Week in Review: June 9th, 2023 - with Daniel Beekman

Week in Review: June 9th, 2023 - with Daniel Beekman

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman! They cover the Seattle City Council’s defeat of a War-on-Drugs style bill, a judge ruling that Washington’s ban on assault-style rifles can move forward, new polling from NPI showing Bob Ferguson with an early lead in the race for governor, Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen proposing a capital gains tax for the city of Seattle, Washington state pursuing permanent rules for working outdoors in wildfire smoke, and 1,000 misdemeanor cases being dismissed after Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison ends the city’s participation in Community Court.

About the Guest

Daniel Beekman

Daniel Beekman is The Seattle Times politics and communities reporter.


Passing Middle Housing and Climate Planning with Futurewise’s Bryce Yadon & Marcella Buser” from Hacks & Wonks

Seattle City Council narrowly rejects drug prosecution bill” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times

WA ban on sale of AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles can go forward, judge rules” by Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times

Attorney General Bob Ferguson leads 2024 WA gubernatorial field, new NPI poll confirms” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Alex Pedersen proposes capital gains tax in Seattle” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times

WA taking input on new rules for working outdoors in wildfire smoke” by Jasper Kenzo Sundeen from The Yakima Herald-Republic

AirNow Fire and Smoke Map

1,000 misdemeanor cases to be dismissed after demise of Seattle Community Court” by Sara Jean Green from The Seattle Times

Find stories that Crystal is reading here


[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 politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical show and the Friday week-in-review delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday topical show, I welcomed Bryce Yadon and Marcella Buser from Futurewise to talk about the For Our Future campaign's success in passing middle housing and climate planning bills for the 2023 legislative session. Today, we're continuing the Friday week-in-review shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman.

[00:01:22] Daniel Beekman: Hey Crystal - thanks for having me.

[00:01:24] Crystal Fincher: Hey - glad to have you again today. Wanna start off by talking about something that was in the headlines almost all week and made major news throughout Seattle - and that was the Seattle City Council defeating a drug prosecution bill that was proposed. What would this bill have done and how did this shake out?

[00:01:45] Daniel Beekman: Oh, okay. So what the bill would have done was allow the Seattle City Attorney's Office to take charge of prosecuting gross misdemeanor illicit drug possession and public drug use, as defined by the Legislature in the session earlier this year - in a law passed to keep drug possession criminalized in the state statewide and to criminalize public drug use. So to make the Seattle City Attorney's Office the lead on dealing with any of those arrests - or prosecutions. And I was fascinated by this. I covered Seattle City Hall for seven years and I've been off that beat for a while now but this was - I think since I left being responsible for that beat at our paper - this was the meeting that I tuned into sort of the most interestedly. I was listening to it at home even though I didn't need to be working, because I was just fascinated by what was going on.

And it seemed like this moment where there could have been a real shift in sort of Seattle and Washington State politics potentially, where for many years it was the Seattle City Council trying to push the envelope on what they would describe as progressive issues and legislation and then the State Legislature sort of following that - taking the lead of Seattle. And here - what was proposed, aside from the details of it and the important issues at play which we could talk about, but just in pure sort of politics - this was some Seattle City Councilmembers and the City Attorney saying the opposite of that, saying the state has made their decision going in a certain direction, we wanna follow it in Seattle. And so if the bill had passed that would have been a real sort of role reversal - in my mind, in that way - but it was interesting. And then of course, narrowly the legislation did not pass with Councilmember Andrew Lewis providing the swing vote and saying he was changing his mind at the last minute, but also saying that he wanted to come back and revisit the issue in the future - so sort of trying to play both sides of it.

[00:04:16] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And as you've mentioned, this comes on the heels of the state legislation - their second shot at drug legislation following the State Supreme Court's Blake decision, which made personal possession not a crime, kept everything else like dealing and paraphernalia - all that kind of stuff - wasn't changed, but personal possession of a substance was decriminalized. Our legislature stepped in in 2020-ish, 2021 - one of those years -

[00:04:46] Daniel Beekman: 2021, yeah.

[00:04:48] Crystal Fincher: Thank you - pandemic time is interesting in my head.

[00:04:52] Daniel Beekman: For sure.

[00:04:53] Crystal Fincher: And made a possession a misdemeanor and included a sunset provision in that legislation. They also included a lot of funding in that initial legislation to implement diversion and support programs throughout the state - that largely didn't end up happening because the pandemic happened. A lot of those plans just weren't fully realized, weren't able to be implemented for health reasons, and for some lack of desire. So when they came back, they actually doubled down on the criminalization - made personal possession a gross misdemeanor instead of just a misdemeanor - they increased the penalty there. As well as making public use a gross misdemeanor. So localities are now faced with how to make their local laws jive with the state law. And a lot of different cities are contending with this in a lot of different ways.

We saw overwhelming testimony from Seattle residents saying that while they absolutely agree that substance use, drug abuse, public use is a problem, that this way of solving it - through just prosecutions, criminalization, and the taking over of this locally in the City - marked a return to the failed War on Drugs that they weren't interested in. I think we do hear from a lot of residents that they want this addressed. They just want it addressed in a way that is likely to succeed and hasn't failed before, which some of these punitive, punishment-based policies have been doing. And to really give addressing the root causes of these problems a shot - where we saw the beginnings of the attempt to do that and fits and starts during the pandemic, but really wanting to move forward with this in earnest. And we'll see what happens. Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Lewis both signaled that they want to address this somehow, and maybe it needs some more stakeholdering, community feedback, and support in how to deal with this. So I expect to see legislation coming back that maybe tries to address some of the concerns that the community had, but it'll be interesting to see how this shapes up.

[00:07:13] Daniel Beekman: For sure, yeah. The public comment was heavily against the legislation, but then, yeah - there were mentions by, I think, Councilmember Lewis, maybe others on - from the dais - about polling that showed it was popular amongst Seattle voters, and I didn't see that. And so I don't know how it was worded - and caveat - but it was interesting that they mentioned that. And then it also gets complicated because you can have a law on the books, whether it's at the City level or the County level - responsible for, in theory, for prosecuting - but if the police aren't prioritizing those arrests, either because they're told not to, or because they don't have the staffing to do so. And if the jail isn't booking people - then real life can be more complicated than a press release or what's written in the law. It wasn't clear even what would happen if the law had passed. I don't think it's totally clear what's going to happen now, so I'll have to keep watching it.

[00:08:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. On that polling issue, there is an interesting occurrence afoot in Seattle. There is a firm - I don't know which firm is doing it yet - but have seen a few of these polls that have come out, and they really do not appear to be scientific polls. Maybe this is a different firm, and I haven't seen it, but I have seen a couple of these polls. It looks like they are targeting a political list, as opposed to randomly-selected residents or registered voters, however they're doing that. So I just underscore for people who are going to be covering polling, for the public looking at this - if you don't see all of the details about the poll if a poll is referenced, if you don't see what the methodology is and it's not done by a reputable firm - take that with an extreme grain of salt. There are some polls checking in that seem to be more public relations and marketing stunts than actual legitimate polls. We'll see. Again, there could be a poll that I'm unaware of here that is absolutely legit, but just always it's best to see that.

And with this new legislation, it's going to be interesting to see what happens with this. I know there's been a lot of talk about standing up alternatives to just traditional - Hey, we're calling in a cop for this, maybe that's not the best way - looks like that is likely not the best way to address substance use disorder and issues like this. So one of my big questions is - okay, we're focusing on new legislation. But for funding that has already been provided for these alternatives - for stuff to stand up - what is being done to stand up existing capacity, existing programming, existing things that have already been greenlighted? But we'll see what happens. This is in the mayor's lap right now, so are there plans moving forward with this? I know they've talked about doing things under the umbrella of a new Department of Public Safety, but I think lots of people are asking - When is that going to happen? And when are we going to see some of the benefits of that happening? 'Cause although there's a lot of attention put on the pushback against some of these damaging policies, that's not the only thing that's happening here. There are people saying - No, we don't want to return to this bad, expensive process of before, but we do need to help this situation. We do need to stand up some things that have a better shot at working. And I'm wondering when that's going to happen.

[00:10:39] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, and then my colleague Sarah Grace Taylor, who covers City Hall for us, has written about this question of Mayor Bruce Harrell. It was very clear that he - with public safety - he wasn't a proponent of defunding the police, but he was, expressed this both-and approach where we want more police officers - and we want the best police officers, the best training - but we also want the best alternatives and the best new kind of public safety person who's not a police officer, but we have not seen that yet. And he got some time at first to adjust to a new administration, but we're deep into his first term now.

[00:11:23] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we're waiting. Other news this week - a judge ruled that the ban, Washington's ban, on the sale of AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles can go forward. What was the controversy here?

[00:11:36] Daniel Beekman: I think the various gun lobby organizations, or the Second Amendment rights organizations - they always sue whenever any jurisdiction passes any type of gun control or gun safety measure. And so they were always gonna sue in this case and claim there was an infringement on Second Amendment rights, and so it looks like the state won an initial victory. This was just, I believe, a ruling on whether there could be an injunction in the case - in other words, stopping the law from being in effect while the lawsuit itself is litigated. And the federal court judge, among other things, said - There are various standards for an injunction. And one of them I noticed he said - one of them is - is there gonna be a great harm to the public if I put this, or if I allow this law to keep going forward while we litigate this case? He said - No, there's not gonna be a great harm to the public if I allow this law to be in place while we deal with the lawsuit, because people are using guns to kill people. So that was one interesting piece, I think, from the ruling when I was reading up on it. But it's not the end of the story - the case is still active and who knows, maybe it'll go all the way to the US Supreme Court - we'll have to see.

[00:13:05] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we will have to see - as we've seen with so many things, whether it's the capital gains tax or lots of legislation, a law passes or residents of the state pass a new law. And it's fairly routine these days, especially in some of the biggest cases, to see legal challenges against them. And certainly the gun lobby signaled from the very beginning that they were going to be challenging this in court. There is another voter-passed initiative that is being challenged in court in Oregon also. So although we are passing some nation-leading gun control measures here and along the West Coast, it does have to pass legal scrutiny and be constitutional, both our state and national constitution. And the people who are making that determination are different ideologically than they'd been before, so it's gonna be interesting to see how this continues to carry through the courts - what is permitted and what's not - and the importance of crafting legislation that you do believe will stand up to legal scrutiny. So we'll see how this proceeds.

Also wanna talk about a new poll that came out this morning in regards to the 2024 gubernatorial race that's gonna be happening here in the state - with Jay Inslee announcing that he is not going to run for reelection and a whole crop of new candidates in. This poll found that Bob Ferguson was the clear leader here. But as far as that, there's not much more clear beyond that. There's a lot of candidates really close to support - several statistically tied, basically, based on the margin of error of this poll - and about a third of people currently saying they're undecided as well as others. What did you find interesting in this poll?

[00:15:01] Daniel Beekman: And of course, with the caveats - we're talking about poll caveats - but this is just one poll. I think the NPI polling, in my experience last couple of years, has been proven to be pretty good, but they are - they're a partisan outfit. And I think they're working with a good polling firm, but just to put that there - it's just one poll. But I would say - not surprising to see Bob Ferguson in the lead, considering that it's very likely that a Democrat would win the office, and considering that he's been so prominent as a State Attorney General who waged legal sort of combat against Donald Trump, and then has continued to be in the news a lot for various initiatives. And just name recognition alone - compared to Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz - I think people can debate what either of them has done in office, but I think just name recognition - a lot of Washingtonians don't know that there's even a position of Public Lands Commissioner, especially maybe in the more urban areas. So there's that.

I don't know - I'm not covering this race right now - and with these stories that I'm not covering directly, I wanna be careful 'cause I just don't have the expertise of some of my colleagues. But as an outsider, I found the entry of Mark Mullet, sort of centrist Democrat, the most important thing here - just because he may also not have a ton of name recognition, but he's gonna try to pull, I would think, voters from both parties or independents to a center campaign. And whether that could give a Democratic frontrunner some problems, or give the Republican candidate some problems - I don't know - but that seems like the most interesting wild card so far.

[00:17:04] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, I'd agree with that. And also absolutely agree with the caveat here - this is just one poll, not a suite of reputable polls that we can feel super confident in. Your point is well taken in that NPI has been performing well with their polling - they are a partisan outfit, but we've seen over the past year that they've been right in-line with other polls or actual results. In this, they found that Bob Ferguson was at 25%, Raul Garcia - a Republican who ran for governor before - at 17%, Semi Bird - who is a more MAGA-leaning Republican endorsed by Joe Kent - is there. I should mention Raul Garcia was supported by some more - what they would describe themselves as - moderate Republicans. Hilary Franz at 9%, Mark Mullet at 7%, and Not sure at 33%. Margin of error in this poll, as said before, was 3.5%. Really important - polls are a snapshot in time - that doesn't mean that this cannot, and I anticipate it will, dramatically change.

This race and the dimensions of it, especially with Mark Mullet getting in, are very interesting. I think his theory of the case is, especially if he can - I think most people at this point in time are assuming that with Bob Ferguson's lead in terms of name recognition, which probably comes from him being so active as an attorney general and a lot of the lawsuits that he's brought, most notably against the Trump administration have helped his name ID. He also has a significant financial lead in - because he was able to transfer some of the money from his AG campaign to his gubernatorial campaign. Our state's Public Disclosure Commission is in the process of perhaps modifying rules in that area - which lots of people have done - Bob Ferguson is not the only person to transfer money here. But with that changing, he did rush to get in these transfers underneath, under the deadline of some impending change here. And so he was able to transfer a lot of money, is the fundraising leader by a significant margin. And that matters in the way races are run today. I wish it didn't matter as much, but it does. So a lot of people are looking at this as - okay, Bob looks really likely to get through, who's going to make it through against him?

And big question mark - if it's a Republican, we have the dimensions of, I don't know, I would say regular or traditional given where discourse is at today, but a Republican versus Democratic general. But in our top-two system, it could be Bob Ferguson and Mark Mullet, it could be Bob Ferguson and Raul Garcia, Semi Bird, it could be Hilary Franz. Also, we are very early and it's not like Bob Ferguson is guaranteed. We saw an endorsement announcement that got a lot of attention - not much of it positive - with the announcement of former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best endorsing Bob Ferguson's campaign and kind of poor reactions to that from both the left and the right. But we'll see how this shakes out. And he has a lot that he can certainly run on and advocate for and that people have been satisfied with, a lot that some, especially conservatives, have not been satisfied with - but we'll see how this shakes out. I certainly thought this was interesting, but it is just capturing a point in time. Lots can change - this is not set in stone - although I anticipate to see a campaign email from Bob Ferguson touting these results pretty soon. We will see.

Also notable that you talk about Mark Mullet being a differentiating force, a unique force that can change the dimensions of this race. I found it notable that this past week we saw an email from Bob Ferguson going after Mark Mullet's record and pointing out things like he said he wasn't even sure he was gonna vote for the Democrat gubernatorial nominee before, when he was running that very heavily contested race against Ingrid Anderson, and some other controversial things that he had said and done. Which Bob Ferguson pointed out in wanting to say that we don't want a Republican-lite - as many people view Mark Mullet - we want a real Democrat in this seat. We'll see how the dimensions of this race proceed. It's going to be an interesting one.

Also wanted to talk about a new proposal for a capital gains tax in the City of Seattle - coming from someone who I think some people were surprised to see - from Alex Pedersen. What did he propose and why is he saying this is warranted?

[00:21:42] Daniel Beekman: I think as I understand it, he would take the - basically the logic of the capital gains tax that has been put in place on the state level and apply an extra couple of percentages to a similar tax just for Seattle. And then what he said that he would do - he said, call that a progressive tax, where people with more resources are being taxed. And then he would use those funds to then reduce or eliminate a water tax that's added to water bills for folks in the City of Seattle. So he - which he described as a, I think, as a regressive tax because it's flat, it's not graduated. And so I actually thought it was a classic Alex Pedersen maneuver. He, I remember even - I think, I want to say when he was first running and when he was, worked for Tim Burgess back in the day, he's been - always talked about our regressive tax system and wanting to change that. But also, he's talked about that as wanting to raise revenue, not necessarily to put towards new programs and things, but to reduce other taxes. And this water tax is - it plays, I think it plays to his base of northeast Seattle homeowners. So it felt like a very Alex Pedersen thing to do - to me - in those ways.

[00:23:09] Crystal Fincher: No, that tracks. And to your point, this is a very popular idea in the City of Seattle across the board. He points out that regressive taxes are those taxes that place a disproportionate burden on the lowest income households. Like even though we don't have an income tax, he points out utility taxes, property taxes, sales taxes. Those are all taxes that we pay in greater amounts because we don't have a property tax. And the people who are paying the most are those at the very bottom, those who can least afford it. Meanwhile, the people at the very top, the wealthiest 1%, are not paying their fair share - is what he's saying, it's what public polling shows is very popular in Seattle. We just had the capital gains tax passed at the state level and it did survive legal scrutiny. Our State Supreme Court found that it was a constitutional tax - it's not classified as an income tax, which is currently unconstitutional in Washington state. So we'll see if this has legs, if this can proceed, how this proposal will go - but it looks like this is going to be really interesting. Seattle would be the first locality in the state to pass this capital gains tax. So we'll see what happens with this, but it's gonna be interesting.

[00:24:31] Daniel Beekman: I saw somebody - I haven't looked into this much, but I've been wondering - oh, is this just gonna sail through the City Council because it's panned as a progressive tax in the city - even though Alex Pedersen on some issues is on the more conservative side, will the more lefty councilmembers get on board with it. And I saw a piece of criticism - just on social media - sort of making the case that because the City has a utility discount program that maybe mitigates the effect of the water tax or water bills on lower income folks, that really choosing that as a place to reduce the regressive tax or give back that capital gains money to taxpayers is actually - would be disproportionately benefiting people who aren't low income. And so I don't know - that was interesting. And yeah, I don't know. Like I said, I would need to look into it more, but we'll see what that conversation looks like.

[00:25:34] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we'll see what this conversation looks like. And again, this is one of those tax that applies to a very narrow slice of people at the top. We've seen organized and well-funded opposition to this. I anticipate we'll see this at the city level too, but the percentage of people who that actually represents is much smaller than normal. Usually we're under 5%, perhaps under 1%. We'll see what the number is for that in Seattle. I assume it's gonna be slightly higher than it may be for the statewide average - but we'll see how that continues, what the reception of this is, and how this is gonna play out.

So another story this week, which is timely to discuss - as particularly the East Coast right now is inundated by wildfires raging throughout Canada, even some Western wildfires that have some smoke spreading to the Pacific Northwest interior right now - wildfire smoke in areas that are hundreds of miles away, sometimes thousands of miles away even, is becoming a reality that we're dealing with because of climate change. And so our Department of Labor and Industries is considering implementing some new rules governing how and whether people can work in severe wildfire weather events that are very harmful to people's health. I think this is something that more people are realizing and learning as we deal with smoke more regularly, but breathing in wildfire or particulate matter - sometimes you see it referenced as PM2.5 - is very harmful to health, including - extended exposure can damage the heart, nervous system, respiratory system, and cause cancer or respiratory disease. Sometimes people just initially notice eye irritation, coughing, lung irritation - but these can cause and exacerbate major, major healthcare issues, exacerbate asthma and different things like that.

So whether it's kids at school or people at work, this is having a big impact and Labor and Industries is stepping up and stepping in to say there need to be some requirements for employers about this. You can't just put your employees out in smoke no matter what that is with no protection and proceed on. So it's mandating some protection at some levels, at different thresholds - employers providing KN95 or better masks, mandating how people can work, mandating the wearing of masks to protect people's health potentially if wildfire is really, really - if the smoke is really heavy and I think we pass some of the highest threshold levels here. How do you see this and do you think this is gonna make a difference?

[00:28:20] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, I think that it does seem like common sense to try to grapple with it because these smoky summers, whether here and now we're seeing it in New York - which is interesting to see people there in New York City deal with something that we've already been dealing with for a while deal with it - but they're here to stay. It seems like it's a new normal of some sort. So employers and workers are already dealing with these things and trying to figure out how to handle them, I think, at least on an ad hoc basis. But figuring out what regulation should be makes sense and can maybe make a difference. And it does remind me that - this wasn't smoke, but last summer I did a story about how Seattle's library branches without air conditioning closed more than 130 times due to heat and concern about workers being too hot for too long inside. And just - I think that was totally unprecedented and I think points to the fact that we're dealing with a sort of new ball game here with our changes in weather, whether it be the results or symptoms are smoke or just the heat itself, and adjustments need to be made - whether it's putting air conditioning in more library branches, or whether it's coming up with new regulations for working outside when it's smoky.

[00:29:38] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And just underscoring that this is a rule-making period here - it's a period where they're collecting comment from a lot of people. So if you have thoughts or feelings about this - we will include the link in the resources here - and please get in contact with Labor and Industries to share your opinion. Some people are saying the thresholds as currently stated are too high and adverse health effects can happen much lower than the thresholds and need protection. There are also some industry organizations saying that they wanna make sure that this isn't too burdensome on - perhaps farmers and others - saying that they need to clearly understand what they are. And hopefully paperwork requirements aren't onerous, but it does seem like it is necessary to provide some protection to employees here and make sure everyone understands what the risks and thresholds are, and taking action to mitigate and support employees through this.

Also, another element that was making news in the City of Seattle is 1,000 misdemeanor cases are going to be dismissed after the demise of Seattle's Community Court at the request of Republican City Attorney Ann Davison. What happened here?

[00:30:54] Daniel Beekman: Again, I think some of this is a little bit complicated in the back and forth - the debate about whether Community Court should still exist and the City Attorney's office should be participating in it or not - but my understanding is that the Seattle City Attorney's Office - there's been several iterations of Community Court, which is basically allowing people with certain misdemeanors to deal with their cases in a non-traditional way, whether it be through community service or other avenues. The Seattle City Attorney's Office said - We're frustrated with the way this has been going, we're pulling out. And once they pull out, then it ceases to be a viable option - they're a necessary player for that equation. And so that was a dramatic termination of that program that even came into the conversation then a few days later about the drug possession and drug use prosecution with, I think, Councilmember Andrew Lewis saying that the termination of Community Court influenced his decision to vote against allowing the City Attorney's Office to prosecute drug possession and public drug use because the Community Court, or something - things like it - would be a helpful tool to have in dealing with those cases and then the Community Court isn't there anymore.

[00:32:24] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. This is really interesting - and again, helps to understand and remind people that cities typically handle misdemeanors, counties typically handle felonies. So this is just a conversation about city-level misdemeanor cases. And what evidence has largely found, what has guided some recent decision-making is that for the lowest level crimes, usually addressing the root causes of those does a much better job of eliminating recidivism - re-offense - than strictly punitive policies only focused on punishment and not the cessation of whatever behavior or criminality is occurring.

So once again - here in Seattle - Community Court, which had broad support from the public, from the judges implementing this. We talked about this a bit last year during some of the Seattle, or year before last, Seattle Municipal Court battles here and this being an issue that was at play kind of bubbling underneath the surface, but certainly a desire at that time - knowing that the Seattle City Attorney's Office wanted to end the Community Court - they had a person running from within that office who appeared that they intended to wanna do that, that was talked about on the campaign trail. The voters voted for people who said that they would not do that - that seems to be where the voters continue to be at. But we see once again, a pandemic-impacted conversation - Hey, we implemented this, but during the pandemic, everything was turned upside down - from the way court was done, the way Community Court was done, and the way that a lot of the options that required human contact, face-to-face contact and working through these issues were dramatically impacted, cut down, not provided - for understandable health reasons, but this wasn't fully implemented.

And some of the justification of this was - Well, it's not working. It's not working 'cause it's kind of not happening throughout the pandemic and not doing that - the things that were going to be helpful were not being provided. But it seems like the City Attorney is continuing to jump on these things and saying - Okay well, we didn't fully implement the thing, but it's not working, so let's just repeal it. It seems like that's the position that the City Attorney is starting from, returning to, didn't deviate from, and is using whatever justifications they can use to do this. Curious that now and previous - there was another mass kind of dropping of cases that they don't seem to think that that's gonna impact public safety or worrying about that, but we need to get harder to make sure that people who do come into the system are put into that traditional, more punitive system. I don't know how this is gonna turn out. I don't know how this is gonna proceed, but it looks like this Community Court is ending, that they're not putting more people into it. They did mention that there were a few new contracts signed with some service providers that maybe are going to be working with this new system. I would love to learn more about that - who those providers are and what they're going to be doing, how that differs from what was being done before. I do not know one way or the other, so genuinely interested in learning more about that - wasn't covered in the article that we read about it, but we'll see how this proceeds and we'll see what public safety and the criminal legal system continues to look like as it evolves in the City of Seattle.

[00:36:06] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, there were a couple of details in my colleague Sara Jean Green's story about this Community Court issue that I thought were interesting. One of them being a reason cited, I think by the City Attorney's Office, for being frustrated with Community Court is people not showing up to engage in the Community Court. And folks on the other side, proponents of Community Court, I think, maybe saying - Well, it's true, they're not showing up, but they also don't and wouldn't show up for traditional court. So it's not like you solve that problem necessarily by getting rid of Community Court. And even smaller sort of little detail that I thought was - I'm glad it was included - was even something as small as the - I believe the program had access to a van to take Community Court participants to their community service obligations at some point. And that was a victim of a budget cut. I think it was the presiding judge of Municipal Court talking about this and bringing it up as - something as simple as a van taken away by a budget cut can affect some of the performance here of this program. And so again, there are the big sort of big picture policy, political, philosophical debates on the criminal legal system and things like this. And then there are things as simple as a van. So I thought that was an important note.

[00:37:45] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and thank you for bringing that up - that was a really important note. And I hope people who are putting together policy understand how important details like that are, particularly with transportation - something that a lot of people are contending with, a lot of people who, especially a disproportionate amount of people involved in the criminal legal system, don't have access to reliable transportation. We see that in the healthcare setting too - access to transportation significantly impacting patients' adherence to their plans, access to medication. It's a big deal how to get to and from somewhere, so even providing a service like that is really important to this. And the other one - as you said, it's so interesting to hear the objections to one program from the City Attorney also being present elsewhere, which kind of makes it look like a cynical attempt to just end something that they never liked in the first place. But we'll see how this happens, and I do hope that they pay attention to those details.

And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, June 9th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today was Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman - always appreciate his information and insight. You can find Daniel on Twitter @DBeekman. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks, and you can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. You can catch Hacks & Wonks wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.