Week in Review: March 1, 2024 - with Rich Smith

Week in Review: March 1, 2024 - with Rich Smith

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith!

Crystal and Rich discuss the significance of the Stranger endorsing “Uncommitted Delegates” in the March 12th Presidential Primary. They then celebrate the legislature’s passage of the Strippers’ Bill of Rights and mourn the deaths of rent stabilization and even-year elections at the hands of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Finally, they cover Seattle City Council’s inexcusable silencing of protesters with arrest.

About the Guest

Rich Smith

Rich Smith is Editor of The Stranger and a noted poet.

Find Rich Smith on Twitter/X at @richsssmith.


Check out our audiograms about proposed Seattle surveillance technologies and get your public comments in by the NEW deadline, March 22nd!

Vote Uncommitted WA

The Stranger Endorses Uncommitted Delegates for the March 12, 2024 Presidential Primary Election” from The Stranger Election Control Board

Donald Trump has a massive lead over Nikki Haley in Washington's 2024 Republican presidential primary, NPI poll finds” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Washington Passes Strippers’ Bill of Rights” by Rich Smith from The Stranger

Senate Democrats Stiff Renters for the Third or Fourth Time, It's Honestly Difficult to Keep Track” by Rich Smith from The Stranger

Conservative Senate Democrats Stiff Renters Yet Again” by Rich Smith from The Stranger

Ways & Means declines to take up NPI's even year elections bill, ending its 2024 run” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Police Arrest Six of Sara Nelson’s Political Enemies After She Refuses to Hear Concerns of Asylum-Seekers” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

6 protesters arrested during council meeting at Seattle City Hall” by David Kroman from The Seattle Times

King County, Tukwila announce new investments to help asylum-seekers” by Anna Patrick from The Seattle Times

Find stories that Crystal is reading here

Listen on your favorite podcast app to all our episodes 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 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. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical show and 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.

An update from last week's Tuesday topical show - public comment on bringing three surveillance technologies to Seattle has been extended from the original February 29th deadline to March 22nd. Check out our audiograms from this week and get your comment in now.

Today we are continuing our 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: Editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith.

[00:01:20] Rich Smith: Hey, Crystal - how you doing?

[00:01:22] Crystal Fincher: Doing? I mean - I'm doing. All things considered, I'm all right. All things considered is doing heavy lifting in that statement, but here we are. But hey, we have a presidential primary going on. We have ballots now, and there is a movement that The Stranger has endorsed for Uncommitted Delegates - for those who identify as Democrats - in the March 12th presidential primary. What is that? And why has The Stranger decided to endorse that?

[00:01:55] Rich Smith: Great questions. Yeah - well, you've got your primary ballot. You've got some options there. They include Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., Dean Phillips, Marianne Williamson - who dropped out, and Uncommitted Delegates. Uncommitted Delegates is just a delegate that will, if that bubble gets more than 15% of the vote share after the primary, go to the national convention - which is scheduled for August of this year in Chicago. And in the first round of balloting, when voting on the nominee, they just aren't pledged to vote for any particular candidate unlike the pledge delegates, which Joe Biden will almost certainly win the vast majority of at the conclusion of the primary. So functionally, that's what it means - uncommitted delegate is someone who can decide who they want to vote for at the convention rather than just doing it ahead of time.

And The Stranger endorsed it for a number of reasons. Chiefly, we do not like Joe Biden's response to the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. We do not like his hard right turn to the right. We do not like a number of other things that he did or did not do during the course of his four years in office. And this is the only time - the Democratic primary - where we get to raise an objection, make our voices heard in a language that he can hear, which is the language of delegates at the convention. The thinking is - if we send some uncommitted delegates, if the movement gets big enough, then during that first round of voting, the delegates can make a little noise if the war crimes are still going on.

[00:03:39] Crystal Fincher: Now, one important note in this effort, because a lot of people were saying - We're going to write-in "Ceasefire," we're going to write-in a different candidate. That is, in Washington state - because of state law - a suboptimal option because officials only tally write-in votes from candidates who file "timely declarations" of a write-in candidacy and who also exceed the number of votes earned by the second place candidate. So that "Ceasefire" vote, that write-in is not going to be tallied or reported. It'll get lumped in with people who write-in some random name of a friend or someone who they wish would be president there. So the actual most organized and impactful way to register that vote is Uncommitted Delegates. There also have - heard some people who typically vote for Democrats say - Well, I want to cross over and vote for Nikki Haley instead of Donald Trump because I find Donald Trump offensive and don't want that. I don't know how much of an impact that is going to have here in Washington state. One, ultimately, most of the votes will wind up going to a Democrat - we're a blue state, that's not controversial. But two, even on the Republican side, NPI just came out with a poll this week showing Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the Republican primary among Republicans - about 75% of Republicans saying that they planned to vote for Donald Trump in that poll. So what's the hope - to get Nikki Haley from 20% to 25%, 25% to 30%? I don't know how much of an impact that is.

Obviously, people are free to choose however they do want to vote, but very important that you do make your voice heard, that you are aware of what the options are, what the ballot looks like. And again, for the Uncommitted Delegates option, that's actually a bubble that you can fill in - you don't have to write-in anything, and that's how that would be registered. Also, a reminder that the presidential election ballots are due by March 12th, 2024. Don't forget to sign the outside of your ballot. In presidential primaries, we have to declare the party on the outside of the ballot - without those things happening, your ballot can't be counted. So make sure that you - one, participate and vote your conscience. There is a very effective way to do that right now.

[00:06:10] Rich Smith: Yeah, we need as many people to do it as possible so we can send as many delegates as possible and show Biden that his behavior on foreign policy matters and on immigration - two domains over which the executive branch has almost exclusive control. I know that Congress has the purse or whatever, but as we've seen with the sending of weapons to Israel in December - Joe Biden, if there is an emergency, the executive branch can skirt Congress and send the money anyway. And the way that the national security apparatus is set up, especially with the continued authorization of use of military force, Biden can bomb the Houthis without talking to Congress much. He's got a lot of power and it's just so rare to get the opportunity to speak directly to a president about foreign policy. We don't have a draft, people aren't really talking about foreign policy when they vote - foreign policy isn't at the top of their list of things that they vote on. And so, presidents don't feel like they have to respond to Democratic pressure because there's not a lot of Democratic pulleys that give us power over him, basically, on those policies - on immigration and on foreign policy. So we rarely, rarely get this opportunity - it's certainly worth doing for that reason.

[00:07:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And I've talked about this a lot of times before, but primaries are your opportunity to truly vote your conscience. There's a lot of pressure in a lot of different directions in general elections. And it's not just a referendum on one person - sometimes we are in the position of picking the lesser of the two evils. But when that is ultimately the choice, it is on us to do all we can - in the meantime and around that - to lessen the evil overall. And so it is the time to be able to vote your conscience. There are lots of people who are having lots of discussions about voting in November, about Biden versus Trump. But this isn't that time. This is a Democratic primary where you can vote your conscience and you can send a message in a way that is stronger than just about anything we can do, especially as Washington state residents. So I certainly will be taking advantage of this option and want to make sure that lots of other people know that this is an option for them too.

[00:08:35] Rich Smith: Hear, hear.

[00:08:37] Crystal Fincher: Also want to talk about the legislature this week. There was a positive thing - a positive, I mean, maybe there are more positive things - but there was a positive thing that happened that's worth talking about. A Strippers' Bill of Rights passed. What did this bill do and why is it important?

[00:08:55] Rich Smith: The bill did a lot. The bill established and added a bunch of labor protections for strippers in Washington state who have been needing them for far too long. It repealed the lewd conduct codes - the WAC, as they call them, Washington Administrative Codes - which were used and cited to raid gay bars in Seattle in January. And in doing so, it creates a pathway for strip clubs to apply for liquor licenses, so they can help offset the cost of some of the labor protections the state will now force them to implement - having panic buttons in certain areas, more safety training, lowering the house fees or the rental fees that strippers have to pay to clubs before they go on stage for the night so that they start the night indebted. And if the fees are too high - sometimes they're as high as $150, $200 a night - they will work a whole shift and just give all that money to the club owner and go home empty-handed. So this bill capped those fees to help strippers make money and express themselves sexually without the burdensome fees. What does it do? It frees the nipple and the jockstrap in queer bars so that the police don't have a reason to barge in as they did in January with their flashlights and their photographs - taking pictures of people in jockstrap in the clubs. It will more or less revolutionize the strip club industry in Seattle and give the workers the protections that they've long needed. I don't know if you've been to a strip club recently in Seattle, but it's kind of sad in there. It's not really a social atmosphere. People are there to sort of drink Dr. Pepper, and watch people dance, and then go get loaded in the parking lot, and then come back in. And that creates a kind of menacing atmosphere. And so the hope is - and that's supported by a state report released in 2020 - that having a more social atmosphere, having stuff to do there that's not just watch dancers and mull a lap dance will create a safer and funner environment for everybody and liberate sexual expression.

But before this, with the lewd conduct laws - everything that a stripper did on stage was criminalized. They technically couldn't walk off stage with too sheer a bra or they would be having a threat of arrest. They couldn't take tips while they were dancing on stage without actual threat of arrest. There was a bunch of proximity rules in the codes that would have made lap dances illegal, basically. And so it decriminalizes stripping, essentially, in Washington and makes us the last state in the union to allow alcohol sales - in a kind of roundabout way. Basically, the repeal of the code means there's no enforcement of alcohol sales in clubs and it allows them to apply for the state's other liquor licenses - so that's the kind of roundabout way they're doing it. But it's incredible. It takes the boot of the state off the neck of marginalized communities and is a real win.

[00:11:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, this is a marginalized community of workers. Workers that have been denied rights, been at risk of criminalization and penalties and everything that comes with that. Workers deserve protection - starts just as fundamentally and as simply as that. And every employer owes safety and fair compensation to their employees or to contractors working on their behalf. And so, this certainly brings us in-line with the modern world in many ways. And so just pleased to see that the legislature took action to protect workers in this way.

Now, the legislature failed to take action, unfortunately, in some other very key areas - in areas that Democrats, certainly the House of Representatives, defined as priorities, defined as very important. Starting with the failure to pass rent stabilization, which would have, among other things, capped rent increases at 7% annually - which is still a healthy increase. But right now there is still continuing virtually unlimited rent increases across the state. I have talked about before - my neighbors received a 45% rent increase annually - in one year - from previous year. And this is contributing to housing insecurity. This is contributing to our homelessness problem. This is contributing to income inequality. And it's contributing to rising house prices across the state overall. This, in particular, really does fail to help our problem of displacement here in our communities - was just so disappointed to see this. Why did this happen?

[00:13:48] Rich Smith: Yeah, it was a little bit - the short answer is that two men with somewhat adorable electoral ambition decided to quietly strangle the bill in the Senate's Ways and Means Committee, after a State senator representing Southwest Washington - Annette Cleveland - strangled the bill in a kind of clumsy and public way in the Senate's Housing Committee. And they don't offer many reasons for doing so, and the reasons they do offer are not good and unsupported by evidence. So in the Ways and Means Committee, you could only lose two Democratic votes, basically, to get anything through. The Ways and Means Committee is stacked with conservative Democrats, certainly fiscally conservative Democrats. And so Mark Mullet is on the Ways and Means Committee - he represents Issaquah, and he's just a true believer. He thinks that a rent stabilization package at 7% will decrease construction of new housing in the medium to long-term. And so it is not worth protecting the 40% of households in Washington who rent now from astronomically high rent increases that push them out of their communities - that's too great a risk - a potential medium to long-term decrease of indeterminate size in the number of housing units constructed in Washington. This is the kind of information that they're providing. Van De Wege did not give a reason. Rep Strom Petersen, who had talked to Van De Wege, asked him if he needed any amendments on the bill - they were willing to negotiate cap size, they were willing to negotiate all manner of exceptions. And Van De Wege shrugged and said, No. So not even giving a full-throated principled reason for quietly doing this to millions of Washington renters.

And Annette Cleveland beforehand strangled the bill in her committee, saying that - it was spreading, basically, misinformation as far as I'm concerned. She said that the rent cap of 15%, which was the one that she was considering at the time - extremely high, almost comically high rent cap - would only catch the most egregious abusers because landlords would, as a matter of course, raise rates 15% every year. Because if they can't raise it however much they want, then they'll raise it to the cap every single time. This is silly. Everyone will tell you, even the f**ing landlords will tell you that a 3% to 5% rent increase on an annual basis is the kind of norm. That's what the developers and lenders are both agreeing on when they sign their contracts. That's the stuff that they're counting on when they're figuring out their returns on investment. So a 7% rent cap is more than genuous, especially with the exceptions in the bill. In any event, aside from that, she also cited a bunch of old papers talking about first-generation rent control, which is much more strict than the rent stabilization measures that the legislature was discussing. Those arguments are also - in recent review from academics - a little bit suspect, a little bit rosier, actually, for rent stabilization, and we could have a whole show on that. But anyway, she cited those disingenuous anti-rent control arguments to justify her support of killing rent stabilization measure, which is a completely different policy. And she insulted her colleagues while she was at it by citing the Urban Institute report that was actually less critical of rent stabilization than she made it out to be. But showing that she was concerned with the bill's impact on Black and brown people - doesn't want to raise the rents on those communities - and so decided to kill a bill that would make sure that they wouldn't face high rent gouging prices that have been pushing them out of their communities for the last two decades.

I know I'm ranting here, but I can't underline this enough. This bill is too late, but must pass. We really could have used rent stabilization at the beginning of 2010 when rents started shooting up, and would shoot up over 92% over that decade. Rents have been sort of flat in aggregate for the last couple of years, but that doesn't mean, as you say, that landlords aren't jacking up rents on people to economically evict them because they can. That sort of stuff needs to stop - that bill would have prevented it - the Senate Democrats didn't let it happen this year.

[00:18:08] Crystal Fincher: Didn't let it happen. And it should be noted that two people who were critical to killing this bill - Mark Mullet and Senator Van De Wege - are also running for statewide office. Mark Mullet is running for governor as a Democrat. Kevin Van De Wege is running for lands commissioner. Really interesting choices to refuse to help 40% of the state's population.

[00:18:35] Rich Smith: Just a number of coalition partners - the Members of Color Caucus in both chambers prioritized this bill. The LGBT community came out, especially in Seattle, to do a big rally in support of this bill. Hundreds of people descended on the Capitol steps in Olympia during this session to support a bill from every part of the state - east, west, north, south. Every renter has been feeling this pressure, and the state legislature on some bulls**t about potential long-term costs to the housing supply - which they cannot quantify or have not quantified, I haven't seen the number. If so, please send it over to me - I can't wait to have that discussion. And the only salvo that they're giving us - and I'll stop talking after this - is, Well, next year, Mullet won't be there because he's giving up his seat to run for governor. Van De Wege won't be there because he's giving up his seat to run for land commissioner. A couple of other senators are going to announce their retirement - Sam Hunt has announced his retirement, we've got maybe a couple more. So those places on Ways and Means will be replaced by politicians who don't have the same politics as these conservatives. So next year, it'll be a whole new legislature. The complexion will change and yada, yada, yada. And in the meantime, renters are going to face massive rent increases. So that's the consolation.

[00:19:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And we really don't know if the next legislature - if the Senate is going to be constructed differently. We don't know who's going to be elected to those open seats. And so what I will say is moving forward this year, it's important to get people who are running on the record, to talk about how important this is. As local party organizations are going through their endorsement processes, this be a question that's going to impact whether you decide to endorse or not. Those are the types of decisions that should be being talked about now and decided now, so as we move forward we have a better idea of who stands where and what we can expect from this legislature.

The last thing I would say is - as people are running, it's so clear how much more power chairs of committees and leadership have. So it's great to be elected as a senator, as a representative. But as we've seen, chairs of committees can just flat out refuse to hear a bill that has wide popular support, that would pass on the floor if it got there. They can prevent it from getting to the floor. So who do these senators expect to support, or will they rule out supporting people for chair and leadership positions? This matters and this is very impactful for the type of policy that we're able to pass here in Washington state. Those are very important things that usually get less attention that need to be getting a whole lot more.

[00:21:32] Rich Smith: That's right.

[00:21:32] Crystal Fincher: I also want to talk about another bill that died. Even-year elections, which we have talked about, certainly in our conversation with Andrew Villeneuve from the Northwest Progressive Institute. They were instrumental in helping to write and shape that. Representative Mia Gregerson from the 33rd LD sponsored that in the House. It passed the House, got to the Senate. And what unfortunately happens to so many bills in the Senate, it died. What happened here?

[00:22:03] Rich Smith: Well, based on the reporting from NPI, the bill was sent not to the Senate Governance Committee, but to the Ways and Means Committee where it quietly died. So another way that a bill can quietly die - because people can take executive action on it and vote on it, and it can die that way, certainly. But they can also just decide not to take it up in the committee and then die that way - then no one has to go on the record with who doesn't want more democracy, who doesn't want to give cities the opportunity to have more democratic elections in Washington. So yeah, that's my understanding - the Ways and Means Committee strikes again. They killed the bill by not taking it up in time. And now cities don't have the option to move their local elections to even years, which studies show and King County proves increases turnout. It's a loss for democracy. It's inexcusable. And Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and a number of power players came out against it - saying that it was going to be costly and there's other complications that election officials were going to encounter. But the state's Office of Financial Management - when sending it to the Ways and Means Committee - said that the bill had an indeterminate fiscal impact. In short, the state doesn't know what the fiscal impact would be. And I struggle to understand how holding fewer elections costs more money than holding an election every year does. But maybe initially with changing stuff around, maybe you have to buy more software or whatever. But yeah, I don't understand that math - haven't seen that math. But that was the political dynamic that killed the bill.

[00:23:39] Crystal Fincher: An opportunity to improve our small-D democracy. Has failed to take advantage of the opportunity and basically assurance - we see what even-year elections versus odd-year election turnout is. Even-year elections routinely have turnout 20-plus percentage points higher than odd-year elections. It's always better to have more people weighing in on who represents them and how their community should be shaped. So again, disappointed to see this. And hopefully we can take this time, as we have elections throughout the state at the legislative level, that we press candidates on this, and see where they stand, and try and set this up for success next session.

[00:24:26] Rich Smith: Yeah, it was interesting that they decided to send it to the Ways and Means Committee. So Jamie Pedersen - Seattle senator - is the Floor Leader. He decides which committees bills go to. So one question would be - why didn't this bill go to the Governance Committee, which is chaired by Sam Hunt, who's retiring this year? And then another question would be - what was the conversation in Ways about why they wouldn't pass the bill? And those would be two people to ask, in case you're interested in contacting your representative about why the bill died or you want to add your support.

[00:24:55] Crystal Fincher: Yep, absolutely. Now we will turn to local politics and policy in the City of Seattle. This week, we saw a different approach from the Seattle City Council in dealing with protests. And coverage, even in The Seattle Times, noted that protest has been a normal, consistent part of public meetings in Seattle for most of the last decade, for decades before that, and beyond. Seattle, as a city, has such a long and storied history of protests in favor of change - and successfully creating change also, by the way. And this is happening while other councils across the state, from Spokane to Tacoma, are dealing with largely the same things - have managed to de-escalate these situations, have managed to listen to people in their community who are passionately advocating for issues - many of which are crisis levels within communities. But in the city of Seattle, we saw insults from the Council perspective and calls for arrest, which did result in several people getting arrested for protesting. What happened?

[00:26:18] Rich Smith: Yeah, so the council met to pass a resolution to rename a street after George Fleming, who was a Black state senator. Sidebar, nerd thing - not a big deal, but worth noting. The resolution called George Fleming the first Black person elected to the State Senate, but he was actually the second or third, kind of depending on how you want to slice it. The first Black person was bi-racial - William Owen Bush was elected to the House of Representatives in 1889. He wasn't a senator - okay, fine. But the first Black senator was elected in 1921 - that's John H. Ryan, out of Tacoma. And so George Fleming would be the second Black senator. Minor note. But they basically framed the protesters as interrupting this resolution that was supposed to honor a Black pioneer in Washington politics, but not getting his achievement correct is not particularly honoring him either. So I see it as a little bit disingenuous.

But in terms of the facts of what happened, they were going to do this resolution. 20 people showed up during public comment to advocate for the refugees who are in crisis now in Tukwila - in a church parking lot, basically - they don't have anywhere to sleep. The shelter is unstable. And they wanted to say that maybe spending a little bit less money on police would give us more money to help these disadvantaged communities. That was the people's agenda that day, even if it was slightly different than the City Council's agenda. So knowing that, Sara Nelson, Council President, decided to comment by 20 minutes rather than giving them an hour to say their piece. And the people continued to want to talk after 20 minutes and so decided that they were going to stay right there and protest until she made public comment longer. She did not. They called for security. They told people to leave. Some people left. Six people did not leave. The six people who stayed were arrested for trespass and sent to jail. And the people who left were banging on the window outside of the chambers and chanting - Shame, shame, shame. At which point, Seattle City Councilmember Cathy Moore, who's a former judge, said that she felt as if her life was threatened and demanded the police to arrest those people outside of the chamber who were banging on windows. Everybody made a big stink. And I think another councilmember - I can't remember which one - also said that she felt threatened by the mob out there who was interrupting this moment of democracy.

As you said, protests in City Hall - that's the job. We tried to tell people that this slate of City councilmembers did not know what they were talking about, had very little understanding of the normal workings of City politics, and of the City in general. And this is just another way to show that they didn't read the job description. You gotta listen to the people when they talk. First of all, because they will stop talking and chanting when they feel like they've said their piece. And so it's just better for democracy to hear their voice. You all ran on listening to community. And one of your first major operations as a council is to sic the police on the community who is voicing their dissent in Council chambers where we have voiced our dissent forever? That's not listening to community. That's saying you listen to some community and you'll use state violence to shut down other members of the community. So that's what happened. And it was inexcusable and dumb - at the same time.

[00:30:05] Crystal Fincher: Strategically, it does not seem like that was a wise decision. This isn't even a progressive versus conservative issue on why this was just really poor decision making. That's why you see councils across the state - and country, really, but certainly across the state - not resorting to arresting people for protesting. All that does is escalate issues and create more passion around issues that is going to manifest itself during your meetings. I will say a lot of councils have been struggling with how to better deal with and manage dissent. The reason why I am more familiar with what councils are doing across the state is because of that reason - it's something that a number of people are looking to figure out and respond to, particularly because there have been actual threats of violence - actual threats made during meetings, people carrying guns into meetings - that is happening as well as not even commenting on stuff. Insults, threats coming to people in meetings. Racist, sexist attacks we've seen across the state.

So there have been efforts from a variety of councils to implement rules to be able to get through their agendas while enabling people to express their First Amendment rights and make their voices heard to their public representatives. That has not included calling for arrest. That has not included saying that people chanting - maybe in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you disagree with - is threatening to your safety. And that particular thing sounds real familiar to a lot of people in my position and a lot of different positions - and if you know, you know - that conflation of, I am uncomfortable, I don't agree with this, to - I am being physically threatened, my safety is in danger. Those are two very different things, and the conflation of them is something that is a very cynical and harmful thing to resort to that I hope we don't see much more of. I hope they take this opportunity to really explore what it does mean to hear from people who do and don't disagree with you. And I hope they do that quickly because they are going to put the City in a position where they're going to face legal scrutiny, where there are going to be lawsuits that are going to cost the City a lot of money if they continue down this path. So we'll see how this materializes, but certainly this is not the best start to this council that they could have.

[00:32:43] Rich Smith: Hear, Hear. There was a moment when Abolish ICE protests were particularly salient and the Council was having a meeting. Abolish ICE protests came in - disrupted the meeting. Immediately, Kshama Sawant stands up with her fist in the air. Teresa Mosqueda starts clapping from her seat. Other progressive members of the council are nodding and listening. Bruce Harrell was the Council President at that time - immediately calls for security to get people out of there. And eventually - they chanted, they stayed a little bit, and eventually they left, and the meeting got brought to order. This is a normal course of events in City Council chambers. And them making a big stink of this is them being politically opportunistic - trying to gain civility politics points with their base. And as you said, it may open them up to liability and it's just unwise. And I agree - I hope they take this opportunity to do a little research on the positions that they have, and on the history of those positions, and how to de-escalate and manage dissent.

[00:33:51] Crystal Fincher: Just a side note on that - those protesters were protesting in support of asylum seekers who are trying to secure a place to healthily stay. The county is taking action - it was announced this morning that the county actually authorized grants to organizations that will be assisting the asylum seekers, as well as funding that should secure a stay through June with an enhanced heated tent - better amenities, I guess, than they have now, or just better basic shelter than they have now. It certainly is a conundrum. That is a short-term solution, there needs to be a medium and long-term solution put together. It does look like the governor and the legislature have included allocations to help both migrants and asylum seekers overall, and specifically those in Tukwila - with it looks like $5 million to $8 million allocations is what is proposed. We will see what that turns out to be by the end of session next week. But it's a challenge. Interesting to see the differences in how the different jurisdictions have handled it. People do ask - Well, why would Seattle even be taking that up anyway? Because this is a regional problem and that's why they involved themselves in it before. So these were people returning to the body that had itself involved themselves in it - I think it was a month ago that they decided to take action to help extend stays in some hotels throughout cities in the county.

[00:35:23] Rich Smith: By the way, it's the right thing to do. We should be bending over backwards to help these people seeking asylum in our sanctuary city. They want to work. They want to be members of society. And we should be doing everything we can to help ease that transition and help them. It's going to pay off in the long run, and it's morally indefensible not to help them in the short term. I don't know why they're throwing up their hands and saying - Oh gosh, go talk to the county, go talk to the state. We can't really do anything here. That's not particularly welcome in this Portal to the Pacific. And it speaks volumes about how they feel about immigrants, how they feel about people coming into the city, and who they think they're serving.

[00:36:03] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and this feeds into the larger problem that we're having with not having enough housing or shelter for people overall. These are people who don't have it and what we have to contend with - people are like, Well, these are migrants. Other people just want to be homeless. They had the opportunity to get off the street. They could take advantage of shelter if they wanted to. The fact is, there are thousands fewer shelter and housing spaces available than there are people out on the street. We cannot offer housing or shelter to people currently on the street. There is nowhere near enough. Even if we offer shelter to three people, there are eight more standing next to them where it's just not possible. Until we build more, we're going to have this problem. It's going to get worse. It is on us as a society to fix that problem, so that we can move people off of the streets. It's not acceptable to anyone to have people languishing outside - it's unsafe, it's undesirable. These conversations about offers to do stuff are really irrelevant until there is enough space for everyone. Then you can talk about - Well, they decided not to. And then a conversation about penalties could potentially be appropriate then. But before that - how is it valid to talk about criminalization of being outside if there aren't enough spaces to bring people inside? This is what has always perplexed me.

[00:37:36] Rich Smith: Yeah, the only way you can believe that is if you believe two things. One, every homeless person is a drug addict and a criminal on purpose because they like it. Two, we have enough space in the jails for all of these drug-addled criminals who just want to steal TVs all day. Neither thing is true. Most people on the street develop drug addictions as a way to cope with being on the street. It is not drug addictions that send them there to the first place, at least not the majority. And the jail - we do not have big jails. And when they go in there, we don't have enough staffing for the jails. And people think that people get treatment in the jails - they do not get adequate treatment in the jails. Staffing issues prevent them from getting the treatment they need. The treatment they need does not meet their needs because they get buprenorphine in lower doses - if you're on fentanyl, bup is not going to be enough to help you or to treat you in jail. And when you get out, you're going to have a higher risk of overdosing and dying. So people's misunderstanding of the criminal justice system leads them to believe these silly things. And I really wish they would read three articles before talking.

[00:38:46] Crystal Fincher: And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, March 1st, 2024. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is editor of The Stranger and noted poet, Rich Smith. You can find Rich on Twitter, @richsssmith, with three S's in the middle. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can find me on all platforms - and soon, Hacks & Wonks on all platforms and a few new things going on - at officialhacksandwonks.com. If you like us, please leave a review - that is a very helpful thing. And be sure to subscribe for the full versions of our Friday week-in-review and the Tuesday topical show. You can always 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.