Week In Review: June 24, 2022 - with Erica Barnett

Week In Review: June 24, 2022 - with Erica Barnett

On today’s Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Co-Founder and Editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett. They start off breaking down the Supreme Court’s official opinion on Dobbs, which overturns Roe v. Wade. They discuss how we got here, the immediate repercussions on Washington and the country, and what we can do about it. Next, they look at the motivations behind Seattle Pride’s decision to ask for no uniformed police to participate in this year’s festivities. In housing news, they question Mayor Harrell’s decision to veto a bill from the City Council asking landlords to report how much rent they charge, and look at what’s next for Seattle’s Social Housing Initiative now that it’s gathered enough votes to qualify for the November ballot. Finally, they discuss the reasoning behind Gov. Inslee signaling that he’s not interested in following Biden’s lead in creating a gas tax holiday in Washington state.

About the Guest

Erica Barnett

Erica Barnett is a Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola.

Find Erica Barnett on Twitter/X at @ericacbarnett and on PubliCola.com.


Abortion Funds:

Northwest Abortion Access Fund - https://nwaafund.org/donate

Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest -https://www.weareplannedparenthood.org/onlineactions/cOJVhOyrzkq4uBcxVekXFA2?sourceid=1000065&affiliateID=091810&_ga=2.195968876.195061633.1656097315-413517584.1656097315

National Network of Abortion Funds - https://secure.actblue.com/donate/supportabortionfunds?refcode=nnafwebsite


“What the end of Roe v. Wade means for Washington state” by Melissa Santos from Axios:


“Democrats seek to stop hospital mergers that limit abortion access” by Melissa Santos from Axios:https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/06/22/democrats-stop-hospital-mergers-limit-abortions

“Seattle Police officers won’t march in pride parade, frustrated chief says” by Anika Varty from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/law-justice/uniformed-seattle-police-officers-will-not-march-at-seattle-pride-parade/

“Harrell vetoes plan to require Seattle landlords to report the rent they charge” by Heidi Groover fromThe Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/harrell-vetoes-plan-to-require-seattle-landlords-to-report-the-rent-they-charge/

“Social Housing Initiative Pushes Forward, Fact Checking-Harrell on Homelessness” from PubliCola:https://publicola.com/2022/06/23/social-housing-initiative-pushes-forward-fact-checking-harrell-on-homelessness/

“A Photo-Finish for Seattle’s Social Housing Initiative” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger:https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/06/22/75442679/a-photo-finish-for-seattles-social-housing-initiative

“Inslee signals no interest in WA gas tax ‘holiday’; others skeptical too” by David Kroman from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/inslee-signals-no-interest-in-a-wa-gas-tax-holiday-others-skeptical-too/


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks and 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. If you like the show, please feel free to leave us a good review. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's cohost: Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, cohost of the Seattle Nice podcast and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett.

[00:01:02] Erica Barnett: Hey Crystal.

[00:01:04] Crystal Fincher: Hey, Erica. Well, it's been a morning.

[00:01:09] Erica Barnett: It sure has.

[00:01:12] Crystal Fincher: Because the overturning of the Roe vs Wade decision is now official. The Supreme Court, with the Dobbs decision, has ended the right to abortion for women in this country and signaled a potential end to other critical rights that are pretty basic and fundamental. And it's just rough. Where are you at with this?

[00:01:44] Erica Barnett: Yeah. I tweeted out this morning, because if you're not on Twitter, do you even exist? I said basically - don't interpret the silence of people who re suffering today and who will continue to suffer because of the end of abortion rights - don't interpret our silence as consent or believing that this is okay. We've been screaming our heads off about this for years and no one listened. And now all of a sudden, everybody is screaming too. Boy, with the way I'm describing this, is way too long for a tweet. I said something much more pithy, but basically - look, I am feeling overwhelmed, but I'm also not in the state of shock that the New York Times Editorial Board appears to be, or a lot of mainstream pundits appear to be, because we knew this was coming. And we knew it was coming long before the Supreme Court even took up this case, and before the the leaked opinion - this is part of the theocracy that I would argue started long before Trump, but certainly accelerated with Trump - an illegitimate president installing Supreme Court justices for life, so I'm feeling - emotionally, I'm feeling pretty numb. But yeah, that is not by any means, it's not meant to imply that I am okay with this, or complacent, or anything of the sort.

[00:03:18] Crystal Fincher: Of course.

[00:03:19] Erica Barnett: I'm very upset. I'm just so upset, I can't - I can barely talk about it.

[00:03:23] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I think a lot of us are in a similar situation - certainly, there is, I will say there is, some frustration that I feel with people who are shocked about this right now, or even shocked about it when the opinion leak came out. I get how people land there, so I totally get it, but there have been so many people warning that this was coming for years. And this basically became the inevitable conclusion as soon as Trump was elected, and we knew that he was going to be making more Supreme Court picks and making a Roe vs Wade-proof majority on the Court. And so there's - I've also on Twitter, this morning, and have tweeted some stuff about it, been in some group chats about it. But man, I've said this before, listen to the people who are impacted. They know what's coming, they have to be vigilant because they know that they're going to be the people most exposed to the problem first. So yes, they're great at picking up the warning signs before other people are, and yes, they're warning and no, it may not have been on the front page of the New York Times until years later and lots of pundits, especially white male pundits, have downplayed this outcome. But this was so obvious this was coming, and the time to fight against it and to get serious about fighting against it was a long time ago. Does not mean that we cannot still fight and we absolutely need to, but I wish we would get better collectively about listening to people who are in the most impacted, most marginalized groups, most subject to harm - when they warn about things, we need to take it seriously.

[00:05:33] Erica Barnett: Yeah, and I feel like what's gonna happen now is a lot of women, and people who take contraception of any kind, have been warning that contraception is next. There's a lot of things that I think are "next" on the list of rights that the Court's gonna try to strip away, but I think contraception is probably one of the very next. And I think that still, to this day, when you bring that up and you say they're gonna start banning the women's right, people's right, not to get pregnant - that people - you get laughed at, like that's absurd. In the same way that the notion of overturning Roe was absurd, maybe I don't know, back in the 90s when it was still, in retrospect, a fairly new decision, 20, 25 years old. It seemed absurd and now I think everything is just accelerated, and I think the right to access an IUD is going to be next because a lot of sort of Christian-ist right-wing pundits and politicians and people in the Court believe that that is abortion. And I won't go into all the details about their thinking there because it's absurd, but that is going to be next.

And then it's going to be all kinds of rights that the Supreme Court will use this decision in the reasoning to say - that it wasn't in the Constitution and it hasn't been established law - it wasn't established law at the time in the 1800s and before, so it can't be established law now. It's everything from same sex marriage, same sex relationships, interracial marriage. The list just goes on and on and on of rights that could be impacted and probably will be impacted by this decision. So, I feel like also - in screaming my head off all these years, I have tried to say - it is not just women I know that no one cares about women. That is a well-established right, or well-established fact, that I have seen again and again in my lifetime. But this isn't "just women" and people who can get pregnant - it's all marginalized people who are going to have their rights stripped away because of the reasoning behind this decision.

[00:08:00] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we're talking about the stripping away of a lot of fundamental privacy rights, really, and that does impact marginalized populations. And this occurring at the same time where we basically have a surveillance-based economy is just really alarming, and people are justifiably scared, and harm is going to occur because of this to lots of different people, not only women. And so it is just - it's a challenge. This morning in a chat I was in, lots of people were - this is hard, distraught, and really troubled and furious. And just feeling the whole range of emotions. And someone asks - well, where is our power in this? - and people just wondering what do we do. And I think that's an important question to ask, I absolutely think the range of feelings that people are feeling are entirely justified - this is hard and rough. I hope people have grace for people that they're around because this is just another thing on top of so many other things that we're dealing with that is just hard and unjust and unnecessarily cruel, but we do still have power and we need to exercise all of our power, all of the levers that we have - because this is so critical and so fundamental, and just the beginning of the attempt to dismantle rights and dismantle privacy for people who they just view as beneath them, or they financially benefit from being beneath them.

So I think it's important to continue to, at every turn, even if federal action has not occurred and they are not jumping to do that now. They do respond to pressure and if we apply all of the levers of pressure to let them know that this is a priority - we've gotta be in the streets, every town hall, every meeting, every fundraiser - people should be asking - Hey, are you, do you support ending the filibuster, do you support taking this vote? We have to codify it. There has to be a vote. We have to do what's necessary, which does involve ending the filibuster for this and so many other things, ways to protect rights - the filibuster is not more important than that. They should be asked about this by Democrats, by everyone, all of the time. They should know that this is front and center on people's minds and that people are not willing to accept anything less than action, urgent action. And so we should be demanding that of them - organizations who do endorsements should reopen those endorsements - and ending the filibuster, calling for a vote should be a basic requirement for an endorsement. It's a different change in process, but part of the signaling of this is an emergency, this is urgent is treating things like that from an institutional and from organizational points of view. Organizations have to signal that this is a right that we can't do without. Even organizations that are not thought of as women's organizations or reproductive rights organizations - this affects everyone who you deal with - this affects our community, this affects people's financial mobility, ability to not live in poverty, to dictate their own healthcare - everyone should be standing in solidarity. Every organization should be saying - okay, you want support, then these are the basic things that are gonna need to happen. You can choose not to, but we need to put our energy and effort and resources towards people who are.

In the State, legislatively - we absolutely need to make sure that our legislators take action to make sure that access is available. We have a lot of areas in this state where there have been mergers - Catholic hospitals, in some cities, are the only hospitals that some communities have access to - who don't provide abortion care. We're gonna be seeing an influx of people coming from other states to get abortion care - those who have enough money to come from other states - we need to be taking action now, legislatively, to ensure that that access is available and that we're supporting just the capacity of our healthcare system to provide that. And Jay Inslee should call a special session to make that happen. He says he wants to, he supports the introduction of a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights. I think that is a great idea. Even if it doesn't - may be close or they're saying, okay, well, Republicans may not vote for it, it may not hit the threshold - well, let's get people on record and see what they say. Let's actually force the vote. Let's let people know who stands where and what they're voting for 'cause there's been a lot of silence from Republicans in this state. And everyone should be held accountable and everyone should have the opportunity to act to do this and it should happen now. These are things that we absolutely need to do.

And being involved just in mutual aid organizations, supporting those that already exist - abortion care funds - supporting those reputable ones that already exist is absolutely necessary. We're gonna have to be here for each other in community like we have not been in a long time, and organizing starts with your neighbors and being there for one another and building that network out. So just there are things that we can do, that we need to do, that we can demand of our legislators that can help protect and fortify abortion rights and access in this state, while we work hard and apply pressure to get them reinstated federally.

[00:14:18] Erica Barnett: Yeah, and I think also, your point on abortion access right now is really key, because overturning the filibuster and then getting a law and then getting a law that will hold up in court, given this decision, and et cetera, et cetera is a very long process that has many maybes in it. But one thing you can do right now is give money, if you have it, to local abortion funds. And because I was mentioning to you Crystal, before we went on air, that I used to work at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington - we would get a lot of calls from people who were trying to come in from out of state, from Alaska, from Idaho to access abortion because a lot of states that even do technically have access, it is much, much harder to get a later-in-pregnancy abortion. It has been for a long time. So, if you don't have the money early on, if you don't have the access, if you don't have the permission of your parents, all sorts of reasons. And the fact was that people would call and say - can you give me money to get out here? And we didn't do that - we were an advocacy group - so we would refer them to the abortion funds in the state that have very, very limited resources. And so, the way that - there's going to be, there's this notion that there's going to be a flood of abortion refugees to Washington State, and I think that is true - in the same way that New Mexico has become a refuge state for people seeking abortions from Texas. But the fact is that you can't get an abortion out-of-state unless you have the means independently, or you're lucky enough to get funding from an abortion fund that doesn't have enough money for everybody. And so, if you have money, that is a critical place to put it right now.

[00:16:14] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Very well said. Absolutely true. We'll continue to follow this. There is also another piece of legislation that has been introduced, that can be taken up in the special session or soon thereafter, to prevent mergers. We're giving our state's Attorney General the power to deny mergers if it does impact access to abortion and other critical healthcare needs. So there are definitely things that can happen locally, there's pressure that can be applied nationally. This is going to take everybody getting involved, it's gonna take ally organizations signaling that this is critical and an emergency. This is literally a life-or-death situation for some women.

And again, this is the beginning. This is the beginning of - we've seen laws in other states forcing, explicitly saying that women must be forced to carry an ectopic pregnancy. That's a death sentence. And just people who have no understanding of what basic biology actually is, and how women's cycles work and can vary - and they vary all the time - and applying and attaching punishments to things that happen naturally and that aren't preventable at all is - it's terrifying as a person needing healthcare. And I just - we have to hold power accountable. This is not a - hopefully they get to it. This is a - they need to get to it and we need to let them know that votes are at stake.

[00:17:59] Erica Barnett: And can I just say, just real quickly before we get off this topic, that's great that the Attorney General is now concerned to this extent about the mergers of Catholic hospitals, but this is another thing that abortion rights advocates have been absolutely screaming our heads off about for years and years. And it is frankly infuriating to me to see - great, go for it, by all means, better incredibly late than never, I guess. But this is something that needed to happen 10 years ago, 15 years ago. And again, we were told we're hysterical and there's never gonna really be a problem. And there's always gonna be other options you can choose to go to if you're having, for example, a miscarriage and it's an emergency - you can have the ambulance take you to the hospital that you happen to know will actually let you have a managed miscarriage. And we were just told we were hysterical. And it's so infuriating now - and this is why I can't talk about it, honestly, 'cause as soon as I start going down an avenue, I start getting so mad - but this is one that really does piss me off because this is something that was actionable at the State level years ago and the State took no action.

[00:19:17] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely justifiable point and I will say to those listening, there's - I'm a political consultant, I work for Democrats - but hearing the mantra "Vote Blue, No Matter Who," just "Vote Blue, this is wrong - Vote Blue." Well, we vote blue to prevent things like this from happening. We vote blue and we elect a president and congressional majorities and legislative majorities to ensure that things like this don't happen, so that they take action to prevent things like this from happening, so that they do everything in their power to keep women from losing this right. And everything in their power does include ending the filibuster - that's within their power - and just being in the situation where it's like voting rights, disability rights, women's rights, healthcare just falling at the whim of one or two Congresspeople in a filibuster - when we see more energy being applied to sometimes more progressive people for rocking the boat. Well, yeah, we're gonna rock the boat if this is where the boat is headed - we've gotta turn this thing around and you have to earn the ability to say - we vote for Democrats so that this won't happen. You can't let this happen. You have to fight with everything you have and do everything in your power. They have not done everything in their power, right?

So we have to see that - I'm gonna be voting for the Democratic nominee for president, right? I'm going to, but I'm not going to be surprised at low turnout and bad outcomes, if we don't have leaders who are willing to step up and use their power to prevent real, immediate, tangible harm. And in some cases, death, which absolutely will occur, which absolutely will occur. You have to earn this. You have to act. You can't find it easier to give an excuse than to fight to convince people why it's worth taking this vote and taking this fight on. If we spent as much energy collectively making the case for why this needs to happen, instead of coming up with excuses why it can't, and applying pressure - so at least we're doing everything in our power to pressure Joe Manchin to make it happen, in the way that we've seen other people pressured. And not - well, we'll wait for his - when they wanna make life hard for someone, they can. When they want to apply pressure, they can. They choose when to and when not to, and to allow everyone else to experience these consequences while we're watching people in relative comfort not take action, is absolutely infuriating to people being harmed.

They're looking at people, they're like - I hear sometimes - well, why aren't we just mad at Republicans? Trust me, we are. But we know who they are. And Democrats are saying that they're people who stand against this and who fight against this, so we're waiting to see the fight. We need to see the fight. We need to see action now. And I am as frustrated as anyone else by not seeing people do everything in their power to help this, because this has such wide-ranging ramifications immediately. There are several states that have trigger laws that make abortion illegal immediately, or sometimes up to a month in these states. But it is coming and we need action, and we should hold people accountable for taking action. I also get furious about this. You can tell I'm a bit frustrated and trying to moderate the emotion but it's infuriating, it's absolutely infuriating. It's something in a long line of things that are infuriating. Just - I'll leave it there.

With that said, there are some other things that happened this week that we could talk about, including - Pride is coming up, Pride Parade is coming up this weekend. We're coming back together in person, it's an exciting time for a lot of people. But we've had a conversation here locally that has taken place in a lot of different cities and countries - in should police be allowed to march in Pride? Should they be excluded from Pride? What is happening here?

[00:24:33] Erica Barnett: Well, I would say, and perhaps this'll be an odd framing, but I would say that the police department in Seattle has sort of - Pride has asked, the main Pride Parade organizers have asked, have said that they are not, that police officers in uniform are not welcome. The way that I would frame it though, is that the police department then sort of made it into a bigger story than it would've been by issuing a lengthy statement from Police Chief Adrian Diaz, saying that this is unacceptable and almost prejudicial to not allow this. The sort of reasoning, which may be obvious, is that LGBTQ+ rights were were won against the force of the state - Stonewall was a riot sparked by police violence.

[00:25:27] Crystal Fincher: Against police brutality. Yeah.

[00:25:29] Erica Barnett: Yeah, and so it would be inappropriate for armed police officers to be marching in the parade and sort of giving a rainbow sheen to the police department. And so that's what's happened - this is the, I believe the second year in a row, there's been a clash over this, maybe the third year. No second year, 'cause obviously we had a pandemic. But I think the police are being a little provocative. They are still permitted and there are many LGBTQ+ police officers - and I think that is something that is somewhat getting lost in this debate and something that Diaz did attempt to rather clumsily to point out - but the issue is not whether those officers are themselves individually allowed to participate in the parade. The issue is marching in uniform and sort of saying the police are big supporters of LGBTQ rights, and so I think that is the crux of the issue. And ultimately, Pride can say what they wanna say and they can ban who they wanna ban, and what are the police gonna do - show up unwanted? That just seems that would be an act of provocation that would be absolutely outrageous and a distraction, I think, from the joyfulness and the excitement of Pride weekend.

[00:26:54] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely would be, also wouldn't be a surprise to see that happen. But to me it's pretty simple - given the origin of Pride, it absolutely makes sense that you would not want to have armed officers. It was about literally fighting against that, fighting against the harm that it has caused. I think the community being impacted and harmed has the right to dictate their response to that harm. And I - it's one thing if the police want to characterize themselves as wonderful, lots of people wanna characterize themselves as wonderful. But if a person is saying you have harmed me, you've continued to harm me, you've been a harmful force in my community - that's their thing, that's their right, they have experienced that harm. And this is their community celebration. I wouldn't walk into a religious celebration and say - you must allow different people - this is a community that has been harmed, that this celebration came out of fighting to reduce that harm and fighting for themselves and for their survival. And so why are we not centering whatever it is around the concerns and cares of that community and letting this group force themselves, feel entitled to be part of it? It just seems like - they are being provocative.

They're also finding time to meet about this and spending a lot of time talking in the media and everything. Where was this time at, when they decided they couldn't investigate sexual assault?

[00:28:53] Erica Barnett: Well, I do wanna introduce just a tiny bit of nuance, which is that - that no community is is monolithic and to say that LGBT people have certain political beliefs on - or LGBTQ+ people in the military or in the police force are not real members of that community - I know it's not what you're saying, but there is a slippery slope there. And I do think that it is important to acknowledge that the people who are in SPD, who are members of that community, do exist. They are legitimate members of that community. And I understand some of the hurt that they are feeling as well. And I don't wanna just totally diminish that by saying - cops are bad and they shouldn't be allowed to participate because of the origin of Pride. But I do think, but again, that is a bit of nuance - I think that the mutual provocations here are around this issue of whether they should be able to be essentially marching in formation, in military-style uniforms, in the middle of a Pride Parade. And I think - let's just take that off the table and say that's not gonna happen. And how are we going to invite individual officers, not in uniform, to participate in a celebration of their community - that's a more appropriate question and let's just leave the whole possibility of cops marching in formation out of it.

[00:30:32] Crystal Fincher: I would just say two things. One, you're absolutely correct. The community is not a monolith - no community is - and that's evidenced in the variety of Pride celebrations. And we've seen that, and have talked about that in various ways before. But I do think as the organizers of this particular event, if not legally - but certainly seems like they can legally - but just ethically and morally, they get to dictate the terms of participation. And especially if they feel they're centering the safety of the community that they're putting on this event to celebrate.

And the other thing I would say is that I don't think it's always so easy to just dismiss the possibility of the police showing up. People have to prepare for that, because they have in other situations and because that can create harm, it can escalate it. So organizers have to think about that, the community needs to plan around that, people who may be impacted by that do have to think about that. And they have to think about that because of provocations that they've seen in other situations. So it's almost a privilege to not be, to be like - ah, don't worry about it. Because you do have to worry about it - and that's the crux of the problem - that is something that is a known possibility. And that, in and of itself, is its own thing that you have to prepare for that's not that pleasant, and have contingency plans for and all of that, because that is a wild card that could happen. Or some escalation happens, right? So it's - I just don't think it's as simple as - ah, let them be nice. They have a - we see the complaints and the reports and the investigations - there is a history in town here of them engaging in harmful ways, and escalating in situations, and inserting themselves into situations, where investigations of them have found that they have escalated situations. So I think they have to think about it, right? But they shouldn't - it would be nice that they didn't have to.

At the same time, your point that there are people in the LGBTQ community, in the Seattle Police Department and others, is absolutely true. And - hey, if they wanna have a Cop Pride Parade, where they're marching in uniform, they could absolutely do that. I haven't seen those, but that seems like that would be a great thing for the police department, if they are primarily concerned with supporting their community and their officers, that they could do. And yeah, I think that's the thing, but it'll continue - we'll see how it goes.

Also this week, or within the past couple weeks, Mayor Harrell vetoed a plan that would have required Seattle landlords to report the rent they charge. Why did he do that?

[00:34:05] Erica Barnett: Well, this is a really interesting bill, which I covered from the beginning back in March when they first started discussing it, because the original purpose of the bill - and it came from Alex Pedersen, one of the more conservative members of the council - the original purpose was to basically get landlords to provide some information about the rents they charge, in order to essentially demonstrate that small landlords are good and need to be preserved. Because the theory, the hypothesis went that they charge lower rents. And so, during the upcoming comprehensive plan - this is really a zoning bill, weirdly enough - during the upcoming comprehensive plan, they could not make changes that would increase density, so as to preserve these small landlords. So it was conceived as a pro-landlord bill. Then it got support from Councilmember Sawant and Tammy Morales on the left, who are eager to get just this information out there, because it's really hard to know when you're renting an apartment, what the average rent is in that area. You can go on all kinds of websites that tell you all different things, you can sort of look and see what else is available in the area, but that doesn't give you a real sense. And so they were like - this is great, we need more information so that renters can have the same kind of information that home buyers do about mortgages and housing costs.

So, the mayor, to answer your question, ultimately vetoed it 'cause he said it was too anti-landlord and that it would've been too onerous on landlords, it would've violated their rights by requiring them to reveal so-called proprietary information, i.e. what they were charging in rents. And that it would be unreliable because people, landlords would essentially just choose to opt-out or they would choose to lie. So, a whole bunch of what I would call very unconvincing arguments. I think the real purpose was to protect landlords from having to to reveal something that might ultimately have caused them to have to lower their rent because the rents they're charging are unreasonable, and it also would've increased renter's ability to have some information parity, if no other kind of parity with the landlords that charge them rent. So, it was an anti-renter and a pro-landlord veto in very, very short.

[00:36:32] Crystal Fincher: No, I think you summed it up quite well, and in this time where Bruce Harrell loves a dashboard - he talks about data and wanting to get more information. It seems like when there is a widely acknowledged housing affordability crisis that is exacerbating the homelessness crisis, doing everything we can - and the Harrell administration, all of it, all of the plans and all of his announcements have started with we need to gather the data and we'll get a dashboard up and all of that. This seems like a very basic step to do that. Landlords ostensibly advertise their rent when they're doing that anyway, which was one of the very basic things and I think Alex Pedersen - who is one of the more conservative members of the Council - it sounded perfectly reasonable, and he's taking this step to address housing affordability. I love the - funny enough, it comes down to zoning - as a former land use and planning board commissioner - man, everything comes down to zoning.

[00:37:40] Erica Barnett: Yep.

[00:37:41] Crystal Fincher: But it's - this was so basic and common sense, and it just seems - wow, we ask a lot from homeowners. We actually require homeowners to give a ton of personal, extremely personal information to landlords. We require people getting rental assistance and other assistance to give a ton of extremely personal information over to government entities and man, what a difference when it just comes to asking landlords to report what they're charging - which they have to report already in various formats - just really confounding and seems like a very clear and bold statement about where, who's being centered in this policy. And where, if we're talking about this housing affordability crisis, where help is not likely to come from. And it's just unfortunate 'cause if this is hard, then doing the actual things to increase affordability are a lot harder than this. So it's just troubling that that was a hard thing, when it initially would've been very basic - received a lot of pushback from Sara Nelson on the Council, and it looks like Mayor Harrell wound up feeling very similarly to Councilmember Nelson.

[00:39:12] Erica Barnett: Well, it's very interesting that Councilmember Nelson sort of said several times - well, renters can just go and look on Craigslist or whatever - obviously a statement from somebody who hasn't had to rent in a very, very long time. It is so hard to know. It is so hard to even know what the place that you're trying to rent rents for, honestly, because a lot of times it'll be a range, and it'll be five months free or whatever, and then the deposit is huge. So in comparison - you wanna buy a house - you can go see what it's sold for the last five times it sold, you can see what the asking price is, you can see what the adjacent houses sold for - just, there's a tremendous amount of information. And this information, by the way, used to be available - there was a private company that provided it. And that company went out of business and that is what precipitated this legislation. So there's a long precedent of this information actually being available. The fact that it is not available is a new thing, not a longstanding situation.

[00:40:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and relevant to so many people in the City - about half of the City's residents are renters. And so this is very meaningful and very impactful for a lot of people in the City. And so we'll see what the next plan is, but action is needed. Housing is so expensive and continues to rise in and around Seattle and the State. So hopefully more action is figured out, or there are questions brought to Bruce Harrell to say - okay, so what is the plan? If we can't gather basic data, what are you going to do to make housing more affordable? Lots of things are on the table, action is needed - what is going to get done?

Also - that we see here - is the Social Housing Initiative turned in their signatures. They exceeded the threshold. What happened here?

[00:41:19] Erica Barnett: So this is the initiative to create a public development authority which would, and I'm sure your listeners already know this - I'm repeating myself, I'm sure - but basically it would create an authority that could build affordable housing, publicly-owned housing, permanently affordable housing. They turned in, I believe, around 29,000-something signatures, and they did not get as many signatures as they wanted. So when you turn in signatures for an initiative, a lot of them tend to get thrown out because they are illegible, they have addresses outside of Seattle, they're not eligible voters, et cetera. So they had hoped to turn in 35,000, they got around 29,000. And I think it remains to be seen, and they said this week at a press conference that it remains to be seen, whether that's going to end up being enough valid signatures. They do have an opportunity if it's just a few, or a few hundred, short to go out and collect those signatures. They get 20 days to do that, so this very well could be on the ballot in November. They did say that if they don't achieve their goal this time, they're not giving up, they're gonna keep pushing for this social housing measure. So either way, it's not gonna go away, but it could be on the ballot as soon as November.

[00:42:40] Crystal Fincher: Well, and the very last thing that we'll cover super quickly - Inslee signaling no interest in suspending Washington's gas tax, as President Biden has signaled a potential easing of the federal gas tax for a period. What is Inslee thinking?

[00:43:03] Erica Barnett: Well, I don't know exactly what Inslee's logic is, but my guess is that, in the same way that the the Biden proposal is not certain to lower gas taxes, neither is a local proposal or a state proposal, and you lose a lot of money. The gas tax in Washington State funds transportation projects and primarily, almost exclusively roads. So you can argue over some of those specific roadway expansion projects, but nonetheless it's a blunt instrument to suddenly eliminate a huge tax resource, without any real guarantee that gas companies won't just further increase the prices so that they make even more profit, since in the same way that this is not Biden's fault - Biden does not hold the main levers to actually decrease gas prices substantially, the oil companies do and they're making record profits. So I think that there's probably some caution about that. Are we gonna cut this tax, lose a lot of money, and gain nothing for consumers - that's a real risk.

[00:44:11] Crystal Fincher: That is definitely a real risk and Biden is certainly receiving some of that feedback on his proposal. Gas prices are up around the world, the percentage increases that we're seeing in the United States are not close to the highest increases that other people have seen in some other countries. A lot of this is a supply problem, which easing the gas tax does not allow, and in fact it could make the supply problem a little worse if it encourages more people to buy gas. And it does rob folks of revenue, it does allow oil companies to - essentially if they wanted to - just pocket the difference and not pass along this to consumers. We're funneling this through essentially Big Oil, who is not known for being really generous and magnanimous and they like a lot of profit for themselves. And if anything - man, this money could be invested in helping reduce our reliance on this, to build infrastructure that enables more people to safely and efficiently use other methods of travel for short or long trips or commutes or all of the above. It just is - it's something, but sometimes doing something, even though it is something - if it doesn't fix the problem, why do it? And so I actually think Inslee is right on on this, because it's not actually a solution to the problem.

With that, we will conclude today's conversation. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, June 24th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler - who just had a baby! - and assistant producer Shannon Cheng with assistance from Bryce Cannatelli, and our wonderful cohost today is Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter @ericacbarnett - that's Erica with a "c", and then another "c", Barnett - and on PubliCola.com. And you can buy her book, Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii and all those things. You can find Hacks & Wonks on wherever you get your podcasts - just make sure to subscribe so you get our midweek and our end of week show. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to all of the resources referenced in the show. We will also have abortion fund resources in the show notes also and in the podcast episode notes.

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