Week in Review: January 7, 2022 - with Rich Smith

Week in Review: January 7, 2022 - with Rich Smith

On today’s week-in-review, Associate Editor of The Stranger, Rich Smith, joins Crystal to discuss the investigation finding that SPD improperly faked radio chatter about Proud Boys and escalated and inflamed tensions as CHOP formed, and a Kent PD Assistant police chief being asked to resign for posting Nazi insignia and his wife hiding critical social media posts on the city’s official social media accounts. They also chat about bills to pay attention to as the legislative session starts on Monday, as well as what Mayor Bruce Harrell’s inaugural press conference revealed about his plans and priorities.

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.


“Seattle police improperly faked radio chatter about Proud Boys as CHOP formed in 2020, investigation finds” by Daniel Beekman from The Seattle Times:


“Kent assistant police chief disciplined for posting Nazi insignia, joking about Holocaust” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times:


“Social media posts criticized how Kent police handled Nazi controversy — but they were hidden by chief’s wife” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times:


“A Big List of Bills to Track During Washington's 2022 Legislative Session” by Rich Smith from The Stranger:


“Harrell Pledges Bold Agenda in Inaugural Speech” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist:


“It’s up to Harrell to Save Renters in Peril” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger:



[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced on 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 again, today's cohost, Associate Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith.

[00:00:50] Rich Smith: Good to be back - thanks Crystal.

[00:00:52] Crystal Fincher: Good to have you back. Well, we have no shortage of things to talk about this week. And you know what? The SPD just keeps popping up into the news - it doesn't seem to end. And this week, we learned that police improperly faked radio chatter about Proud Boys as CHOP formed in 2020. What happened here?

[00:01:19] Rich Smith: Yeah. Well, it was June 8th, which was the day that the cops had abandoned the [East] Precinct, and lifted the barriers, and allowed protestors who had been gathered at that intersection in Capitol Hill - for several days being variously gassed and beaten up for making vocal their criticisms to the police, and occasionally throwing a rock or two. They released the barricades, let the protestors walk the block that they wanted to walk, and then yeah, and then left the - and then went about their business, basically.

And then after that, the cops hopped on the scanner, where they communicate with one another about crimes stuff, reports - stuff that's going on around town, and invented a hoax. They fabricated a maraudering gang of Proud Boys, a violent group known to brawl people in the streets, seek out anti-fascists and beat them up, suggested that they were armed with guns - and it was four cops who were enacting this ruse. And the ruse was overseen and approved by the two commanders, including the Captain of the East Precinct, which was the one that the cops had just abandoned. On Wednesday, the Office of Police Accountability determined that this ruse improperly - or not improperly, sorry - this ruse added fuel to the fire of the situation - it was not a de-escalation tactic to claim that there was a roving gang of white supremacists looking to crack some Antifa skulls downtown. But there was no recommended discipline for the cops who participated in the ruse, and the two cops who signed off on the ruse are no longer employed at SPD. And so-

[00:03:48] Crystal Fincher: It's all good, evidently.

[00:03:49] Rich Smith: That's what's going on - right, yeah.

[00:03:52] Crystal Fincher: I mean, from the OPA, their finding was just, "Shouldn't happen, but don't do it again. We're not looking at this in the context of everything else that has happened." And I mean, just underscoring that - no, it absolutely was not a de-escalation tactic. Yes, it absolutely inflamed tensions. Because this was not some nebulous threat, this was not some theoretical violent threat - these were people who had enacted violence upon protesters recently before that. There was a legitimate fear.

[00:04:32] Rich Smith: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, I walked through with the protesters - the barriers that were lifted - when they were happening. I was interviewing people, hearing the chatter and the gossip as that place where eventually the Free Capitol Hill that became CHAZ, that became CHOP - that autonomous zone around the precinct was forming. And the number one thing I heard, the number one concern I heard were these rumors of Proud Boys coming around the neighborhood. They're armed, they're dangerous, they're looking for Antifa. And there was concern that the Proud Boys were going to burn down the precinct and blame it on the Black Lives Matter movement, so suddenly there was this need to protect, ironically, the precinct from an attack. And a need to kind of hunker down and barricade the zone, and protect themselves against the threat that the cops had just invented over the scanner.

And you're right, that they also had further reason to believe that these rumors were true, because the day before, a man named Nikolas Fernandez allegedly drove his car into the side of the protests, had shot with an extended clip a man named Dan Gregory, and then ran to the front of the police line, where he was welcomed with open arms, potentially because his brother worked at that very precinct. Now, the defense for that case says that the guy was just confused, and he was on his way to work, and there was road blockages, and so he didn't know what to do, and he suddenly ran into this protest - yada, yada, yada - he's got his story. But, this is all to say that the protestors were very afraid of people attacking them in cars, were very afraid of Proud Boys coming, burning down the precinct, shooting them up in retaliation for the protesting.

And this ruse by the SPD was just bad policing - it inflamed the situation, to quote the OPA, but it also was the reason that CHOP formed. It might not have been the only reason, of course, it was non-hierarchical structures there - everyone was there for their own shit. But, that was the word on the street in the moment - was Proud Boys are coming, we've got to circle up, we've got to protect ourselves - and that was the staging grounds for CHOP.

[00:07:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and certainly aided the fortification, obviously. Everybody was there, principally initially, mainly, to protest violence against Black lives, particularly from the state. But in the moment, certainly, especially looking at tactics to maximize the effectiveness of this direct action, fortification was what made the most sense when you have an armed threat approaching you, and you're trying to assert your First Amendment right to protest. That is what they inflamed, what they created. And I don't even think, certainly in the aftermath of this, "Hey, this is a commonly used de-escalation tactic." Clearly they wanted to just mess with these protesters and to create chaos, and to provoke action that they could act against.

[00:08:26] Rich Smith: Yeah. What was his name - Brian - he was the captain of the East Precinct who now works for ADT, I think, down in Texas - the home security firm or whatever. Anyway, the guy who perpetuated, or who approved the ruse - when asked about it by Myerberg, or investigators with OPA - said that the reason for the ruse was they wanted to let the protestors know that cops were still out there doing stuff, that their position had not been weakened despite the fact that they literally had just abandoned the East Precinct - or a couple hours before - slash, they also wanted to do the ruse because they hoped it would draw protesters away from the precinct, and then, I don't know, maybe give them an opportunity, give the cops an opportunity to retake the precinct that they had already decided to abandon, again, as far as we know, themselves, without telling -

[00:09:28] Crystal Fincher: Themselves, yeah.

[00:09:30] Rich Smith: - without telling the mayor, who was supposed to be the overseer of the cops. They're Durkan's cops, acting on their own extremely bad, extremely wounded impulses. And they were clearly - it doesn't take a Psych major to determine that they were clearly wounded - and they wanted to show the protestors that the cops were still the top dog, that they still had the power, and the way that they decided to do that was to do what any bully or big brother would do, which is say there's a big, scary monster coming to attack you. And you're going to wish you had us to protect you, you know what I mean? And the protesters - they felt the need to defend themselves, felt the need to suddenly defend the property so that they didn't get accused of burning down a precinct when they didn't even do it, didn't want to hurt the movement. And so, this happened.

And then the response from City officials so far has been fun too - newly elected mayor, Bruce Harrell, released a statement saying like, "That sucked. Don't do that, that's totally bad, that's wrong. Don't do this - this ruse was bad." And, what was the action he's going to do? He's going to go down there and talk to Interim Police Chief, Adrian Diaz, and tell him that that's unacceptable behavior, and stuff like that. So, that's nice - the chief is going to get a talking to. And then the Public Safety Chair of the City Council, Lisa Herbold, released a statement saying that what she's calling for is for the cops to fully implement ruse training.

[00:11:20] Crystal Fincher: Ruse training?

[00:11:22] Rich Smith: Yeah, ruses are acceptable - cops can lie to people in order to arrest them, or get evidence from them - so long as they don't quote the, according to state law, shock the conscience. A cop can't say there's a nuclear bomb headed this way or whatever, just to get someone to move somewhere. They can't do anything that shocking. This maraudering gang of Proud Boys coming to attack you - that would, I think, falls into the bad ruse category. Anyway, OPA - the cops were supposed to fully implement training recommendations on ruses, they had only partially done so according to Herbold. And so, she wants to get those fully implemented - you've got to tell all the cops about how to do ruses properly. And she also wants the ruses fully documented - that was another recommendation from the OPA - every time they do one of these ruses, they should write down that they have done the ruse so that we can go back later and determine whether or not it was a good ruse or a bad ruse.

Or, we don't get in a situation like we were in today, where it comes out a year and a half after - like this vital piece of a narrative that the City is telling itself comes out a year and a half afterwards - thanks to, shout out to Omari Salisbury at Converge Media, who asked the cops for body cam footage of these Proud Boys that they were supposedly tracking. When his request turned up nil, OPA initiated their investigation. And also several, I should mention, journalists at the time - particularly Matt Watson, aka Spek - immediately thought that the ruse was a ruse.

[00:13:24] Crystal Fincher: He called it at the time, yeah.

[00:13:28] Rich Smith: He called it at the time, yeah. And communicated that very clearly, and brought receipts. And so, that prompted questioning from journalists that eventually, through the process of gaining public records and initiating investigations with the OPA, comes out with this vital piece of the story of the protests of 2020.

[00:13:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I mean, it's so interesting - one, just the story, and just the - obviously the story on its own is egregious, just another egregious example. But also another example of the loss of control of the department - this was not a mayor directing or controlling anything - nothing in that narrative was directed, influenced, controlled by the mayor. And also, nothing in that narrative, according to the information that's publicly available, was directed or controlled by the Police Chief at the time, Carmen Best. These were officers who had basically gone rogue, and made these consequential, harmful, dangerous decisions on their own with no recourse. We're now finding out about this months, years after the fact - and then following up with laughable accountability, honestly.

I mean, if ruse training is what comes out of this, I don't know how people are really looking at that as anything that meaningfully addresses this issue here - both with this specific issue - and with SPD overall. I hope that that was just an idea in the beginning, and we're going to get to the meat of accountability coming up, because that seems wholly just insufficient.

[00:15:28] Rich Smith: Yeah, I'm skeptical, yeah, of this reformist answer that the City leaders are currently taking, which is to - you have Bruce Harrell doing an appeal to authority saying, "I know what I'll do, I'll go to the chief, and then we'll have this top-down answer," which is pretty typical, I think, of Harrell's impulse just as a leader. He's constantly talking about how he's going to bring the right people together, he knows everybody in the City, everybody knows him, it's a real top-down kind of coach approach. And so it makes sense that he would be like, "I know what I'll do, I'll go to the lead of the organization, Diaz, and say, 'Hey, this is unacceptable, tell everybody to quit this, whatever.'" Okay, so that's one - that's his approach to this reform.

Herbold is saying, "We need more oversight over the cops lying, we need more records of this stuff, we need more training." But, the thing that seems to actually work, and what we're finding out as a result of many of these OPA investigations, is that the cops who perpetuated this bullshit are no longer at the department. And they're no longer at the department not because reformers rooted them out, but because of the Defund movement, which created a culture around policing that is inherently skeptical, that demands real accountability, that says, "You can't be hitting us, and we're going to film you when you do," that demands more of cops, and that doesn't - yeah. And so, that seems to be the thing that worked to root out a number of these officers who've gone rogue, or whose mission as officers don't align with the City's mission - I'll just say that.

[00:17:25] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, yeah, pretty much.

[00:17:26] Rich Smith: Defund worked - I don't know what to tell you. It probably rooted out more bad apples than any consent decree could have. I really should put asterisks all over that, I don't have any numbers or whatever. But just anecdotally, every time they go to discipline one of these guys, they're not there anymore. And it's for a reason.

[00:17:50] Crystal Fincher: I would say increasingly - I think that there's still a number up there. But, certainly increasingly, and certainly it's because there has been pressure applied and accountability demanded, and increasingly made possible by the Defund movement and its demands, and holding other lawmakers accountable for enacting that through policy and through investigation and action. So, we will see how that continues.

This is not the only police story that came up this week. In my city of Kent, Washington, we - it came out - have a police chief, an assistant police chief, who displayed literal Nazi propaganda, who was disciplined for posting a Nazi insignia, and joking about the Holocaust. The more that we learn about this, the worse that it gets. He admittedly joked about the Holocaust, he admittedly - this was a long-running thing. He had shaved his facial hair once into a Hitler mustache, and repeatedly told a joke to the effect that - just a horrible joke, horrible anti-Semitic joke, obviously this is all anti-Semitic. And word was given that the discipline for this - for an assistant chief who had repeatedly joked about the Holocaust, who had acted consistent with Nazi behavior and literally posted Nazi insignias on his door in the police department - was a two week suspension. That's what initially came out.

[00:19:34] Rich Smith: That'll do it.

[00:19:35] Crystal Fincher: Obviously, public outcry. Obviously, a response from other City officials caused the mayor to reconsider and announced that she will be asking the union for this officer's resignation. Now obviously, firing may not be as simple in all of these situations to have it stick, but you can certainly act that way and then be like, "Okay, well, we dare you to try and get your job back, you person who are comfortable with Nazi actions and cosplay, and spreading that nasty infection to the rest of the department." I should note that this was caught because a detective under this assistant chief's command reported him after this insignia had been up for four days. One reported him - everyone else in the department, I'm sure, was not comfortable reporting an assistant chief to this. To me, this speaks a lot about the culture that is currently happening there - that this can happen and only one, thankfully one, but only one reported this. And my goodness, if the recommendation that comes back after an investigation is two weeks, then doesn't that indicate that this entire system is broken? There's a lot more broken here.

[00:21:07] Rich Smith: Yeah. I mean, if you can't fire a Nazi cop for putting Third Reich insignia outside of his office door - and he wasn't just like some cop, right?

[00:21:22] Crystal Fincher: Nope.

[00:21:22] Rich Smith: This guy was the head of the Department of Special Investigations and Detective Unit -

[00:21:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, Assistant Chief.

[00:21:30] Rich Smith: Assistant Chief, yeah. And this guy's safe space sticker is a couple of Nazi patches. It's just - the plausible deniability stretches the bounds of the imagination. He says that he didn't know that the insignia was Nazi stuff, it was from a show. So, if you're fighting an improper dismissal case or whatever, it just - I guess this is where you end up in the process, with a two-week suspension. But you're right, you could try to fight it a little bit harder, and push and push and push on this guy's counter-story, and really continue to gather more of this evidence that he was just flagrantly doing Nazi stuff in the Kent Police Department.

[00:22:23] Crystal Fincher: Openly in the Kent Police Department. And if you can't fire a Nazi cop, who can you fire? The investigation found - he tried to say, "You know, despite making anti-Semitic jokes, and despite giving myself a literal Hitler mustache - that Nazi insignia that I posted on my door, I had no idea it was actually a Nazi insignia." And the investigation found that that was not the case, the investigation found that he knowingly posted that, knowing that it was a Nazi insignia. Everything about this screams Nazi cop, because literally Nazi cop. And so, this is a situation - to me - and for a lot of departments when they have egregious actions like this, and then they say, "Well, given the how - with the cop contracts oftentimes are - it's hard to fire them. If they went through arbitration, they'd wind up back on the force." Well, test it, test it. Say, "We're making a stand. And if you force us, perhaps, but we're not doing this willingly." Make that stand. And so, I suppose that is now where the mayor is at, asking for the resignation. If he says no, then what? Kick him off - get him out.

[00:23:46] Rich Smith: You know, I think maybe we should do anti-Nazi training. But, anti-Nazi is a little just one-sided, so we probably should do anti-extremist training.

[00:23:55] Crystal Fincher: Oh my gosh. And look, I live in Kent - it is not like I haven't noticed the increase in Blue Lives Matter stickers on police vehicles, which has been an issue in other cities. And there's been pushback against in other cities - certainly this has been brought up and basically ignored by City leadership. Would love to hear some accountability on that. There's a lot to find when you look into the City of Kent.

[00:24:26] Rich Smith: Yes, yeah, and there should be more - yeah, much more scrutiny on a lot of these, the goings-on in these suburban cities. But, just the whole Nazi cop thing, or alleged Nazi cop thing goes back to this - how do you change the culture in these institutions? And the reformist answer seems to be - you change it by training, you change it by putting pressure on the higher-ups to be accountable to the people they oversee - these are their answers. It just goes back to how challenging it is going to be for reformists to really change the culture of these institutions, especially when the culture right now of these institutions is self-victimization, a feeling like that they're the guardians, literally, against chaos in society. And a number of them are attracted to - everyone goes where they're flattered - and so the cops are going to conservative wings of political thought, where they're bathed and flattered. And this is all contributing to being a little bit more permissive of the old Nazi insignia on the door. I don't know how you rearrange that without drastically changing who a cop is and what a cop does. I think that that's where you have to start making change, rather than saying like, "We're going to tell your boss on you," or, "We're going to train you to not be a Nazi." I think that those reforms haven't worked, as well as-

[00:26:09] Crystal Fincher: They have failed.

[00:26:10] Rich Smith: Yeah, yeah.

[00:26:12] Crystal Fincher: They have failed.

[00:26:13] Rich Smith: And yeah, going back to what I said earlier, the Defund movement did more to root out these kinds of cops than any of these reforms seem to. I don't know that for sure, but that seems to be what we're learning anecdotally.

[00:26:25] Crystal Fincher: Well, it certainly has brought - it says in no uncertain terms that the resources that we continue to dedicate to the things that have not worked, that have not worked to make us safer - bottom line - and that have not worked to curb this behavior in all of these departments. It has not worked, so why are we continuing to dump more resources in the same types of things? We're at a time now where we just had a lot of new lawmakers sworn in - lots of city councils, new mayors sworn in - and they have the opportunity to lead in a different way than we've seen before. We have a new legislative session that's about to start, and there's the opportunity there for them to take substantive action to fill in the gaps in accountability that exist.

And I would just urge these people to look at these situations, and to look at how inadequate our laws, regulations, have been in addressing this - and understanding the need for more accountability. That we've tried training, we've tried all of these types of, "Don't you see how bad this is?" And the only thing that seems to be effective at getting people to see how bad it is is treating them - is acting on our behalf, as if it's actually bad - and holding people accountable. We're having this conversation at the same time that we have a new City Attorney in Seattle who is talking about prosecuting crimes. We are more comfortable as a society talking about the consequences for stealing a loaf of bread than we are for being a Nazi assistant police chief, and I am just sick of it. I cannot stand it, and I urge people to take substantive action. It is time to be bold - this is why people were elected. Please do something.

[00:28:18] Rich Smith: Would you mind for a moment if we did see what the legislators are up to over -

[00:28:21] Crystal Fincher: Let's look at that - you actually - there was a wonderful article that you wrote about this that covered a lot of this. And one directly ties to - a number directly tie to policing. One, an issue directly tied to the lying - ruses in SPD. What is on tap in the legislative session that's about to start on Monday?

[00:28:55] Rich Smith: That's right. We've got a 60-day session coming up - short session - mostly just tweaking stuff going on, mostly just kind of working multi-year bills that people know are going to take a bunch of time to get over the finish line. And of course, we've got to pass, I think, around a $60 billion supplemental budget, so there's some consideration about how to use a lot of one-time millions and one-time federal funding.

But, there is some policing stuff going on in terms of the proposed bills, thus far - related to lying - House Bill 1690, if you want to follow it, Rep Strom Peterson, of all people - a Democrat - wants to render inadmissible evidence gathered from cops who lie to suspects during interrogation. So that, if passed - if a cop is interrogating somebody and they invent a ruse or a lie - say, "Your dad told me you did it, your friends told me you did it," and that produces a false confession or some piece of evidence that is going to be submitted in court later. This law passes and says, "We're not going to take that evidence." So, the thinking being that that would deter cops from using this tactic to produce evidence, which would be no good to them in a court anyway. So, that wouldn't stop cops from using ruses of the kind that helped to start CHOP in the City. But, it would potentially lower the use of this tactic, which young people are particularly vulnerable to. For instance, the Central Park Five - they picked them up because the cop lied and said that their friends had already ratted on them. And so, they drew false confessions that way.

More recently, in 2019, I think a Seattle police officer was interrogating a guy who they suspected of hitting a bunch of parked cars - didn't injure anybody, but the cop told him that he had left one person in critical condition. A little while after that, the guy, feeling so sad that he had done something that killed somebody - he thought killed somebody - committed suicide as a result of that. So, I don't know if it should be illegal for cops to do ruses. But, these kinds of - I'm sure that they don't want to unilaterally disarm when suspects themselves do ruses to try to escape accountability from laws that we decide that we want as a society or whatever. But, there should be some guard rails around how badly you could lie, to what extent evidence produced through this really tricky, potentially disastrous tactic can be used. And, that seems like a good one in particular.

[00:32:15] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and there's a lot of others. I mean, you've rounded up - there's gun legislation to ban high-capacity magazines, close the ghost gun loophole. There's bills to address income inequality - work continues with Rep Noel Frame. And work on the guaranteed basic income policy, sponsored by Liz Berry. Lots of good stuff in there, lots of criminal justice reform, a number of them - bill to allow for the legal grow and therapeutic guiding of trips for psilocybin - which has been legalized in a lot of other places. Certainly, the frequently-talked about Washington Cares Act, and figuring out what to do with that. Environmental bills to reduce emissions from gas companies, to make buildings more efficient, make packaging more recyclable. One that I am tracking closely and in favor of - by Mia Gregerson - to move local elections to even-numbered years with Rep Debra Entenman. A lot of stuff there - are there any other ones that stick out to you?

[00:33:26] Rich Smith: Yeah. The big one for me, this year, that I'll probably be screaming about - I won't be alone in it, I'm sure, is Senate Bill 5670, House Bill 1782. They're identical bills - it's just the House bill and the Senate version - sponsored by Mona Das in the Senate and Jessica Bateman in the House. And it would legalize multi-unit homes statewide - I don't know how you want to put it - abolish single-family zoning statewide under certain criteria. That criteria, not to bore people, but everywhere within a half a mile of rapid transit - that is like bus stops that come every 15 minutes, rail, ferry stop - you're going to legalize up to sixplexes, basically. And then cities with lower populations, under 20,000, they'll have to take less density. I think it goes down to quads. And then cities under 10,000, they have to take duplexes. There's an alternative for cities who don't want to do that - where they have a formula - and then they get to put the density wherever they want to, but they can't perpetuate racism in doing so. So, that's kind of the basic structure of the bill.

Oregon has already legalized apartments and homes and multi-unit homes everywhere. California has already legalized apartments and multi-unit homes everywhere. Minneapolis has done this. The sky hasn't fallen. It's absolutely necessary because we have a 250,000 unit-strong housing deficit. This has tragicomically - sorry, this has raised the price of homes to tragicomically high levels. The only place a first-time home buyer can afford to live is in like, Ferry County. There's six counties, there's seven counties, in the eastern part of the state where you can technically afford to buy a home if it's your first one. Everywhere else is astronomical and damn-near impossible to own affordably. We're only building 44,000 units a year, so that's not going to keep up with the number of units we need to solve this housing crisis. They've been trying to pass this bill for four years, and this year there's some reason for excitement, because Governor Inslee has put his weight behind it. However, there's still plenty of opposition - you've got the Association of Washington Cities, which represent cities, which are filled by NIMBYs, because they think that adding more density is going to lower their property values, which is going to tank their retirement prospects, because we live in a society that for some reason links the price of our house to whether or not we get to comfortably retire in old age. That's a separate episode. But, there's a lot of strong opposition to this bill, so - at a press conference yesterday, the leadership didn't sound too enthused about it. So, it's going to take a big - if you want to try to save the housing crisis with a market-based solution this year, you're going to want to be tracking this bill. And every time it gets a hearing you're going to want to sign up to talk about it, say how much you can't afford a house in your own neighborhood, et cetera. And you're going to want to push your lawmakers, because right now they're hearing from NIMBYs - the default is, don't allow this density. So, yeah.

[00:37:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And many of them live in those neighborhoods, and have those tendencies themselves -

[00:37:16] Rich Smith: That's right.

[00:37:16] Crystal Fincher: - realistically, and are hearing this from their literal next-door neighbors. So, it is critical that people make a phone call, send an email to your legislator to say, "Hey, absolutely support this. I'm excited about it. I am expecting you to support it and will be paying attention." And to sign in when the bill has a hearing as it goes through the process. People have to know and hear from people who want this legislation, because NIMBYs mobilize for this, always, big time. And, they're in the minority. We see poll after poll that says that they are not the majority here, but the majority isn't used to advocating in the same way and pushing those same levers of power for these issues. And we really need to.

[00:38:02] Rich Smith: Yeah. And it's hard to tell - and you've got to do it blanket. You can't assume because you think you have a progressive representative that they're going to be automatically on board. You cannot name one Democratic Senator in the Senate right now who is like - you could name any of them, and then say, "This person is going to vote against this bill," and that would make sense to me. I don't know who opposes it, but there's a reason it hasn't passed in four years. There's a reason why Mona Das has to keep trying, who's a renter by the way. She's also a mortgage broker, but she's also a renter. And, so any one of these people could be problem children to getting this, again, market-based solution. I mean, we're talking about letting people build. I thought that this was what you all were about, you know? I thought you guys were super into this kind of thing. But yeah, so, anyway, this is all to say - don't give your representative the benefit of the doubt because you think they're progressive. They could be a NIMBY in hiding, you know?

[00:39:14] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely correct. Well, I just want to take these last few minutes on the show to talk about another event that was covered this week - the Bruce Harrell inaugural press conference. After being sworn in, he made a speech - we now have Mayor Harrell, Mayor Durkan is no more - no more in office, she's certainly around - who knows where she's going to end, like go, I don't know, maybe she's going to run away from Seattle. But, Bruce Harrell is here, and he made a very bold-sounding speech. And I just wanted to talk about a few of the specifics in his speech, or what he brought, and some of them had specifics.

One kind of immediate thing - he's still weighing whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which ends on January 15th. Obviously the Rona is here, the Omicron variant is just continuing to dance through our lives. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we aren't beyond it - certainly parents are struggling with how to approach school, schools are struggling to just be staffed at a level that they can have staff in classrooms. Now we're not even at just teachers in classrooms, just any adult staff member is filling in in many places, in many districts. It's a hard thing. And in the midst of this obviously we're still dealing with the same issues of people taking care of sick relatives, people they are living with, living with immunocompromised people. And so, we don't know - he said he would be looking at the data and figuring that out. So, we can expect an upcoming announcement on whether or not that's going to continue, and I'm sure your feedback on whether he should continue that would be helpful. Chief Diaz is - oh, go ahead.

[00:41:05] Rich Smith: Yeah, just to add, there was an important report in The Times this morning that the County doesn't have enough money to handle all of the rent assistance applications that has come its way. So, there's 10,000 requests for rental assistance that the County is not processing -

[00:41:25] Crystal Fincher: Oh my gosh.

[00:41:26] Rich Smith: - as of November. The County asked for $120 million from the Feds to cover the gap. So, if Bruce doesn't - I mean, and so - that's 10,000 people who say that they're behind on rent - in King County - I don't know how many particularly in Seattle. If Harrell lifts the eviction moratorium, that's that. And then those people could face eviction for non-payment of the rent.

[00:41:57] Crystal Fincher: That's the trigger, yep.

[00:41:58] Rich Smith: And so, that's something to - hopefully that the Harrell administration is considering. And also he says that he wants to strike some kind of balance between keeping vulnerable people housed, and making it so that vulnerable landlords don't feel like they have to sell their rental property and potentially decrease the rental housing stock. That's another conversation, but this is what he's balancing. Okay, he hinted that he was going to maybe rewrite some version of the moratorium, maybe he'll just keep it for another month based on The Seattle Times report, the amount of need that's out there. But, it's a huge problem, it's a big thing that the Harrell administration needs to deal with right now, and it's happening next week.

[00:42:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - very, very big thing. And that was a very important data point to be considered. Another one - Chief Adrian Diaz might stay - Bruce Harrell didn't say that he was definitely going to leave, that they had some evaluation to do, that he needed to set expectations, and they needed to talk about those. And so it's possible that Chief Diaz stays, or that he embarks upon a nationwide search. He brought up that the City will pursue climate policies towards net zero emissions so that there'd be an early focus on electric cars. But that there weren't many specifics there, so we will wait to see what happens there.

You know, another big thing that I was not expecting - that was intriguing, actually - and that could turn out to be very good. He said that he wanted to provide healthcare for every Seattle resident. That would be big, that would be awesome if that actually turned out to be every Seattle resident, if that included mental healthcare - like comprehensive healthcare for every Seattle resident would be great. Announced that as an initiative, where they said that they're coming up with the parameters to evaluate who does and who doesn't have healthcare so far, and figuring that out. So, we still have to see what the specifics of this are going to be.

[00:44:15] Rich Smith: Yeah, finding money in the City budget - if it takes any money to provide healthcare for people as a City, finding that money in the City budget sounds like a real challenge. But, it's a worthy one. I don't know of many municipalities that offer healthcare for all in this way. I think New York City - Bill de Blasio did one - I should have looked that up before we started talking. But yeah, it seems like it would cost a lot of money, and he's got Tim Burgess on the case, the Strategic Initiatives Lead that he hired - former mayor, former City Councilman of many years, I think 12, don't quote me on that - and Burgess is a former cop, but he has led, I think, on some health initiatives. He made a big deal out of the Nurse-Family Partnership whenever he was on the Council. So, it's not crazy to have him do this - he's created healthcare policy, or worked on healthcare policy before. There's another person who's working with Burgess on this, I can't remember her name. But, in any event - so yeah, it would be a big deal, it would be cool, it will be interesting to see what they end up doing. From the sound of it, it was like, "We've got to get a dashboard spreadsheet of who's sick first," and yeah.

[00:45:44] Crystal Fincher: One of my takeaways was that this is going to be an administration that loves dashboards - there was talk about data and dashboards for everything. We'll see how that turns out, but that certainly was a big, bold proposal that would be a huge win for everybody.

[00:46:02] Rich Smith: Yeah.

[00:46:03] Crystal Fincher: For residents of Seattle. He also talked about making noticeable change, noticeable progress, on housing people, on reducing our unhoused population - in the first quarter, I believe he said. And so, I'm going to be excited to see how he conducts that. He said that he's excited to get people into housing. And if he can get people into housing and there's a noticeable difference, I don't know anyone who is opposed to that. Now, if this is a sweeps-based solution, I think there's a lot of people who are not going to be happy with that. But it will be very interesting to see - again, they said that they're still collecting a lot of data, but he said that is one area where we can expect to see noticeable improvement. So, I truly hope - I don't think there's anyone who does not want people to be housed who are not housed. And I hope that there's listening to people who are telling people - there's this narrative about "refusing services." When people are offered services - that can be a very misleading statement - because a lot of times those services aren't available or applicable to their situation. But also, there are reasons why the services available may not meet the needs of the people on the ground. And so, I hope we're listening to what people say will meet their needs, and build towards what will meet their needs and solve this issue and house people. If that happens, I think we're all waiting to applaud Bruce Harrell for that.

[00:47:33] Rich Smith: That's right. And he also said - on the getting houses for those people to live in, or for everyone to live in - he talked about housing for all, and making sure everyone had an affordable place to live. His first action was going to be to - he did an executive order to look at permitting processes. And it sounded like he wanted to streamline permitting - which is a thing that people say, but that's going to be interesting to see what he gets back. I mean, permitting - what's he going to get? It's a bunch of ideas that sound good on their own. So if he gets a list back and sees what kinds of permitting people need to do to build housing, what's Bruce Harrell administration going to get rid of? Are they going to get rid of design review, are they going to get rid of MHA, are they going to get rid of sprinklers for town homes, are they going to get rid of environmental review? I wonder if the Bruce Harrell administration is going to get rid of any of these processes that have built up around building housing.

We know what it's going to take to get housing for all, and it's a billion dollars a year for 10 years, with the current affordable housing scheme that cities have concocted. Or, it's going to take massive investment in public or social housing, so we can put people inside. And so, maybe streamlined permitting can work a little bit, but it'll be interesting to see how we want to streamline that process. Not saying that there's not room for improvement, there definitely is. I don't give a **** about design review, I imagine the Harrell administration does. But, maybe they don't - I don't know, surprise me. Yeah, there's a lot more reporting to do on this.

[00:49:30] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I mean, it will be interesting. Also, there is a - on the subject of zoning specifically - was a little bit fuzzy on that, but he said, quote, "We'll fill in the gaps where zoning is already available for housing and construction and density. And our Chief Operating Officer, Marco Lowe (a name that Hacks & Wonks listeners will be familiar with, as he's a co-host sometimes on Hacks & Wonks) who not only has deep experience in City Hall but also actual experience in the housing industry, will lead this critical effort. So, as we embark on a City-wide master plan update - and again, it's time for that master plan update. As many of you are aware, we'll look at opportunities to address every neighborhood to address the shortage of quality housing at every income level." So, not specifics there - a plan to address it, a point person named, and Marco Lowe to do it. And so, eager to see what results from that, but certainly results are needed.

[00:50:26] Rich Smith: More power to - let them know, Marco.

[00:50:34] Crystal Fincher: Marco's certainly competent, on the case, and I hope that they can make substantive progress. I believe Marco can - hopefully the intentions of the administration are truly to do that. And again - that happens, everybody wins. People are waiting to applaud that.

[00:50:55] Rich Smith: It'll be an interesting four years.

[00:50:57] Crystal Fincher: It will be, it definitely will be. Well, thank you.

[00:51:00] Rich Smith: If he brings back the Sonics, that's going to be eight years. I've been telling you, this is the one thing - anyway, I don't want to start a new topic, but it'll be an interesting four or eight years depending on whether or not Bruce Harrell brings back the Sonics.

[00:51:14] Crystal Fincher: Look, you know what? If he brings back the Sonics - yeah, that's going to be a whole thing, that's going to be a whole thing. And my goodness, looking at some of these other clubs around the country. And look, I don't want to take a team from the other city, but they have really messed things up in Oklahoma City. Wow, they did not earn the Sonics, they did not. They are a mess, they are trifling and shady and ridiculous and shameful. And anyway, I mean, I'm a Lakers fan, so you know. But I mean, the Sonics have a place in my heart. Kevin Durant has a place in my heart, we just - we need the Sonics back here. All right.

We are more than beyond our time, but I just want to thank everybody for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM, this Friday, January 7th 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler, with assistance from Shannon Cheng. And our wonderful co-host today was Associate Editor of The Stranger, Rich Smith. You can find Rich on Twitter @richsssmith, with three S's in the middle. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, with two I's at the end. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts, just type "Hacks & Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live show and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, 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 - all the great articles that we talked about - at OfficialHacksAndWonks.com and in the episode notes.

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