Week in Review: August 11, 2023 - with Erica Barnett

Week in Review: August 11, 2023 - with Erica Barnett

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett!

They discuss the latest in Burien’s non-addressing of homelessness, new revenue options presented for Seattle, whether primary results mean Seattle City Council incumbents are doomed or safe, and how candidates who support police alternatives led in primaries. The episode continues with how Mayor Harrell’s $27M for drug diversion and treatment adds no new funding, Seattle adding new protections for app-based workers, and signs of a late-summer COVID surge.

About the Guest

Erica Barnett

Erica Barnett is a Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola.

Find Erica Barnett on Twitter/X at @ericacbarnett and on PubliCola.com.


No Solutions for Unsheltered Burien Residents After Another Contentious Council Meeting” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola

Proposals to Close City Deficit Prompt Immediate Backlash from Businesses, Business-Backed Council Members” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola

The Seattle Process Strikes Again” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Final Report of the Revenue Stabilization Workgroup | City of Seattle

Are Incumbent City Councilmembers Doomed? The Seattle Times Sure Hopes So!” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola

Candidates who support police alternatives lead primaries in Washington cities” by Scott Greenstone from KNKX Public Radio

Harrell's "$27 Million Drug Diversion and Treatment" Plan Would Allow Prosecutions But Add No New Funding” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola

Seattle City Council adds more protections for app-based workers” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times

Early signs suggest WA could see a late-summer COVID wave” by Elise Takahama from The Seattle Times

Find stories that Crystal is reading here


[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.

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, today's co-host: Seattle political reporter and Editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett.

[00:01:08] Erica Barnett: It's great to be here.

[00:01:09] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back and certainly a number of things to talk about this week. I think we'll start off talking about the City of Burien and the continuing saga - and kind of city crisis - surrounding their handling of people who have been camping because they are homeless. There was an offer of assistance made from the County, there was some work going on - and this is happening with a fractured Council majority and Council minority, usually voting 4-3 in these things. There was a meeting that happened this week. What happened at that meeting and where do things stand now?

[00:01:48] Erica Barnett: At the meeting, there were no decisions made, but there was a long discussion of the timeline of what has happened so far. The City Manager presented his version of events in which the City of Burien is held harmless, did nothing wrong, has tried earnestly to come up with alternatives for these folks - and it is a few dozen people - but has just failed or been thwarted at every turn. Several dozen people have been moved from place to place since they were originally swept from a site outside City Hall and the Burien Library. And now they are living at a couple sites - or until this week, were living at a couple sites - in Burien. A group of people were swept out of a site next to a Grocery Outlet and across the street from a Family Dollar by a private company that has gotten a lot of positive attention from the Council majority, which is run by an individual named Kristine Moreland and offers what their website refers to as sweep services - removing people - and this group claims that they have housed folks. What appears to have happened, and I'll be writing more about this later this week - on Friday, probably as you're listening to this, it might be up - what appears to have happened is that they have been relocated into a hotel for a week or so with no apparent plan to do anything beyond that. As I wrote this week, there's no real solution in sight and the County's money is contingent on them finding a location in the City of Burien or getting another city to agree to take Burien's homeless population on. That money could go away.

[00:03:20] Crystal Fincher: It's a shame that the money could go away. Something that struck me as unfortunate this entire time is, as you say, this isn't about thousands upon thousands of people. This is actually a situation where it seems like it's possible - working with partners, working with the resources that the County has provided in terms of cash and tiny homes - potentially house most or all of this population, to work through this. This seems like something that is fixable and achievable, and something that Council could be looked at as an example of how to work through this and manage this issue in your city. It appears that they just continue to run from that and double down on these criminalized solutions that have just moved people from literally one lot to another, sometimes across the street from each other. This is in a pretty small area of the city where these encampments and sweeps have taken place. And so just watching the City continue to not try to solve this problem is exceedingly frustrating.

[00:04:24] Erica Barnett: To be fair to the City - I try to be fair always, but to take the City's perspective - I can see an argument that a million dollars is really not enough. You can't house people for a million dollars. You can shelter them temporarily. And that is what the County has proposed. But that is a small caveat to the fact that the City, right now, is showing a lot of mistrust for traditional partners that actually do this work and are telling them there is no housing, that it's incredibly hard to house people, and they have to go through a whole process. And they're showing a lot of mistrust of LEAD and REACH, which have been working down in that area for a long time, and showing a sort of almost naive trust of this new organization that is run by one individual who says that she can solve all of their problems and that it's easy. One thing I didn't mention is they put on the table the idea of contracting with this organization run by Kristine Moreland - it's called The More We Love - it's a private group, it's not a nonprofit. So they're talking about spending money on her group because she has said that it is very easy to house people.

[00:05:25] Crystal Fincher: Wow. That would be an interesting use of public funds.

[00:05:29] Erica Barnett: There's a lot of questions about whether they can actually do this, like where the funds would come from. If they would take away REACH's money, that's federal money - she would need to have a lot more assurances and perhaps a nonprofit, which as I said she does not appear to have, to do that. They've started going down that road. The mayor proposed last week that they start working on looking into contracting with this group. It is very much on the table and could happen or could start to be discussed seriously within the next couple of weeks.

[00:05:58] Crystal Fincher: Very interesting. We will continue to follow this, as we have been doing. I also wanted to talk about significant news this week in the City of Seattle, where a revenue workgroup presented options for potential progressive revenue options in the City of Seattle. What happened with this and what options are on the table?

[00:06:18] Erica Barnett: This workgroup has been meeting for a while - it consists of folks with the mayor's office, City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is the co-chair, then some business groups, some labor groups - including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which had an interesting reaction this week. But the workgroup eventually came up with a set of policy options - they're saying they are not recommendations - and they considered 63, they narrowed it down to 9. And the top three are the ones that the City could move forward with right away. Those are, in order, increasing or changing the JumpStart payroll expense tax and letting those monies flow into the general fund, implementing a City-level capital gains tax - which the City believes it could do without a ballot initiative or permission from the State Legislature. And then a new tax on CEOs that have a very high ratio of pay compared to the average employee in a company - essentially a surcharge on the JumpStart Tax to companies that have extremely well-paid CEOs. I should mention this is all to close a pending revenue gap in 2025 and beyond of hundreds of millions of dollars. They've got to figure out a way to narrow this gap either by cutting spending, by increasing revenues, or most likely some combination of both.

[00:07:39] Crystal Fincher: These are certainly interesting options. You noted that these are not recommendations, they're simply presenting options - which makes me wonder about the coalition that was at the table here, the participants in the workgroup, the elephant in the room of sometimes these workgroups are really just attempts to get the business community on board with a tax. It doesn't look like they accomplished that here. What are the dynamics of the groups who were involved in putting these options together?

[00:08:10] Erica Barnett: Yesterday, a member of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce sent out a statement saying - Seattle revenues are at an all-time high and spending is unsustainable - repudiating the idea that we need new taxes and suggesting that the real problem is the City Council is just spending frivolously. The report the revenue stabilization task force put out talks about spending and notes that the amount the City has been spending has been going up roughly in line with inflation and labor costs. There's some mandatory COLAs [cost-of-living adjustments] and pay increases that have happened that have been very necessary to keep folks more in line with the private market to actually keep people working for the City, which has faced problems with hiring just like every other workplace. There isn't necessarily a lot of evidence that the City is spending out of control, at least according to this report that the Chamber itself signed off on, but they have indicated that they're gonna come out hard against it - not clear in what way, but they certainly have sued over other taxes, including the JumpStart Tax in the past. More to come, I'm sure, but they have indicated that they are not on board with these options, which would tax businesses essentially and tax some of their members.

[00:09:24] Crystal Fincher: As you mentioned, they opposed the JumpStart Tax, they opposed previous taxes. Here, they frequently act as an organized opposition to taxation, particularly taxation that involves the business community. Lots of people talk about Seattle process and how we will workgroup and task force something to death - that certainly is the case. But when a number of candidates run, or when we've heard in press conferences with the mayor and talking about One Seattle - and if we can just get everyone seated around the table and get everyone talking, surely we can hammer out something and agree and be able to move forward in community and coalition and with buy-in. The problem is that other people are too contentious and they wanna do things without the buy-in of everyone, but I will get everyone together and do that. That's certainly not unique to Bruce Harrell - we heard that from Mayor Ed Murray, from Mayor Jenny Durkan, from several City councilmembers - they just needed to get people together. In another one of these workgroups, they did bring everyone to the table and the same disagreements, the same lack of alignment that was evident before this was put together surfaces now. It's time to make a decision for a lot of people. If everyone doesn't agree to do something, then it's on pause, it just doesn't happen. Or is it going to be moving forward with options that may have the support of the general public? Certainly a number of these options poll well and the candidates who have advanced them are winning most of these elections. Are they willing to move without the support of the business community or potentially setting up another showdown with the business community? That's a question that has yet to be answered.

[00:11:10] Erica Barnett: I would not dismiss this necessarily as just another example of Seattle process going nowhere. I think the last revenue stabilization task force, of course it was called something else but, came up with the JumpStart Tax, which is a payroll tax on highly-compensated workers at extremely large employers - that has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars a year and really addressed the revenue shortfalls during COVID. I think that business community aside - and Alex Pedersen, City councilmember who is an ally of the business community, sent out a press release poo-pooing the proposals or the policy ideas - this will probably lead to some action by the council. They have to do something. They are facing a really grave situation. There are other task forces that have met and not really done much in similar situations. The council and the City - the mayor and the council have to pass a balanced budget every year. If they've got a $250 million shortfall in a budget, they've got to address that. Looking at and talking to Teresa Mosqueda, the chair of the committee, one of the co-chairs of this task force, and the Chair of the Finance Committee yesterday, they're looking at those first three options very seriously. There's probably a council majority right now to support one of those options. Depending on how fast they move on this, it could be a new council that may be less friendly. We'll see. They have to do something. I don't see cutting that much of the budget as an option.

[00:12:28] Crystal Fincher: The Chamber is staking out the position that the only thing that they are willing to discuss - from their perspective right now - is cuts and not focusing on the revenue-generating options, some of which were considered more progressive than others by many people. So what are the next steps here?

[00:12:46] Erica Barnett: Council Central Staff is going to do an analysis of these options, probably - again, with the emphasis on those ones that the council can do on its own. Then there will be policy recommendations and legislation, presumably, to pass some version of one or more of these options. There are six other options, some of which would require the Legislature to pass legislation allowing the City to implement some of these taxes - that's a longer-term strategy that the council says it's going to engage in. The short-term perspective is they're going to start working on this stuff. When it comes to the Chamber, they are not all-powerful - their job is generally to oppose taxes on their members. They did that last time - they lost in the court of public opinion, and they also lost in court - now we have the JumpStart payroll tax. I don't know if that experience is going to make them reluctant to challenge an expansion of that tax or any of these other taxes. They have not been successful so far in preventing taxation to close these revenue shortfalls, to pay for housing and homelessness solutions - their opposition just means the business community is against this. It doesn't mean that it's not going to happen.

[00:13:53] Crystal Fincher: That's a very good point. Also want to talk about a piece you did in PubliCola this week as a response to some at The Seattle Times suggesting the three incumbents in Seattle City Council races that are running again - each of whom lead their race, two of whom with over 50% of the vote - are somehow not safe. Did that pass the smell test?

[00:14:18] Erica Barnett: They presented a theory in this editorial - described as a hopeful theory on their part - that the incumbents are in trouble if they end up with less than 55%. They said that this was just the general consensus of election watchers. I don't know - I'm an election watcher, you're an election watcher - this is not my consensus. And nor, when I look back at the numbers, is it reflected in reality. An incumbent might have a somewhat tough race if they are under 50% of the vote in the primary. There's just so many reasons - among which is, as you said, they're all above 50% now. The primary electorate tends to be more conservative. The incumbents that The Seattle Times wants to defeat are all more progressive than their opponents. The primary election turnout was incredibly low. Some of these folks in the races with lots and lots of candidates where there wasn't an incumbent were winning by a few hundred votes. The Times really is hopeful they will be able to finally rid themselves of candidates, or of City councilmembers like Tammy Morales, who is very much leading her Seattle Times-endorsed opponent, Tanya Woo, Dan Strauss, who's leading Pete Hanning. And Andrew Lewis, who actually is looking the weakest right now - he is under 50%. His opponent, Bob Kettle, is unlikely to get a bunch of business community backing in District 7, which includes downtown. All the incumbents are looking strong right now.

[00:15:41] Crystal Fincher: That seems to be the consensus from the election watchers I'm aware of, many of whom are actively involved in several elections. Incumbents just don't lose from this position. We rarely, if ever, see that. It's rare to see, even in open seats, for people to finish over 50% and then not win, which doesn't mean that - barring scandal or something wild happening, there are a lot of unknowns - to suggest that this indicates trouble is really stretching it. We will continue to follow those elections. We just did a Post-Primary recap show, which we will also be releasing on the podcast - you can hear more about our thoughts on those.

[00:16:22] Erica Barnett: The one example I was able to find in history where it came close to what The Times was saying was Richard Conlin, who I think ended up under 50% in his primary against Kshama Sawant. And Sawant won by a very narrow margin in her first election. It does not illustrate The Times's point because Sawant is obviously far to the left of Richard Conlin, who was a standard moderate Democrat liberal. They really just don't have any examples to back up these kind of sweeping conclusions that they're making.

[00:16:51] Crystal Fincher: They don't. They're having a challenge reconciling the results of the race. They were setting it up, from an editorial perspective, that Seattleites are really unhappy with the council and that unhappiness meant they wanted a change and more moderate candidates, they were unhappy with the direction of the City. I've talked about several times - the City doesn't necessarily have a direction - you have a mayor who is more moderate, you have some councilmembers who are more progressive, others who are more moderate depending on the day of the week. You need to get into an examination of the issues and where Seattle voters generally are on issues is more progressive than what The Times usually articulates. It'll be interesting to see how they evaluate these races and their endorsed candidates and their chances. What do voters really expect to see? What do they not want to see? What do they find unacceptable? Questions that oftentimes are left unexamined by seemingly the parties who could do well to examine them the most.

Also want to talk this week about an article that actually talked about candidates who support police alternatives are leading primaries, getting through to the general election. Some of those candidates really want to focus on those alternatives. Many of them want those alternatives in addition to police or to be able to dispatch a more appropriate response - whether it's a behavioral health crisis, someone dealing with substance use disorder, homelessness - dispatching responders who may not be armed police, but who are equipped to handle the problem at hand, which oftentimes even police will tell you they are not the best equipped to handle things that are not of a criminal nature. What did this article find?

[00:18:27] Erica Barnett: People are interested in alternatives to police. There has been a lot made of the idea that there is this backlash to "Defund the Police." The City of Seattle did not defund the police. In 2020, there was a real movement for change that organized under that name. They were advocating for funding alternatives and using some of the money that is currently used for armed police officers. When you frame it in a way that does not use those words - "defund the police" - that is what people want. I do not cover cities outside Seattle, which this article focused on, but I think that is definitely what we've seen in Seattle where folks who have said they would ensure that there are 5-minute response times to 911 calls, like Maritza Rivera in District 4, or folks who have run on an expand-the-police platform, like Olga Sagan, who was a primary contender against Andrew Lewis in District 7, and I think ended up with 19% of the vote and is out. Those folks did not fare as well as people who said - I want to fund alternatives and come up with a way to respond to crisis calls, for example, without sending out cops.

[00:19:35] Crystal Fincher: Voters do want to be safer and feel safe. They recognize that conversation about public safety and how we keep people safe is a lot bigger than just policing. If you listen to elected officials speak or you listen to campaign rhetoric, you would think it was either we invest in hiring a ton more cops and keep doing that, or we do nothing and lawlessness reigns. No one wants lawlessness to reign. No one is proposing to do nothing. There are alternative solutions, there are other responses, there are cities implementing this. One of the things in this article is that this is not just a Seattle phenomenon. In fact, many other cities - Bellingham, Spokane, Tacoma - other cities around the region who are moving forward with this and who have candidates really wanting to examine how to best keep people safe and prevent crime in addition to responding to it, taking a more comprehensive look at how do we address all of these issues. It's another signal that voters want to hear more comprehensive plans for how people plan to keep the community safe, want to use more tools at folks' disposal. And I hope candidates see that and recognize that and come with some real serious proposals to help their communities become safer.

[00:20:54] Erica Barnett: I think too, it speaks to some failures of the media - and we're talking about The Seattle Times - but broadly the debate about policing has been misrepresented as defund the police versus public safety. Everybody wants to feel safe in their communities. And the people who have advocated for reforms and for funding other alternatives are just as interested in public safety and community safety as "Refund the Police" or "Overfund the Police" crowd. They clearly outnumber that crowd. There are a lot of nuances within that first group of folks who want community safety, but would like to see alternatives. It is much larger than just the police can and should do everything alternative.

[00:21:37] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also want to talk about something that you covered that we didn't get to last week because of all the election news, but I think is important to talk about since we are trying to deal with issues like drug addiction, substance use disorder - this may fall underneath an alternate response. But the City of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced $27 million for drug diversion and treatment options as a new attempt to implement the drug prosecution legislation that previously failed on the council. What is he actually proposing?

[00:22:12] Erica Barnett: The coverage of this was so frustrating to me, including in outlets that I think ordinarily do a very good job of breaking stuff like this down. I did write about the $27 million and I asked - What is this $27 million? - because it's not in the legislation. The Seattle Times said that it was in the legislation - that is not true. The legislation itself essentially just reintroduces the drug criminalization ordinance, which would allow Ann Davison, the City Attorney, to start prosecuting drug users and adds a phrasing that says the police department must adopt a policy in the future that prioritizes diversion when people are arrested for drugs. $27 million was a separate announcement that Harrell made as part of announcing this legislation. And what it is, in fact, is $7 million in underspending, so money that the City failed to spend in previous years, will be put forward to some kind of capital investment. So like a building - unclear what that will be, but it'll have something to do with treatment. So very vague, but $7 million in money that the City has left over. The other $20 million is funding from the two opioid settlements with the companies that the Attorney General of the State of Washington secured earlier this year - that $20 million trickles into the City of Seattle over 18 years. The rate of inflation being what it is - in 2034 or 2035, $1 million is not gonna buy a lot. It doesn't buy a lot now. It's really overstating the case to say that this is $27 million. It's two different kinds of money - one is this tiny trickle of a little bit of money that's gonna come in every year for the next 18 years.

[00:23:49] Crystal Fincher: When I first saw that announced, my initial questions were - Where is this money coming from? We saw something similar to this back with the Compassion Seattle Initiative - okay, we tried to advance some legislation, it failed. So let's add some money to it to make it seem compassionate, that nods to the things that actually do have broad public support. It's money that is in other buckets that we're transitioning to this bucket, and it's looking big, but we're gonna be spending it over a long period of time - so it's not really an investment of a rounding error over what we're doing right now. Certainly looking at the scale of the problem - doesn't seem like it has a chance of doing much to meaningfully impact that at all. In fact, it seems like it might be an inefficient way to spend this money. Maybe this would be an area where you could look at what would function more effectively. But it seems like it's acceptable, with policy that we've seen coming out of this mayor's office, to cobble together these kinds of funds and announce it as if it's - Hey, we're making a significant investment here. Look at the details and they're underwhelming. I hope that there is more to the plan than this.

[00:25:05] Erica Barnett: I should correct myself on that $7 million - it's actually not probably gonna be spent on new buildings. The mayor spokesman told me that it'll provide capital funding to prepare existing facilities to provide care and treatment services for substance use disorders. Again, very vague - not a lot of money spread over, potentially, a lot of different facilities. And as we discussed, the City has this huge looming revenue shortfall. They don't have a lot of money. They don't have $27 million to put into anything new. And so I think this speaks to the fact that we are actually going to address the problem just of opioid addiction. It is going to cost a lot of money and it would require actual new funding. It's not something that the City is generally responsible for - public health is the responsibility of the County primarily. The City is out here claiming to have the solutions in hand and it's really incumbent on reporters and just on the public to be aware of what this really means, which is not a whole lot.

[00:26:03] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it will be interesting to see how this lands - with the council taking this up, where this is gonna go. I would love to see significant funding put in this and enough where it looks like it could make a difference in the area. We'll see how this shakes out.

Also wanna talk about a positive thing - I think to many people, myself included - that happened this week and that is the passage of new protections for app-based workers in the City of Seattle. What did this legislation do?

[00:26:32] Erica Barnett: Yeah, the City has been working for months, it feels like years, on legislation to help protect app-based workers - folks like Uber drivers, grocery delivery app workers - from being deactivated in the apps and effectively being unable to earn a living. The workers have argued they are subject to unfair deactivation by companies, retaliatory deactivation, this sort of thing. The legislation would say they have a right to appeal if they are deactivated. It also sets out some guidelines for deactivation. It is a first step toward protecting folks who are working as "gig workers," who have few labor protections. It's not a lot different than being a freelance writer or a contractor, but with low hourly pay and without the protections that you have being an employee of one of these companies. It's a BS job designation, but the gig economy operates on workers who have very few protections, very low pay, and has insisted that their workers are not employees because that would afford them protections that most people with jobs have. City of Seattle is taking steps to try to give them some of those protections, although they're still not employees and still don't have the protections that they deserve as members of the labor force.

[00:27:50] Crystal Fincher: An important element here is how these platforms and gig work companies advertise themselves to people who could work on their platforms. They do signal - Hey, this is a way to achieve financial stability. This is almost like building your own business or a new way to have more freedom, yet still be able to pay your bills and live the life that you want. But the way that you could get kicked off of these platforms could be completely arbitrary with no recourse. And as you said, this is really about having a way to appeal these decisions that sometimes are made without the involvement of any person - some algorithm determines that something didn't go well and it could get that wrong. We see plenty of times where automated decisions, whether it's an algorithm or AI, do not make the just decision. And having someone's livelihood that depends on that should come with more protections, more assurances, or at least a consistent process that could be followed. So I am happy to see this pass. This is continuing to grow and a really substantial area of our economy and a lot of our neighbors rely on this kind of income - having that be more predictable and stable with more of a process for people to understand how it works and how they can operate within it is a positive thing.

[00:29:11] Erica Barnett: Firing a writer because of negative comments in the comments section of a blog - the customer is not always right - and in a normal job, if you've got a complaint from a customer, you would have the opportunity to state your case to your employer. In this case, as you said, it's determined by algorithms that are not transparent. You really have no recourse.

[00:29:29] Crystal Fincher: Legislation was crafted with the input of these app companies too. I think Lisa Herbold was quoted as saying, she made some modifications to make sure - after hearing feedback from these companies - to do all that they could to make sure that they were being explicit about action taken to protect people's safety or those kinds of urgent situations. This is really getting at the element of people being able to understand the rules and the processes they have to adhere to.

And finally this week, I wanna talk about a story that maybe a lot of people are seeing anecdotally. We've been seeing news across the country about wastewater detection of COVID increasing. It looks like we are going to see a late-summer COVID wave here in Washington state. What's going on with the 'VID?

[00:30:21] Erica Barnett: Yeah, I know tons of people who've gotten COVID recently. It's very alarming. People are slacking off, or have been slacking off for at least a year or so, with COVID thinking that it's over, the pandemic emergency being declared over and people aren't wearing masks. There's obviously a surge. I read a really alarming story about the impacts of long COVID, which we really have yet to reckon with. It was a story about just how much it affects your cardiovascular health and the rate of heart attacks going up in younger people. It's very alarming and it's still a very serious disease - even if you aren't showing symptoms, even if you're showing mild symptoms, it's very scary. I traveled recently and I was guilty of not wearing my mask as much as I probably should have. And I was lucky I didn't get COVID, but it's still coming for all of us.

[00:31:09] Crystal Fincher: It is still coming for all of us. I did travel recently, was masked during travel. Doesn't happen to everyone, but a significant percentage of people who have mild initial infection can come with all of these side effects. We just don't know yet. This COVID has not been around long enough to know what the long-term impacts are. My biggest learnings during COVID is how viruses operate overall and how it's not unusual for a wide variety of viruses to be an initial flu-like illness, like how HPV is tied to cervical cancer. I'm certainly not an MD - look this up yourself, follow guidance. It does seem like we should be more cautious about transmitting viruses overall, COVID or not. If wearing a mask can keep me from having that, I think that's a positive thing. We need to continue to focus on responses that make shared spaces safer, looking at ventilation and air filtration and treatment. I hope those conversations are still ongoing in policy circles - certainly they're important. It's unfortunate that we have relaxed masking in places where people don't have a choice to be, like on public transit or in healthcare settings, where they're more likely to see more sick people and the people who are there are more likely to be vulnerable. You can't not go to the doctors when you need help or you're relying on treatment.

[00:32:33] Erica Barnett: One reason I am less vulnerable is because I work from home. The City is currently still debating whether to and how much to force people to come back into work at the City of Seattle. Amazon - I saw a story today that they are monitoring people using their badge swipe-ins to police whether people are following their work-from-the-office mandates. There's so many benefits to letting people work from home. I find it very discouraging that part of the debate seems to have been settled in favor of the you-must-work-at-the-office crowd. It is protective to be at home and not be out in crowds of people who may be less cautious and getting you sick.

[00:33:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. I'm definitely a proponent of working from home - I am doing that as we speak - that's a privilege I have that a lot of people don't have. If you do come down with something, you can test for whether it's COVID or anything else. And employers making sure that they are giving their employees leave, which is a big problem, particularly in service industries.

And with that, I thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, August 11th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng, who is incredible and amazing and talented. Our insightful cohost today is Seattle political reporter and Editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter at @ericacbarnett and on PubliCola.com. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can find me on all platforms @finchfrii, that's F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, wherever 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 interview shows delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, please leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full text 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.