Week in Review: February 4, 2022 - with Hannah Krieg

Week in Review: February 4, 2022 - with Hannah Krieg

On today’s week-in-review, Crystal is joined by staff writer covering Seattle City Hall at The Stranger, Hannah Krieg. They discuss City Council giving SPD control to change its ruse policy, what’s on the ballot for next week’s election, a bill that would move all elections to even years, changes to the missing middle housing bill, and how librarians are filling gaps in our emergency response to extreme weather.

About the Guest

Find Hannah Krieg on Twitter/X at @hannahkrieg.


“The Council Will Let SPD Spearhead Changes To Its Ruse Policy” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/02/01/65871823/the-council-will-let-spd-spearhead-changes-to-its-ruse-policy

“Didn’t WA just vote in November? Why is there another election already?” by David Gutman for The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/didnt-wa-just-vote-in-november-why-is-there-another-election-already/

“Help! What’s on the ballot for next week’s election?” by Ben Adlin for The South Seattle Emerald: https://southseattleemerald.com/2022/02/01/help-whats-on-the-ballot-for-next-weeks-election/

“Vote YES on Both Seattle Public School Levies” by Stranger Election Control Board from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/01/21/65253021/think-of-the-freaking-children-seattle-vote-yes-on-both-seattle-public-school-levies

Washington Secretary of State - Vote WA: https://voter.votewa.gov/

“Odd-Year Elections Suppress Tenant Votes But Even-Year Election Bill Can Fix That” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/01/31/odd-year-elections-suppress-tenant-votes-but-even-year-election-bill-can-fix-that/

Odd vs. Even Year Election Twitter thread by @mayormcginn: https://twitter.com/mayormcginn/status/1483512863444676612?s=20&t=NezYse4bRlsGCCygGvz0ug

HB 1727 - Concerning odd-numbered year elections: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1727&Year=2021&Initiative=false

HB 1782 - Creating additional middle housing near transit and in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1782&Initiative=false&Year=2021

“Statewide Missing Middle Housing Bill Clears Committee Vote, But Not Before Pollet and Senn Water It Down” by Natalie Bicknell Argerious, Doug Trumm & Stephen Fesler from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/02/01/statewide-missing-middle-housing-bill-clears-committee-vote-but-not-before-pollet-and-senn-water-it-down/

“The new emergency responders: Librarians” by Hannah Weinberger from Crosscut: https://crosscut.com/environment/2022/02/new-emergency-responders-librarians


[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. 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 almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost - welcome to the program for the first time, today's co-host: staff writer covering Seattle City Hall at The Stranger, Hannah Krieg. Welcome.

[00:00:51] Hannah Krieg: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm excited.

[00:00:54] Crystal Fincher: I am excited that you're here. All right - so I wanted to start off talking about a story that you wrote this week about SPD having to spearhead the policy changes around its own ruse. What is going on with that?

[00:01:10] Hannah Krieg: Yeah, so the story really came from - actually - a Hacks & Wonks episode with Teresa Mosqueda. She had said - she went out and made the very - the very powerful claim that maybe cops shouldn't lie. And she said that - she said we have to do something about that. And so I decided to track down who the we is - who is going to make that change. Bruce Harrell sorta said, We need to make a change. The Council was like, Should we do legislation? Should we ban ruses? There's a lot of - there's a lot of talk of what was going to happen and what I found was that the Public Safety Chair, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, said to me that she's going to reserve judgment on if she needs to put forth legislation until SPD has a chance to try to change the policy itself.

[00:02:12] Crystal Fincher: SPD - notorious for doing a great job policing themselves, correcting their behavior, revising their own policies. Yeah, totally makes sense to wait.

[00:02:22] Hannah Krieg: Well, okay - it sounds pretty bad. But I do want to give Herbold the benefit of the doubt in that it's difficult, I guess, to legislate SPD. They tried to do this with the less-lethal weapons ban and that kind of blew up on their face and they had to try again. And even still, that policy hasn't been implemented as of the end of 2021, so definitely there's some avoidance of going down that road again. But she did say that they'll look into it if SPDs policy isn't up to snuff - seems like they could just do that now but - 'cause they do have the power to legislate in that area. It just would be difficult.

[00:03:23] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And I mean, to that point also, this is - it's not like SPD is an outlier in using this unfortunately. Some of our Councilmembers, I think, are on record as saying that they don't think that - that there may not be a place and if so, an extremely limited place, where lying is permitted by police. Bruce Harrell has said he still has an open mind about whether lying should be permitted. So just kind of on the bright line of is this something that the department should be doing? It actually seems like that's not necessarily a firm no, and it probably makes sense to anticipate SPD coming back with - just maybe some slightly stricter guidelines on when they're going to - practice lying.

[00:04:17] Hannah Krieg: Yeah, it doesn't sound like - I kind of felt like some Councilmembers came out pretty strong against this ruse, and it doesn't sound like they're going to live up to that expectation by letting SPD handle this. When I talked to the mayor's office, the latest that he has said as far as goals for this policy - Bruce Harrell wants updates to the ruse policy that include a clear understanding of when the practice is appropriate, a process to notify the chain of command to prevent similar awareness issues as in the Proud Boys case in June 2020, and a record of the instances where ruses are used. So it doesn't look like he's wanting to ban them all together, though he said he had an open mind.

[00:05:06] Crystal Fincher: And one question I have here and I don't know if there's even an answer yet, but Councilmember Herbold did seem to indicate that, Hey, let the SPD take a shot at it, and we'll see if we need to take any action if theirs isn't sufficient. But an SPD spokesperson said that the Council will not have veto power over this policy - how does that work?

[00:05:31] Hannah Krieg: Basically when SPD makes their own policy - the processes - they're gonna talk to a bunch of stakeholders, they're gonna talk to agencies within Seattle and then nationally - to kind of shop around for different ideas of how other departments handle this issue. Then they're going to draft policy and present it to some oversight bodies and some other important stakeholders like the Council, but the Council won't have veto power over the policy that SPD proposes themselves. The Council could then go ahead and make their own policy, similar with the less-lethal weapons ban, but the policy from SPD - though Herbold said she would like to see drafts of it - when I talked to the spokesperson from SPD, he said Council will not have veto power over these kinds of drafts if they're not happy with it.

[00:06:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. So it just sounds like SPD is like, We just got a license to do whatever we want to do and we're going to do it. And you can't say anything about it once we do.

[00:06:43] Hannah Krieg: Kind of. I mean, they have the consent decree to adhere to and they have oversight bodies, but it's really them who's in the driver's seat right now with the policy on ruses. And to be clear, the Council could at any point still try to do a legislation - they would have to pretty specific if they wanted to legislate - if, when, how, what a ruse looks like - but they could do it. It would be difficult though, like the lethal weapons ban.

[00:07:16] Crystal Fincher: Okay, well, thank you so much for continuing to follow this story, for tracking down those answers, and continuing to pay attention. We certainly will and continue to talk about it whenever new events arise. I also wanted to talk about, Hey, you know, there's an election coming up this Tuesday, February 8th. What is on the ballot next week?

[00:07:38] Hannah Krieg: Gosh, the levies, right? I don't know - I'm not a homeowner - it doesn't really affect me, but - and I also don't have students. Um, there are two propositions, correct?

[00:07:52] Crystal Fincher: There are - well, depending on where people are listening, there are lots of levies, there are definitely prepositions - prepositions? - propositions on the ballot. And I do want to throw in - even if you're not a homeowner, this does impact you and sometimes homeowners make it out, Hey, we are owning homes - we're the ones paying property tax, therefore we're entitled to a greater say in what we say is more important. But property tax - landlords just pass that along to their tenants. And oftentimes pass it along with a markup, so renters are oftentimes more impacted by property tax and those changes. So I just want to be explicit about that because that is something that has been weaponized against renters or people who are not homeowners. And everyone deserves a say and some people are paying and impacted by property taxes, even more than homeowners on average, so that's a thing. And we all benefit from making sure our population is educated, and can process information, and determine what are facts and not. As we look around in our society and see the consequences of people not being able to parse relevant and accurate and correct data and understand how science works, but -

[00:09:22] Hannah Krieg: Thanks for clearing that up - I guess I fell victim to the propaganda - I don't know. I didn't know that it got passed on.

[00:09:28] Crystal Fincher: You know, it is absolutely the default talking point and the conventional wisdom that that's a conversation. And so it is going to take a lot of conversations and pushback, 'cause lots of people don't think about it, don't have a reason to think about it. And you constantly have people saying, Well, as a homeowner, as someone who's actually paying the property taxes. And as if they're not passing them along and that's not paid for when they raise the rent every year. And if you look at the rate of property tax increase and look at the rate of rent increases, one is significantly higher than the other. So as we're looking at this, it's just really important that you find your ballot - you track it down, you have it in your mailbox. And mostly there are school funding - lots of school districts around the area are asking to renew levies to provide information. And as we are looking around right now and seeing just the impact of a lack of school funding, a lack of preparation all over there.

So, Shoreline has a parks and recreation improvement proposition on the ballot. There is propositions in Fife and all over the place, but in most places, including in Seattle, there are levy renewals or levy votes, so we can adequately and properly fund our schools. We still have a long way to go. I encourage people to vote Yes on those. But most of all, the people who are really motivated to turn out for these elections sometimes are people who are super anti-tax and don't care what it is. They're just voting No - that's an especially activated population right now. So it actually does take regular people who are not - who don't sit there and stew about having to pay any tax all day long and screed against the government and all of that. You have to vote to make sure that happens. It is helpful and useful and that's my take on it - make sure that you vote by Tuesday - mail in your ballot, drop it into a dropbox. We'll include links where you can look up what is in your jurisdiction. You can also go to votewa.gov - votewa.gov - and just type in your information and it'll tell you everything that's on your local ballot, and what you need to do if you need a ballot replacement. Just vote. Anything else you want to add about looking at this vote this Tuesday?

[00:12:02] Hannah Krieg: Yeah, The Stranger Election Control Board did suggest a Yes vote on both Seattle Public School levies. And you can check out our endorsement at thestranger.com if you want to know more about the levy and why The Stranger supports it.

[00:12:20] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, you can. And we'll also put a link to that in the show notes. But speaking of these elections and speaking of, Hey, these - we're in February right now, which if you were asking me is not when I would choose to put something on the ballot. But we just got out of an election cycle in 2021 - and in odd years here in Washington, we elect most local offices - so city councils, mayoral races, county races. And then on the even years, we deal with state legislative races, statewide races on some of those even years, but they're very different. And then we also have our federal election - so we're voting for our Congress people and our Senators in even years.

And so one, it's a constant drum beat of elections, but man, there's a difference in the turnout, and the composition of the people who vote, and the amount of people who vote between these local even-year elections, which don't get as much attention or turnout, and the even-year elections, which get most of the turnout - I think I said odd years don't get turnout 'cause that's correct. But yes. And you have actually covered this - you're a fan, there's a bill that is advancing in our legislature. So what is happening with that and why is it useful?

[00:13:52] Hannah Krieg: Yeah. So, Representative Mia Gregerson put forth a bill to move all of our local elections that usually happen, as you said, on odd years to even years. And the hope is that - since these odd-year elections don't have that like sexy national race at the top dragging people to the ballot, that if we put it on the even year, more people will vote overall and we'll get better turnout. And so that has just passed through committee - I think it was last week. As of yesterday, it's in Rules - hasn't been caucused on, but so far it looks like kind of a partisan battle. So there's seven people in the committee - the three Republicans voted No, the four Democrats voted Yes. And sort of the belief I heard from Senator Jamie Pedersen is that Republicans think they're going to do better in elections if they spread it across the calendar and Democrats think they're going to do better in elections if more people vote, which are two different strategies. Very interesting.

[00:15:03] Crystal Fincher: I mean - really this is a conversation about turnout, which is not itself a partisan conversation. The data is clear - I mean, anyone can see it, anyone can look at it - and when we look at what turnout numbers are in even-year elections versus odd-year elections, or in local elections in the odd years versus the federally - top of the ticket is federal in even years. The difference in turnout is massive and the people who vote to a greater degree or represent a greater percentage of the electorate in those low turnout odd years are predominantly higher-income people, older people - certainly less representative of the actual population that we have. When more people vote and more people turn out, it looks closer to the actual population that we have. Now we still have a ways to go many times, but I mean, we're sometimes talking about the difference between a 40% turnout and an 80% turnout. More people having a voice in shaping their community and electing their leaders in their communities is a better thing. And again, this doesn't change who lives where - it's not like people are running in between jurisdictions in these different years. These are the same communities, these are the same people voting. And in heavily Republican districts - if that's what the neighborhood actually is - they're going to elect Republicans. If only a few people who are highly motivated and activated and the system caters to them more than it does other people - we've talked about that a lot previously on this program - then yeah, then it's going to be less representative. And a few people are going to have a say that may not be representative of the many.

So yeah, in Washington and when more people vote, I mean, it kind of is a self-own to say, Hey, if we actually let more people have a say, we're in trouble because we're not doing what most people like - I don't think that's a great argument to be making. I don't know that they have a better argument to make. I mean, clearly they prefer that most people don't vote because most people don't agree with them. And I'm not saying most people super agree with Democrats all the time either, but it does give people a chance to be more representative in their elections. And to be clear, these local elections are technically nonpartisan, so there's not a D or R by the person's name - you're voting based on who they are in your municipality, and what they're talking about in terms of issues, and what their track record is. So, this is something that one - lowers the cost of elections because we aren't constantly having them all the time at odd years and even years. If we can have half as many, get the same amount of work done, elect the same people - and give more people the opportunity to have a voice, to listen, evaluate, pay attention to, give media and residents the opportunity to scrutinize candidates to greater detail, and that information be available to more people who are paying attention in even years - why are we not doing this? It just completely makes sense to do.

So, I am thankful to Representative Gregerson that she has introduced this. I really encourage people to follow along with this bill and to make sure that you are actively voicing your support to your legislators, because even if they're reliable Democrats, you just can't take for granted that they're going to vote for this, or not try and modify it, or water it down. So I am excited about it. When did you start paying attention to the difference between what's happening in even-year and odd-year elections?

[00:18:59] Hannah Krieg: Oh, well, I don't know - I'm pretty young, so pretty recently, I guess. But I definitely - that was the conversation all this year with the recall for Sawant. And not everyone has the ground game that Socialist Alternative has to combat an even-year election - or sorry, an odd-year election - to get the turnout they need to win. But it's definitely - there definitely is a big difference. Another thing people are worried about though, and this isn't really even a Republican critique, but that - the worry is if we combine these two ballots, we have everything on one, the ballots going to get longer, and we're going to see people not vote down ballot anyway, because they just get tired of voting. And that - I talked to King County Elections about this - and they did say that they see anecdotally, they don't have any data on it or statistics, but they see anecdotally that people drop off as we get lower into the ballot. I just kind of did a quick look and the dropoff is a lot less than the dropoff between an even year and an odd year - as you said, it sometimes can be the difference of 40%. And I checked in the 2020 election, and the top of the ballot was in like the mid 80s. And then the bottom of the ballot was in like the upper 70s. So it doesn't seem to be as big of a deal, but it is definitely something worth thinking about. And then it gives voters more things to think about in one year, it spreads election coverage from local media thinner 'cause they have to cover more stuff. But I do think that it's worth the trade-off to get potentially 40%, or 40 points extra, of participation in the election.

[00:20:57] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - voters participating in these elections - absolutely. And you know, there's - obviously we're speaking on audio right now and describing a map may not be the most helpful thing, but I will link a thread - a great thread that former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn did about this who - Hacks & Wonks listeners are used to hearing from every now and then. And some maps that he shared - that Elliott Day actually put together - just showing the drop-off between odd years and even years, the composition of who votes, and the difference in odd versus even-year elections.

And it has broad public support - I think it was NPI that did some polling on this and I was actually surprised by how popular this idea is. So voters absolutely support it - it is moving forward in our legislature and we need to make sure it continues to move forward as these committee cutoffs and deadlines fast approach. We just passed one and it made it through that gate, but there are some more to come. So please, pay attention to that bill - and that is House Bill 1727 with Mia Gregerson. So we'll include those links, but very good, very helpful, very useful.

And although some - heard a little bit of grumbling before from some consultants thinking, Hey, this is really it's going to reduce the amount of work. It changes some of the timelines of the work, but I think that the primary - speaking as a political consultant, how much I get paid actually is not, shouldn't be the primary determinant of what we're doing to maintain the health of our democracy. To make sure people can participate - that should be the paramount consideration and everything else will work itself out. I don't think the political consultant industry profession is going to be hurt by this. In fact, I actually think it's going to be really helpful.

So moving on from that issue to others that we have here - one thing that I wanted to talk about was just, as things move forward just a little bit in the legislature, the missing middle housing bill is another item that we've talked about here - allowing more density in those areas and just wanting to make sure that we allow the type of housing that will enable our rents and home prices not to continue to skyrocket, and for us to actually have more livable, sustainable and resilient communities. And so, House Bill 1782 passed out of the Local Government Committee, but it was watered down a bit by, actually, 46th Legislative District Representative Gerry Pollet, who lowered the sixplex requirement to a fourplex requirement, who changed the distance calculation, who - they put a minimum lot size requirement in there and kind of lessened the strength of the transit requirements in there. It's just - still doing some good things, not as good as it was before, and not really seeing the justification in the watering down except to maybe address some of the vitriol that we, that occurs from the NIMBY community that doesn't want to see anyone new come into the neighborhoods, or kind of talking about the fear of they're going to build giant apartment buildings that don't adhere to the character of the neighborhood. And that is, as we see in so many neighborhoods in Seattle and elsewhere, that that is not true. And duplexes look like other ones - just kind of houses and sometimes it's really hard to tell them apart. What do you think about this whole bill and issue, Hannah?

[00:25:18] Hannah Krieg: Well, it's kinda wild - changing the sixplex requirement to a fourplex requirement - that's really slashing a lot of housing. It's not super surprising - I mean, as The Urbanist said, this representative is a favorite of the Seattle Times Editorial Board. And that board often has kind of more NIMBY views - backing exclusionary zoning, fighting housing reform, and opposing affordable housing efforts like JumpStart - as the urbanist said. I love density, so it is sad to see something that could be cool get watered down. I don't know if the middle housing bill would have solved all the problems anyway, but it is sad to see that even this one thing that the state was trying to do to help people out is getting watered down.

[00:26:29] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. No, absolutely, and I completely agree. And to your point, the middle housing bill won't solve all of the problems, but the problems will not get solved without the thing - doing the things that are in this middle housing bill and increasing density, and just making sure that we are making space and providing housing for the people who we know are moving here, living here. And we know the consequences of failing to provide that - we have to catch up - it's not like where we've been treading water - we've been drowning and we've got a long way to swim upstream just to get to the point of stability. So the urgency for this is really important. I hope to see it continue to pass and advance and we'll keep an eye on that.

There was an interesting article this week about the role of librarians and our - really our public safety net. What was that story? What did it talk about? I think that was in Crosscut.

[00:27:27] Hannah Krieg: Yeah, I love this story 'cause I love Crosscut and also love librarians, I guess. But basically, as we see an increase in extreme weather and the need for emergency services and emergency shelters, our county and our city has really relied on librarians to help out in keeping folks safe and - not housed - but inside during extreme weather events. And it's interesting because it's sort of like this symptom of capitalism where we don't have - we don't have a lot of free community spaces, truly free indoor spaces where people can just exist without having to pay to exist. And so this is really all we have in a lot of cases besides the shelter beds that we already have on a nightly basis. But the library is kind of this last - this last part that is free and people can be inside. And so librarians have to take up this role that they probably didn't expect to take up. And hopefully we'll figure out a way to get people into permanent housing before we need to put them in libraries again. But for now, this is a very interesting piece on Crosscut about the librarian experience, I guess, during a weather crisis.

[00:29:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I mean, certainly even before kind of our recent weather crises that have brought this once again to the forefront of people's minds, and as discussed in this story, as you said, the libraries are some of the only places that are free, that don't require a membership, or requirement to enter. And so they have been an accessible place for people who don't have reliable home internet access, for people who may not have a computer at home, which is a significant segment of our society. It can be easy to overlook that if you are not in that group, but that group is substantial - that the library is where they're able to access services. It's not just books. It is classes and internet access. There are people - all the time - applying for jobs in libraries, accessing services, which now especially during the pandemic are limited to being online to a much greater degree than they used to be. And so that created - they were doing this work even before and doing a lot more than just tending to books and what's happening there.

But especially in these weather emergencies that we've had, where it's been dangerous to be outside and unsheltered, this - many cities, including Seattle, have said the library is a place of refuge in these situations and didn't necessarily do that in consultation with the librarians and the people who are staffing the libraries. And so talking through that expectation of what does that mean, and one - just kinda cities and county governments not having more options for refuge and safety is its own issue. And a by-product of that problem is that so much more is being forced onto libraries than originally intended. And so these places are absolutely necessary, but I think we also have to have more meaningful conversations about now that we - like, it's not a shock that there's - this year we can expect that there's going to be some air advisories because of wildfire smoke, because we have those every year. That there's going to be super cold weather events, as we've just recently had 'cause now we have those every year. That there's going to be scorching hot times 'cause we have those every year. So are you going to continue to kind of do this patchwork emergency rely on libraries thing and maybe even not have adequate staffing, or are you going to provide a more robust emergency and safety network for residents? Because right now, a lot is being put on libraries, on librarians - who are doing excellent work, but certainly more support is needed and they're trying to address a problem that is so much bigger than what they're actually equipped to handle. So really good story about this, and I hope we continue to have that discussion and we continue to talk to our elected representatives at the local level to make sure that they're planning effectively and not unduly burdening anyone while making sure that our residents are safe. And putting the resources necessary to get that done as a priority.

So we will wrap it up with that. Thank you so much for joining me today - you are super awesome, enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, February 4th, 2022. Vote on Tuesday, February 8th - you can vote before then, but definitely vote by then. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assistant producer is Shannon Cheng. And our wonderful co-host today was staff writer covering Seattle City Hall at The Stranger, Hannah Krieg. You can find Hannah on Twitter @hannahkrieg - that's. H-A-N-N-A-H-K-R-I-E-G. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, and now you can follow 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 our Friday almost-live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like, leave us a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you next time.