Week in Review: February 3rd, 2023 - with Doug Trumm

Week in Review: February 3rd, 2023 - with Doug Trumm

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, political consultant and host Crystal Fincher is joined by friend of the show and today’s co-host: Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm! They look at WA traffic policy discussions, middle housing arguments, the Working Families Tax Credit, Shasti Conrad as the new WA Democrats Chair, King County and Seattle Council elections, and new Durkan/Best controversy news.

This week, Washington state lawmakers met to discuss ways the state can work to decrease traffic deaths, mostly focusing on education and traffic enforcement, as well as banning turning right on red at certain intersections. Lawmakers also spoke out against the legislature’s middle housing bill. 46th LD Rep Gerry Pollet, and Seattle City Council Member Alex Pedersen have come out against the push to increase housing density. Also this week, lobbyist Cody Arledge wes barred from the Capitol campus after a judge found he was stalking State Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline. Despite this not being his first issue with stalking and threatening behavior, Arledge had some big clients, including the City of Seattle.

The Working Families Tax Credit went live this week! Please look at the resources below to find out if you’re eligible and apply. Automatic tax programs like TurboTax might not automatically alert you of eligibility for the tax, so be on the lookout.

Washington State Democrats elected Shasti Conrad as their new chair last Saturday, following Tina Podlodowski’s successful run in the role. Meanwhile, Seattle councilmember Tammy Morales announced that she will be running for re-election on the Seattle City Council, while councilmember Teresa Mosqueda announced her run for King County Council. This news continues to show that this year’s elections will bring major change to our state and council leadership.

In other election news, King County voters have until February 14th to vote in the race for King County Conservation District board. Crystal and Doug break down what the board is and why it’s an important decision. Voters in the county will also be voting this April on whether the county will implement a $1.25 billion levy to fund crisis care networks.

Finally, Crystal and Doug wrap up the show with a new update on the controversies surrounding Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. New reporting from Carolyn Bick of The South Seattle Emerald shows that Durkan might have pushed the OPA to delay its investigations into Best, deepening the number of violations the former mayor performed.

About the Guest

Doug Trumm

Doug Trumm is Executive Director of The Urbanist, where he has contributed as a writer and editor since 2015. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at UW in 2019 with a concentration in urban policy. As a car-free renter living in Seattle, his policy focuses include improving transit and street safety and tackling the housing affordability crisis. His cat Ole is a national treasure.

Find Doug Trumm on Twitter/X at @dmtrumm.


How the SPOG Contract Stands in the Way of Police Accountability with Shannon Cheng” hosted by Crystal Fincher at Hacks and Wonks

State Road Safety Push Overlooks Design, Dwells on Enforcement” by Gregory Quetin from The Urbanist

Pollet, Pedersen, and Blethen Assail State Housing Push” by Ray Dubicki from The Urbanist

Prominent lobbyist barred from WA Capitol after ruling he stalked state representative” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times

Applications for the WA Working FAmilies Tax Credit are live. This is who is eligible” by Jared Gendron from The News Tribune

How to sign up for WA’s new Working Families Tax Credit” by David Gutman from The Seattle Times

WA Democrats choose Shasti Conrad as new leader” by David Gutman from The Seattle Times

Incumbent Tammy Morales seeks re-election in Seattle District 2” - by Josh Cohen from Crosscut

Mosqueda Announces Run for Vacant King County Council Seat” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist

King County voters to decide on Crisis Care Centers Levy in April” by CHS from Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Meet the candidates for the little-known King Conservation District board” by Guy Oron form Real Change News

Fmr. Mayor May Have Pushed OPA to Delay Investigations Into Fmr. Police Chief” by Carolyn Bick from South Seattle Emerald


[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, I had a conversation with Hacks & Wonks' very own Dr. Shannon Cheng, also of People Power Washington - Police Accountability. Shannon taught us about the intricacies of how the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract stands in the way of police accountability and what the City can do to try and create more accountability.

Today, we're continuing our almost-live Friday show where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm.

[00:01:21] Doug Trumm: Hi Crystal - thanks for having me.

[00:01:22] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you here, Doug. We have a full week of news to review when it comes to politics and policy in Washington state. Wanted to start just following up on something that has - we've just gotten a drumbeat of news week after week, day after day - in a couple of very high profile recent pedestrian collisions, cars hitting pedestrians in the Seattle area. It's skyrocketed both in Seattle and in the region. This is a crisis. And there was a press conference this week about that. What happened?

[00:01:56] Doug Trumm: Yeah, the state is taking a look at safety. They know that the statewide safety data is really bad. It's going up. The state also has a goal of trying to get to zero traffic deaths by 2030 and it's had that goal a long time and it's just not going anywhere quick. So the state lawmakers gathered, Governor Inslee was there, you had the two Transportation Chairs - Marko Liias in the Senate and Jake Fey in the House. And they had a lot of proposals - there's a lot of legislation proposed this session. But most of it is focused on enforcement and education, and most cities that have done Vision Zero really well have really focused on design in addition to those things. It's definitely some troubling signs and our contributor, Greg Quetin, had a piece on that - just talking about, Hey, we need more design focus. So I encourage folks to check that out for more. But there is some good stuff proposed, like banning right turn on red in busy areas - pedestrian heavy areas - is a good idea and would be very happy to see that pass. But some of these other bills - if we're just talking about giving state troopers bonuses and putting state troopers out on more roads, there's really diminishing returns on that. And might make sense to ramp up enforcement of drunk driving and things like that and lower the limit - that's a good idea. But I think if we're trying to get to zero, we have to start looking at design too.

[00:03:18] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Pedestrian fatalities have actually increased during these few recent years while this Vision Zero program has been in place. And like you talked about, there's stuff about education, there's stuff about enforcement. You did talk about the right turn on red - cars turning red into pedestrians, into bikes is a really big problem. So that's why the banning the right turn on red is a proposed solution and really looking at balancing - Okay, we're talking about a minute delay potentially for a driver and that can make the difference of saving someone's life or preventing someone from being maimed in a collision with a car. And so really looking at - hey, we have to balance - yes, people are trying to get around in cars on roads and freeways, but also we have a lot of people who are getting around on foot, on bike, who are waiting for transit, who are very vulnerable to cars - and they can inflict lethal damage. They're doing that with increasing frequency and something has to be done. Now, when you talk about design choices, what kinds of things are you talking about?

[00:04:31] Doug Trumm: Yeah, I think the lowest hanging fruit - the state has pretty much full control over state routes, highways throughout communities. And those do - they have an important role to play as far as moving people between metro areas and cities, and moving freight and everything. But when they come through heavily populated areas, the state could easily slow traffic there by - either redesign the street to be narrower because people tend to go slower when there's narrower roads, doing things like bump outs at intersections so pedestrians have shorter crossing distances. There's things with a ton of data behind them to show that this decreases the likelihood of a high speed crash. And shorter pedestrian crossing distances is often something that will help with that - you're just exposed less time. It also sends a cue to a driver - Hey, oh, there's something in my field of vision here. I'm not just on this wide rainbow road, like in Mario Kart. I have obstacles here.

There was Amber Weilert, a parent of a kid - a 13-year-old kid - who got killed in Pierce County on his bike. Very sad story. That was the best part of the press conference - is they let someone speak from her own experience. And she was nice enough to share her story, which is very tragic. But that road is a super wide road, and that probably contributed to her son being killed. So if we were to redesign that road to be narrower, maybe Michael Weilert would still be alive.

[00:06:15] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So we will continue to follow the progress on action taken as a result of this. We heard news that the City of Seattle recently received a grant for traffic safety improvements. We will see how those end up being implemented, but this is absolutely a problem that needs a solution.

Also at the state level in our Legislature, there continues to be a housing push for middle housing, for some price mitigation, renter protection factors. But we saw Gerry Pollett - who is currently a state legislator in the 46th district, who is rumored to be considering running for city council - Alex Pedersen, and The Seattle Times oppose the housing push. What were they saying?

[00:07:02] Doug Trumm: Same old, same old, Crystal. They're mad that someone's making money off of this that's not them, as homeowners. But The Seattle Times kicked the ball off there with this kind of screed about how this bill is a giveaway to developers, and it's not going to create affordable housing, it's not going to meet whatever - everything is wrong with it. You never can win with folks like that because they want all new development to fit in this perfectly narrow box, which Ray Dubicki did a good job of laying out in our coverage over this week that - what would it take for The Seattle Times to be happy with it? We do live in a capitalist society. We don't go to the grocery store and expect all the wholesalers to make no money doing what they're doing. The reality is until the socialist takeover, or whatever the communist takeover - it would really have to be - if you want housing to get developed, someone's going to be making money off it. So this constant whining about developers making money off of housing people, it just seems to me like a distraction and disingenuous. The Seattle Times is all too happy for people to make money off of their single family homes. They also made a ton of money when they sold their property to developers and built a skyscraper there, so they're not immune to this themselves.

It was a lot of bad arguments and of course, Gerry Pollett and Alex Pedersen loved it. Alex Pedersen had a whole long tome in his newsletter about agreeing with it and developers being evil - hitting those points hard. I'm not exactly sure what they were expecting as far as affordable housing. Alex Pedersen did have this proposal that only - basically, low-income housing should be the only thing allowed to be built above the current zoning. But those kind of proposals - when you actually talk to affordable housing providers, they realize that, No, that's not really workable. You're not going to be able to build only nonprofit housing because nonprofit houses can scale up but they can't carry the load for the entire housing needs. You don't have to be terribly sophisticated to realize that you build the housing now and eventually, it becomes more affordable. If you build no market-rate housing, you're not helping working-class folks.

[00:09:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. There seems to be broad agreement and voter support. And looking at who voters have been supporting for various positions - for increased housing, for more middle housing, more housing for everyone. Certainly that is not the only thing that is needed to make sure that displacement stops, that people are not thrown out of housing in the short term, and that renters are treated fairly. But it's hard to find people these days, especially experts, who say that housing supply does not need to increase in order to address our affordability crisis. When you look at housing prices, when you look at rental prices - it is a crisis. The average person who's not a high wage worker in Seattle can't afford to live in Seattle, can't afford to live in many communities that used to be really accessible to a lot of people. Suburbs are skyrocketing in cost and even though the rate of increase is slowing down, it's actually still increasing. So we will see how that plays out. But Gerry Pollett certainly made news last session for his opposition and kind of being the person most responsible for the death of the middle housing bill - and seems like he would be excited to play that same role again, despite such widespread support in the community for a different path.

[00:11:12] Doug Trumm: And he's just not being honest about what his position is, which is also frustrating. If you block something, at least own it - but he was trying to have it both ways. And then he does this Facebook post, which might have more to do with indicating he might want to run for city council than any serious policy discussion.

[00:11:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we will see. We know that he is not on some of the committees that he did want to be on. And that may also hasten his desire to exit from the Legislature, but we'll stay tuned on the developments there.

Also this week, there was news that came out about a prominent lobbyist being barred from the Capitol after he stalked State Representative Lauren Davis. What happened here?

[00:11:54] Doug Trumm: This was a surprising case where this lobbyist thinks that he can just keep doing this. And he's in a prominent firm, so I don't know if that's part of what he thinks he can get away with. He already had a domestic abuse allegation from the 90s or early 2000s, so it wasn't like this was completely out of character for him - which makes his case harder to make that, Oh, he was just trying to do his job and that's why he kept hounding Representative Davis. And he just, it's just - we need to just put this stuff behind us - people can't get away with this kind of thing. And he can certainly still do his job without violating his - terms of his restraining order.

[00:12:45] Crystal Fincher: So Lauren Davis did get a domestic violence protection order. This lobbyist, Cody Arledge - it looks like kind of the textbook intimidation, threatening, stalking, veiled threats. And a judge found that there was cause for risk and concern, and granted that protective order. He ended up - he also had a number of firearms that were confiscated by the police. He actually petitioned to get them back. There was an extreme risk protection order that prevented that from happening. And as you said, this is not his first instance with domestic violence. Davis and Arledge evidently had a relationship in 2021. But before that, he was in a relationship with a woman, requested that - she requested that they stop, he stopped contacting her. He continued to do so using various email addresses, cloaking his phone number. It just seems like this person does not take no for an answer. And then with Lauren Davis seemed to move it into something that would affect her work and sending veiled threat that was alleged to her office. And so it just looked like it was escalating behavior. And Cody Arledge of The Arledge Group is not able to be basically around the Capitol when Lauren Davis is there, has violated a protection order before - and so hopefully everybody remains safe and these measures are enough to keep Lauren Davis and other women who he may have had or will have relationships with safe.

[00:14:35] Doug Trumm: And he has some big clients, including the City of Seattle. I wonder if this will end up impacting those, but - lobbyists are known for not always being the most upstanding citizens, but I think this is on another level and pretty unfortunate. Why is it always people like this who have a gun locker with 17 guns in it, you know?

[00:14:57] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. I don't want to paint all lobbyists with the same brush. Some are wonderful, doing wonderful work and advocacy for excellent organizations that we support. But certainly this is alarming. This is a lobbyist that does, like you said, has a lot of big Democratic and left-leaning clients. And we still have to hold everybody accountable no matter what.

[00:15:21] Doug Trumm: The Alliance for Gun Responsibility. I hope he - I hope he follows it himself, although not all of his guns are in his gun lockers - some are just on top of his fridge.

[00:15:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Some were definitely insecurely and dangerously stored. So that has happened.

Also this week - one thing that went live that we definitely want to mention is the Working Families Tax Credit for Washington state - this is a state, not a federal tax credit - is now live. And the application is live. We will link to how you can apply for that. But basically in a nutshell, families that have, or people that have children - their children living with them - are eligible for up to $1,200. There are some qualifications and income tiers that apply, but that is live now. And one thing that I definitely wanted to mention about this is that if you are using TurboTax - which is known and has been cited for deceptive practices before - will not call your attention to this, or let you know that you may be eligible for this up to $1,200 tax credit. So make sure that you separately seek out - if you have kids, take a look and see if you are eligible for this - because your tax preparation software, if you are using that or if you're doing it yourself, may not automatically flag that this is something that you're eligible for on a state level.

[00:16:48] Doug Trumm: Yeah, get your money.

[00:16:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Some tax programs will. TurboTax is definitely one that won't. But $1,200 can make a big difference to a lot of people. And I hope everyone who is eligible does apply and get what they're due.

In other news this week, Shasti Conrad, former Chair of the King County Democrats, was elected as the Washington Democrats Chair. Was there anything notable to you about this?

[00:17:13] Doug Trumm: Yeah, I thought that was a great pick - had a chance to meet Shasti a few times. I think it signifies they are - as someone who's young, who's a woman of color - that's exactly where they should be going. And she has worked on a ton of great campaigns, pretty strong ties to progressives and the mainstream as well. But I think that's a great pick and there certainly has been angst in the past about how King County Democrats have been run, but I think she's someone who can come in and do a great job.

[00:17:44] Crystal Fincher: I do appreciate the way Shasti steered the King County Democrats, especially after the problems and controversies that they had prior to her. And really did a lot of groundbreaking work in recruiting PCOs - getting more people active at the grassroots level at the party - and doing more to support candidates, recruit and support more diverse candidates in lots of different ways - younger candidates, working well with labor. She really seemed to understand building coalitions and increasing majorities and increasing Democratic representation around the county. Certainly, Seattle is a place where mostly Democrats get elected, but elsewhere in the county, there are a number of swing districts and certainly saw movement in that direction with those. Shasti is taking over after Tina Podlodowski decided to step down. After her largely successful term at the King County Democrats, I'm really looking to hear what Shasti is planning to do statewide. I know she has talked about plans for not just King County or Western Washington, but the entire state and making inroads with that. And I'm looking forward to Democrats showing up everywhere in Washington and being really competitive, particularly when we see what the opportunity is after very successful elections like the ones we just saw in 2022.

In local news, we had one councilmember announce that they are running for reelection, another Seattle City Councilmember announced that they're running for office at the county level. Who's doing what?

[00:19:27] Doug Trumm: I think it was Wednesday we got the news that Tammy Morales is running for council, which was only the second of the seven councilmembers up for reelection right now to announce, Hey, I'm actually sticking around for another term. The other was Andrew Lewis so far, which just leaves Dan Strauss as the person who hasn't officially announced their plans. But pretty much looks like Dan is going to run, but we'll wait for the official announcement for that. But yeah, there's four retirements - so Tammy Morales brought that up in her announcement - that I don't begrudge my colleagues for hanging it up. It's a tough job. It's gotten vitriolic lately with, especially I think related to the defund the police backlash where - the biggest example of that I think was Lisa Herbold getting a brick thrown through her window. These folks - they definitely pay a price for their public service. We know that people are drawn to it, as Morales mentioned - they are willing to overcome those obstacles, but it takes a toll on their families, I'm sure. So was excited to see that Tammy was going to run. And she had made that announcement in Beacon Hill at Plaza Maestas, and had some other progressive leaders with her, and had a pretty good announcement - not everyone always does a big splashy thing like that, but I thought it spoke to the strong connections she has to those organizations, which include a frequent partner of ours in Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. The nonprofits themselves don't endorse, but Clara Cantor has partnered with her in a number of events, a number of projects - so Tammy has been a leader on transportation for sure. And she's not chair of that committee. Unfortunately, we have a chair who's not much of a leader in transportation, but Tammy stepped up. Her district has been the epicenter of the traffic safety crisis we talked about statewide earlier. And she's really risen to the occasion and is demanding more to be done to make southeast Seattle safer to walk, roll, and bike through.

[00:21:29] Crystal Fincher: She has been an effective progressive leader, both in being a partner to Teresa Mosqueda - who we're going to talk about more in just a moment - in things like passing the JumpStart Tax, worker protections, renter protections, investments, even trying to push and move forward allocating more money to affordable housing, to supportive services - just from soup to nuts, and has really been rooted in community. Talked a lot about her vision for more walkable neighborhoods, for mitigating environmental harm and other harms, and like you said, has been the most vocal councilmember on the absolute urgency of addressing our pedestrian and bike fatalities and making getting from one place to another in the City safer for everyone. So looking forward to seeing that campaign.

There have been a number of different people who have filed for the various vacant positions. Five of the seven council positions are up this year - all of the districted positions, and the citywide positions will be up in two years. And we have heard from, like you said, all but two of the councilmembers up that they are stepping away or stepping down. You mentioned the brick through Lisa Herbold's window. Councilmember Sawant also had people making threats, potentially threats involving guns, with her at her house. It can be a very thankless job, but it can also create a lot of meaningful improvement and progress and opportunity for a lot of people in the City. And so I hope with this new council - with a lot of people coming in - if Tammy is re-elected, she will be one of the senior members of the council. And so that will be interesting to see how that dynamic translates and how this new council shapes up.

And what Bruce Harrell does as the executive in the meantime. I think that this is also another good time to just reiterate the - a lot of times we talk about the council - more opportunity to talk about it a lot of times, because there are several, they're all running. They have public hearings and so they're more visible a lot of times than the person in the executive seat, but they set the direction and fund things. The mayor is responsible for enacting policy, for following through, for the implementation, for spending the money, using the money, actually implementing his version of the programs that fit within what the council has authorized funding for.

[00:24:15] Doug Trumm: And the local press corps doesn't always do a good job of making that clear because at Morales's press conference, the first question was a gotcha style question on - Oh, defund the police. What are you doing for safety? Then what are you doing to fix the homeless encampments? And she certainly has the power of the purse on that one, as far as being one of nine votes on the budget. But when you get down to actual - what are the departments of the City doing? That's really up to the mayor. And it's very hard for the council to come in and override that kind of authority because all the agencies' heads are going to be answering to the mayor rather than them, so they're definitely not trying to be redirected by the council in that way. So that was interesting.

But yeah, and then we were getting to Teresa Mosqueda, who announced that she's leaving the council - potentially - if she wins. But when you announce with 80, 90 endorsements, it's probably a good sign. That's what she did - including everyone from Dow Constantine to Pramila Jayapal, our Congressperson in part of Seattle anyway. And she's running for King County Council District 8, which is now vacated with McDermott retiring. And her list of endorsements was a lot. And four of her colleagues on the County Council, four of her colleagues on City Council, so it definitely looks like a high powered - I wonder who will try to step up. You never can say anyone's a sure thing for election. But if she is elected, that would mean that that county, or citywide seat, on council would - I think you would have a temporary replacement. I should have checked this before this. You'd have a temporary replacement for her seat. And then I think there'd have to be a special election because of the two year gap. But it would create an extra wrinkle in - what is the council makeup going to be? It also would take what would have been the senior-most member and - yeah, and turn someone like Tammy into the senior-most member because it would just take two terms, I think at that point, because the long running councilmembers are all leaving.

[00:26:30] Crystal Fincher: That was an announcement. And the amount of support that - looking at these two announcements that we did have this week - came with a lot of support. And Teresa Mosqueda certainly coming out with I think it was 90ish endorsements from across the spectrum.

[00:26:45] Doug Trumm: It keeps growing - yeah.

[00:26:46] Crystal Fincher: Justifiably - I understand how that happens. She has a lot to run on. Really big consequential accomplishment in getting the JumpStart Tax through - that was something that was opposed initially by a lot of the business community. Even the mayor, Bruce Harrell, was not in favor of it - talked about doing that -

[00:27:09] Doug Trumm: And still endorsed her, by the way.

[00:27:10] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely popular with residents of the City. And really saved the City from some really painful cuts with a budget that has taken a downturn, revenue taking a downturn. It was revenue from the JumpStart Tax that really was able to plug those holes, which the mayor utilized and seemed to come around and understand that - Yeah, this is a good positive thing. It is okay if businesses and those who are profiting from the public investments that have been made in the City do contribute back to address the challenges that we're having. And that shouldn't rest solely on each resident's back - that everyone has a role to play in this and that businesses can also contribute - and so that, certainly looking at that. Talking about behavioral health and public health being a big priority. Teresa has a long background in that and looking forward to tackling that at the county level - because the county is primarily responsible for that. And it's going to take some big action trying to move forward a housing levy, trying to - depending on if this upcoming behavioral health levy passes - how to implement that effectively. And implementation is a big thing. It's one thing to pass something, but it still takes skill and focus and expertise to implement it countywide in the way that it was intended. So will be interesting to see how this does, continue to proceed - like you said - with that kind of list of endorsements, backing even of people who had previously not been as supportive with people, like you said, including Mayor Harrell. It is going to be a tall task for a challenger, but we'll see if one steps up and decides to take her on - one or more. But certainly shaping up to be very interesting elections with so many open seats and such change possible there.

One thing I do want to note - that I think was a good idea - that Teresa mentioned was looking at changing how these city council elections happen in the City. Right now, with all of the districted seats up in one year, and then two years later - on the other cycle - the two citywide seats up - it really creates the situation where you can have massive turnover. Which can be a challenge in terms of continuity of knowledge, implementation of things, and just more stability with the council. So maybe staggering that where a couple of the districted ones and one of the citywide seats being up in one year, and then two years down the line staggering the other ones - which I think would be a good idea, would bring about more stability, and we don't have this seeming lurching back and forth with policy. And again, like we talked about before, I don't want to overstate what the council is actually responsible for - the mayor is going to be responsible for implementing so much, but it will help to have more stability at council and maybe not be looking at a body that looks different except for one or two people.

[00:30:29] Doug Trumm: Yeah, and if they can switch it to even years - even better.

[00:30:31] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - and I definitely hope that happens. And in a few years we'll also be seeing ranked choice voting for those elections, so that will be another thing that we will be following through.

[00:30:42] Doug Trumm: One last thing I'll sneak in on Mosqueda - I think she made a good case of - why run for county council. You mentioned that health care being a big one, behavioral health - setting up those crisis centers is huge. And she also mentioned transit, which is a huge thing for the county council to tackle - they run the King County Metro budget. And she put in a good word for round-the-clock transit service, better service between peaks - we honestly could use better service at all hours - but I think that was a very good point from her. And if the county council can focus on expanding transit service, I think that would be a huge win and a huge thing for her to be part of - along with it being a big year for that is because you have probably the strongest champion for transit on the council, Claudia Balducci, up for re-election and Girmay Zahilay up for re-election. And then in the - I think it's the 6th - you have Sarah Reyneveld running for the seat held by Jeanne Kohl-Welles, so you potentially could have four transit champions depending on how those folks run - so we'll be watching that very closely.

[00:31:47] Crystal Fincher: We absolutely will be. Another thing we'll be paying attention to is what was just authorized by the King County Council - a decision to put crisis care centers, a levy for crisis care centers, on the ballot this April. What would this do?

[00:32:04] Doug Trumm: I think it - I mean, it's huge investment - raise $1.25 billion, am I getting that right? Yeah - that's a lot of money. It would set up crisis centers in multiple parts of the county, and it would be a place for us to actually have folks who are having behavioral health crisis or mental health crisis to actually go - because so many times right now we're treating that with jail, or just moving people around to different - Here, have your crisis somewhere else, you know. That's not a way to actually solve this problem so I think that would be a important step for our county to take. Unfortunately, the federal government has abdicated its responsibility on health care, and on the mental health side of that especially, so that puts counties in the spot of having to raise the money themselves and I'm glad that King County is in the position to step up and do that.

[00:32:55] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And this levy, if it passes, would fund 24/7 walk-in clinics, short-term observation stays of 23 hours, stabilization stays of up to 14 days, also would increase the pay of these health workers at these clinics - up to 20% more than comparable facilities - which is a major thing because there is a shortage of providers that we're also trying to address here. It's really important - as we talk about a lot of times and focus on undoing a lot of the harmful practices, like you mentioned - they say that they're trying - right now, one of the main ways to address this is through jail, which is not effective. It's actually destabilizing. And so it's important to undo the harm, but it is also just as critical to build the systems that help. We can't just undo the harmful things, we have to build the helpful things. This will do it - I would love to see this funded out of the general fund and just be a regular course of business, but if this is how it has to happen I think it's absolutely worth it. And poll after poll, election after election - we see voters say, We see this is a humongous need. We absolutely support more behavioral health, mental health interventions. And we can see, all over the place, the need for this - people in crisis - having these behavioral health crises where we know that calling the police or sending them in jail is not going to address the root cause. These people need more fundamental intervention and we should make that possible. So that will be on the ballot in April.

We have talked about before Seattle's Initiative 135, which will be on the ballot for the election ending on Valentine's Day - you should have your ballots in hand for that. There is also another election that often goes unnoticed and that votes a bit differently - it's actually an online vote for the King Conservation District. What is at stake? What does the King Conservation District do? And how can people vote for this?

[00:35:07] Doug Trumm: Yeah, this is a weird one as far as how you can vote for it, because you have to - you don't just get the ballot in the mail. You have to sign up or ask for the ballot to be mailed to you - what you get is just an announcement thing. So it's not terribly hard, but it's just an extra step that isn't there for other elections. I still haven't done it this cycle, so I gotta go and actually do that. But you just - you get the link, and you go online, and you vote there. And it is very much the type of thing where it is hard to tell - what do these folks actually do? You have to do your actual research on it. And conservation, obviously, is a big one since we just passed this big levy in this region - Conservation Futures - so these conservation commissioners obviously would have a say in how to do all that, I suppose. But yeah - maybe you should say, Crystal, because I feel like I don't even fully understand what they do.

[00:36:14] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I mean it's - unfortunately, because of the way these elections are held - which is largely online, and we will put a link to this information - that is challenging. And Guy Oron actually had a great article about the King Conservation District Board and the candidates - information on the candidates running - but the King Conservation District is one of Washington's 45 local conservation districts. They assist cities and private landowners to advance conservation goals through programs like grant making, technical assistance education. Some recent programs that they've spearheaded have been assistance to small local farmers - especially those from marginalized backgrounds - coordinating volunteers to help with natural and ecosystem restoration, funding projects to mitigate the amount of pollution that enters the region's waterways - these are things that actually help all of us, and certainly Washington is known for its natural beauty - this is helping to protect and preserve that, which is very important as we see the continued pressure of sprawl and external development that is paving over so much of what we used to have - protecting what is left is absolutely critical. It's funded through a small property tax - it averages about $13 per parcel of land - and so it encompasses all of King County except for a handful of cities. So odds are you do this - we are electing its board of supervisors - they're unpaid, but they oversee what happens.

And there are three candidates for this position - and we'll link a Q&A with them in the chat - but Chris Porter, April Brown, and - I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly - Csenka Favorini-Csorba are running there. And they each have various backgrounds, they're bringing different things to the table - but this is an elected body that has control of resources and directs how they're allocated - that impacts our environment. Like I said - mitigation of health impacts - we've talked before about how much air pollution, water pollution has impacted life expectancy in the region. Your life expectancy can vary up to seven years based on the zip code that you live in in King County. A lot to clean up, a lot to do - and so I hope people do engage with this. It does fly so under the radar because it's a different kind of election, but we'll link to it - ballots are due by Valentine's Day. This is a county-wide thing, so even though Seattle residents get a ballot in the mail, there is also - for everyone in the county, almost everyone in the county - an online voting process for this. There's potentially some talk about in the future moving this to the regular ballot, but for this election it's online. So I encourage you to get involved with that - we will link the article so you can get more familiar with the various candidates.

And then also - last thing we will cover today is - these news stories about former mayor Jenny Durkan, former police chief Carmen Best - we just continue to get a drip, drip, drip of those. And Carolyn Bick of the South Seattle Emerald and their Watchdragon investigative reporting reported that Jenny Durkan may have pushed OPA, an oversight arm that investigates incidents and officers, to delay investigations into the former police chief. How did that happen?

[00:39:57] Doug Trumm: It took a lot of digging into emails for Carolyn Bick to get this story, but - it becomes pretty apparent in the emails that she completely leaned on OPA Director Andrew Myerberg to shut down this investigation. And he was raising concerns that - Oh, this is going to have - not just be wrong on its face, but also slow down other investigations that they were trying to do. And Mayor Durkan sometimes - through her attorney - was requiring him to slow walk that and make that go away. And yeah, that's exactly how the Office of Police Accountability should not be operating - I mean, it's supposed to be an independent arm of accountability - but it takes a ton of criticism. And this just unfortunately makes that criticism seem very warranted - supposedly there's three legs of the stool in the accountability for after the police supposedly reformed under the consent decree. And the OPA is supposed to be one of them, but it - to be honest - doesn't really hold up its end of the bargain so - yeah, it's just very disappointing to see. And they were getting in the way of another body too, so that makes it even worse because you have the Sentinel - is SER Sentinel, was it Event Review or something? I forget what the E is -

[00:41:22] Crystal Fincher: Sentinel Event Review - yes.

[00:41:24] Doug Trumm: Sentinel Event Review - yeah, they always have such odd names. Yeah, they were trying to investigate former police chief Carmen Best and in that - maybe they're flailing with desperation - the mayor's office had the OPA trying to try to squash that, and it's just not their role. I mean, they're supposed to be encouraging accountability and instead they're shielding the police chief. It's just not what you want to see.

[00:41:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is alleged - based on a public disclosure request and documents that were obtained by Carolyn Bick in the South Seattle Emerald - that yeah, Durkan did slow walk this, advocated for completion of kind of a tangential investigation that could take years before moving on to an investigation of Carmen Best as an individual - some of this is related to the abandonment of the East Precinct. We've heard lots and lots about deleted texts that look like they were intentionally and illegally deleted - that is being investigated to see what happened there. But waiting for this one type of investigation - which this type of investigation explicitly says - Hey, this is not for investigating individual officers, this is for more systemic issues. And waiting for an investigation of former chief Best - maybe hoping that - hey, they'll both be out of office by the time they get back around to this and we can avoid any kind of accountability - looks like it's alleged to potentially be part of the motivation. We will continue to follow this. There are other investigations that have opened up. And to our local media's credit, you all continue to pay attention to this and look into this, because it is - this is a major issue for accountability - whether some people are above the law and others aren't. And especially when it's people who are tasked with upholding the law - we have a former police chief and a former mayor, who is also a former federal prosecutor - who by all accounts seem to be intimately familiar with the law, yet are alleged to have violated it in several different instances. So not surprising but disappointing - a continuation of that - I don't know. We'll see what happens with that.

[00:43:49] Doug Trumm: Yeah, and Andrew Myerberg also failed up out of this one as well - becoming, getting a cabinet post in the Harrell administration, I think - which has now been, he's now been moved on or whatever from already, but he was like Director of Public Safety or some position like that for Mayor Harrell. And it was sort of - well, did he do such a good job at OPA that he deserved this position? It was sort of unclear. I mean, he did put up a fight in this email, but it looked like he ultimately caved and let the OPA kind of be this shield instead of this accountability mechanism.

[00:44:22] Crystal Fincher: Yep, so with that - we will conclude the news this week. And we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, February 3rd, 2023. I cannot believe how time is flying - time just evaporates - maybe it's just because I'm so old. Hacks & Wonks is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today is Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm. You can find Doug on Twitter @dmtrumm - that's two M's at the end. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. 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 else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the podcast - the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.