Week in Review: March 10, 2023 - with Melissa Santos

Week in Review: March 10, 2023 - with Melissa Santos

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, political consultant and host Crystal Fincher is joined by Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos! Now that the Washington state legislature has passed a major bill cutoff deadline, Crystal and Melissa discuss a long list of bills that died and those still fighting to survive - including landmark gun safety and housing bills.

They also discuss Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s still-unfulfilled promise to advance alternate 911 response programs that can make our streets safer and help mitigate the SPD staffing crisis that the mayor says we have. They also discuss Mayor Harrell’s decision to postpone the removal of cherry trees at Pike Place Market after community pushback.

About the Guest

Melissa Santos

Melissa Santos is one of two Seattle-based reporters for Axios. She has spent the past decade covering Washington politics and the Legislature, including five years covering the state Capitol for The News Tribune in Tacoma and three years for Crosscut, a nonprofit news website. She was a member of The Seattle Times editorial board from 2017 to 2019, where she wrote columns and opinion pieces focused on state government.

Find Melissa Santos on Twitter/X at @MelissaSantos1.


Shasti Conrad, Newly-elected Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party from Hacks & Wonks

Rifle ban, housing bills and more advance in the WA Legislature” by Joseph O'Sullivan & Donna Gordon Blankinship from Crosscut

WA House votes to ban assault weapons” by Jim Brunner and Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times

Ban on selling assault weapons clears state House” by Melissa Santos from Axios

The Olympia Waltz Continues for Middle Housing and Other Vital Legislation” by Ray Dubicki from The Urbanist

WA’s Missing Middle Legislation Threatened by Grab Bag of Municipal Excuses” by Ryan Packer from The Urbanist

State Democrats Stiff Renters Again” by Rich Smith from The Stranger

Legislative Cutoff Fizz: Police Pursuit Bill Moves Forward While Tenant Protections Die” by Andrew Engelson and Ryan Packer from PubliCola

High-Speed Police Chase Bill Still Unpopular Among State House Democrats” by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger

WA police a step closer to resuming pursuits under bill passed Wednesday by Senate” by Shauna Sowersby from The Olympian

Innocent Bystanders are the Losers in this Week's WA Senate Shenanigans” by Amy Sundberg from Notes from the Emerald City

Bills aim to protect abortion patients who travel to Washington” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Seattle's alternative 911 response program falls behind schedule” by Melissa Santos from Axios

Removal of Seattle cherry trees near Pike Place Market paused” by KING 5 News


[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 Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show 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 midweek show, I spoke with new Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, Shasti Conrad, about what the role of chair entails, lessons learned from the previous Chair, Tina Podlodowski, and her plans for continuing forward as a strong and effective political party in Washington state. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show, today's cohost: Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos. Hey.

[00:01:23] Melissa Santos: Hi, Crystal.

[00:01:23] Crystal Fincher: Welcome back. Glad to have you and always enjoy the Axios newsletter in my inbox every morning.

[00:01:30] Melissa Santos: I'm so glad - good, good.

[00:01:32] Crystal Fincher: It's good stuff - good updates and easily digestible, which is good. Today we have just passed a significant deadline in our legislative session. We're just about halfway done. And with that comes the deadline to pass bills out of their house of origin. They need to pass a floor vote, and get to the other chamber in order to survive. So now we have a list of bills that have died, as well as those that go on to be heard in the other chamber. So I guess starting a roundup of what is living and what is dead, what is going on still in our legislature?

[00:02:14] Melissa Santos: Oh, you're asking me - there are so many things that actually lived this year - I'm actually kind of surprised. For instance, a ban on selling assault weapons did pass the State House, and this has never happened before in our state. The governor and the attorney general and a lot of Democratic lawmakers have been trying to pass a ban on assault weapons - different versions of it - for, I don't know, six, seven years now, maybe since 2015. I don't know how many years that is 'cause time is like a vortex, but a lot of years - and this time is the first time it's passed a chamber. So that's actually fairly significant.

[00:02:44] Crystal Fincher: Very significant and nationally significant. And was an issue that a lot of Democrats ran on in this past election - promising to take action, saying thoughts and prayers are no longer enough, we have seen enough of this. But this is a pretty substantial, major piece of legislation that we can expect to see also wind up in the courts.

[00:03:05] Melissa Santos: Yeah, there definitely will be challenges. I think there are challenges happening in Illinois over there's - they've already been promised if they're not already in progress. And Illinois was the most recent state, I think, to enact one. We would be the 10th if we do so, unless someone somehow gets to it first - a couple of months before our legislative session ends. But there's still a big road. It has to pass the Senate. And you know - that we've had some shifts in the Senate, though. I think that legislators did take a message from last year's election results in which Democrats gained seats - didn't lose ground - after passing high-capacity magazine bans. There's no backlash, even in what was supposed to be a big Republican year. There's a lot of factors that go into that, but they're like this is not something that is hurting us at the ballot box at all. And in fact, Washington voters - I think you and I have talked about this before - they have been voting for stricter gun control measures for several years now. It's not an issue that loses in Washington state, or even the polls don't really show nationally. I think there's a big shift to - this is not 1994 when it comes to these gun laws. It's just not, and it's not the political football it was.

[00:04:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And especially given the amount of mass shootings that we've seen, of just gun violence overall, of people dying by suicide using guns - it is just a lot. And we've had just about everyone say that we need to do something, and expecting our elected officials to do something. And we did see them take action - pretty significant action - in responding to the calls of parents, of students. We even saw students from Seattle's Ingraham High School, which experienced a school shooting, advocating for some of these gun bills, saying that they needed it to be safer in their schools. So this is something that Democrats promised - they took action on. This is something where they heard, and they've delivered - and we'll see how this legislation withstands court challenges - but certainly a big step here in our Legislature.

Another big bill that was talked about - has been talked about really since last session - big time is the state's hallmark missing middle bill, HB 1110, which passed out of the House.

[00:05:13] Melissa Santos: It did. And one thing I think that is one reason maybe why - I think there has been some conflict, not just the cities not wanting regulation - that was an argument that worked last year, cities saying - Hey, we don't want the state telling us what to do, essentially. We need local control over these things. Maybe it was an argument that worked last year, but I think the housing crisis is so deep that I think that that wasn't necessarily gonna work forever. But what I think was a genuine concern is whether allowing four to six units per lot, in basically all residential lots in some of these cities, might contribute to displacement. I think that's a concern for some people, and whether - there's a lot of stuff that goes into that. But what they did do was essentially make it so if you have neighborhoods where this upzoning would contribute to displacement - I'm not describing the bill very well, I'm jumping right in - but they basically said you can zone only 75% of your residential area to have these upzones and requiring four units or six units per lot. So that's a change that I think was made to try and assuage those who are worried about displacement. And it's possible the displacement argument is a front for other concerns - and that's just a - but that was a change they made this year that makes it a little more flexible. There's an alternate way to comply other than just saying - Hey, it's a strict four units per lot. You have to build a duplex on every lot - I should back up - zone for a duplex. God, you know what, Crystal? I really got ahead of myself. But my point is, changing zoning doesn't necessarily mean that there's a duplex going everywhere. It just means that the next time someone wants to do something, maybe they can do this thing. So yeah, there was never gonna be just suddenly everything's apartments. That never was gonna happen with any of these versions of this bill, but -

[00:06:52] Crystal Fincher: Right - and we saw some hyperbolic headlines over the past week saying the Legislature's banned single-family zoning - which you can still build single-family - it just prohibits the exclusion of other types of housing. And the reason why this is so important and necessary - and there was such a broad coalition of business, labor, environmental groups, others saying - Hey, we absolutely need more housing - is because study after study has shown that we are behind on building the amount of housing necessary to house people who currently live in this state, even before we get to others who are moving to the state. And it's because so many areas have been prohibited from building anything but single-family homes - and the areas where you can build a duplex, a triplex, a sixplex, or a larger building are so small in comparison to all of the other areas. There just isn't the ability to build the appropriate and necessary density without a change in this zoning. And the way this manifests is - we have seen these rent hikes, these price hikes - when you have constrained supply and you have people moving here, that in and of itself has contributed to a lot of displacement and affordability crisis. And most people now recognize that we do have a housing affordability crisis.

And so this is what has been proposed as a remedy - giving homeowners more control and property owners more control over what they can do with their lots and how they can build, and making sure that cities can absorb the amount of density that is there without the escalating costs that are driving so many people out of cities, out of housing, preventing seniors from being able to age in place, and their families from being able to live near them. And we've seen a shift in public opinion in support for this, where before it was something where it's like - Ah, it's dicey, a lot of people don't - but we've seen poll after poll showing northwards of 60% of residents across the state believe in this. And we've seen cities like Spokane and cities in Pierce County and Clark County take action on this already. This is actually an area where Seattle is behind the bend of several other cities. So interesting to see this going.

Certainly there are a lot of cities who - judging by just some city and municipal meetings over the past week - who were hoping and thinking this would probably not get out of the House, but now it has made it to the Senate and they seem like they plan on stepping up their opposition to this bill. So people who are trying to get this passed also need to step up their advocacy of the bill and make sure that their elected officials know that they support this - even if they're homeowners, even if they're in higher income brackets, even if they're seniors - that this is something that they want in their communities if they want this to succeed, 'cause there certainly is a continuing battle ahead.

Absolutely - and so other things that have survived, or are talking about housing and talking about the issues of displacement - for those really concerned about the issue of displacement - a couple of bills that didn't make it out, would have been nice and helpful for that. And those included some renter protections. One bill would have capped rent increases at 7% a year. Another would have required six months notice of rent hikes for more than 5%. Some cities also currently have some of those provisions, but certainly the majority of cities in the state do not. That would have certainly helped people. Rent increases are having a devastating toll on our communities and on homelessness, frankly. And those would have been really good to see pass the House - would have directly addressed issues leading to displacement and homelessness - and I'm disappointed that they didn't make it through.

Other bills that didn't make it include a bill raising the age of juvenile sentencing from 8 years to 13 - that didn't make it through. A bill that would have ended design review statewide for residential developments didn't make it out of the House, nor did a WRAP Act bill that attempted to improve the state's solid waste system through bottle deposit and packaging reform. As well as a really common sense bill to ban jaywalking laws which are disproportionately enforced against BIPOC and low income people without an impact on public safety, it looks like, and so that didn't survive.

One thing that looked like it was on its deathbed, but that was snatched out was a police pursuits bill. What happened with this?

[00:11:36] Melissa Santos: Essentially, interestingly, the Senate had looked like it was not gonna advance this bill at all. This is a measure that kind of - it would roll back some of the stricter standards for police car chases that were passed a couple of years ago in 2021. It would say - We're not gonna be as strict in restricting when police can chase people in vehicles. Now, the Senate wasn't looking like it would advance it at all, but it was pulled from the floor and kind of skipped the whole committee process, basically - on Tuesday or so, I think - and it passed the Senate. And interestingly, what bill that looked like it had been moving on this issue in the House did not actually pass out of the House. So now we have a little situation where we don't really know what's gonna happen with it going forward.

But, it essentially is just saying the Legislature, following the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and the protests against police brutality that we saw - one of the things they did in the Legislature was say - Hey, you can't just chase people over stolen car or whatever and go on a high-speed chase that could be deadly for people. And it applied to more things too. It basically said that you have to have probable cause to chase people in some of these scenarios. You can't chase people for low-level crimes. Police have just been saying that they can't really do their jobs - that's been pushed back on quite a bit. But, there's been a lot of pressure for the Legislature to change this law and make it easier for police to engage in these pursuits again, especially when it comes to certain crimes that are violent. They still can chase them under the current law, but it would make it easier to with a lower-level evidentiary standard that that's the right person in the car - basically is what these bills would do.

So we'll see what happens there. It is a weird bipartisan interest in this bill, I would say - the sponsor of the bill in the House is a Democratic lawmaker from a swing district. And I've got to look at the vote count again, but there are some Democratic votes for this. It's not like one party against another. So that makes it hard to figure out how it'll play out. But the House wouldn't take it up, so I'm not sure they'll take it up now - what's coming from the Senate - on the actual floor.

[00:13:31] Crystal Fincher: We will see what happens with this. I think the House probably will end up taking it up, but maybe they won't, but - I hope they don't - because this is a bill that frankly, in my view, lacks the data behind it to justify what its proponents are saying. To your point, a lot of police have said - Ah, we just can't pursue anymore - and have been in community meetings where police officers and departments have suggested that their hands are tied, that they can't pursue anyone. It's never been the case that they straight up could not pursue anyone or that pursuits were outlawed. It really is a question between, as you said, two evidentiary standards - that of probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Probable cause having a much higher - or not a much higher, but a significant - a threshold that is significant, that is also higher in terms of what they can do and when they are authorized to chase. And so when it came to serious things, if they had proof of something - they can and have been pursuing vehicles, including continuing to pursue in ways that have endangered the public and have injured the public, even in recent weeks and months.

And so really a challenge here is addressing the potential harm and expected harm to the community as a result of these chases that in many jurisdictions already - certainly across the country - they have limited when this can happen because of the collateral damage that occurs, especially when oftentimes they're able to identify who is in the car, apprehend them after the fact, or apprehend them in a way that doesn't endanger the public through a chase.

And they've also, I think, tried to say - Well, we've seen some increases in certain types of crime and it's because these criminals know that we can't chase them. And so they're just doing stuff and chasing, running away from us and laughing at us. And it doesn't really look like there's much evidence to back that up. In fact, they've talked about auto thefts and tried to suggest that auto thefts were increasing because they were limited in pursuing somehow, when it actually looks correlated to the price of used cars and that being much more correlated there. So it seems like it would make sense to pass legislation that would deal directly with the challenges that are having instead of some of fighting to re-enact and re-allow practices that have just frankly been harmful to innocent people in the public.

[00:16:03] Melissa Santos: I think the data is a little lacking. There was this weird data war going on on both sides with this bill at one point. And it was kind of like, but it is a little - some of the data that's being used to say - Look, look, look, this is all is a huge problem. It's incomplete. It is incomplete. Like for instance, there's a lot of been, did a lot of citing of the State Patrol saying - We've had more people fleeing stops - basically, and that sort of thing. But then they don't - there's not any sort of follow-up about - were they caught from another means, some other - like later, which you can do through investigation or if further down the road, if they're doing something, maybe you would find them and be able to pull them over for something. There's not complete data there. They weren't tracking the stat exactly before. So there's not a good way to compare. It's just really hard. So I think that that's one reason why the Senate committee chair and the Democratic side on this has really been saying - Can we, do get some more data on this before we change the law? And the Republicans have been like - We should have gotten the data in the first place before we changed the law in the first place. But it is true that people die. Vehicle chases are dangerous. There are people who die. And it looks like we've seen fewer deaths - but the number from police pursuits since the law passed, but the numbers are so small, that the percentages can fluctuate wildly. I think there's an argument to be made to get a little bit more information for sure on this.

And there has been crime increases in a lot of places, so it's just - there's a pandemic, there's been a lot of stuff happening. Sometimes when people are attributing the rise in crime to certain things, there's just - there's been a lot going on in the last few years and there's been a lot of contributions to crime rising, and there's been a lot of economic problems and that corresponds, and other places have seen crime rise. So it's just really hard to pinpoint it on this law. It's really difficult to do that as much as people want to. And honestly, some of the stories actually - when I followed up on them - haven't quite been accurate about how these things have played out. So it's just really messy to untangle.

[00:17:47] Crystal Fincher: It is. And it seems like even when things are messy and in need of being untangled, we find ways to expand and support increased policing, especially of Black and Brown bodies.

Also, things that passed this legislative session - passed their house of origin - made it out of their house of origin into the other chamber to be discussed to see if it will be passed, include a new drug possession bill that increases penalties for drugs such as fentanyl, meth, cocaine - and pushes those convicted into treatment, mandated treatment - a lot of people consider that coercive treatment. And really addressing laws in the wake of the Blake decision and the subsequent legislation, which had a sunset provision, meaning that they need to take action again now. Anything notable you saw with this bill in the process?

[00:18:41] Melissa Santos: Honestly, I think this bill is gonna be totally different potentially by the time the session ends. It's one of those - it passed out of a chamber and they're being viewed as like a vehicle. You know what I mean? They can, it maybe will look very different by the end. But I think it's - the problem here a little bit is you want people to basically make drug possession a felony again, especially on the Republican side. Some people want that and then other people want the state to have it be totally decriminalized. And people are trying to, I think, thread the needle on it and there's not really a lot of - those sides don't really agree. You're not gonna find a compromise on - between make it a felony and decriminalize drug possession - that makes any of those folks feel like it's a good policy. So I think it's gonna be a really tricky one for that reason. I think this compromise of being like - Let's make it a gross misdemeanor, it won't be a misdemeanor anymore, but it'll be, it won't be a felony. I don't think that's gonna make people who think that the War on Drugs has been damaging to communities of color and everyone happy that it's still criminalized. And then I don't think that Republicans think that's strong enough. And so that's another one where it's - I think you're gonna see some weird vote counts. You're gonna see some weird coalitions build and it could be very different by the end.

[00:19:49] Crystal Fincher: This definitely could change by the end. I think one thing that is useful to just recall is that - in this reality that we're in, we have been enacting and tinkering with criminalization for drugs for basically my entire life. I went to DARE assemblies when I was in elementary school.

[00:20:13] Melissa Santos: Does that mean we're old if we went to those? I just wanted to check.

[00:20:15] Crystal Fincher: I am definitely old.

[00:20:16] Melissa Santos: Oh, okay - I went to those too.

[00:20:16] Crystal Fincher: I won't lump you in with me, but I'm old.

[00:20:18] Melissa Santos: No, I went to those too, so I guess - I don't know, all right -

[00:20:21] Crystal Fincher: But I'm okay with being old.

[00:20:22] Melissa Santos: It's fine. We all accept it, but I just wanted to check if that's what that means. I don't know -

[00:20:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, yeah, it does, it does.

[00:20:27] Melissa Santos: Okay, all right.

[00:20:29] Crystal Fincher: But we have seen this big War on Drugs - billions upon billions spent - for what? To be in arguably a worse position than we've been in - to have this entire criminalized approach that has supported mass incarceration, that hasn't reduced recidivism, that hasn't reduced addiction, that has allowed it to proliferate really. And what we really need is a public health approach, and we've seen a public health approach to substance use disorder be much more effective than that. But that's not what a number of people have grown up watching on TV, have grown up being told from the DARE assemblies - anything about drugs is just bad and illegal and immoral. And if you touch those things - especially if you're poor or Brown, really, or in a low wage job - you're bad and horrible and immoral. Even though, my goodness, drug use is rampant among high income and high powered people. It doesn't seem to carry the same social stigma with them that it does for people who don't have the benefit of a home to do their drugs in, or can't do it as privately as others are able to do it.

But man, this thing has failed, and it just feels like we're doubling down on a failed policy here because of fear - some of the same fear that went into the vehicle pursuit bill conversation - of not looking sufficiently tough on crime, of not doing that. Even though the public really is in a better place than most of our elected leaders are here - on not looking at this as such a binary and understanding that public safety includes a lot more than policing, a lot more than punitive punishment penalties. And if we focus on people being well, and if we focus on building a healthy community, and focus on stopping the harmful behavior, addressing root causes - that we prevent a lot of the problem and do a lot better in fixing the existing problems that we have. But that seems like a conversation that many people are not entertaining about this right now, but I certainly wish they would and hope that legislation improves.

Also a bill survived that would reform the state's criminal sentencing system so that the juvenile convictions no longer lead to longer sentences for crimes that people commit as adults. Also Growth Management Act climate change provisions. This was also discussed last year - forcing and mandating that counties, cities, as they go through their Growth Management Act planning, which is mandated by the state, consider climate change impacts throughout that and build that into this process. Certainly helpful. Another bill promoting transit-oriented development - that's assigned to the Housing Committee - a lot splitting bill, easing barriers for ADUs or accessory dwelling units. A bill which was - I think we talked about it last week - near and dear to my heart, especially this session, for free school meals was watered down significantly to now - what passed is if a school has 30% or more of their students eligible for free and reduced lunch, then any student at that school can request a free meal - which is better than nothing certainly, but would love to see that expanded to be universal for everyone. As well as a bill that creates a task force for promoting research into psilocybin and developing a pathway for legal access to that psychedelic substance. So a lot of things are still alive. A lot of good stuff is still alive. A lot of good stuff still looks like it's moving forward. Other stuff - there are some abortion bills that are still alive this session. What will they do?

[00:24:22] Melissa Santos: There's been ones trying to protect people from other states with restrictive abortion laws who might come here for an abortion. So we have some bills that basically create a shield law so that - trying to say - doctors here really can't be, putting them out the reach of those abortion laws if they perform abortions on someone. So they would basically - one of those bills that did pass the House - would make it so courts here can't participate in subpoenas from other states that are trying to get information about abortions that maybe happen here, if someone from their state travels to our state. And so that's designed to protect the doctors as well as the patients who come here. And that's something that Democrats have been going for. Similar bill dealing with data and health data on apps, because we have federal protections for health data under this law called HIPAA, but that doesn't apply to everything. It doesn't apply to period tracking apps. And there's also apps that track if you're trying to get pregnant and then maybe have a miscarriage - that there's data in there that maybe could be used, is the fear, from some states trying to prosecute abortions if they've criminalized it or have created civil lawsuit potential. Getting that data could show you had a miscarriage, you terminated pregnancy, this shows that. So they're trying to say - You can't get that, basically. So those are some of the things that are still alive.

[00:25:33] Crystal Fincher: We will continue to follow this legislation as they make their way through the House and Senate. Also, they will - the Legislature will be taking up Governor Inslee's proposed budget, $70 billion biennial budget, before adjourning on April 23rd. So a lot to be done - still special education and other educational funding is wrapped up also with the budget - so many things are, so we will follow along.

Also wanna talk about some Seattle news that you covered this week about Seattle's alternative response - another leg in the public safety stool - running behind schedule, at least Bruce Harrell running behind schedule on the promise and commitment that he made for this. What is happening?

[00:26:23] Melissa Santos: It's actually interesting to me to see the mayor's office have actually laid out a commitment, a bunch of commitments, in writing like this. 'Cause sometimes at this mayor's office, it's not really - I'm not really clear on what's happening with them. That's the case sometimes with a lot of administrations, I suppose. But in this case, there was a document that the mayor's office agreed to in September - I think under pressure from the council, basically, to be honest, from watching that meeting - just saying we need some deliverables. We have this program we've been talking about since, again, the Black Lives Matter protests. It's now 20 - as of last year, it was 2022 - we still don't have this pilot program that we said to the community - Okay, we're going to reimagine public safety. This is going to be part of it. We're going to try and not send police officers to some calls where maybe it's not warranted and it can escalate into police killing someone or injuring someone, or just even an arrest that's traumatizing, potentially. So they're trying to say - We want to have a way of sending mental health responders and others to some of these calls. But there was supposed to be a pilot program that was supposed to have a plan from the mayor's office in December that was actually delivered and it hasn't been delivered.

So the mayor's office is driving this - it looks like that's part of the agreement - waiting on the mayor to develop sort of some policies, proposals for the permanent program, as well as this pilot. And they have not come forth. There's also some intermediate steps that I didn't get into in my story, but that were missed. The mayor was supposed to narrow down what calls would this would actually apply to, what calls would some mental health responder go to? Is it officer down calls? Is it welfare check calls? And that really hasn't been narrowed down, which means there's not really - when someone asks me, for instance, how does this interact with our new 988 system? You can't really, we don't know because we don't know what calls they're going to be directing this to. But the idea is at least the 911 center would be able to dispatch something other than a cop - even though it's called a dual dispatch for some reason, which I found very confusing - the cop wouldn't necessarily have to be on site for these responses.

And it's just - if this was a response to this - I have a policy document that says the social outcry for justice for policing, this is a City document - and it's been now three years and we don't have a pilot in range of being started. I think there's a lot of frustration on the city council saying - What the heck? And they expressed that at a meeting last week in the Public Safety Committee. I think Andrew Lewis, one of the city council members said - It seems like the mayor's office is behind on every deliverable that was asked for. The city council staff was - demurred on that, was like - I don't know if I would say that, but they have working relationships to maintain. As much in Seattle speak, it could be - as much as a WTF could be said in Seattle municipal speak - that's what happened last week, I think, on this, honestly. And yeah, it's just, I don't know where, how things - things don't seem very far along, is what it seems fair to say.

[00:29:08] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and it's challenging for me - looking at this administration and how confidently they talked about their ability to handle public safety in the City, particularly during the election and the commitments that were made. Bruce Harrell having sat on the city council and had been a former mayor of Seattle - very familiar with the workings of the City, the size of the bureaucracy, and the scope of what needs to be done. He has seen that from every angle for over a decade. And the response when you asked that office - Hey, why is this behind schedule? - was like, Okay, but it's really hard, is what the response boiled down to. And it's yeah, no kidding. That's what you signed up for when you say you wanna be mayor and can handle that job - and not only can handle it, but can handle it better than everyone else in the field. We want to see what's gonna happen.

And this isn't just for good feelings and responding to a community call, even though listening to the community is absolutely important. This is also about public safety. This is about reducing the amount of people who are victimized. It's about keeping the entire community safe and making it safer. This is about a more effective response that keeps people safer. And that can eliminate the frustration that a lot of people have with seeing a revolving door issue where they're being arrested for a problem - that isn't primarily a desire to commit whatever crime or to be loitering in whatever area - that are exacerbated by a variety of different things, where if we actually addressed those things, we can also eliminate any criminal or harmful activity and more effectively deal with an issue of someone who is creating a disturbance or causing discomfort or whatever that is. This is good for the City. This helps keep everyone safer. And it seems like there is no bigger priority than getting this spun up.

[00:31:13] Melissa Santos: If there's a concern - the mayor's office and the police department are concerned they don't have enough officers to send to important calls - if that's a concern, the people who are concerned about that, right? This theoretically could make it so officers aren't responding to stuff they maybe shouldn't even be responding to, or aren't the best equipped at responding to. Theoretically, freeing up officers to respond to stuff for which an officer is really needed. It seems like both people who want to have a less aggressive police response, and then also people who want to have more police response in a way - both kind of are coming together to say - This would be good for us. The business people want it - for again, more cops to respond to crime crimes would be - they want. And then people who want to not have traumatic police encounters want it too, which - theoretically, everyone wants to not have those, I would assume. But, people who, that's their focus, also think this is good. It's okay, so what - and I don't even think it's gotten to, to be honest, I don't know if it's had the chance to get to the part that's actually really complex. 'Cause I think the mayor's office and a lot - honestly, city council and everyone - it's easy to say the police union won't let us do this, or something. I don't even think they've gotten to the point where they're even talking about that, really, with labor yet. It's okay, so if that's always the hurdle in doing police reform and you're not even really - you haven't really decided what you want to do.

It's like the Legislature passed a bill to create an independent office for police investigations that theoretically should have been ready to have takeover jurisdiction of police killings last summer. And I haven't checked on it for a couple months, I'm gonna say, but it still was not up and running six months after that. And there's still a lot of hiring to do and a lot of policymaking to do. And you could argue - Okay, maybe that was too fast. Maybe a year - okay, so some people would say maybe a year plus was 18 months or so. You can't really set up a whole agency in that time. I'm like - Well... eh, like, how long? I don't know, I don't know. This just seems like - there's a lot of stuff that ends up taking a long time and then other cities do have some of these programs in place already, so it seems like there should be some models. And I don't have great answers about - could you, Denver does this thing - did you ask them? What's going on? It's hard to get a sense of what conversations are happening within the administration about this stuff.

[00:33:24] Crystal Fincher: It is. We know they've had tons of conversations about graffiti and there's definitely an action plan and things happening for that, so priorities - seems to come down to priorities. I hope this becomes a higher priority in this administration for sure. Also this week, we have seen trees at Pike Place Market make a lot of news. How come?

[00:33:49] Melissa Santos: Seattle people love cherry trees. Everyone loves cherry trees. Does anyone dislike cherry trees? So there are cherry trees, one of - yeah, there's cherry trees by the entrance of Pike Place Market that kind of frame one of our city's biggest landmarks, biggest tourist attractions. And they were set to be removed on Tuesday, maybe Monday and Tuesday possibly, and there was a group that's called, I think, Save Our Market Entrance, something along those lines, that put out some press releases on Sunday and also went and demonstrated and were like - Why are we tearing these down? There's some - it's been raised that there's some significance potentially in the Seattle's Japanese and Japanese-American community of having these cherry trees. The origin is being traced to maybe there was a significant gift to these potentially, but even if there's not - it's just, there's some people asking - Why do we need to replace these trees? They're part of the sort of fabric of our city and what we love about our city. I think the mayor did, someone in the mayor's administration did press pause on the removal of the trees this week, so that was a pretty successful effort by people who wanted to see those trees stay.

And their future isn't really certain right now because there's gonna be some probably very Seattle-esque discussions about the trees. And there's some disagreement about whether the trees are healthy and will be healthy for the next 50 years or not. And so that's just all kind of being worked out. But I think people in Seattle like their cherry trees and also there might be some cultural significance here to pay attention to, so that's - at least for now - saved the trees for time being.

Yeah, definitely. And this is also happening amidst discussions of Seattle's waning tree canopy and a need to increase the amount of trees - mature and other trees - and certainly not lose trees in the process. And I know some people are concerned about that as we go through this whole thing.

But with that, we will wrap it up for today, Friday, March 10th, 2023. Hacks & Wonks is produced by Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is Seattle Axios reporter, Melissa Santos. You can find Melissa on Twitter @MelissaSantos1. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. And you can find me on Twitter @FrenchFries - it's two I's at the end - @finchfrii, I don't even, whatever. 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 almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a 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.