Week in Review: January 27, 2023 - Rich Smith

Week in Review: January 27, 2023 - Rich Smith

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, political consultant and host Crystal Fincher is joined by Associate Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith! They look at tragic traffic deaths in Seattle, track leg updates on free school meals and minimum wage for incarcerated workers, discuss the Washington Supreme Court’s hearing on our capital gains tax, outline County Prosecutor Leesa Manion’s changes to the office, update us on Seattle’s social housing initiative, and react to candidates running for Seattle City Council.

Crystal and Rich start the show by covering this week’s tragic traffic deaths, including the death of 23-year old grad student Jaahnavi Kandula, who was hit by a police vehicle. The number of these incidents is a horrific reminder that these fatalities aren’t due to random chance, but are the result of numerous policy priorities and choices by elected officials and institutions.

Turning to the state legislature, our hosts give overviews on a bill to give free lunches to all public school students in Washington state and a bill that would provide minimum wage to incarcerated individuals for their labor. In state Supreme Court news, this week the court heard arguments for the suit over our state’s capital gains tax that the legislature passed last year. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see when we finally get a decision on this case.

King County’s new Prosecuting Attorney, Leesa Manion, outlined her new approach to the office, including the creation of a gun violence prevention unit and a division focused on prosecuting gender-based violence. Rich also updates Crystal on the Stranger’s Election Control Board’s endorsement of Seattle’s social housing initiative I-135, which will be on the ballot for the upcoming February 14th election. Finally, we end the show catching up on the newly announced candidates for this year’s Seattle City Council elections, and ask why some candidates are announcing their campaigns without a clear vision of why they want the seat.

About the Guest

Rich Smith

Rich Smith is Associate Editor of The Stranger and a noted poet.

Find Rich Smith on Twitter/X at @richsssmith.


Evaluating the Role of Incarceration in Public Safety with Criminologist Damon Petrich” - Hacks & Wonks

Casual Friday with Crystal Fincher & Besa Gordon” by Patricia Murphy & Brandi Fullwood from KUOW

Officer Responding to Overdose Call Killed Woman In Marked Intersection Where City Canceled Safety Project” by Erica C. Barnett from Publicola

Three pedestrians taken to hospital after collision in South Seattle” by Amanda Zhou from The Seattle Times

Follow Ryan Packer twitter: @typewriteralley

Prevent traffic deaths with proven solutions for Seattle streets” by Gordon Padelford from The Seattle Times

WA bill would make school meals free for all students” by Ruby de Luna from KUOW

WA lawmakers consider minimum wage requirement for incarcerated workers” by Libby Denkman & Sarah Leibovitz from KUOW

Supreme Court Ruling Could Allow Washington to Tax the Rich” by Will Casey from The Stranger

Public safety is focus of new prosecutorial units” by Christine Clarridge from Axios

Vote Yes on Initiative 135” from The Stranger

Who's running for Seattle City Council in 2023“ by Melissa Santos from Axios

Formerly Unhoused, Andrew Ashiofu Wants to Fight for Housing Progress on City Council” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Central District Resident Joy Hollingsworth Is Running for City Council” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Urbanist Alex Hudson Enters Council Race to Replace Sawant” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld Is Running for King County Council” by Rich Smith from The Stranger


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I am a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our 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, we re-aired our conversation with criminologist Damon Petrich, who led the most comprehensive analysis of incarceration and crime data to-date, which found that incarceration doesn't reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Damon and I talk about how to design and evaluate programs that do work to deliver greater public safety for everyone. Also today, I appeared on KUOW's Casual Friday podcast - we'll put a link to that in the show notes and on the website.

Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live 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: Associate Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith.

[00:01:30] Rich Smith: Thanks for having me again - so good to be back.

[00:01:33] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back. This is a week that was packed full of news. Starting off - some news that really sucked - really sad and tragic events happened this week when it came to pedestrians being hit by cars. One killed by an SPD officer driving a car on the way to a substance abuse call. And another - family, a parent and two kids, hit in a crosswalk. It has just been a horrible week. What happened and where do we stand on this?

[00:02:15] Rich Smith: Yeah, it was on Monday - Fire was called to an OD [overdose] call, cops responded along with that. And a young woman, 23-year-old woman, named Jaahnavi was crossing the road - she's a grad student. And the cop hit her with her car. She died later of injuries later that evening. The cops slow rolled the information on this, at first saying that there had been a collision, putting the blame on the fire department. And then later on Tuesday, they finally confirmed that she died after being hit.

And it's a tragedy, and it's one of those stories that show just how few choices we have - or how constrained our choices really are - by policy that we don't even see. We think we're out here making decisions - we think people are out here making decisions - but those decisions are circumscribed. And there are so many of those policies hidden in the background of this story. For instance, that intersection where she crossed was due for a while to get a revamp - a protected intersection - that would have prevented, or that may have prevented, this tragedy from occurring. We haven't seen the video - I don't know where she crossed in the crosswalk, I know she was in the crosswalk. But the design of this protected intersection may have prevented that from happening. The mayor took it out of his budget this year due to a giant $140 million hole that they had to work around and as a result of slowing real estate market, et cetera. The City Council didn't put that money back in and so - obviously, work wouldn't have started on that project before this incident happened - I don't want to get into butterfly effect stuff. But had we moved on that earlier, had we treated this Vision Zero - the city's plan to reduce all pedestrian deaths to zero - more seriously than we have been, if we'd been prioritizing that earlier, then tragedies like this could have been prevented.

Also, there's the policy of having a police officer respond alongside a medic when they're doing an OD call. My understanding is that if the medic has to give the person who's suspected of having an OD Narcan, they want a cop there in case there's some kind of violent response to reversing the overdose with Narcan - and so they request this backup. The person who the medic checked on declined medical assistance at the time - it turns out it wasn't an emergency, but they were called. I'm not sure who called or why, but they were called because they thought someone was having an OD - and now it creates this emergency situation where if the cop threw on his lights, then they're racing to the scene. It's hard to really put the whole picture together because we haven't seen the video. We only know what the police are saying and what Fire is saying, but it does seem to be this confluence of questionable policy decisions that allowed for this tragedy to happen.

[00:06:18] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And at least the information that we have now - as you said, the police have been slow to release information - but it appears that dispatch made the call to dispatch the police, that it wasn't actually requested by the fire department. But they were co-dispatched to the call along with Fire once they determined that was the case with the call, which is questionable - these are the things that we're talking about. So many times you talk about how all of these issues are related - how when we're talking about housing, we're talking about poverty. How we're talking about health, we're talking about equity - and so many of these failures came together. And just overall, even with the timing of this thing, this is a result of longstanding neglect. How long have we been talking about how unsafe this is? And this was just one pedestrian collision and injury this week. We also had a family mowed down in a crosswalk.

[00:07:20] Rich Smith: Did you see that video?

[00:07:21] Crystal Fincher: I unfortunately did see that video. We have to do better. I think a lot of people are wondering - we hear lip service being given to this year, after year, after year. Certainly there have been some electeds who have tried to propose money and others - Tammy Morales comes to mind - but overall between the council and the mayor, we have not gotten this to be a priority. And we have to do something different, we have to do something substantial. If we had the amount of poisoning deaths by some source that we do with pedestrian deaths and collisions, we would be doing something about it. If there were a Brown person walking around and beating up people to this magnitude, we would be doing something different. This is a crisis. And just because it's happening to people outside of cars doesn't mean that we just give thoughts and prayers and don't do anything. And it's feeling like the situation where we all know we need to do more to stop gun violence, yet so much action isn't taken.

There's an excellent article that was written last year, I think, by Gordon Padelford at The Urbanist, which kind of goes through - Hey, this is what percentage of pedestrian deaths are caused by this type of issue, this is the recommendation or the ask to solve it - this is what can happen. There's short term stuff, there's long term stuff. I just hope to see some action here. And it appears that there are some things that don't require the building of new infrastructure, but some signal timings - we need to look at how we allow drivers to turn both right on red and left turns - and we can be doing those in a safer way. And just all of that. I hope we get real serious about this across the region real quick. We just talked last week about the alarming skyrocketing pedestrian deaths and injuries across South King County. And I follow Ryan Packer on Twitter and their Patreon, and they cover the majority of these pedestrian-involved collisions. And just watching the amount of those come down the timeline is sobering.

[00:09:45] Rich Smith: That's another sort of system - just people being in their cars and having car brain and forgetting - the great lie of the car is that you're not a 2-ton steel cage traveling down the road at 70 mph or 40 mph that could just absolutely wreck the fragile human body. For some, the car - you don't feel like that when you're in the car and that - so we got to kill the car in our head.

[00:10:16] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and the mind frame that comes with it - I drive, I have a car. I drive a lot less than I used to, but still drive. And I've had feelings before - of that feeling of inconvenience and wanting to get somewhere as fast as possible, but I really do think it takes a reframing to be like - Okay, I am in a 2-ton vehicle that can instantly kill or maim someone. It's okay if it takes me literally two minutes longer to get somewhere. When we talk about traffic calming, when we talk about signal timing, or not taking a right on red - yeah, it may delay you for 30 seconds - for 30 seconds, right? It may delay you for two minutes. But if the trade off of two minutes - that we can plan around, we can manage - is people not getting gruesomely killed, that's a trade off we can make. And we need to have more conversations that you don't just have free rein and cars aren't this - the ultimate priority above and beyond anything else. We have to also address - everything is culture now, but car culture - and how we teach people to drive, how we talk about driving, how we design around that. Until we reframe that it's okay if cars stop every now and then or go slow every now and then, we're going to continue to see this kind of stuff.

[00:11:42] Rich Smith: Absolutely. And when I drive, I feel myself like I just turn - I'm like, when I'm a pedestrian, I'm like, are you kidding me? It's the - the roads are ours, I'm fragile, I could be destroyed by your machines. Stop, slow down - in the crosswalk, you monsters. But then when I'm in a car, I'm like - all of these pedestrians don't care about their lives at all. They're walking into the middle of the road. They're dressed the exact same color of the night. They need to get out of my way - blah, blah, blah. So I have to consciously remind myself - I'm in a climate-controlled environment. I'm listening to the music that I want to listen to, or the radio that I want to listen to, or the podcast I want to listen to - like Hacks & Wonks. And if I need to pause - to pay more careful attention to my surroundings - then I'm the one who should because I'm the one who's basically a weapon right now. It just, yeah - and it's - you'll get there, it's not going to take - even if you're 30 seconds later, two minutes late, you'll get there. People will welcome you - so just chill out, cars.

[00:12:52] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. This week - more action in our legislative session that we have this week - there were two bills in particular that caught my eye. One to make all school lunches in Washington free, which I think is an excellent idea. And another to require that incarcerated workers at least make minimum wage, because right now they don't and it's basically slavery. What's your take on these bills?

[00:13:24] Rich Smith: Yeah, it's weird to make anybody - they're kind of related - but it's weird to make children go to a place for - whatever, 7-8 hours, and then make them buy their food there if they want to not operate at a caloric deficit. And poverty is high. Child poverty is shockingly high. And it just shouldn't be an expense. As somebody who went to school and - I could have made my lunch before I went, but I always just tried to bum money from other people so that I could have the pizza or whatever at school. So I don't know, it was always embarrassing to bring lunch. And so I just always wanted to have the school lunch. I remember being - as a kid, school lunch was somehow prestige - even though in popular culture, school lunch is stereotypically lunch lady giving you neon food or whatever. In any event, it's just - I really would have benefited from this bill. I wouldn't have had to convince so many of my fellow students to give me dimes and quarters so that I could get bad pizza or whatever. But yeah, philosophically, kids shouldn't have to pay for food. Poor families shouldn't have to be scrounging up a couple of bucks just so that they can eat.

And similarly, if we are forcibly incarcerating people and they are working, they should make the minimum wage and not, as Representative Tarra Simmons - who brought this bill to the Legislature - testifies, 42 cents an hour because of how much the jail can just dock from your pay for medicine, for this, for that, for this financial obligation, for this financial obligation. Basically, you're paying to incarcerate yourself. You're paying the state to make you less free, to take away your freedom. And you are effectively a slave. It's unconscionable.

[00:15:33] Crystal Fincher: It is unconscionable. And when this is an exception in the constitutional amendment banning slavery - means it's literally slavery. These people are working and doing the same kind of work that everyone else is. Just because they're incarcerated does not mean that their labor has no value. And there is such a problem with making elements of our criminal legal system profitable for people - we have seen how corrupting and how corrosive that is. We should not be incentivizing people to lock people up and keep them locked up. We just re-aired our midweek show about how problematic carceral solutions are, and it just makes no sense.

And also we spend so much time and energy, so much administrative resources on managing who gets lunch, who doesn't get lunch - just tracking and doing the - tracking who does qualify for free lunch, and who doesn't, and who's behind, and how to collect it. That all takes money too. We're requiring them to be there, just as you said. And the consequences - say a family is having trouble affording food, so their kid needs to be shamed and humiliated and can't eat or get something - how does that make any kind of sense? And also, we just got so much data from the unfortunately brief free school lunches that we provided nationwide and what kind of an impact that had on child poverty, on child hunger - was absolutely a positive and way more transformative than most people even anticipated. Really, why are we not doing this? It seems cruel not to. So I'm very excited to see both of those making their way through the Legislature.

Also big news this week - on the wealth tax issue - the Supreme Court heard the capital gains tax case. How is that playing out? Where do we stand with that?

[00:17:45] Rich Smith: Well, we'll see. They just heard - that is, the Supreme Court just heard - oral arguments on the case yesterday. It's difficult, really, to follow the arguments because Justice Steven González is so fine that I have trouble paying attention to what the lawyers are arguing about, the difference between the excise tax and income tax, etc. I'm joking - he's a good-looking man, but he didn't actually talk that much during the oral arguments. But he did ask a kind of prescient question, or a useful question, that was interesting to me. This is all to say that - yeah, we'll see - they presented their arguments yesterday. Backing up a second, the State Legislature - after a decade of arm twisting and back bending and watering down bill after bill after bill - finally decided to pass a capital gains tax on the richest 8,000 Washingtonians. That is a 7% tax whenever you realize capital gains, which is a financial asset over - $250 million is the threshold of the tax. If you cash out stocks for more than $250 million, then you're going to get hit with a 7% tax. A bunch of conservatives sued and said this isn't a excise tax or a sales tax - a transactional tax as the state is arguing - this is an income tax because that property, or that $250 million is property. According to the State of Washington's Constitution, that's income. State's taxing that money at 7%. Constitution says you can only tax property at 1%, so it's unconstitutional. Also, the fact that there's an exemption means it's not taxed uniformly, so that's unconstitutional. They also argue that it's a violation of - they have some kind of commerce clause argument that I didn't understand and that didn't seem to apply. It didn't seem particularly sophisticated - the justices didn't seem particularly bothered by it during oral arguments yesterday, but that's basically the gist.

And it's up to these political figures - these justices after hearing the arguments - to determine whether or not we're going to allow the state to raise $500 million to pay for education. The state hoped that they're - or asked the court to give a decision before April 18th on the matter, so that the lawmakers who are busy writing the state budget can know if they can include this $500 million that we raised from the capital gains tax in their bottom lines or not. The Supreme Court didn't seem bothered by that, didn't seem like they were moved by that request and will release a decision on their own time - a little sort of cross-branch flexing back and forth there during the oral arguments. But we know that on some Thursday, sometime in the next few months, we'll get an answer to whether or not we can tax them.

And there's also the possibility that the court could, in their decision, say - Actually, income tax - or income isn't property. Those court rulings that determine that, the court decisions that determined that in the '30s were wrong. And that would allow Washington State to pass income taxes for the first time in over 100 years, which would really give us the opportunity to rebalance the tax code that is right now balanced on the backs of the poor. Every recession we dig ourselves out of - we do it from sales tax, property taxes, taxes on gross receipts of small businesses and other businesses - and large businesses, frankly. And that's the most regressive way to do it. And we're the most regressive state - in terms of taxes - in the country. So there's a slim possibility that we could change the whole game, but I don't know if they'll do that. They don't seem hungry to do that.

[00:22:35] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And Will Casey had a great breakdown of this all in The Stranger, in a piece that we'll link in the show notes and in our social media threads on this show. But to your point, they can - they do actually have a few different choices. This isn't necessarily just a binary - it's allowed or not allowed. They could agree with the lower court that it's not allowed. They could also agree with the Attorney General's opinion, which doesn't take any view on overturning the prior case that said income is property, we can't have an income tax, and just say it's an excise tax. It doesn't even get into the other discussion. And then that third option, as you articulated, can have them overturn the ruling that made an income tax illegal. One of the most foremost Washington State constitutional scholars and professors that we have in the state - Hugh Spitzer and some others - thought that that isn't likely - just overturning the whole thing and finding that income tax is legal to do in the state is unlikely. That if something does happen, they predict it would be agreeing that it's an excise tax. But who knows? They can do anything. We will see what happens.

[00:24:01] Rich Smith: Sorry, just one correction. We can have an income tax, but it just has to be uniform and it can't be more than 1% because that's - yeah. But yeah, just to clarify - we all know, and I know - I said it too. But it's just - it's like a shorthand - it's we can't do an income tax that makes sense - is what we mean when we say we can't do an income tax.

[00:24:17] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. A graduated income tax. Thank you for that clarification.

[00:24:21] Rich Smith: Yeah. Yeah, but I agree that - listening to oral arguments in any case, and especially in a case like this, just makes me go crazy because the arguments are never about the moral value of the question at hand. The judges aren't deciding whether or not it's - we should have a capital gains tax if the Legislature does it. It's based on previous case law triangulated over the course of many different years - is it technical - are these definitions, does this definition of capital gains and income and property align with the plain language of this law or not, and to what degree do we care that it does? It seems like it's all up to us to decide, right? You've got Noah Purcell, the Assistant Attorney General, arguing on behalf of the state saying stuff like, This is an excise tax because when we're taxing the capital gain, we're taxing it at the point of the transaction - not taxing the actual - we're taxing the transaction, not the money, but the ability to do the transaction, not the money that you get coming in. And the other side says like, In all 50 states, or in every other state in the country, they have capital gains taxes - but those taxes are called income taxes. And yet here we have a capital gains tax and suddenly it's not an income tax? And then the state says, Well, we're the only state in the country that defines income as property, right?

So it just dwindled - the entire argument dwindles into definitions and it just makes you feel insane while you're watching it, because it has nothing to do with this. It has little to do with the substance of the policy matter. So we just make it up anyway and decide - the entire law is based on language, which is quicksand, it's soup, it changes constantly. The definitions are made from language and so their meanings change over time, and yet we've got these clerics in robes pretending like they're mystical beings seeing the true intent of the law or whatever and just argue. It's just, it's witchery. But anyway, I just really - if you want to feel that, if you want to feel insane, I recommend going to TVW and watching the oral arguments.

[00:26:55] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we will stay tuned to what happens and await the upcoming some Thursday where we eventually hear what the fate of the capital gains tax is.

Also this week, we heard from our new King County Prosecutor, Leesa Manion, about some of her plans for the office - the establishment of some new units focusing on gun violence, sexual assault, economic crimes, and others. How did you view this?

[00:27:27] Rich Smith: Rearranging the office chairs? I don't know, right? Creating these units and - on the one hand, making it someone's job to focus on certain crimes does matter, right? It changes the focus and the thrust of the work that gets done on a daily basis. But I don't know to what degree that's going to fix the problems in the office. You're not really dealing with - it's not like we're still concentrating on "repeat property crime" which seems to be, what, a euphemism for graffiti, which is one of the - or, broken windows - which is one of City Attorney Ann Davison's big areas of focus as well as the mayor's office. But I don't - I'm not quite sure, really, how this rearrangement will impact the scope and work of the office. They don't expect it to help knock down the 4,000-case backlog that developed over the course of the pandemic. They're not really - there's some stuff to like in there in terms of focusing on diversion, which would be better than if we had Jim Ferrell in there, who was the hard right - or a conservative Democrat, I should say - running against her in the November elections last year, but I'm not sure. What's your take on it?

[00:29:17] Crystal Fincher: You know, I am reserving judgment. I'm willing to see how this turns out. It does actually matter - to create units where people are focusing, where they're able to share resources to investigate and - within our current system of both policing and among the prosecutor - investigation is an important thing. That's the meat of how we figure out who does stuff and especially if we want to stop playing whac-a-mole with people doing low-level crimes that are often the result of some other root cause. The ability to move further up the chain and address some of those systemic issues, or if they are actually targeting organized retail theft or domestic violence, intimate partner abuse - to really go after people who are doing that, or who are defrauding seniors, and going after wage theft - that requires focus and investigation and specialized resources and they're not going to get pulled away on to whatever the newfangled thing is that they're focusing on that week. And that's shown to have an impact and make a difference.

I also recognize that this is one piece in the criminal legal system puzzle. And on that investigation issue, we still have issues with police who are doing the frontline work in this and not investigating many things. And having those who were in investigative roles moved out to patrol - because of their conversations on staffing and feeling that they need to do that. And then we wind up in situations where we aren't investigating sexual assault. And even when there's gun violence and a business owner has a bullet that they collected that went through their window, the police aren't showing up for days or weeks to pick that up and even process that. So it's like what can the prosecutor do if police are only focused on patrol, surveillance, low-level crime and not able to put the resources into investigation in order to address these issues. So it feels like everything's a mess systemically and they're trying to wade through that.

But I do think that - we know that certain interventions with gun violence, we know that certain types of diversion, we know that focusing on crimes of abuse and manipulation and fraud make a difference. I was excited to actually see named - wage theft - which is one of the biggest crimes being perpetrated in the City, that so often doesn't get talked about because it is perpetrated by more wealthy people, business owners. But that also comes with a pause, because in the quote that I saw in the paper, it talked about, Hey, we - last year, we filed more charges against organized retail theft than any others before. The Stranger had done excellent reporting on what they call organized retail theft - sure does look the same as small-time petty theft. And so if we're laying out this big - saying we're focusing on wage theft and economic crimes and fraud and organized retail theft - but every focus, all the resources, and all of the energy is going towards this "organized retail theft" that looks like the same old theft that we've been dealing with that is not very organized. We'll have to see how this turns out. So willing to give the benefit of the doubt, see what happens, see what kind of an impact can be made, but I'm definitely waiting to see what the impact is.

[00:33:23] Rich Smith: Yeah, could just - want to triple underline that. The categories look okay to me. It'll be, it'll just be telling to see where they put, or the prosecutors put, their emphasis.

[00:33:34] Crystal Fincher: Okay. With that, also wanted to talk about Initiative 135 on the docket. There is an election coming up on Valentine's Day, February 14th, to decide whether Seattle is going to have social housing and The Stranger took a stance on it. What did you guys decide?

[00:33:56] Rich Smith: The Stranger Election Control Board is Pro - we want you to vote Yes on Initiative 135 for social housing. It's not perfect, but it is good. And so it's worth, it's worth your time. It's worth your Yes vote. Certainly.

[00:34:15] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely is. I was in a conversation yesterday - with Axios actually - and talking about what the prospects of this look like. But I also think this is an interesting time - with all of these tech layoffs that we're experiencing and talk of an economic recession, there've been some people who have been fortunate enough to be insulated from the worry and concern about being priced out of Seattle and feeling secure with income. And there are lots of conversations about the working class and whether different workers, or a different class of worker, not feeling the same kind of solidarity or vulnerability to some of the challenges that other people have been facing when it comes to trying to fight for their rights, for unionization, for recognizing that they could be a paycheck or two away from financial instability, poverty or homelessness. And there are a lot of new people contending with some of that insecurity. This is unfortunate wherever and however it happens - absolutely not rooting for anyone to lose their job - there's a lot of pain and struggle and uncertainty going on now. But I do think this is all part of this same conversation and crisis that we're facing - we have a whole new class of people wondering if they can afford to remain in Seattle. If they are upside down on their mortgages with the way things are right now, if they can afford rent - continue to afford rent if they lose their job and don't get another one very frequently - how we're going to weather this predicted recession that's coming. So it really does seem like the time for varied action, new action, different action, not letting perfect get in the way of the good, and do something here. And this seems like it has a track record elsewhere. The reasoning behind it is sound. And let's kick this off. And let's see if we can get this right. And if it needs fine tuning as we go along, let's do that. But it really seems like the time for some different decisive action is now.

[00:36:39] Rich Smith: Yeah, one of the members in the SECB highlighted this initiative as optimistic. And it's something you can rally behind, it's something you can really organize around - not just to get it passed, but once it's implemented, and once they start going through the steps of actually creating the social housing - it is a site for organizing, a site for movement building. And that's just - there's so few exciting, actual things like that - having a public developer, which this initiative would create, to acquire and build housing for people between 0% and 120% of the area median income that the City would own and make affordable - that is lower than 30% of your income, if you're living in those buildings - forever, it's just exciting. And yeah, it's forward thinking. And as we argue in the endorsement, we suck at thinking for the future - Seattle does a horrible job of thinking ahead. And I think it's because a lot of people who are here don't want to. They have - a lot of people have their house, who have their little nautical village, like being in the corner of the country, have this identity of being away from it all and that's why we're out here in the first place - and just emotionally blocked out the 2010s, where people flooded into the city, into the area - because of how prosperous all the companies were, because of all these opportunities. And then just did nothing to build the infrastructure for it. And this has been a curse of this town going back decades. 1970 - we didn't get the trades, and so the trades went to Atlanta. In 1990, or '95, we settled for a much smaller light rail extension that we possibly could. We have made the mistake of not making room for people who want to move to this beautiful place time and time again. And it is the root cause of so much of the pain and struggle that we see outside.

And this initiative comes along and says, Okay, let's have a 50-year plan. And let's start now. Let's add another tool to the housing toolbox that can - if we plant this seed, grow into thousands and thousands of affordable units built sustainably, with union labor, that can keep housing - a certain amount of housing stock - affordable forever. Not like affordable housing - government-subsidized housing - which can go back on the unaffordable market in 30 years most of the time. And not like the market rate housing, which nobody's been able to afford for as long as I've been alive. But permanently affordable housing. And, yeah, as we mentioned, and as the advocates for this initiative will mention, it's working in France, it's working in Vienna, Austria, it's working in Singapore, it's working all around the globe. And it can work here - granted, very different housing markets, very different tax structures - in those places. But we can do it here, and we should. Because as Representative Frank Chopp of all people, who has dedicated his public life to building affordable housing, said about the affordable housing system we have now - it doesn't work. We need to try something else. And this is that something else. So it's exciting, and people should vote for it.

[00:40:36] Crystal Fincher: Also coming on a later ballot to you - in August, in the primary - will be a number of councilmembers vying for several open seats. We had several announcements so far, some new ones this week. Who's running for City Council? Who's not running for City Council? And what does it mean?

[00:40:57] Rich Smith: Everybody is running for City Council, it seems like. Well, last week - was it? Kshama Sawant, who represents District 3, the central area of the City, announced her plans to leave. And this sort of spurred some people to announce, though others had done it around that time or a little before that time. But it's really motivating people to jump in. And so yeah, we've had a number of people jump in in that race, in that City Council race. Joy Hollingsworth - runs Hollingsworth Cannabis, Central District resident, comes from a lineage of civil rights organizers - and she's in, she announced on MLK Day. We've got Alex Hudson - just announced this week - who was the Executive Director of Transportation Choices and runs the neighborhood board over at First Hill. Andrew Ashiofu, the Co-Chair of the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, jumped in to the race. Hannah has got great profiles on all of these people - you should check them out at The Stranger.

And just this morning, Sarah Reyneveld, who is a Assistant Attorney General - she's jumping into the King County race to replace Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who was on the King County Council in District 4, representing Ballard, Queen Anne, Belltown, South Lake Union, that kind of area, on the County Council. She was in that seat for two terms. So Reyneveld is trying to swoop in and keep her legacy going there. And yeah, we've got another ex-Amazon worker, who was legally fired, is jumping into the race to replace Lisa Herbold. She was not one of the ones reportedly recruited by Bruce Harrell - still waiting for that person, whoever he is, to jump in at some point. So yeah, a flurry of activity and many more to come, I'm sure, as the balance of the City Council is up for grabs this year.

[00:43:21] Crystal Fincher: This is going to be interesting with so many open seats - Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, Alex Pedersen are not running again. We're going to see a lot of turnover, the potential for a switch in the balance of power with the council. And as you said, there are great profiles in The Stranger about some of these candidates. I think Capitol Hill Seattle and The Urbanist also had a couple of profiles. We will continue to see what they say, but I will say - one, it's early. It's early - running for office is hard and people are starting to get this together.

But I do hope to see overall a greater articulation of vision. And hearing what they actually want to do, what they want to accomplish for the City and for the residents of Seattle. I was struck - in a few different situations where - being asked about issues, policy, where do you stand on this, do you support social housing, do you support this or that? And - Well, I'm not sure. I'm interested in hearing more about it. I want to hear what the community has to say. I'm looking forward to bringing people together to discuss it. I support this, but don't know if I can commit to it before I hear more information. And this is a time where you are running and making the case that you are the person most qualified to make this change. And to bring about the change that a lot of people are frustrated that they haven't been seeing after hearing promises for so long. And so it really seems like a missed opportunity to not at least take a stand on some things, let people know where you're at - and that may be a differentiator for people in crowded primaries. If someone is willing to stand up with certainty on issues and others aren't, that's absolutely a differentiator. And this is across a variety of issues, a variety of candidates. This is not about one candidate - have seen this widespread. So I do hope we see a greater articulation and greater commitments on what they're going to be, because I do worry about people who are afraid of offending people this early in the game. Campaigns are hard - don't get me wrong - but they don't compare to governing and the type of pressure and accountability that's there. And so if you cannot commit here, what are we going to get when you're on the council?

[00:46:02] Rich Smith: I'm trying to hold it in, Crystal - but yeah, I couldn't agree more. Why are you running for office? You decided to announce - you could control that decision. If you don't have definitive answers for where you're at on problems that have existed for years in this city, if you still need to learn more from the community, hear more from the community on hiking the JumpStart Tax to fill budget gaps, or where you're at on pedestrian improvements, or where you're at on this or that - then why did you decide to run? All you're telling me whenever you say that - when you say, I need to listen to the community more on this issue - is that you are running as a matter of course, because you want the power of the position, not that you have something that you want to do with that power. And saying, Ah, but how I will wield my power is to be a collaborator, or to listen, to bring the community together, bring everyone around the table - then you are saying that - that you suck. I don't know how to say it - that you're going to defer to whoever's interests seem to have the most sway over - I don't know. You don't have principles in that moment, right? You're just a funnel for other people to use. And as we've seen in the past, that means you're going to bend to big business, you're not going to stand up for stuff that you know is right. And that's, or at least that's what that signals, and it just boggles the mind.

And then this little ouroboros of the community asked me to run - Okay, great. What are you going to do? I'm going to listen to community. Well, what did the community - why do they want you to run? Presumably they want you to run because they already agreed with you on stuff. And so just - trust your instincts, say what's right - and people will respond. I don't know why everyone's trying to not offend X. I know why - because they don't want to offend the money - because they need the money, and they need the endorsements, and they need the support in order to win. And so whatever - people aren't going to say what they actually believe. It's either that, or they actually don't believe anything and there's just a transparent grab for power on assumption that you've been working toward this, and so it is yours. It's disgusting to see, frankly. And I don't know - maybe I'm just getting over this, but I'm - it's, it's, I find - it sucks. It's offensive.

[00:48:47] Crystal Fincher: I'm gonna choose to try and have a charitable interpretation of where they may be. It is early in the campaign. Maybe they haven't figured out the best way to articulate where they stand yet. But I do think they need to hurry up and get to it. Anyone - you don't have to be elected to bring people together and listen to community. The reason why you run for office is to have the power to make decisions. It's to make those decisions. We give you that authority through an election. And so we need to hear about what decisions you plan on making. We need to hear about the policy that you plan on crafting and passing in specificity. That is why you run. We are not trying to elect a convener here. We're not trying to elect a moderator for the community, someone to conduct listening sessions. We can do that any day of the week. We can pay other people for that. But only a few people can sit and make those decisions. And so hearing about those is really important. And to your point, Rich, we have heard that from people who have done nothing, from people who have gone back on their promises that they made while they were running, from people who did say - I'm different, money has no hold on me. But lo and behold, they wind up doing different things than they said when they were running. And it's exactly what their list of top donors wants. That's what we're used to seeing when we hear this. And so a red flag automatically pops up. Maybe that's not ultimately where these people are going to be coming from, maybe that's not their intent, maybe they're still working on that - I would encourage them to work on it quickly.

[00:50:34] Rich Smith: Yeah. I agree. And that's - thinking of Sawant - that's part of what made her refreshing was - she was just like, she just tried to do what aligned with her principles. She had no power, so she ended up spending a lot of time just like dunking on her colleagues a lot in ways that were not particularly productive or whatever. But she was like, Okay, we want to protect abortion in Seattle. Let's pay for it all. Let's pay for all abortions. Here's a plan to pay for everybody's abortions every year. It costs $3.5 million. Sign it up. Oh, we got a $140 million budget hole. Let's raise the JumpStart Tax to fill it. Sure, we're going to have to fill it with something else in the meantime and then backfill with JumpStart, but let's do that. And so it's not hard to have a policy position and to try to do what you, try to hold onto that principle when you finally make it into office. And so I just wish people wouldn't hedge. And if you say something and then you change your mind later, you can just - you just do that. You could say I changed my mind for this reason or that reason. And then you won't have the - oh, broken promise mailer, or whatever that you're scared of. People just don't know how to be people on the campaign, and it's incredibly depressing. And it just takes so much time to parse. And I amplify your call and your hope that people will get better quickly on these issues.

[00:52:04] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I think it's going to be a competitive advantage for those - who do still have to hit all your campaign marks, do the things that get votes and connect with people. But the way to connect with people is to tell them concretely how you plan to improve their day-to-day life.

And with that, we will wrap up today's Hacks & Wonks. Thank you so much for listening on this Friday, January 27th, 2023. I cannot believe the month of January just evaporated like that. How dare it. But we're almost to Black History Month. Anyway, Hacks & Wonks is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today was Associate Editor of The Stranger and noted poet Rich Smith. You can find Rich on Twitter @richsssmith, with three S's in the middle. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks and find me on Twitter @finchfrii, with two I's at the end. 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 almost-live show 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 podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.

[00:53:31] Rich Smith: Thanks - bye.