Week in Review: July 8th, 2022 - with EJ Juárez

Week in Review: July 8th, 2022 - with EJ Juárez

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by the former Director of Progressive Majority who has now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juarez. It’s another week of upsetting news, which starts off with a discussion about the jury’s decision in the inquest into the police killing of Charleena Lyles, and how this ruling is yet another example of how we need major changes to the way we handle police misconduct and violent force. In related news, Crystal and EJ discuss why the city’s upcoming agency to investigate police use of deadly force was delayed. In housing, they look at the Seattle City Council’s vote to not override Mayor Harrell’s veto of a bill that would have required landlords to report their rents, and how landlords have been successfully fighting off efforts to oversee their choices for years. Next, EJ explains the origins of Seattle’s approval voting initiative, and how it’s not the local effort it’s been made out to be. Crystal and EJ then look at King County’s plans to handle the anticipated increased need for abortion services in Washington, and talk about what’s needed to curb Seattle’s rising traffic deaths rates.

About the Guest

EJ Juárez

EJ Juárez is the former Director of Progressive Majority who has now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington.

Find EJ Juárez on Twitter/X at @EliseoJJuarez.


“Charleena Lyles’ family reels after inquest jury finds Seattle cops justified in her shooting death” by Kate Walters & Catharine Smith from KUOW: https://kuow.org/stories/charleena-lyles-family-reels-after-inquest-jury-finds-seattle-officers-justified-in-her-shooting-death

“New agency to investigate police use of deadly force delayed” by The AP from The Seattle Times:https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/law-justice/new-wa-agency-to-investigate-police-use-of-deadly-force-delayed/

“Seattle Won’t Make Landlords Disclose Rent Gouging” by Hannah Kreig from The Stranger:https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/07/06/76070585/seattle-wont-make-landlords-disclose-rent-gouging

“Seattle’s approval voting initiative, I-134, explained” by Melissa Santos from Axios:https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/07/07/seattles-approval-voting-initiative-explained

“King County takes steps to prepare for anticipated spike in abortion services” by Ruby de Luna fromKUOW: https://kuow.org/stories/king-county-takes-steps-to-prepare-for-anticipated-spike-in-abortion-services

“Solving Seattle’s Traffic Death Crisis Demands Citywide Infrastructure Investment” by Jason Rock fromThe Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/07/06/solving-seattles-traffic-death-crisis-demands-citywide-infrastructure-investment/


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome to the program again, today's cohost: former Director of Progressive Majority, who's now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts throughout Washington State, EJ Juarez.

[00:00:57] EJ Juarez: Thank you so much for having me back.

[00:00:58] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much for coming back - so many people responded the first time you hosted and were just thrilled with you and your take, so we're happy to have you back.

But actually not happy to talk about this first topic that we have this week. A lot of people were tuned into the King County inquest jury into the death of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four who called 911 for help in 2017. And she wound up killed by police. What happened here in this process?

[00:01:37] EJ Juarez: I think what happened here is we got to peek behind the curtain, where this process actually showed that the policies and procedures of that department, which is charged with upholding the law and protecting people, is not actually designed to do that. And so this inquest found that despite all these numerous things that could have been done differently, all of these steps - which weren't taken and which were - resulted in, largely, law enforcement officers following procedure and it still resulting in the death of a person. And I think that's probably the most damning and heartbreaking piece of this - if the policy and procedures for law enforcement are truly designed to be followed the way that they were and it still results in the death of a person struggling with mental health, are those policies and procedures valid? Are they necessary? Are they the right policies and procedures?

I gotta be honest - I think this is, in many ways, traumatizing for so many people, right? It does not matter your proximity to Charleena or Charleena's family, who from my estimation have done everything expected of them in the pursuit of justice every step of the way. And they are still not able to get that justice with the tools and processes that we have here in King County.

[00:03:04] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's just such a cascade of failure and tragedy and it's infuriating. And just illuminates in this situation and so many others where - what is justice, what purpose is being served here? If someone - if a small, slight woman with a paring knife is in a crisis and policy dictates that she be shot and killed, then that policy is wrong, harmful, counter to serving and protecting the public. And there have been so many examples lately - lately, as if it's just lately there have been - but unfortunately there have been so many examples lately that kind of make plain that - no, very explicitly, the primary function of an officer is not necessarily to keep people safe. They're responding and then they have actions and protocols that they're permitted to take, that they're encouraged to take, that they can deviate from with no penalty even if they do take them.

And it seems just completely focused on eliminating any potential - I just hate even characterizing it as a threat to the officer - anything that could be perceived as potentially a threat at any time, in any way, regardless of whether the person can actually wield it. And just - okay, let's use lethal force and there is no sub-lethal force in that situation - they're not trained to wound, they're trained to kill. And if this is our response to every situation, how are we not introducing violence into so many police calls? Clearly we've seen that we are, and just our inability to confront this, to deal with it effectively, to allow - basically a marketing effort - a very defensive messaging and propaganda effort from the unions that we hear and - well, "back the blue," and "gotta keep 'em safe" and all of that. And we're not talking about - what are we even doing here? How is this even serving the officers? Just what are we even doing here? And if this is what policy is and if this is okay, then everything is wrong. Then we need to go back to the book.

[00:05:57] EJ Juarez: Yeah.

[00:05:57] Crystal Fincher: We need to fundamentally just start over. It just - it's - I'm at a loss for words - it's just infuriating. It's demoralizing. It's frustrating. It's all of the above.

[00:06:12] EJ Juarez: As you're talking, it makes me think a lot about - this is a pregnant woman who was shot seven times. And lethal force can be a lot of different things, but at what point do we classify super-lethal force, right? Like what does seven shots into a human body actually classify as? And is that the same as a threat with a pregnant woman with a sharp object? Does it warrant that kind of response? And I can't make it make sense in my mind, I know that there are a lot of people who probably are feeling the same way. And at some point, we have to be able to hold officers more accountable than we currently are. I look a lot at the fact that there were six jurors in this inquest process and they were not unanimous in their findings. They were given a bunch of questions - there was over a hundred questions that they had to respond to - and ultimately, what they did find is the officer forgot, or chose not to, or did not take the taser with them into Charleena's building, right? But yet, that failure to do so - despite training, despite I'm sure having regulations and encouragement to take non-lethal tools with them was - that was a choice that was made. And the consequence for that is minimal compared to the loss of someone's life.

And this is where I think it is just so hurtful for the community-at-large, right - where these choices where folks rely on and retreat to what they've been trained on as the defense mechanism for why they shouldn't be punished, or why they should face fewer consequences for not doing their job to the best of their ability, or making different choices - is not equitable to someone losing their life. I think a lot about the fact that - if you have a family member, a friend, or a neighbor who has perhaps a mental health condition in our City, or you have a child with autism or any kind of neurodivergent life - if you call 911 for a burglary, for any kind of disturbance, you need protection and help, the expectation can no longer be in your own mind that you will be safe with that interaction by default, based on this finding and based on the interaction that happened at the Solid Ground housing complex at Magnuson Park.

And I will just say this is that - I don't think there is enough attention given to the fact that Solid Ground managed that facility and Solid Ground, which is a community action agency in Wallingford, was really acting as landlord in that process, right? They have a lot of folks, they're helping a lot of people, doing really good work - but ultimately have been relatively quiet around the fact that this happened to one of their community members. And I find it disappointing that they have not played a larger role in holding the City accountable, as well as playing a larger role in helping community members beyond their own housing - helping them take action and finding their own voice in this process.

[00:09:41] Crystal Fincher: Completely agree. It's - we've got so far to go, in so many ways. The other thing I would just add is - really adding insult to injury was the behavior of the officers, the attorneys during this process. It is - this is a loss of life. The inability to treat that, even in a situation where it is justified, right? This is the loss of life - and to be joking, to be making snide remarks, to be just flaunting that in the face with the family right there - I just cannot imagine - I cannot imagine being the family and having to see and deal with that. I just - beyond words and it just - it's so insulting. It just seems like there is no acknowledgement or understanding - and this is just day in, day out, this is routine - they can joke and that, in and of itself, is terrifying. That in and of itself is - speaks to the culture and speaks to what we're really contending with and it is not good.

[00:11:06] EJ Juarez: Well, it's a culture of where a SWAT team gets called when there's an altercation - a minor altercation - between the victim's family while this is going on, right? Which the actual administrator of this inquest called excessive, and it was entirely inappropriate for what went down. There is a culture of - if you try to hold people with power accountable and especially law enforcement officials, you will be put in your place, you will be dealt with in a very harsh way. And the regard for the sanctity of the life of your loved ones is of less import than clearing the professional reputation of people that may have killed them.

[00:11:48] Crystal Fincher: Completely agree. It is sad. So, there's no great way to move on or transition from that. We will continue to follow what's going on there and to follow what's going on within SPD and law enforcement proper. There is also, on the subject of public safety - a new agency that was designed to investigate police use of force has been delayed. What is the reason for the delay here?

[00:12:26] EJ Juarez: Big things take time. At least that's what we're hearing from those in charge of setting up this new office. I think this is, unfortunately, a really good example of when the legislature and the governor work to set aggressive timelines for work to happen that is paradigm shifting, that is actually going to do really good, important work. We see timelines being arbitrarily set for political expediency or just for emotive expediency - we all want and need this yesterday, therefore the deadline is gonna be tomorrow. And things like this and like this office - imagine having a two to three-month deadline to set up an entire inquest process for the use of deadly force in the state. We can't rush things as important as this - because victims' families depend on it being right and depend on us getting it right. So basically, you've got an administrator there saying - look, this is gonna take longer than the deadline set before us.

And you don't have to look very far for other examples - the HEAL act is a great one, right? The Healthy Environment for All Act, fundamentally shifting how state government agencies respond to environmental justice and disparities - incredibly aggressive deadlines that don't necessarily take into account the central tenet of what they're asking - community engagement, community consent, making sure that you're going through all of the processes to bringing people along and moving huge agencies. And I think that's what we have here. It is unfortunate - given that we are in the middle of a crisis, given what we just talked about - but they are asking for more time and they are saying it will be delayed.

[00:14:09] Crystal Fincher: Yep, and you raise excellent points and it is important to get it right, most of all. Another event this week - so Seattle is not going to make landlords disclose their rent amounts. This was something passed by the Council, then vetoed by Mayor Bruce Harrell, and was going before the Council again - to see if they were going to override the veto from Bruce Harrell. What happened?

[00:14:40] EJ Juarez: What happened is we had a really critical absence of a councilmember who potentially could have overturned that veto. And we had landlords doing their best bad-acting once again, right? We've got folks doing the mom-and-pop story, we've got folks saying they are doing their best to make sure that their properties are affordable. But ultimately this was a policy that was asking for data. This was, at its core, a data collection bill to measure and assess how displacement was happening in Seattle. And you had champions like Tammy Morales and others who were saying this is necessary to implement some of the future plans that the City had, including Alex Pedersen and others. And then you had Sara Nelson and you had others who were saying - Nope, we're not doing this, where you had Council President Debora Juarez saying this was gonna put too much pressure and time constraints on staff to do this work, when in fact the bill was farming this work out to a university and external partners for less cost than it actually would've cost the City to do it in the first place. But apparently those logical and very clear arguments were lost on both Councilmember Juarez and Councilmember Nelson, who chose to oppose this bill along with the mayor which is really unfortunate.

I think the key here is that this was a really standard operating game plan by landlords of - let's flood public comment, let's flood our elected officials with stories about how onerous and ridiculous this bill will be. And then ultimately scare everyone into this process of - we can't do anything because it's too hard. And once again it won, and it drives me crazy because you would think Seattle is full of mom-and-pop landlords - just Joan and Jim down the road who own a building that are renting it out to college kids and they're doing their best, right? It's actually not the case. We have huge multi-billion dollar conglomerates running a real estate interest in the City, and they are the ones who are running the policy on it. Unfortunately there's - to me, and I'm super passionate about this, so you gotta rein me in on this -

[00:16:58] Crystal Fincher: I'm here with you.

[00:17:00] EJ Juarez: - is that at the end of the day, these are investments. Landlords are making an investment in real estate. And when you have an investment, I really believe that you're gonna do everything you can to make sure that investment is producing reliable and good returns. Unfortunately we have, in public policy, written our laws to ensure that renting and landlord - the landlord business, right - is one where it is more reliable and more protected than any other type of investment. You should be able to take losses - that is a part of an investment. And when you're dealing with people's homes and their ability to be sheltered, it is not an equitable discussion when you're talking about someone's choice to make an investment in real estate versus someone trying to retain in the home that they have built.

[00:17:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and this is absolutely a part of the housing affordability crisis. There is a building in - I'm sure there are several - but one where the tenants are trying to take action, where they've been served with notice that for many of them rent is going to literally double and this is not the only situation where this is happening. And when housing is an investment for others and they're doing all they can to reap the investment, there's no restraint on any of it. They're going after profit and they have no concern whatsoever that - well, this current tenant can't afford it. Well, someone else will - it's a tight housing market because there is not enough housing in the City, so too many people are competing for this housing and willing to settle and overpay - and which causes the displacement of people and often they can't afford to stay in the City. Which means the loss of not only their home, but the community and networks that they've built, potentially their jobs - this is so upending to people's lives.

And we're not even curious about what's behind this? The City and this administration that talks about wanting to collect data for everything, and let's set up a dashboard for everything and let's learn the facts, we wanna make data-driven decisions - yet, we're so un-curious about this, we're bending over backwards to not require the disclosure of information that's disclosed in several other settings - in the middle of a housing affordability crisis, which also is making our homelessness crisis worse. And they are crises, absolutely. It's just - the deck is so stacked in favor of those with wealth and power. And that is increasingly fewer and fewer of us that - and entire communities are suffering.

[00:19:59] EJ Juarez: They're suffering and I think - you say that, you've said that it's stacked against community. I would also say that it's stacked in favor of folks who wanna take an academic view of this, right? This is a city that really rewards the meta-level theoretical approaches and indulges people in this what-if olympics around - well, if we do this, this'll happen and we can't do that, so let's do this. And instead of actually letting it play out and doing - meeting immediate need in the moment when people are unsheltered, when people are being displaced out of the City - we have a dashboard for it like you said. We've got a study coming for it. And this was another study in that vein, but it's one that actually was needed and is already required of the work that is there. Unfortunately, it caught the attention of the landlords and it was killed because of the fact that they have continually played the same playbook over and over and over to actually skirt accountability and skirt the ability for cities to ask them to do more in this process.

[00:21:02] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - so it's a shame. So we continue to go on with no discernible plan on the City level to do anything about housing affordability. Certainly some of the help provided with the JumpStart Tax, which has been upheld in court once again in the past few weeks, does provide some assistance. But as far as this overall systemic problem, there is no one - Bruce Harrell has been cagey when talking about whether there's the need for upzoning, especially in single-family areas for more inclusive zoning, taking the steps that we know will allow for the overall increase in housing supply, in addition to the other steps that are needed to do this. So, just doesn't seem to be a plan, just doesn't seem to be a priority, which is really insulting to the huge numbers of residents who are suffering right now. And especially with all of the other financial pressures that people are facing in every way right now.

Also this week, Melissa Santos from Axios wrote an article about Seattle's approval voting initiative, which will be on folks' ballots as I-134 in the City of Seattle. What is approval voting - who's for it and who's against it?

[00:22:27] EJ Juarez: So I absolutely love this story. I've been looking forward to talking about this because very rarely do we get to talk about stories where there are legitimate billionaire super villains involved. And that's what we have here. So we'll start with approval voting. So imagine you get your ballot in the mail and you've got 20 choices - approval voting basically gives you the option of choosing not just one, you might get to choose three or four different candidates that you're like - generally, here's my squad that I would want to take forward into elected office. Proponents are saying this will give you a much more broad sense and much more broad base of people who are supporting a set of people who are most representative of the voters' will and desires. Opponents are basically saying this is going to give you centrist candidates, this is going to push out people that are ideologically furthest away from the center.

And I gotta say - the folks on each side of this are battling it out on Twitter daily, are absolutely hilarious to watch - but ultimately only one crew here is billionaires with money spending in areas of the country where they've never been. So the folks that are putting this on the ballot - a failed City Council candidate, Logan Bowers, who is essentially making this his hobby, and he got his rich billionaire friends from across the country to put in a bunch of money to put this on the ballot here. Meanwhile, community organizations like the Washington Community Alliance, Fair Vote Washington, others who have been deeply invested working with communities about how to make elections better and more representative from the functional administration standpoint are saying this is a bad deal for everyone. Don't do this. So super excited that we're gonna have this battle royale between folks who don't live here, and we get to hopefully see how this plays out with our community organizations that are saying ranked choice is the way to go, or any number of other fixes that are not approval voting.

[00:24:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and this is happening amid talk about several other fixes. We're going to be talking about having elections in even years for local positions and not odd years, there is the ranked choice voting that's also being talked about and looked at in other counties right now and certainly momentum for moving forward. Where did this come from? Approval voting - ranked choice voting has been talked about for years - it's actually been implemented in Pierce County before. Even-year voting has been talked about for years. Approval voting seems to have suddenly popped up this year. Where did this come from? Is this happening in other places? What's going on with it?

[00:25:23] EJ Juarez: This comes from the brain of rich people with nothing better to do. This is the culture of donor-driven politics that has really dominated much of Seattle over the past decade, where folks with money decide on something that piques their interest and then say - I'm gonna place this on the ballot and we're gonna build a coalition around it, versus the other way of actually taking community interest and support and then advancing something to the ballot. They're taking the opposite approach because they have resources and wealth. So this primarily is coming from the Center for Election Science, which is a nonprofit that specifically advocates for approval voting. This is an East Coast outfit - they've put in over $200,000 into this effort. Now, no one from Seattle, no one from the Northwest, was involved with this besides Logan Bowers and a couple of other folks.

So it's really critical to know here that this approval voting scheme is exactly that - this is rich folk who wanna play in elections, who just say that they're on the left - unlike the right, who are playing in elections in a very different way. But they're changing the rules of the game without bringing community and without bringing those that have historically faced suppression, intimidation, and barriers to the ballot box. The other group here is you've got Samuel Bankman-Field, who's this CEO crypto bro, who's put in another $135,000 into the effort. So again, the folks that are trying to advance this proposal are not folks that are experiencing barriers and that are saying - I am not represented given the current way we elect folks.

[00:27:07] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, this is interesting. And what I am most moved and concerned by is exactly what you just talked about - if we're trying to make improvements in voting, usually it is to talk about - Hey, these people are experiencing barriers, these people have been disenfranchised and we're trying to help them, to help remove barriers to people voting. We're trying to help improve access, to improve turnout, to get more people involved in the process. And you cannot serve people who are facing barriers without including those people who are facing those barriers. You can't speak for people. You can't do what you think is best for someone if you're completely uninformed about their perspective and if they aren't involved in helping to shape the policy for them. You have to include people who are most impacted in whatever policy is being shaped. And so the absence of that, just to me, is a humongous red flag, in addition to all of this out-of-town money - this is not something that Seattle has been clamoring for and asking for. And you could say that about other things, like even-year elections and ranked choice voting - there's been lots of talk within community for years about that. So I am extremely skeptical, we've talked about this before, we'll see where this how this proceeds. But I'm skeptical. We will see, we'll certainly be talking about this a lot more on this program as time goes on.

Also wanna talk about this week, as we continue to deal with the fallout that's resulting from the Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs Wade and the right to an abortion - which lots of people are like - Well, we're in Washington and everything is wonderful, and we don't have to worry about that. This is creating a number of issues in Washington and in the islands in this country where abortion is still legal. Lots of them have to do with access and there's going to be an influx of people seeking abortion care coming here. We're also facing several situations - I don't think people understand - we have converging factors here. We oftentimes, just with women's health period, have just not cared to do enough research. And so there's lots of off-label uses, dual label uses for things that are primarily classified as birth control or an abortifacient - things that can induce an abortion - that are used for several different things. Hormone therapy is a thing - hormones impact so many things in our bodies - we use them for so much more than frankly just reproductive health, period. And so women are being turned down also elsewhere in the country in a lot of situations for - Hey, there's a medication that's treating rheumatoid arthritis that can also in some situations induce an abortion. Doesn't matter if it's a different dosage, doesn't matter if all of that, but they're having prescriptions being turned down. Some people are - these are life-saving treatments that are making the difference between them living and dying, literally, for services unrelated to abortion. So we're dealing with a lot of fallout here and we do need to take action here in the state. King County is talking about taking some specific action. What is that?

[00:30:50] EJ Juarez: So King County - the Council has approved half a million dollars to go to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which is an organization which is supporting clinics and folks all over the Northwest get the care of their choice that they are choosing, specifically to access abortion care. And this was voted by the Council with one dissent, and I don't think it'll take folks too long to imagine who that dissenting vote was - it was Reagan Dunn. But that fund is in coordination with the City of Seattle, as well as other folks who are trying to get as much resource into this organization as possible, so that they can meet the need of the influx that will come as a result of this ban in other states for folks seeking these services.

[00:31:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I have been encouraged by the way that the City and County have been working both individually to be proactive in addressing this and working collaboratively to address this. I would love to see this especially tied to direct action, direct investment. They are making these moves quickly. I think seeing it here also makes - we look at all the other areas that we're dealing with and man, I wish we could take this kind of directed action in other areas and not have it become an absolute crisis where people have lost rights that are putting their lives in danger to motivate it. What if we actually were proactive and worked like this to address homelessness and to address a lot of other things?

[00:32:22] EJ Juarez: I think you're absolutely right. This to me - I was so encouraged and hopeful when I saw this, because I think what this says to me is that - a lot of times in politics and in governing, it's really easy to say who we are not caring about and what we are not caring for. And I think the swiftness of this action, both from the County Council and from the executive around not coordinating with law enforcement services around abortion investigations in other states - this is - we care about folks, regardless of the jurisdictions, regardless of where they are coming from. And I think that is something that King County in particular and the City of Seattle have been really steadfast on of - when you're here, you're here and you are a part of the community and we will do our best to meet your needs. So I was just so encouraged by that.

[00:33:14] Crystal Fincher: So kudos to the King County Council and the King County Executive for this, to the Seattle City Council and the Seattle Mayor for their action to help secure access. And I know that work continues on these issues and am encouraged by seeing that, whether someone is seeking abortion care, gender-affirming care, general healthcare, that we're prioritizing that and protecting people from being retaliated against. If they're coming in other states, that we're protecting people from being investigated and pursued by the legal apparatus of other states who are trying to criminalize leaving the state for abortion care.

And the thing about this - in all of this legislation that is attacking people's bodily autonomy in all of these different ways, is it has a chilling effect on the front end. It's not just - Hey, if I definitely need one. People are delaying healthcare, people are afraid who are - there are so many already stories of providers and of women who have dealt with people experiencing miscarriages being afraid to seek healthcare - Hey, should I go to the emergency room? Should I leave? And these are life threatening situations. Doctors being afraid to care properly for their patients. And so this just has a chilling effect upfront. We already are facing - we have one of the highest mortality rates for pregnant people in the world. We already need to do a better job and this just makes it so much more dangerous to be pregnant, so much more dangerous to need reproductive care overall. And so at least we are trying to make this a place where people feel safe to access care, because that feeling safe has so much to do with how people seek care, whether people delay care, whether people are too afraid and experience horrible complications or even death in this situation - so just making this a welcoming environment matters.

[00:35:28] EJ Juarez: Absolutely. And it has, I think, forced our decisionmakers and our elected officials in this moment to do the maximum that they can with the tools available to them. And they're meeting that moment. And I think that the moment of empathy that has been so lacking in this conversation proceeding this moment is becoming so apparent and real, and we're watching in real-time folks having to hear the true consequences beyond the political back-and-forth. And it is producing at least some results, right? And those some results are material benefits for the people who need them.

[00:36:10] Crystal Fincher: There's one other element of this that we talked about last week, that lots of people are also talking about online, and people calling for a special session in the Legislature to attempt to codify the right to an abortion in our State Constitution. Barring that, which there may not be enough votes for - even though I personally still think they should take that vote - to pass laws that on a state level help make that possible. And so, all of the indications from legislators are that they're absolutely working on this and preparing legislation. The question is - are we good waiting until next session to do that? We are in a situation where Democrats are defending a lot of seats, it is not at all assured that Democrats will control both houses in the Legislature, both chambers in the Legislature. And so it seems like there is somewhat of a risk attached to waiting. We don't know how these elections are gonna turn out. Certainly Democrats are doing all they can to win and trying to rely on other people, regardless of how they feel about politics on a national level, to get engaged at this local level because our rights are being defended at the local level right now. How do you feel about the issue of - hey, should we be calling a special session to make sure that we don't lose the chance to pass these rights, or not?

[00:37:43] EJ Juarez: I love that idea and I love it for so many different reasons. One, we have a governor who is well into his service, who has the ability to say - Come on back and let's get it official. Let's get those hands up and see who's actually on the team here. And I think the other element of this is there is broad and overwhelming support for these services, for a woman's right to choose in this state and across this country. The idea that we would not be able to take that vote as a matter of just regular business is mind-blowing to me, given how much attention and how many of those constituents of every single one of those legislators care about this issue. Because it affects every person. I think it is both necessary and I think it is politically expedient - call 'em back, make the vote happen on the constitutional amendment. Whether or not it passes or fails, it gives you the starting point so that the allies outside of the legislative process can build a plan. It gives the champions on the inside the ability to make that plan. But without a special session, you don't actually get to do that strategy. And you don't actually get to call the question on many people who will put out fundraising emails, send you that text, they're gonna be talking and making fancy speeches at rallies - but that when push comes to shove, get to hide behind their caucus and not take the hard vote. Which actually isn't that hard.

[00:39:11] Crystal Fincher: It's actually not that hard. I know that there is hesitation from people - we're in the middle of the campaign season. If you call a special session, people have to pause their fundraising, it interrupts these campaigns. And to that I would say - you have the opportunity to take action that is supported by the overwhelming majority of the state, you have the opportunity to win - so many other institutions and governmental bodies are stuck in an action in a way that's frustrating everybody - to see you actually moving forward, being proactive, taking the steps that people are begging leaders at all levels to take and prioritizing that. All of the coverage will be on the special session. People will see you doing what they need live, in action. What better thing to campaign on than - Hey, we are actually doing what you need to help you. We are actually ensuring your right to bodily autonomy, we're actually ensuring your right to healthcare.

And my opinion is - we saw them, in this decision - this is not just about abortion care. They signaled same-sex marriage, same-sex relationships. They're absolutely going after gender-affirming care. They're absolutely going after contraception. These are things that have been explicitly stated, this is not conjecture or a rumor, this is explicit. And so why don't we take all the action now when we know we can, when Democrats do control the governorship and the House and Senate, and should have the votes to codify all of this into law. Let's take those steps now and not wait and risk the inability to do it next session. It really truly is a risk. And why are we accepting any more risk than we have with this Supreme Court, with federal Congressional gridlock, and the dysfunction that we've seen in too many institutions - we can't afford anymore risks. We need people to act when they can act immediately, not to wait. And so I think there's a tremendous opportunity. I continue to call, myself - I know several other people are, there's a chorus of community calling for the Legislature to take action now. I hope they do.

The last thing we will talk about today is Seattle's traffic death crisis, and it is a crisis. There was a piece in The Urbanist from Jason Rock talking about the need for citywide infrastructure investment. Certainly we've talked about and really Councilmember Tammy Morales has been steadfast about the need and demanding equitable investment in Southeast Seattle, which has been underinvested in and which is experiencing a disproportionate amount of traffic deaths in the City. And so what is the deal here? What is going on and what can be done?

[00:42:36] EJ Juarez: I think you hit the nail on the head there with - Councilmember Morales, I think, has been an absolute rockstar in advocating and trying to shout, I think, to the rest of the Council just how bad it has gotten in her district. And I think you have others on that council, like Councilmember Mosqueda, who have also taken this up, who have shown leadership on this issue. But ultimately you have no other councilmembers that are looking at the fact that half of all fatal car crashes in the City are happening in District 2. The reason that we get told a lot of why we have citywide councilmembers is they're supposed to be able to jump in on these issues and support the issues of a single councilmember on things exactly like this. And yet we don't have Sara Nelson talking about this, we don't have other councilmembers leaning in and talking about the fact that there is a crisis happening on Rainier Avenue.

There is a crisis happening in communities who are overwhelmingly accessing transit and dying on the roads adjacent to our bus stops, our light rail stops. And we also have drivers going 60 miles an hour on MLK, right? We have an urban highway that in all intents and purposes is a highway because there's so little enforcement on that road. And the folks who have the decision-making power to make that a 25 mile an hour zone are the ones speeding through it at 60 miles an hour. They aren't living in that community. The people they are killing are the folks who are desperate for that mile an hour limit to be lowered.

[00:44:20] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and for infrastructure that supports pedestrians, that supports people on bikes not literally risking their lives - same with Aurora, right? We have to recognize that we need to serve everyone in our community. And it is the most vulnerable people in our community who are most at-risk - whether it's financial, whether it's people aging unable to drive anymore - that people who are walking, people who are trying to take public transit, on bikes, in wheelchairs are facing tremendous challenges. Not to mention people who are - may have low vision and various disabilities who are relying on infrastructure that supports their mobility and ability to participate in society. And it just has not been prioritized. We are prioritizing car infrastructure - driving - to the detriment and the danger of everyone else taking these modes.

And everybody, when it comes campaign time, pays lip service to including all the community and addressing climate change and building infrastructure that supports public transit and all of that. Well, it's actually time to put people's money where their mouths are. It's time to actually walk their talk. We've heard a lot of talk for years, for decades and continue to see new plans that are so car-centric, whether it's what we're talking about in the Comprehensive Plan, whether it's looking at how the waterfront is constructed. When it comes time to actually design our infrastructure, we are not prioritizing the needs of the entire community. And that doesn't mean that there's a war on cars. That doesn't mean that we no longer care about drivers and we're banishing cars from the City, as some people like to get hyperbolic about. It means that they're not the only mode of travel and that they can still get from A to B. It's, realistically - even if we quadruple our investments in non-car infrastructure, cars are still dominating by a huge amount. It just means that we don't put other people's lives at risk, and we don't force people to choose between their safety and potentially traveling somewhere using alternative form of transit.

I'm sitting here down in South King County - me and myself and my electric bike, right? And I'm afraid to ride on the roads. I'm on paths all the time, because literally everyone I know who regularly rides a bike has been hit by a car, some with very serious injuries, others thankfully more minor - but several people more than once. I know several pedestrians who have been hit, I know political candidates and electeds who have been hit by cars, right? This is frighteningly common, and we know what kind of infrastructure prevents this - we just need to build it, we need the political will to build it. I applaud Councilmember Tammy Morales for taking lead on this. As you said, Councilmember Mosqueda also has been, but man, we need the entire council to prioritize this in every piece of infrastructure that's built. And we need to take a lens that includes everyone in the community, regardless of what mode they use to travel and says - we can keep everybody safe. It's okay if we lower a speed limit here, if it means that kids are safe getting to school. It's okay if we put some traffic-calming infrastructure in or protected bike lane, if it means that we have more people who feel more safe using the transit mode of their choice and our community. We can do it. We just need the political will and people who prioritize this moving forward. We can't keep acting like we care and investing and taking action in the other direction.

[00:48:36] EJ Juarez: The thing that I don't wanna get lost in this is there's the underlying belief, I think, by some people in this City that particularly folks who live in these areas, who live in areas with more mixed-income communities who live in areas where there are more people of color - that somehow regulating their behavior is the solution, right - if only they were crossing more safely, if only they weren't speeding, if only they weren't doing these things. This feeds into so many different facets of how race, anti-Blackness, poverty get layered into decision making in ways that ultimately cost lives. We started this podcast episode by talking about the fact that police did not protect, police actually caused harm. We are now potentially ending this episode where policy, police - all these layered things that are supposed to keep people safe, just living their lives, are not doing that. And we lack the actual political will to focus in on this.

And there is a clear throughline between respectability politics, between racism, and why these investments are not happening. That part needs to be said out loud more and more, because the more we allow our city councilmembers and the mayor to not talk about it, the more this actually goes further and further and further into - let me regulate how you move and your humanity to determine how safe you can be versus me fixing the structural spaces that you have to move in to be safe. I am continually frustrated by councilmembers who lack the ability to articulately be vulnerable about race issues in this City and who cannot make the coherent argument, or at least repeat back to community when they say - you have not invested in my area because we are Black and Brown and Asian and Indigenous and all of those things. And it is so frustrating. It is so sad that we are starting and ending this episode with how our government has failed to make the investments and policies and procedures necessary to keep human life safe. But ultimately there's such encouraging work happening from Morales, from Mosqueda, and from others who I think are not gonna let this go by the wayside. And ultimately until the City and the mayor in particular make Vision Zero something more than zero vision, this has to actually move forward.

[00:51:28] Crystal Fincher: Well, I can't say it any better than that. Completely agree and amen. And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, July 8th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assistant producer is Shannon Cheng with assistance from the wonderful Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today is the former Director of Progressive Majority, who is now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington - and you can hear why - the brilliant EJ Juarez. You can find EJ on Twitter @EliseoJJuarez, you can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. And you can now follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show 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.