Week in Review: July 15, 2022 - with Mike McGinn

Week in Review: July 15, 2022 - with Mike McGinn

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn. Mike starts off discussing what he looks for in candidates. Then Mike and Crystal spend time talking about the Seattle City Council putting ranked choice voting on the ballot, how that impacts the conflicting approval voting initiative, and the differences between both systems. Next, they break down reporting on how the lack of housing is actually the leading cause of homelessness, and what it will take to properly make an impact on our state’s homelessness crisis. Finally, Crystal and Mike ask why elected leaders continue to politicize, ignore and defund public safety programs that have proven to be effective.

About the Guest

Mike McGinn is former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks.

Find Mike McGinn on Twitter/X at @mayormcginn.


Vote by August 2nd! Need to register to vote or update your registration? Go here: https://vote.wa.gov

“People Power Washington’s 2022 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide”https://www.wethepeoplepower.org/wa-state-legislature-2022

Available now for State Legislature primary races! https://www.wethepeoplepower.org/washington-state-legislature-candidates-2022


“Seattle City Council puts ranked-choice voting on the ballot” by Melissa Santos from Axios:https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/07/15/seattle-city-council-ranked-choice-voting-ballot

“Cause of homelessness? It’s not drugs or mental illness, researchers say” by Gary Warth from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/cause-of-homelessness-its-not-drugs-or-mental-illness-researchers-say/

“Homelessness is a Housing Problem,” by Gregg Colburn & Clayton Page Aldern

“Mayor Harrell Wants to Give Cops an Extra $30,000 to Work in Seattle” by Hanna Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/07/13/76404101/mayor-harrell-wants-to-give-cops-an-extra-30000-to-work-in-seattle

“King County Expands Public Health Approach In Response to Rising Gun Violence” by Natalie Bicknell Argerious from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/07/14/king-county-expands-public-health-approach-in-response-to-rising-gun-violence/

“Seattle Might Soon Defund a Promising Police Alternative” by Will Casey from The Stranger:https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/06/23/75477450/seattle-might-soon-defund-a-promising-police-alternative


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today we are continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show - one of our favorites - activist, community leader, former Mayor of Seattle and Executive Director of America Walks: the popular Mike McGinn.

[00:00:57] Mike McGinn: I think we need to add a little more to that intro - I think we need more, I think we need more. Glad to be here, thank you so much.

[00:01:05] Crystal Fincher: Glad to have you here. This past week, we actually hosted a couple of candidate forums - one in the 37th legislative district, another in the 36th legislative district - because ballots are arriving, you should probably have your ballot, or get it tomorrow if you don't have it yet because the election on August 2nd is upon us. In one of those forums, one candidate that you had endorsed got emotional talking about your endorsement meaning a lot to them, so certainly popular with a number of people - largely, just because of the work that you have done. So appropriate that we're here talking to someone who has gone through many campaigns himself, right as we have so many people going through that same process, and everyone is receiving their ballots so they can vote. What's your take on ballots dropping? What are you looking out for? What are your thoughts?

[00:02:08] Mike McGinn: Yeah, it's so I - number one, I'm appreciative and maybe I shouldn't advertise this, but when people call me and ask me about running for office, I almost always speak with them. I guess - call me before you announce is my one thing - as I tell people, there's only two times when you're pretty much guaranteed coverage in a race - when you announce you're in it and when they announce the election results. So you really wanna get out the gate well, and I think a lot of people tend to think - well, I just need to get in the race, I need to start telling my friends, and I need to start raising my money - they haven't really thought through what it is they're doing and why they're running. And that's the thing I look for the most in a candidate - is there values - and I think we have a tendency, and sometimes Democrats in particular have this tendency, to look for the policy positions and someone's depth of knowledge on policy issues.

And I think that's important, but to me, the policy positions are usually important because they're gonna reveal something about the underlying values of the person - what really matters to them, what do they choose to highlight, and how do they choose to approach it? So I don't expect, particularly first-time candidates for office, to have depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. I think that's unrealistic, and I think you're just rewarding the facile mind or the person who reads the - the policy wonk type who reads everything all the time. I'd be looking for who's the person who really has been engaged and has put their values into action, shown where their heart lies by what they've chosen to work on and how they've chosen to work on it. And you might be able to forgive a little policy difference here or there if you feel like their heart's really in the right place, 'cause people can tell you the right thing when they're running 'cause they know what'll ring the bell, but what will happen when it gets hard? What will happen when the pressure hits? Will they stick with that, or will they move somewhere else?

And so that also leads to one of my favorite questions for a candidate - tell me a time you did something hard, even if it might have been unpopular. Tell me, and what was, it? And that's another thing I look for. So it matters to me what people have chosen to work on over the years and where they come from, and that's what I tend to base my endorsements on. Are they gonna be able to do something hard when the pressure of office gets in there? 'Cause if you don't do something hard before you get elected, you're probably not gonna do it after you get elected - the pressure's too much.

[00:04:48] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, you will not do it after you get elected. And we've talked about this a bit before, but absolutely that, and a lot of times people look at running as - oh, this is really hard, once I just win this election, then I can to the work of governing and - but no, it gets harder, it gets much harder. The work begins once you finish your campaign, which is a scary thought for people going through all of the ups and downs and work of - it's certainly a lot - but it does not get easier, the scrutiny and the accountability only grows from there. And so I'm similar - after all of the time that I've spent just paying attention and watching candidates up close and seeing how they operate before they run, during the campaign - translates to how they govern. 'Cause a lot of the things that you do when you're actually running for office don't translate to the job of governing and meeting the needs of your constituents.

And it really is this issue that I think we're facing all over the place - how can we have Democratic majorities, Democratic governor, leadership House and Senate, Congressional majorities, yet be stuck on what we need to pass, even on things just like - hey, we need to act to codify women's right to abortion services, people's right to privacy in law - and we don't have the votes to do that in Congress. And even calling a special session here, within a Democratic majority, and so a big question is not just - Hey, are you progressive? Are you a Democrat? Do you know what the right policy is? - 'cause every single one of those people running and people we see running in the state do know the right answers, right? The answers that will make people nod their heads and agree with them and - okay, they like it. But when Congressional leadership and House leadership is saying - Hey, we're close to passing this bill, we just need - this isn't gonna fly - so-and-so member over here doesn't want this provision that is key to serving people in your community who you know need it, we just need you on the Yes vote, don't hold this up, don't be difficult, don't do that, you're not playing that kind of stuff. Are you going to say - No, this is important and I'm a No without that, or I'm going to need this in, or how do we work this in, we can continue to talk but this needs to be in and we need to figure out how to get there - where those things are not going to be compromised away.

Because we've done a lot of the easy stuff - a lot of the problems that continue to get worse, like housing affordability, we're seeing rights recede, we're seeing income inequality continue to get worse. And the action needed to solve those problems, the action needed to solve homelessness, the action needed to solve to make our streets safer - that's the hard stuff. That's the stuff where there is not uniform agreement among Democrats or progressives. That's the stuff where there is not agreement from leadership in these bodies to say - okay, let's do that. That's the controversial stuff. And we need people who will stand up and say - We have compromised that away before - we've taken action on all that other stuff, it's time to move on this stuff that we know is critical to making our future better and not just perpetuating these same things. That's my feeling.

[00:08:38] Mike McGinn: Well, we've got this - you're previewing an issue that we're gonna talk about - housing and homelessness - I almost wanted to jump right in there with that, but I'm also really intrigued by what has happened with, as folks may know, there was signatures collected to put approval voting on the ballot this year. Meaning a change in the system by which candidates are elected in Seattle would be put into the City Charter and apply in future elections. And the basic concept of approval voting was that in the primary you could select every candidate that you approved of. And that has a certain appeal when you have, as we do here in legislative races or City Council races coming up next year, you'll have seven or eight candidates and you don't wanna waste your vote on someone that doesn't stand a chance of winning. And so that was the appeal. And as background, there's a sizable contingent of folks who've been proponents of ranked-choice voting and who've opposed approval voting. But they have spoken to the City Council, and the City Council is now - City Council has a choice when something collects enough signatures to go on the ballot - the City Council can either just put it into law, they can send it to the ballot, or they can send it to the ballot with an alternative. And the City Council has approved an alternative, which is to use ranked-choice voting, to select your top two.

So you get to select, I don't know how many ranks they're gonna put in, but you'll be able to rank the candidates in the race. And the lowest-ranked candidate - they count multiple times - so everybody goes like 1-5 for their candidates, or whatever the number is here. And once they tally the first round of votes, the lowest-ranked candidate gets knocked out and everybody who voted first for that person, you look to their second-choice votes and add them in. And you keep doing that until somebody - until in this case - until you reach top two for the primary. So in one case you just - everybody I like. In the other case, you go - here are the people I like in the order I like 'em, and that will end up picking our top two. And it's just - I'm sorry, I know I'm doing a lot of explaining here - but the other part of it that's fascinating is the way the ballot is is - Do you think we should do something different? is the first question. Should we consider an alternative? And if you say yes, then they will ask - Which one do you like? Do you like the approval voting or do you like the ranked-choice voting? So we're gonna have a great discussion here about - 'cause let me tell you something - ranked-choice voting advocates and approval voting advocates both really, really care about why their system is better than the other. So we're gonna hear a ton of that, but I think there's a fundamental question, which is - Why change what we have? Because that's the first vote. And so -

[00:11:44] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that is the first vote.

[00:11:45] Mike McGinn: That's the first vote. And I don't know - I'll put my cards on the table - I'm definitely voting Yes, that let's change what we have. We can talk about why. And I don't know - I wanna hear all the arguments about which is better than the other as this debate progresses, because I do think - I personally think both would be better - that's my take.

[00:12:07] Crystal Fincher: I have a different take. We talked about this a little bit before in the program - I do have a different take. We have been discussing ranked-choice voting, there's been a movement for ranked-choice voting for quite some time in our state from a lot of community advocates in a lot of areas across the state. This is something that has had support on the ground from within different communities and different counties across the state. I will tell you that I do like ranked-choice voting and if the vote were up to me, I would choose to do that. But I will also say that we've tried ranked-choice voting in Pierce County before and it didn't go very well. And not because there was a flaw with ranked-choice voting, but because we need to invest in the voter education that it takes to do that.

It's one thing for very online people - people who live and breathe politics and policy who are going through and know what the ballot question is gonna look like from the Council, and we got the update on the Council decision. Most people do not have the time, or even know where to begin to look, or have the inclination to figure all that out, right? And they're dealing with elections pretty much when they see their ballot arrive in their mailbox. And there are lots of people in different situations - there are lots of people who do not have home internet access - the majority of my neighbors do not have home internet access where I live. They're looking at stuff on their phones, they're doing different things, but it's not like they're getting a lot of information online. And for people who are not plugged in online and getting all of the alerts from government - there actually isn't great outreach person-to-person, through the mailbox, people - hey, this is gonna change. And if someone gets a ballot and they don't know what to do with it, the decision that they most often make is not to vote. And that confusion is just a bad feeling for people who do want to vote. And that causes a - hey, what what do I even do with this, I don't know.

And so I think ranked-choice voting is excellent. And I think that we have to make sure that there is a planned investment and strategy to make it work, to outreach to every community, to reach out to people in language, to work through community centers, to work through churches, to work through everywhere - to make sure that the community understands that this change is coming and this is how to work through it. And not just a - hey, we're gonna have some news coverage as ballots drop and that kind of thing. But months and months beforehand to do that - that is what it takes to really enfranchise people. Or else we're gonna see really low-turnout elections and a lot of frustration and a lot of pushback that reflects on the system, when really it's a reflection on the implementation. And that would be the case for either one of these initiatives, really - that's not just tied to ranked-choice voting. I think that was a lesson that we learned that would apply to any kind of change. So I personally would just implore anyone working on this to have a plan that isn't reliant on the news getting the word out, that isn't reliant on people learning online what to do - that you are going out and educating the people about the change because in order to empower the people and to enfranchise the people who are most frequently left out, that step is critical.

[00:15:45] Mike McGinn: I think that's absolutely right. And a few different thoughts - one is that there is that threshold question of why change. And one of my fears in this process is that the proponents of either approach will focus on the - why is my - what's the difference? And it's natural in campaigns for - just campaigns don't like gray, they like black and white. And so the opportunity here for the proponents of one to say that the other one would in fact be an unmitigated disaster, if approved, is gonna be really strong. But that leads to a really interesting point because - what is the goal of the proponents of each? Is it to get a change, or is it to actually - or would they prefer that the voters not approve the threshold question? And I don't know, I'm not trying to - I'm not, this isn't coming from any place of knowledge, of motivations of anybody - on my part. But that could be a concern - is that the voters could say - we're just gonna vote No to the change at all. And that would put the idea of change further in the rear-view mirror, or further off in the horizon to actually get a different system in the future.

I do think the advantage of both - just to go to the threshold question - is just in fields where you have five or six candidates who feel like there are gradations of difference, or maybe there's a couple in that camp and a few in that camp - the ability to say these are the people in my camp that I would be happy with. And again, under the system, you can just bullet vote approval voting - I'm just gonna vote for one, I'm not gonna vote for anyone else 'cause I don't wanna - this is the one I really want and I don't wanna help anyone else. Or you could say three or four are acceptable - I suppose in ranked-choice voting you could do the same - I'm just gonna vote for 1, 2, 3.

[00:17:50] Crystal Fincher: You can choose to not rank.

[00:17:50] Mike McGinn: Yeah. Or you can choose - I'm just gonna vote for one, I'm just gonna bullet vote for one 'cause I really don't wanna help anyone else. But that's less likely 'cause you probably wanna show who you're saying your choices are - yeah. And so I think that gives - I think that puts more power in the hands of the voters. It is a little discouraging that it's in August of an odd-year - so it's a small number of voters expressing their preference, as opposed to a general election or at least an even-year election where you've got a big turnout for Governor or President or Senator or Congress and the like, compared to the odd-year.

[00:18:31] Crystal Fincher: Well, I think the approval voting forced that hand because I do think that, and I think lots of people and the Council made the case when they approved this yesterday - that the people, especially for the length of time that people have been advocating for ranked-choice voting here in this area, that people do deserve a choice. And we were at the point with approval voting that they may not have had a choice about the kind of change that they wanted. So hey, if we're gonna vote on a change, let's actually have a conversation about the change. And I do think that the approval voting making it on the ballot helped that.

You talk about, you mentioned - what is the motivation, do people actually want the change, do people not? I think that's a multi-layered and very interesting question. And I think, as we've talked about with candidates lots of times, and I think applies here is - well, who supports it? Where is the support coming from? Who is launching these initiatives? Do they have a history in this community? Is it external? Are these big-money interests who have a history of donating to causes and you can see their alignment with you or not? I think a lot of people are questioning, I know a lot of people are questioning that with the approval voting initiative. And the question about - do we want change? I think a lot of people are questioning, given some of the really big-money interests involved, is that - are they enacting change now to prevent further change? Is really one of the big questions, saying - Hey, we see the polling about where age groups are, where the increase of renters, where increasing number of people are not just getting more progressive, they're like, okay we gotta flip this system, and we need to fundamentally transform a lot of these systems that we're seeing. That is not a negligible percentage in Seattle and it's on the precipice - they can win City Council seats. We have a Socialist winning City Council seats, we have other very strong progressives winning City Council seats, and they're getting closer and closer to being able to win Mayor once again. And so I think that everyone sees that coming, and we're seeing a national movement in the same way that they see demographic shifts happening that makes it less likely that the Republican Party would maintain control without enacting legislation that limits things that expand the numbers of people who are enfranchised to vote. I think this is similar in that we see this change coming and it's unnatural - Let's make a change and make it sound progressive and do that - that's certainly what a lot of people are talking about.

[00:21:25] Mike McGinn: I hear that, I hear that - but sometimes what people think they're doing and what they're actually doing aren't the same thing. And I would think about district elections in the City of Seattle. Do you remember who brought us district elections - turned out to be, it was Faye Garneau and it was Eugene Wasserman and -

[00:21:46] Crystal Fincher: Wasserman - that's right. And another Ballard -

[00:21:50] Mike McGinn: Yeah, and these were - they were business-aligned people who - I knew all of them, of course, 'cause they were really active in their communities and in ways that were positive, even if I didn't agree with -

[00:22:10] Crystal Fincher: Positive and negative - I agreed with them on some stuff, disagreed on others.

[00:22:12] Mike McGinn: Disagreed on others, but yeah - Eugene Wasserman didn't didn't like the bike lane on Nickerson - he represented the North Seattle Industrial Association. But he did appreciate - he was trying to, he was working to protect businesses in Ballard and that was his motivation and it was a fine motivation. But I think that - the reason I bring this up and I really do appreciate that those individuals - is that they were in some degree responding to the fact that the downtown business community had so much influences compared to the local, the business districts and business people outside of downtown. And it had that effect, but it also had the effect then of reducing the influence of the Chamber of Commerce, even though they're spending tons of money still - in fact, the reason they're spending more is 'cause they have to spend more to deal with the fact that somebody can get elected in a City Council race by knocking on a lot of doors and having a better grassroots effort and it costs less money. So I think that while they were hopeful it would lead in one direction, it actually led in a somewhat different direction. So I tend to look more closely at what would happen under approval voting than what might be the motivation.

And I almost regret bringing up motivation because I think it puts people in a hard spot - I think what I was trying to get at earlier was, if you're campaigning for ranked-choice voting, are you okay with nothing getting through and we'll come back with ranked-choice voting later, or do you really want to get a Yes on the first vote and get it through. And I think the same thing is true of the approval voting advocates - are you okay with getting the Yes vote on the threshold question of, Should we change?, even if it means that ranked-choice voting comes in as opposed to what you prefer. And I think that that might change how either side approaches that threshold question in the case they make. Will they be more interested in saying what's wrong with the other guy's approach or the other person's approach, as opposed to really laying the groundwork for why we need a better system and why we should be looking at the two of them?

[00:24:27] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think that's interesting. I also think - and I don't know how that's gonna turn out, I think it's gonna be fascinating to see what the goal is. I do think it's telling, looking at the strategy, that certainly approval voting felt more comfortable on the primary ballot than in the general just to get it over the finish line in a lower turnout election. I do, even on that one, I do think there's - I don't think the business community is a monolith. I absolutely think there's value in not letting our mega-corporations that happen to reside here dictate policy, because that does contradict what a lot of neighborhood business associations, local business associations, what small business wants, which - there are lots of small business organizations and Seattle Chamber organizations that support the JumpStart Tax - it has a ton of help in there for small businesses. However, Amazon has a different take on it. And so those interests are not often aligned. And while looking at the amount of businesses that are facing lease increases and citing that as a reason that they're going outta business, there is an income inequality conversation in the business community that is very similar to the one in the personal community. And I do think we should talk a lot more about that, just in general, 'cause those interests are not - they're not aligned and small businesses are increasingly saying we're being harmed by the practices and impacts of big corporations and what they're doing and the effects that their practices are having within the community. That said, we'll continue to follow this - I think it is gonna be a lively conversation and I do appreciate the points that you raise about it. And it is true - sometimes people think they're doing something and it turns out a little bit differently. So it'll be interesting to see. And I think -

[00:26:35] Mike McGinn: I think it's a worthwhile debate too. I think this is a good debate to be had really between the two systems and I've heard points from both sides that are worthy - everybody's worthy of taking consideration of. I have to just say - I guess I'm just, as a pure primary voter in Seattle myself, I like the idea of being able to pick more than one person in a race or rank them in a race. I just like having a little more agency in this selection process than picking one outta seven or eight candidates and hoping that I made a good, hoping I made a strategic vote as opposed to being able to vote a little more with my heart.

[00:27:16] Crystal Fincher: I also like the idea of having more agency. If I could choose between nothing, approval voting, or ranked-choice voting, I would choose ranked-choice voting. You mentioned politics likes black and white, but reality is in shades of gray. And to me that's another difference between approval voting and ranked-choice voting. And it allows you to know everybody - generally people don't like everyone equally, and you might have - oh, there's a couple who I really like and a number of others that aren't there, or a situation where the person who I like does not look viable and I do actually want progressive policy to pass. And that can be a different situation. But in just a binary approval - binary voting - like, Hey one Yes - you're only voting for one person and that's it. You do have to make additional considerations to say - my vote - I may be able to get maybe not my first choice, but my second choice across the finish line - they, I think, can win. But if I vote for this other person I'm really taking away a vote from the person who can win. With ranked-choice voting, you could say - I know my first choice may not be the person who is on top of the polls right now, but this is who I prefer, this is who my heart says to vote for, they're my number one. And my number two, if they don't make it, I can at least know that my vote wasn't wasted and not going towards a candidate who could take down the moderate-industrial complex. And my interests and where that would be, it would be - I can still have a number two and I know that my vote will still count and not go towards not getting a more aligned interest across the finish line. So I like - I have a ranking, I wanna reflect that ranking. It's my thing.

[00:29:23] Mike McGinn: Okay. Where to next?

[00:29:25] Crystal Fincher: Well, let's talk about this article that was written this week in The Seattle Times by Gary Warth - the cause of homelessness - it's not drugs, it's not mental illnesses. Researchers say it's the lack of homes, which probably if you're listening to this podcast, probably if you've been involved in this kind of policy for a while, you're going - okay, we knew this. But if you look at the general conversation of the public and what we see on the evening news and what we see in headlines in our local papers and the recall elections for progressive district attorneys going on, there certainly is a strong narrative countering that - oh, it's addiction. It's people who are just lawless and who can't follow the norms of society. It's people who are beyond help. It's a choice that people are making. And no, not everybody who is homeless is in that situation. The one thing that everyone who is homeless lacks is a home - that's the biggest issue. It seems obvious, but there are so many things that seem obvious that unfortunately are not believed by some powerful and big-money interests who can control a lot of narratives and characterizations. And so I think the more we talk about this, the better.

[00:30:52] Mike McGinn: It's a - first of all, the authors of the book just deserve a lot of credit because they really dug into the data and what the data showed them. And it's one of those things that you really dig into the data and then you get to the finish line and it then sounds obvious. But the work matters when you do this, which is that - it turns out that there's not dramatic differences in mental illness or substance abuse rates amongst different cities. So the single most explanatory factor was housing prices. Detroit has extremely low housing prices because it's lost jobs and it's been a - people have been leaving town. Now this is a place where you'd think that addiction and mental health issues would be serious, right? People are struggling, people are dealing with hard things - but they don't have the homelessness issue because whatever means of support are out there for people are sufficient for them to afford housing in a way that's not true in Seattle. We have people in Seattle who are working and can't - and are living in their car, they can't cobble something together to get shelter.

And I think we also forget the way in which it works in the opposite direction. That if you don't have housing, if you don't have stability in your life - to escape for a little while into alcohol or drugs - geez, those of us with housing and with an income don't mind having a glass of wine in the evening and forgetting everything and just enjoying the moment. What must it be like for somebody who's struggling on a day-to-day basis? And so it's - I think it's just this - we do this thing as humans where when we see misfortune fall upon another, we wanna try to figure out why it's occurring to them and not to us and so we look to some type of personal behavior factor. Well, that's happening to them because of something they did. And I'll - I won't do those things and it won't happen to me. And it blinds us, I think, to the larger systemic factors that - so I grew up in the New York area, I'm a little older, and I just remember people in New York explaining why they didn't get mugged. Because they had a unique set of walking in the city skills, in terms of being alert and looking around and exuding confidence and fearlessness. It's just, they're just making stuff up, right? They're just making stuff up - it is something that could happen to them if - in certain circumstances. I think we tend to do that - attribute our good fortune to our behavior and other people's bad fortune to their behavior, and in so doing blind ourselves to the systemic factors at play.

So again, real kudos to the researchers here for saying - look, we've looked at the data, multiple cities - looked at all the potential causes. And the one thing that really has a high degree of correlation is housing prices between - correlation between homelessness rates and housing prices. And it also then becomes an excuse for us to not allow more housing, right?

[00:34:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - to not act, to do anything to fix it.

[00:34:14] Mike McGinn: Right. It also enables us to say - well, we don't have to fix this, we don't have to allow an apartment building or backyard cottages or mother-in-laws. We don't have to allow, we don't really - for some people, in this case, this would be more the well-off corporations in town - we don't have to pay more for affordable housing for people who live in a nice neighborhood. There'd be like - well, this is just a problem of individual behavior and my opposition to new housing in my neighborhood has nothing to do with this. And so it's just a way to blame the victims and avoid accountability and responsibility for the systems we've built. And again, real kudos to these researchers for laying it out and I hope more people can be moved by that and have the logic of that overcome, I think, what is just our human nature. I just hope we can rise above that.

[00:35:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and we will link this book in the show notes - it's "Homelessness is a Housing Problem" with co-authors Clayton Page Aldern and Gregg Colburn, who've done a great job. And your point about - we love making excuses for why the things that we see with our eyes that are horrible problems that should not happen are things that we don't have a responsibility to help to fix, because someone did something wrong to wind up in that position. And it really reminds me, as we talk about COVID, as we're still in this pandemic - well, you didn't do this and you didn't do that. And someone's choosing to do this and either - well, this person can just choose to do something different. I don't need to take a precaution because I'm gonna be fine and if you don't feel like you're gonna be fine, you can choose to stay home. So that's a choice that you have and we don't have to take any other action in order to fix that. Or even with sexual assault - so frequently focuses on the actions of the woman. Well, what were you wearing? Why were you even in his hotel room or around him at that time? Did you lead him on? Well, you were out on the - why did you start to do anything with them? And it has nothing to do with the person who has been sexually assaulted - so the cause of rape is rapists. It's not anything that the woman is doing. It's the person who is perpetrating that sexual assault and our focus is so often in the wrong direction. Or victims of domestic violence - well, did you make him mad? Did you - what did you do?

We're always looking for what someone did to wind up in that situation to basically justify why they deserve to be there, why they are not worthy as a person of anything better. And often that then goes to tying it - so since you are an unworthy person, since we have deemed you somehow immoral or undeserving, then you need to do these menial works and jump through all these hoops to prove to us - to basically purify and cleanse yourself back into worthiness again. And then - which is how we get means testing, it's how we get all of these programs that - well, you can't be in the condition that you are now, you're gonna have to clean up and take these classes and go to church service if you are going to be worthy of a spot in housing for us. Otherwise you're just kinda stuck out on the street. So it's - we have to get beyond blaming individuals for what research repeatedly shows are systemic problems. And this is a problem with homelessness, this is a problem with public safety, this is a problem with our public safety net, and issues like that. So I just - I'm happy this came out, I'm happy this is being exposed to more people. Lots of people when they encounter this are just immediately - obviously, this is the case. Or no, it's not - these people are choosing to be blah, blah, blah, blah, all the stuff. But there are people who are just like - okay well, I see that it's wrong. And if there is something that we can do to fix it, why wouldn't we do that? It's to all of our benefits.

[00:38:37] Mike McGinn: And I think one of the things that deserves to be mentioned in here too is that stable housing turns out to be an extraordinarily great treatment for people with mental health or substance addiction issues. 'Cause I think another piece of just the throwing up of the hands - what can you do with somebody who has mental health issues who doesn't want housing? What can you do with somebody who's fallen into addictive patterns? We all know how hard it can be to change that behavior for an individual, whether it's a personal experience with people closer to us. Well, stable housing does a hell of a lot to help with that and that's - the data shows that as well - that that alone, without any other supportive services, can be extremely helpful to changing somebody's trajectory and how they deal with the world.

[00:39:30] Crystal Fincher: You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right.

[00:39:32] Mike McGinn: And lot more cost effective than the systems we have.

[00:39:35] Crystal Fincher: Well, absolutely. The city of Houston in Texas - we know that Texas is dealing with a lot and their leadership has a lot of challenges. But Houston, Texas housed 25,000 unhomed people with a Housing First policy with exactly that - they know that housing is a stabilizer, they know that if we can get people into housing, it actually increases the likelihood that they can successfully address any other co-occurring complicating issue. Getting 25,000 people off the street in Houston, Texas - you're telling me Texas can do this and Seattle can't? Washington can't? We see these examples of success all around us and we're really willing to throw up our hands and say - Ugh, it is happening elsewhere but not here, but let's enact this sweep and invest all of this money into doing that when we know these people just wind up at another park, in another encampment, and further destabilized from this. It just doesn't make any sense and these things do need solutions, but we need to stop doing things that we know don't work and start moving towards where the mountains of evidence point to success. It is possible to do this. It is possible.

[00:40:57] Mike McGinn: Well, it seems to me, you've segued into our third topic here.

[00:41:00] Crystal Fincher: We have definitely segued into our third topic and it is - in the realm of public safety, as we were just talking about, this week news came out that Mayor Harrell wants to give cops an extra $30,000 to work in Seattle - an article in The Stranger written by Hannah Krieg talking about further investments in trying to address the shortage of police that Seattle is saying it has and trying to do this. And in this - one, there's lots of conversation about - is this even an effective intervention for the police hiring problem? Even if it was, this is - we can't hire cops and have them on the street for at least a year. This is a solution - even if this were to work to make people safer, even if - hey, this is what we need to do - this isn't a solution until late 2023, 2024. And we have gun violence escalating, we have all sorts of crimes and people being victimized, and people rightly justifiably saying - We need action taken now to make our streets safer, to make - to keep people's property from being broken into, to keep people from being victimized. And we keep talking about things like hiring police that have nothing to do with improving public safety today.

And on top of that, this is coming on the heels of news that gun violence is extremely high - there was an article this week by Natalie Bicknell Argerious in The Urbanist. And also on news that Seattle is actually defunding an alternative response to public safety that actually was working and making people safer. The JustCare We Deliver Care program resulted in a 39% reduction in 911 calls - people on the ground are seeing things improve, there's less things happening that need intervention. This - if the police department was achieving these numbers, we would get that touted in every news release in the world, right? If any program was doing this. There was something that was working and it's being defunded. Why are we defunding public safety that works? I do not understand that - to then invest more in things that don't even have a chance to work for a year at best. It just is - I don't understand why we continue to invest in this.

And the people in Seattle - we've seen that poll where when asked where - public safety is on the top of people's minds. And they're saying - what do you want done about it? If you could invest your money, where would it be? They're saying in behavioral health and addiction treatment services - treating the root cause of these issues. The people understand what is really needed and they understand the deficits, but it seems like we have this administration and several of them, frankly, that are just refusing to acknowledge or respond to that.

[00:44:21] Mike McGinn: I would love to see the City Council hold hearings on and bring in experts on what are the most effective ways to reduce shootings and look at this from multiple perspectives. 'Cause what you see is when shootings go up or when crime goes up, it's just the pounding the fist on the table of we need more police. And we spend so much on police and we see where we're at. Let's try, let's really try the spending on the other things. I was looking at the statistics on this - the number of young people that are showing up in emergency rooms with gunshot wounds has just skyrocketed in King County. And what happened to the youth violence prevention initiatives that were started under Greg Nickels, expanded under - during my administration. We've had a lot of reporting on the number of police officers, or 911 response times, or why the police are unhappy and disgruntled, and whose fault it is that the police feel underappreciated? Is that the fault of the public for protesting or the fault of the City Council for suggesting that things should be defunded? Just 10% of that ink was spilled on what works to reduce shootings - okay, I'll ask for 50% of the ink be spilled on that. What really works? What are the proven programs? What's not working? And putting some of that pressure on the elected officials to show progress on this.

And I think that the debate of number of police officers, and again, I believe personally that you do want an officer to respond in a timely way to a crisis, but that's not the only function of policing and it's certainly not the only thing of public safety. We also see - not surprising during a pandemic where people's lives were turned upside down, where people were stuck at home - we've seen a rise in domestic violence. So what are the strategies here? What would effective interventions look like? And I don't have an answer to that off the top of my head, but I tell you - if I were in this position, whether City Council or Mayor, that's what I'd be calling people in. Not debating the size of the bonus, right? And the amount of time we've spent in hearings on this question - 'cause it plays, I get it, it plays. But really calling folks in. And I think I'm repeating myself here, but this is a great place for Mayor Harrell to call a summit across the spectrum. What will it take to do this and call in the people in the City who are on the frontlines of working with youth, working with those in distress, working with domestic violence victims - and really just let's get all of the strategies on the table and let's start putting price tags to those. Tell me the programs that you think are working, tell me the programs that you think we don't have, tell me the programs you think that are not as effective as they could be, right? Or just tell me your needs and we'll invent a program for that need.

This is the time really and it's - when there's a crisis like this and it is a crisis - the number of shootings in the City is a crisis. When you have this many gunshots, when you have this many people being wounded, there's a lot of pressure on elected officials to have the answer, to come forward - I've got something for you. But the danger of that is, is if you come forward and you say - I have an answer and we're gonna do this thing - it may work in the moment with the media or with the voters - Oh okay, well he's acting on it or she's acting on it. But if it doesn't actually change the trajectory of the issue, then it's just gonna come back around and get you as an elected official a couple of years later. And that's - and will also the effect the issues of trust in government and right track/wrong track. And we already have a lack of trust in institutions - the right track/wrong track numbers nationwide are horrible, last mayoral election they were terrible in this City. I don't see anything that's turned that around. And so this is a place where if you're gonna build trust and start moving those, start moving more people - those right track/wrong track numbers to a better place - this is really - this is not the time for - I've got the answer that plays well today in the media. This is the time for - I've got an answer that's gonna work over a longer term.

So, public safety summit - pull everybody in and make it real, not for the cameras, make it real, make it multiple sessions and really come out with a series of initiatives around that - would be my recommendation to the mayor. And the City Council can jumpstart that by holding in-depth hearings on these topics - topic at a time, bring in the experts, really start building the pressure for looking at this.

[00:49:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think that's really important. And I think your point about - look, this is not for the cameras. This is not the time to score political points. You can take it completely out of the political realm. It doesn't have to be where the mayor's at versus where the council is at. We happen to have a wonderful university smack dab in the middle of Seattle - more than one. And the University of Washington is a tremendous research university with criminologists who study this, whose job it is to look at the data. And as we talk, and as Mayor Harrell talks about how important it is to examine the data about what works - public safety is broader than just policing, it's broader than just community response. It involves a lot and to have people and to always include the voice of people who are truly experts on public safety and everything that encompasses - that's not an interview with the police actually, in the same way it's not the interview with a councilmember or an interview with the mayor. That's an interview with experts in crime and what reduces crime. And experts in safety and what increases that. So why do we not see criminologists quoted more frequently in The Times or interviewed by our evening news? Why are we not seeing that happen more frequently - that to your point - we have hearings and interviews and advisory groups and summits with people who are truly experts who understand and can share what is working across the country. What is working globally? What has worked locally and what is not working? What kinds of results, what kind of investment, what kind of return are we getting financially and in terms of safety and benefit to the community?

I get frustrated that we keep this conversation so small and so limited and just this tiny focus in and repeated focus, unfortunately, right now on - well hiring, just hiring and there's so much more to it than that. Even if that is an ingredient, there's so much more to it that we just are ignoring while people are dying, while people are being victimized, while there's problems getting worse. And it's time someone actually steps up - just take this out of the political realm, talk to the experts and act.

[00:52:21] Mike McGinn: I would include - when I say experts, I would include the community members who are - I think this is really important.

[00:52:29] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely.

[00:52:29] Mike McGinn: I think this is something we have to remember - that police are not the only guardians of the community. There are lots of people in communities who are acting as guardians - not in the sense of walking around with a gun and the opportunity and the monopoly on the use of force. No, in the sense of we care about the people here, we're trying to figure out how to help young people mature and get good jobs, in terms of we're trying to make sure that our neighbors are fed, that we're welcoming new immigrants into the community and helping set them on their feet and move forward. There are all of these people who really dedicated themselves to the idea that their community should be a better and stronger place. And they are - they have a lot of knowledge. They have a lot of knowledge and are experts as well in this regard. And bringing them in - and I think that's something we forget - is that public safety is a partnership between all of the guardians of the community.

And when we're in this situation right now where - and this is one of the reasons why excessive use of force by police, or biased policing, or let's be really clear - or the public calling for biased policing, right? There are elements of the public that are calling for - we need to move the homeless out of downtown. Or I see somebody in my neighborhood who doesn't look like he belongs, which often means that they might be a Black person walking through a white neighborhood. All of these things where the public calls upon the police to do these things - that breaks down trust between community and police. And I think that's another piece of that - of restoring the partnership - it's why the police department needs to be different than how it is. And it's critical to success. And I think this reliance on policing as the guardians of the community is just destined to failure because it's just not how the world works. We don't - policing alone does not keep community safe. It cannot keep community safe by itself, yet that's the discussion we have when public safety comes up and we don't have a meaningful discussion about all the other elements.

[00:54:55] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree. So we will continue to keep an eye on what's happening at the City. I hope the conversation does expand. I do completely agree with your call for a summit - bring in experts from within communities in Seattle, make use of the experts at the University of Washington, and get down to what actually does make people more safe. And goodness, don't defund things that we have wonderful evidence are doing the exact kinds of things that people are calling for to happen that make people more safe. And that frankly reduce the workload for SPD. We talk about a 39% reduction in 911 calls at a time when 911 calls are being cited for a reason that police, that Seattle police, are not investigating sexual assaults, they're not processing rape kits. This is a crisis. Why in the world would we defund something that is helping and making that more possible? It just seems like we are determined to run in the wrong direction to placate people's sense of retribution through punitive solutions that really are just backfiring in a way that won't be good politically. This is not the kind of record you wanna run on - what's going right now - you wanna have something that you can say - we did invest in the things that were working and it's paying off. And so it'll just be interesting to see how this conversation evolves.

[00:56:35] Mike McGinn: And one of the articles you referenced at the beginning here, which is the police alternative program called We Deliver Care - that's exactly what we're talking about. These are people acting as guardians of the community, who aren't police officers but through their relationship with people who are experiencing homelessness or that are in distress - yeah, they've reduced 911 calls because they are able to deal with it through the services they directly provide. Yeah, this is - let's just put aside whether you're compassionate or not compassionate, whether you think one approach, where your ideology starts about what you think is the right thing or not. If this is delivering better results for less money, let's - maybe that'll move you, right? If this is delivering results, then let's do this. And that's I think what the We Deliver Care folks have been showing 'cause it's expensive to respond to 911 calls. It's expensive and if we can free up those officers for other work - solving crimes, getting through the backlog of cases that they need to investigate, breaking up burglary rings, breaking up theft rings - there's work that police can do that they're better suited for. And for people who are dealing with folks that are homeless - that are in distress and need help - let's get the right people for the job for that too.

[00:58:08] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, July 15th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistant producers Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. Today, we are thankful that our cohost Mike McGinn, who is an activist community leader, former mayor of Seattle and current Director of America Walks - you should totally follow America Walks, great work happening - he's here. We're thankful that he was here with us today. You can find Mike on Twitter @mayormcginn. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever podcasts are - we are there. Just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our midweek show and our Friday almost-live shows delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.