seattle. So I don't see - I see these elections as inconsequential, somewhat irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. They're important, obviously - you want the support, but the one city councilmember in your district is one-ninth of about 15% of power in the City. That's how much the city council pretty much has - 15-20% of the power. The rest of the 80-90% is the mayor's office. And that's - but the overall narrative - it's hard to get that across 'cause you watch local news, you watch Fox News or cable news, you think this radical socialist Brown woman is running Seattle because that's who they put on the face of it. Never smiling, always with her mouth open yelling - when you, if you meet Kshama, she's the nicest person possible, she's always smiling. But they always want to get it - it's just funny how that narrative is painted on these things. And same with Tammy - they're going to put Tammy on there with - it's typical misogynistic stuff you see with - they always put her with - as she's speaking and then they get her at the worst moment possible with her mouth open. And they're going to do this over and over and over to put the blame on them so they can avoid accountability.

[00:42:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is - that trope basically is well-worn. And they do like to pick a favorite progressive person to pick on - that's a lot of P's, but anyway - for me, I need to get more familiar with a lot of candidates, certainly. But I think I'm with you just on the - I'm, I can't say across the board, 'cause there have been a couple that I have heard some conclusive opinions on - taking away almost whether or not I agree with people on issues, it is just hard in this crop to find people really saying where they stand on it. And again, certainly there have been a few who have, but it seems like the majority is afraid to say anything. And to your point that the candidates who have been favored by the Chamber and corporate interests, those candidates for mayor have won for the past decade. And there is no one who has any more power in the City than the mayor. The City Council, to your point, can fund things and can direct policy. But it provides the funding - it actually can't spend that money itself. That is up to the executive. The executive has to spend the money. They manage and implement all of the things in the City. Every department answers to the mayor, including the police department - and what happens there is completely the mayor's responsibility. That is the executive, that is the person with the most power.

And it feels like that goes by the wayside because there has been a person on the council that they've been able to demonize from the progressive side that - it reminds me just of conversations about racism or sexism or anti-trans messaging where it's like - simultaneously, the people who you're railing against are somehow deficient in their eyes, but also so smart and powerful and numerous that they can do everything and every bad thing is their fault. And there's this big magical conspiracy that is happening that people are, I guess, communicating telepathically to coordinate all of the horrible things that as conservatives would say, liberals want. But it's just - yeah, I don't know. I don't know. I'm not quite inspired by the crop of candidates, but I think it's just - you're gonna have to decide to do something. And we're at the point where we've had now 10 years worth of really mayors painting themselves as the adult in the room, the people who can bring together people who disagree, and bring everyone together and figure out where people agree and can make progress. And that's just messaging to excuse people not taking action. That has not materialized. What that equates to in practice is just gridlock and nothing happening. And I think we're seeing the result of nothing happening for so long. This is why so many - homelessness has skyrocketed, income inequality is skyrocketing - continuing to do so - so many of the things that we have labeled crises have only gotten worse because the people who said that they were gonna bring everyone together and stop making people mad, like those divisive progressives - it turns out you do have to make a decision at some point. And if you don't, the bad thing continues to happen and that happens. And I think lots of people are at the point with Bruce Harrell - you've made lots of promises that sound great. It seems like you forgot about some of those promises and other of those promises are running like late, way behind schedule. Maybe you changed your mind. Maybe that was just rhetoric. But you said things and we want to see you deliver, and we're waiting.

[00:46:45] Riall Johnson: Yes. We'll see what Backroom Bruce does in the next two years, which - we'll see. I've met Bruce - actually he's a nice guy, charismatic guy - he wins people over pretty easily. And actually I turned him down. I couldn't do it. 'Cause it's just - you can't, I just can't give in to corporate interests like that. This is the thing - I don't know how much time more we've got 'cause this is - I'm going back to 2019 and my experience. And this is a problem that needs to be said in Seattle about the progressive left - the power players in the progressive left - they don't want change either. They just want power. And if anyone's listening, they can see - I think I have it on my pinned tweet back in 2019 - the problem I saw and I identified it. And I burned a lot of bridges saying this out public. And I'll say it again though, 'cause it needs to be called out. There was a big movement behind progressive candidates. "Progressive candidates." They put about a million dollars behind six candidates for the open seats. There was three white candidates and three candidates of color. They put over $900,000 behind the white candidates and about $23,000 total behind the candidates of color - 18 of that 23,000 went to Tammy. The other 2,000 each went to Kshama and Shaun Scott - it was a literal direct correlation of skin color by who got more money. And they spent more money against Mark Solomon - Tammy's candidate, who was also Black, a Black man - than spending more money for Shaun. That's how anti-Black the Seattle left is. Seattle is 6% black. 20 years ago, it was 13% Black. So somehow this pro-Black, equitable, progressive city has been systematically kicking Black people out of this city for the last 20 years. And I'm one of them.

So it's just - it's a false narrative, I think, to think that there's people who claim to be for this. And you'll literally see in Seattle where someone will have a sign saying, "In this house, Black Lives Matter, love is love," blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. And then right next to it, literally it'll say, "Don't rezone this property, make it so historic." Like it's all platitudes I see. And I see it not just with voters, but I see it with the people in power - the people in the "progressive" movements that actually have the money, and they don't put their money where the mouth is. There's never a movement supported by this. They don't put the money behind actual progressive candidates, or abolitionists, or whatever. They just talk the talk. They put all this money behind Dan Strauss, Andrew Lewis, and Lisa Herbold - and they all waffled on all their votes. They didn't do anything. They just did middle of the road stuff. But meanwhile, the candidates that actually were pushing for real progressive transformative policies, like Shaun Scott, Kshama Sawant, and Tammy Morales - they didn't support that way.

And the reason - I burned bridges - I'll burn them again, I'll burn the ships. 'Cause it needs to be said. And it needs to be - look where the money's going, and you'll see where people stand. And the funny thing is we just - and this is why you see a lot of these candidates, even this year, waffling on stuff. They're coming out middle of the road. They say they're progressive. They come from progressive organizations that are well-funded, and they're not taking proper stands because they're scared to - because the organizations that support them are scared to as well. So I think this needs to be said and needs to be called out - until we have some real progressive candidates that can stand on their own and stand against even their own backers, like the unions and the progressive organizations that - I'm not gonna name names, I've already done that. But they know who I'm talking about and they know I'm talking about them, and I don't care. But the thing is we need candidates that will do that, and we need more communities to stand up against that, and fight on their own. And it's very hard to do that because - ultimately, you're turning away resources - because these are well-resourced organizations as well and progressive organizations. And it's hard to do that without resources. And once - when you do that, you gotta realize you're gonna be on your own and you're gonna have to do this on just pure human power - with a little bit of money. And just - and I guess, hopefully vouchers - on a minimal budget, that you could, that hopefully you can win by.

[00:51:42] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for all of your insight today, Riall Burn the Ships Johnson. Appreciate your insight and reflections and perspective. And with that, I thank everyone for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, April 7th - it's April 7th already - 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful cohost today is Principal Partner at Prism West, Riall Johnson. You can find Riall on Twitter @RiallJohnson, that's R-I-A-L-L Johnson. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. And you can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, that's two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your feed. If you like us, leave a review. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.