Week in Review: March 15, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank

Discussion on 2024 WA presidential primary, potential ideological shifts from legislative retirements, Seattle police recruiting issues, and Burien's anti-camping laws.

Week in Review: March 15, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank

Hacks & Wonks Week in Review: Presidential Primary, Legislative Retirements, Police Recruitment in Seattle, Seattle Public Schools Board, and Burien Gets Sued

Presidential Primary Takeaways 

In this week's presidential primary, Trump and Biden secured enough delegates to clinch their parties' nominations. While Trump's impact worries moderate Republicans in Washington like Dave Reichert, Biden faces pressure from the "uncommitted delegates" protest vote demanding an end to violence in Gaza.

Washington Legislative Retirements 

Several longtime Democratic legislators, including Frank Chopp and Karen Keiser, announced their retirements after the recent session. This exodus provides an opportunity for a new generation of more progressive leadership.

Police Recruitment in Seattle 

The Seattle City Council discussed subsidizing housing and lowering standards to recruit more police officers amid a staffing shortage. However, mounting evidence and feedback from police suggest the culture within the department and lack of accountability are deterring recruits, not council rhetoric or compensation.

Seattle Public Schools Board Appointments

Seattle Public Schools is in the process of selecting two people to fill vacancies left by two departures from the Seattle Public Schools Board. Highlighting the diverse range of candidates, including labor leader Joe Mizrahi and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's Sarah Clark, the segment explored the potential policy implications and the importance of educational governance in the city.

Sheriff Sues Burien Over Unconstitutional Anti-Camping Ordinance 

Burien passed a stricter anti-camping law aimed at homeless individuals, which the King County Sheriff's Office refused to enforce as likely unconstitutional. In retaliation, Burien moved to defund the county's contracted police services, prompting criticism that it is escalating rather than solving homelessness.

About the Guest

Robert Cruickshank

Robert Cruickshank is Chair of Sierra Club Seattle and a long-time communications & political strategist.

Find Robert Cruickshank on Twitter/X at @cruickshank.


Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz Shares Strategies for Running for Office from Hacks & Wonks

Trump and Biden win Washington's presidential primaries” by Melissa Santos from Axios

How did Washington's 'uncommitted' voters do on presidential primary night?” by Katie Campbell from KUOW

Senate Democratic Caucus Status | Northwest Progressive Institute

Shaun Scott Is Running for the State House” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Longtime Washington state senator is leaving, but not right away” by Jerry Cornfield from Washington State Standard 

Sam Hunt to retire from the Washington State Legislature after many decades of service” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

As Seattle police applicants lag, City Hall looks to bureaucracy” by David Kroman from The Seattle Times

Higher salaries? Subsidized housing? What will it take for Seattle to recruit and retain more police?” by Casey Martin from KUOW

Seattle School Board narrows candidate field for open seats” by Sami West from KUOW

King County files complaint over Burien's anti-camping ordinance” by Jadenne Radoc Cabahug from Crosscut

VIDEO: Sheriff files legal complaint against City of Burien regarding constitutionality of its expanded camping ban; City responds” by Scott Schaefer from The B-Town Blog

Burien’s anti-camping ordinance is not an answer to homelessness” by The Seattle Times Editorial Board

Find stories that Crystal is reading here

Listen on your favorite podcast app to all our episodes here

Podcast Transcript

[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 our Friday week-in-review delivered to your podcast feed. And stay tuned for some announcements about the show that we're going to have coming up pretty soon. 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 officialhacksandwants.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday topical show, I welcomed Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz to share strategies for how to run for office. Today, we're 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: Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, longtime communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank.

[00:01:22] Robert Cruickshank: Hey, thanks for having me back, Crystal.

[00:01:24] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - welcome back. Always excited to speak with you. Well, I want to start out talking about the presidential primary that was held this week. Big news, not unexpected at all - Trump and Biden won the primary. On the same day, Trump and Biden both officially, basically clinched the nominations for their party or secured enough delegates to be able to do that at their conventions. What are the biggest takeaways for you about the primary and its potential down-ballot impacts?

[00:01:55] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, there is a big question that needs to be asked about Trump's impact here in Washington - what Republican voters are going to do. I think most Republican voters are fully in-line with what Trump wants, but not all. And you see Nikki Haley getting 20-30% of the Republican vote here in Washington state, or at least of ballots that have been counted so far. And there's polling around the country - and I haven't seen a Washington version of it yet, but I'd be curious to - that shows a sizable number of the people who voted for Haley are not going to vote for Trump, they'd be willing to vote for Biden in the fall. That is potentially really interesting - not for the presidential election, but down-ballot. And here in Washington state, you've got someone like Dave Reichert, who's in a real bind. Reichert distanced himself from Trump - at least publicly - while in office. Reichert retired in 2018 - his seat was taken by Democrat Kim Schrier in that election. But Reichert also voted loyally with Trump 95% of the time. Reichert now running for governor of Washington - knowing that he has very little chance of winning the general election if he's seen as a MAGA guy, if he's endorsing Trump. But he's also going to have a hard time keeping his own Republican base behind him if he's not. And you see in other states, both in 2022 and in primaries here in 2024, where candidates who seemingly had no chance of winning their primaries statewide win for governor, for Senate, because Trump backed them. And Trump has long memories and he doesn't want to mess with anyone who's not 100% loyal to him. This raises what I think is a fascinating question for the governor's race. I'm sure Semi Bird's people - Semi Bird being a former school board director from Richland in the Tri-Cities, very right-wing guy, casting himself as MAGA, Trump-friendly, Trump-backer, lagging in the polls so far - Reichert has a clear lead among Republicans so far. But what happens if Semi Bird and his people are able to convince Trump to endorse him? That's a game changer for the Republican campaign for governor and I think Ferguson cruises to a fairly easy victory. But what is Reichert going to do? Reichert can't avoid this question forever. He's trying to avoid it for now, but ultimately he has to answer to the voters of Washington state. When Trump is on the ballot, when Biden is on the ballot come November, Reichert will have to choose and he'll have to tell people who he chooses. If he tries to duck it and avoid it and say - Well, my vote's my personal thing. - no one's going to believe that, and he has no good choices here for him politically. So it'll be very interesting to see how that plays out.

[00:04:19] Crystal Fincher: Will be very interesting to see how that plays out. A lot of times we talk about different factions within the Democratic Party - but my goodness, the situation is much worse in the Republican Party. There is a massive disconnect between the seeming donor base and the actual base of voters in the Republican Party. And the dodging of the Trump issue isn't just - clearly, Reichert is trying not to appear to be an extremist, but that doesn't cut it for his base. And since the time he was in Congress, that base has shifted even further to the right. So this is quite the conundrum. In addition to the different types of candidates that are also running in our state - people like Joe Kent running against Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in Washington's Third Congressional District, which was probably the biggest upset of last cycle congressionally. And a replay again - very different type of rhetoric that probably will not necessarily comport with the type of rhetoric that Dave Reichert has. So also just how is the Republican Party going to navigate the wildly different or vast range between candidates and what they're saying, and potentially contradicting and opposing each other with what they're saying. Obviously, they painted themselves into this corner, but it's a significant conundrum that I don't know that they have an answer to.

But I do want to talk about the Democratic Party and particularly, the issue of the uncommitted delegates on the ballot and the effort and campaign from a lot of people who have wanted violence against Gaza to end, and desist, and calling for a ceasefire. And the call for a concrete way that people send that message to Joe Biden in D.C. by voting Uncommitted Delegates. What were the results of that?

[00:06:05] Robert Cruickshank: So far - and there's still a lot of ballots to be counted - Uncommitted Delegates seem to be taking about 10% of the Democratic vote around the state. It could go higher. That's roughly in-line with what we saw in places like Michigan and Minnesota earlier in the month. And I think it is a further sign that there is a significant portion of the Democratic electorate that is unhappy enough with Biden to where they are willing to register this protest against his reelection. It's not as large as I think some of the supporters might have wanted, but I think it's still meaningful. And I think you're seeing impact in the way Biden, the White House, and the Democratic Party are handling Gaza where they have made a pivot. It's not as much of a pivot, I think, as a lot of the activists would like to see just yet. But Biden is now saying he wants a ceasefire. He's putting increasing pressure on Israel to not send a large military force into Rafah that could potentially kill more civilians. Today, when we're recording the show on Thursday, Chuck Schumer had a speech in which he openly called for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replaced as the prime minister of Israel. You wouldn't have seen these things before the uncommitted delegates movement had really taken off and had an impact in states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington. So I think we should say it's a qualified success for that movement because their goal in the uncommitted delegates movement is more than just have Biden say we want a ceasefire, more than have Senator Schumer say we want a change in the leadership in Israel. They want the war to end. They want a permanent ceasefire now. They want to cut off U.S. military aid to Israel's military operations in Gaza now. And that's not what the White House is offering yet, but I think you have seen a significant response from the White House - it's very different messaging, very different policies than what we saw in the fall of 2023. So I think it's going to be very interesting to see how well Biden is going to be able to rebuild that coalition that he had in 2020. He needs an end to the Gaza war for that to become even a possibility.

[00:07:59] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and I think you're exactly right. Sometimes I hear people question - What's the utility of this anyway? And are people hurting Biden and really handing things over to Trump by registering a protest vote like this? And I think what we're seeing is - one, this is absolutely having an impact. But for the continued insistence and pressure by efforts like this, by protests - we have basically seen a rhetorical 180. And as you said, the rhetoric is certainly not the end goal here. But that wouldn't have even happened without these continued efforts. I think there's an opportunity here for the Democratic Party - from the top of the ticket on down - as you say, in rebuilding this coalition. This campaign - that in Michigan and certainly across battleground states - are reaching out and connecting with people that Democrats are not. And they need to look inward, really take stock of what they're doing and focus on building a coalition - not on scolding the coalition or thinking, What else are they going to do? Vote for Trump? There is an option to not vote for anyone that a lot of people may partake in, and I think not enough people take that seriously. But how, moving forward - one, can you exercise options to end aid that's going to support violence against civilians, certainly. And we have congressional members calling for that - that's not a fringe thing, that's not an extremist thing. There are avenues that are definitely achievable, within possibility - get further down exploring that. But also, how do you connect with this constituency? How do you rebuild that bridge? And I hope they spend time examining that and examining what has been effective in reaching and turning out people for efforts like this. I think there's a lot to be learned. In the same way, I think there's a lot to be learned by looking at outreach efforts in prior elections and local elections with the DSA, for example. You can learn from other members in your coalition, and I hope they take advantage of the opportunity to do that. But it'll certainly be interesting to see how this manifests moving forward. But I don't know that we have that call even from Chuck Schumer today without results that we saw from Washington in this issue.

Want to talk about what the landscape is now post-legislative session that recently ended in the Washington State Legislature. And now we have news of a number of legislators announcing that they aren't going to be seeking reelection and some announcements from candidates who have just declared their intention to run. What is this landscape and who is making news here?

[00:10:45] Robert Cruickshank: We already had a few weeks ago news that Andy Billig, who's the head of the Senate Democratic Caucus representing Spokane, was retiring. We knew that Mark Mullet, who's sort of the Joe Manchin of Washington State - this right-wing Democrat who exists to undermine what the rest of the caucus wants - he's running for governor. All the polls show he's not going to win that, but that opens up his Senate seat in Issaquah. But this week we've seen the biggest news on this front, which is Frank Chopp retiring from the State Legislature after 30 years. He'd been Speaker for 20 of those 30 years. He was ousted as Speaker at the beginning of the 2019 session, but he's been around for the last five years and now he's ready to call it a career. And of course, we saw on Thursday morning the news that Shaun Scott, who had run a very strong race for the Seattle City Council in 2019 - falling just short of beating Alex Pedersen - has announced his candidacy for the seat that Frank Chopp currently holds in the 43rd District, which is Seattle's Capitol Hill, Wallingford, and the U District areas, parts of South Lake Union, Downtown. So that is probably the biggest news. And what it shows is along with Andy Billig retiring, people like Karen Keiser in the 33rd, and others - a lot of the longtime leadership of the Democratic caucus is leaving Olympia, which I think is an incredibly good thing. We need that change. We've needed it for a long time.

[00:12:06] Crystal Fincher: We absolutely have. And like you said, this is going to perhaps be a significant shift. These are a number of people from Sam Hunt - like you said, Karen Keiser, Frank Chopp - who not only have been in the legislature for quite some time, but have been in leadership, have been chairs of committees. And so what might this mean for how the legislature could possibly change? Should we expect a different composition, a different ideology?

[00:12:35] Robert Cruickshank: I think that's up partly to the legislators themselves and where they want to go with these changes happening. One big change that is not happening yet is in the House leadership itself. Chopp was Speaker but was no longer. Laurie Jinkins from Tacoma is the current Speaker - doesn't seem to be going anywhere just yet - haven't seen or heard anything that suggests she is. But with changes in the Senate and people like Jessica Bateman, for example - from Olympia in the State House, likely seeking Sam Hunt's seat in the Senate - you have the opportunity for some really progressive people who have made a mark, like Bateman has on housing, moving up to the Senate where you need some better, more progressive legislators. But we don't know who's going to fill some of these open seats in the House. And it's going to be a question certainly for the Democratic caucuses - are they satisfied with where they are or do they want change? And I think hopefully they should be ready for change. I think you look at this session where very little got done that was useful and see it kind of as an inflection point - the way things have been going in Olympia for a while for several decades isn't working, certainly even for Democrats. It's time for a change in direction.

[00:13:36] Crystal Fincher: Potentially a change in direction. And particularly in the Senate, where the last few sessions - House has actually successfully passed a number of things, probably most notably in this past session, was rent stabilization, which made it through the House. Lots of people were excited about - the legislature had teed up the legislative session as the Year of Housing 2.0 - and those hopes died in the Senate, partly at the hands of people like Mark Mullet. But we have a number of senators who are potentially not going to be back. You mentioned Mark Mullet, who's running for higher office. So is Kevin Van De Wege, Manka Dhingra, Patty Kuderer, Emily Randall, Rebecca Saldaña. All could potentially not be back, in addition to Sam Hunt and Karen Keiser. So these are several seats - number of people who are chairs, which do enjoy a lot of autonomy on deciding what to advance through their committees and allow to be voted on by the body. So this opens up an opportunity. Again, people are going to have to decide who candidates are going to be, make it through the primaries, make it to the general - so this could go a variety of different ways, but there certainly is the potential to really substantively shift the ideology of a body like this. So this, in addition to all of the statewide races that are hot this year and competitive this year - certainly just the composition of the Senate is going to be very, very interesting to watch.

[00:15:04] Robert Cruickshank: I agree. And it's also an opportunity for the House, and for just the Democrats and legislature as a whole, to change their direction because Chopp's been there 30 years, Speaker for 20 of those years. He's leaving a legacy that they need to turn away from. His legacy, I don't think is a good one for our state. Part of his legacy is public services are collapsing, you have a Democratic majority in the legislature that isn't really able to do basic politics very well. And you saw that with the way they responded to the six right-wing initiatives - they kind of just cowered a little bit and passed three of them, including the parental rights initiative that has a lot of LGBTQ advocates and individuals messaging me over the last two weeks, really concerned about what the impact is. And we know that LGBT leaders in the legislature, like Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senator Jamie Pedersen from the 43rd, have said they don't think it's going to have negative impact at all but not everyone agrees with that. But that's Chopp's legacy - that idea that for Democrats to have a majority in Olympia, sometimes they have to cave to right-wing threats. And you see this with Chopp's entire career. He gets elected to the 43rd in 1994, which is a red wave across the country and here in Washington state. You saw Jay Inslee and Maria Cantwell lose their congressional seats. The Speaker of the House in Congress was from Spokane - Tom Foley - he lost his seat. And Democrats got wiped out in the state legislature - republicans won sizable majorities in both the House and Senate that year on an anti-tax pledge. And Chopp - he become Democratic leader, became co-Speaker in 1999 - when after the '98 election, Democrats recovered and won a split, a tie in the State House. And then he became sole Speaker in 2001 when Democrats won a special election when Bush was president. And what you see is the fortunes of Democrats in Washington state after 1994 rose and fell not because Chopp is a master strategist, but because of national trends that happened in Washington state. When Bush was president, Democrats did really well - they had two-thirds majorities in Olympia. And what did Chopp do with that? He took one of Tim Eyman's right-wing initiatives - limiting property taxes to 1% growth - and imposed it after the courts had thrown it out. He was worried that he would lose seats in the 2008 election, which in retrospect was an empty fear - wasn't going to happen. And as Democrats lost seats under Obama across the country, his majority shrank to a single seat by 2015. Then as Democrats recovered under Trump - and continuing under Biden - their majorities have grown again in the legislature. But what Chopp has done the entire time is set out a strategy that he was convinced worked - and he would tell anyone, and I've heard it from him directly in the 2010s - that sometimes you just have to cave to the right. You have to actually just pass an initiative, take an Eyman initiative the courts threw out and put it into place - even if it means public services decay, even if means that as a result of 20 years of Chopp's strategy, public schools are facing huge cuts and closures because the legislature wouldn't fund them properly. Or our roads fall apart because the legislature took Tim Eyman's first $30 car tab initiative in 1999 and put it into law themselves after the courts had thrown it out. And that is, I think, really one of Chopp's legacies - is a legislature that doesn't really know how to do political strategy very well. You often see state legislators struggle when they run for other offices outside of Olympia because they picked up bad habits in the legislature about how to appeal to voters and fight back against right-wing candidates. And I think what we're seeing here in 2024 now with all of these retirements - it's an opportunity for Democrats in the legislature to figure out how to actually win, how to put together an assertive offense political strategy, which should serve them really well in a state that is still very, very blue. So hopefully what you start to see happening - and seeing really inspiring leaders like Shaun Scott stepping up to run - is maybe you're going to start seeing the legislature become a place where you have hope again that good ideas can become law, and that they'll go on offense against right-wing bullying and right-wing strategy rather than just caving and throwing some people to wolves and hoping it holds their majority in place.

[00:19:08] Crystal Fincher: I think there are valid points that you just raised. I do want to mention a couple things that I appreciate about what Frank Chopp did. There are two major elements of his legacy that will be long lasting - one being Apple Health Care for kids - basically our state's Medicaid health program and expanding that to all kids in our state, which is a big deal. Health care is so fundamental, it is a basic need - and he did make strides in expanding that throughout the state. Also very relevant to issues that we're facing now, but a couple years ago - the Apple Health and Homes Act - basically reducing chronic homelessness by connecting health care and housing and recognizing that there are public health issues at play, the state has a responsibility to invest in that, and streamlining and providing funding for services to combat that. I think those are two significant things that he helped to orchestrate and led the passage of - wrapped in with a number of other elements that I wish would be different. I do want to recognize those things and hope our future leaders continue to build upon them. I know Shaun Scott, who announced - certainly looks like his platform includes several things like that, and really focusing on serving people in that vein, and going further in many ways. So looking forward to seeing how people articulate and build upon those elements of the legacy that he helped to establish.

[00:20:41] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, and I think you're absolutely right to point to Apple Health as a signature Chopp achievement that certainly is very positive and an unquestioned victory for his time as Speaker and his time in the legislature. I think there's more that could have been done, especially in the 2007-2008 moment when they had huge majorities. They could have really done some structural things to fix the initiative process, which I know they were really hesitant to do. They could have really defanged not just Tim Eyman, but now Brian Heywood and Jim Walsh coming up with Eyman 2.0 strategies that they're having to deal with again. I think what we're seeing here is an opportunity for Democrats to take stock of how far they've come since rebuilding from the 1994 political catastrophe, and where they want to go from here. And I think you've got to reflect also on what you're seeing nationally - hoping that Biden gets reelected and prevents Trump from winning, but Congress is deeply unreliable - the amount of money we get for priorities in our state is less and less trustworthy from Congress. Republicans keep threatening massive cuts if they ever got a trifecta again in D.C. So I think what you're seeing here is an opportunity for Democrats to look back and try to take the positives and the successes like Apple Health and getting a capital gains tax done, which to their credit, they are going to the ballot to defend. They're also going to the ballot to defend the Climate Commitment Act. But also how do you pivot to having a much more effective Democratic majority like we see in states such as Minnesota or Michigan, where they don't have large majorities - but when they get them, they've used them quite effectively to pass big legislative changes. I think Washington could be a state that really paves the way forward for a lot of other places, but we haven't had a legislature quite willing to do that. Hopefully we get one now.

[00:22:19] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Want to talk also now about the Seattle City Council, which is always interesting to talk about these days. This time they're considering, in their effort to recruit police officers - which they have been having a very hard time doing - they have talked about subsidizing housing and possibly weakening recruitment standards for officers. What is being discussed here?

[00:22:46] Robert Cruickshank: There is a national issue with police departments being able to recruit new officers. Most cities in the country are struggling with this, and this includes cities in which defund was never even discussed. So I think it's hard to say, as certain members of the city council in Seattle say, that we're having a recruitment crisis because the city council said mean things about them in 2020 - that doesn't really match the evidence we're seeing from around the country or even here in Seattle, where they've thrown all sorts of financial incentives at officers over the last two or three years, and it's not really having an impact. So this week, the Public Safety Committee of the city council met, and they're falling all over themselves to try to figure out how do we say nice things about the cops and how do we throw money at this problem. And one of the things they talked about was - Well, let's subsidize housing so people can afford to live here and be officers, which raises two questions. One, are you going to subsidize teachers? Are you going to subsidize nurses? Are you going to subsidize social workers, also, who are struggling to live in our city? But also, didn't we just hear from Sara Nelson and Bruce Harrell that there's a $230 million deficit at the city that's requiring all sorts of cuts? There are people up in arms that classes for disabled kids are not going to be offered this summer because the City put a hiring freeze in place. Is it more important to give subsidies for homes to police officers rather than classes for disabled kids? I don't think anyone in Seattle, at least the majority of Seattleites, are going to make that trade or see that that is a necessary trade to make.

The other thing that you heard was the idea of weakening recruiting standards - that maybe we need to not have such high standards for who we're trying to recruit into the police force. And I remember when Mike McGinn was mayor - when a lot of the current process of police reform really kicked off in Seattle, there's quite a lot of discussion about raising recruitment standards to make sure that we are recruiting people who are willing to work with the community, engage in constitutional policing, who are committed to the values of justice that we're committed to as a people of Seattle. And so you heard city councilmembers talk about weakening that. The thing they're not talking about is the actual problem. The actual problem is very few people want to be police officers right now because of the toxic culture in departments around the country and in Seattle. Just last month, PubliCola reported on a study that came out showing that there's big problems with sexism within SPD. We know there are problems with racism within SPD. Potential officers, people who love the idea of serving their community, look at SPD and think - Why would I go there where there's racism, sexism, a lack of accountability, and no one's doing anything about it? You can run over a woman and kill her while speeding in your vehicle at 74 miles an hour and essentially get away with it. You have to fix that culture before you can recruit more officers. That's the thing they're not talking about right now, and they should.

[00:25:34] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely agree. This is a culture issue. And until they contend with that - which they seem to be rejecting any possibility of that being a problem and any willingness to contend with that as a problem - until they do that, I don't see how anything changes. Again, this is not like you said - Oh, it's because the prior council was just mean, and so they hurt the police officer's feelings and people don't want to come here because of that - which ignores that this is a national problem. And ignores the constant drumbeat of the lack of accountability that we're seeing. And there has been officers who have left who have cited a rotten culture as reasons for leaving. We're hearing officers also who have cited - You're throwing money at us, but that's not going to solve the problem. The wild thing to me is that we are hearing this out of the mouth of police officers, but it is not fitting the overall narrative that many of these councilmembers are trying to paint and so we're not listening to them. Which is just wild because they're saying that they want to value police officers, they want to build the relationship with them, show them that they're supported - wouldn't that start with listening to them? Wouldn't that start with taking the issues that they've identified as effective and ineffective and working from there? They aren't even doing that. So I'm just wondering - what agenda are they even serving here? It doesn't seem to be attached to public safety. It doesn't seem to be attached to a genuine desire to listen to and respond to concerns from officers. It is really just confounding. And in the face of this deficit that they seem to be focused on making bigger instead of smaller at this point in time, it's just really confusing to understand what logic is being applied here.

[00:27:25] Robert Cruickshank: I think you have to look at the majority of this council - not everyone on it, but most of this current Seattle City Council are conservative ideologues, who are not interested in representing - as far as I can tell, two and a half months in - the great majority, the great middle of Seattle, which is very progressive on policing issues. Yeah, they want public safety. They are concerned about break-ins and they're concerned about street crime. But they don't want to hand officers unchecked power. They very much believe what they said in 2020 - that there needs to be reform. And I think you have a city council that just fundamentally believes that - no, we just need to, as Cathy Moore said a few weeks back, Let police police. Which I thought was an appalling thing to say in Seattle for so many reasons. One of which is it doesn't actually address the problem. And I think what you're starting to see on a range of issues, but especially public safety, is a city council that is driven by its ideology - not by data, not by facts. That would rather do what matches their own right-wing vibes rather than what's actually necessary to properly govern the city. And I really worry where this is going to lead. They're not going to successfully recruit more officers with this approach. They could wind up really undermining a lot of the progress that has been made in police reform in Seattle over the last 14 years. We can say that progress hasn't been very much, so if you undo even that little progress we've made, we're in a pretty bad place.

[00:28:50] Crystal Fincher: We're in a pretty bad place. And the reasons that we've heard related to this - oh, the shortage of officers is causing delays in response times. The metrics of even the response to crime, the lowering clearance rates, the issues with investigations there - are slipping and solely attributing that to, Well, there's a lack of officers and there's nothing we can do. Defying their own internal reports, talking about - Hey, we can deploy officers in a smarter, more effective way. We are right now being really inefficient with how we're assigning officers. Officers are spending the majority of their time responding to non-criminal activity, and there are absolutely concerns and issues happening. There were shootings just yesterday at Garfield High School. Extremely alarming. Two, in fact. One, a girl was injured. And then later in the day, a shooting that took the life of a woman. This is alarming. These are concerning. And I think people want to focus on making the community safer and getting down to what's going to do that. And we seem to be stuck in this conversation, like you said, that's coming from the ideologues on council - Okay, we'll throw more money at it - which is disconnected from the issue of actually making the community safer, of actually what do we need to do to put everyone in the community in a position, starting with what they're in control of - with officers, with other community resources that are effective and that evidence shows can stop this. We aren't even having those conversations and it's hurting us.

[00:30:27] Robert Cruickshank: I agree. And it feels sometimes like city councilmembers are listening to what they see on NextDoor or what they hear on KOMO rather than their own constituents on this, who are pleading for not just help on the public safety concerns you mentioned, such as those shootings near Garfield - but who have also shown a strong desire, widespread public support for putting together an alternative response that does not require an officer with a gun to show up to nonviolent crime. That is, among other things, a way to help solve the staffing shortage at SPD - to take those things off of the plate of officers so they focus on the acts of violence that you need them focused on. And you haven't heard anything in the last two and a half months since this new council took over about alternative response, even though the Chamber's own polling showed last year that it still has huge public support. So I really feel like we, as a community in Seattle, who care about public safety, who care about justice and want a safe community that is done through constitutional policing - I think she should be fairly alarmed at what we're hearing out of the city council. A city council does not appear interested in actually solving the problem - that appears more interested in scoring political points.

[00:31:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. At the bare minimum, they could expand the really tiny trial that they have - the CARE team, which I believe is six people right now, responding only to downtown, only in specified hours during the day that don't even match the hours of most demand. That could and should be expanded to all neighborhoods. Also, other cities are having a great time not deploying armed officers - these responders can deploy initially alone, and if they need backup, they can call. That expansion should have happened. Just seems like that's not part of the conversation. They're happy with that. But the streets are demanding we do something more effective than what is happening. And I'm afraid that taking their eye off the ball and solely focusing on the lever of throwing more money at this problem isn't working and is preventing us from getting to more effective solutions.

I also want to talk about the Seattle Public Schools Board and the school board narrowing down a list of finalists for two vacant seats from two board members who stepped down last month in District 2 and District 4. What is happening with this and who are the finalists?

[00:32:48] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I feel like this is one of the most important things currently happening in Seattle right now and it's not getting very much attention. Because two board members - Vivian Song and Lisa Rivera - had resigned at the beginning of February, there's vacancies on the school board. The school board appoints people to fill those vacancies just as the city council did in January to fill the vacancy that Teresa Mosqueda had created when she resigned to go serve on the King County Council. In District 4, which had been the one Vivian Song had represented, there were four applicants. And so the school board decided to leave it at just those four. In District 2, which Lisa Rivera had represented since 2019, the board saw, I think, maybe almost 10 people apply. So they narrowed it down at their meeting earlier this week to just four - all of whom have community experience, ties to schools, may even have kids in schools. But there are two that strike me as particularly notable. One is Joe Mizrahi, who is one of the applicants in District 4. Joe is a longtime labor leader. He's currently Secretary Treasurer of UFCW Local 3000, which has been the forefront of a lot of very progressive issues and campaigns in Washington state. They, in fact, were one of the first large unions in the country to endorse uncommitted delegates in the Democratic primary. And Joe Mizrahi played a central role in that. And then in District 2, one of the finalists is on the other side of the political spectrum - Sarah Clark is the Director of Public Policy for Seattle Chamber of Commerce. So you have two of the finalists representing a very progressive labor union and the other representing the Chamber of Commerce. What we haven't seen yet - although we will start to see this in coming weeks - is these applicants really being pushed to answer specific policy questions of what are they going to do on the school board. There's going to be a forum later this month at Lincoln High School of candidates. I think other community groups are probably going to want to question and talk to these applicants as well. But it's going to be really interesting to see what happens. I personally see some red flags of someone affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce coming onto a school board, primarily because Chambers of Commerce around the country and in Seattle often have a very specific political agenda for schools, which involves taking autonomy away from teachers, tying teacher evaluations to test scores, really making it a very test-focused curriculum. SPS is facing budget issues - do you solve that by closing schools and making huge cuts, or do you find other solutions? There's big issues facing our schools right now, and I think the public should pay really close attention to the full field of candidates because some of them are very, very good, bring a lot of wealth of experience - people like Laura Marie Rivera, who ran for the seat in 2021, has a ton of experience. But you've also got some candidates who I think we need to hear more from and see if these red flags are warranted or not.

[00:35:28] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Well, we will certainly keep our eye on that as it continues to unfold. Last thing I wanted to touch on today is - speaking of keeping our eye on things - the continuing saga happening in Burien. A recent escalation with Burien passing even stricter and more draconian anti-camping legislation aimed at their homeless population and criminalizing that. And response from the King County Sheriff's Office saying that, as they warned last summer, they are not going to participate in enforcing what - by all accounts - appears to be an unconstitutional ordinance that was just passed. Which Burien responded to by saying - Fine, we're going to defund you because the King County Sheriff is contracted to provide policing services within the city of Burien. So the conservative majority on the Burien City Council - literally moving to defund the police in response to their not wanting to participate in an unconstitutional enforcement of their recent ordinance. How did you see this?

[00:36:38] Robert Cruickshank: First and foremost, it shows that defunding the police is perfectly fine if you're conservatives wanting to defund the police because you don't like them doing something even remotely progressive - or in this case, refusing to do something that is clearly unconstitutional. I also think this is another example of what happens when local elections are in odd years. Turnout in Burien was very low in 2023 as it was in 2021, and it makes it easier for a conservative group of people like we now have as a majority on the Burien City Council to get that majority. And Burien just feeling like they have the ability to say and do completely absurd and ridiculous things because they get elected in these odd years. The other thing that I think is notable here is the King County Sheriff is saying this because the King County Sheriff is now appointed by the county executive - is no longer an independently elected position - another change that happened as a result of 2020. If you had an independently elected sheriff, they might want to play to that audience in Burien. But now we have more responsible leadership trying to push back, saying - We're not going to tell our sheriff's department to enforce an ordinance that's very obviously unconstitutional. We're not going to put ourselves and our officers in that position. But I'm glad to see that the county is taking the approach that it is. But again, we need the legislature to step in here and fix this in a number of ways - one of which is moving elections to even years, so we have a more representative electorate hopefully putting more responsible people in these positions.

[00:38:04] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely want to see more responsible people in these positions. And there have been a number of cities that have taken a broad array of approaches to this, but one that seems consistent - and a number of our elected officials have been in Washington, D.C. this week at the National Conference of Mayors, and even them talking about addressing this. The wild thing is that it's uncontroversial for them there to be talking about sweeps just being ineffective and not a serious solution to the issue of homelessness. And needing to engage on a more evidence-based, sustainable level to address this problem. You even have the Seattle Times this week - that editorial board has a reputation for being more conservative, taking a harder line on these issues than many people in the region - and they called out the city of Burien's leadership this week, saying - You guys aren't interested in solving this. This is a mistake. You guys passed what appears to be an unconstitutional ordinance, and the sheriff's office was right to do that. You have the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight applauding the action by the King County Sheriff to refuse to enforce an unconstitutional law. So really, the city of Burien is on an island here. I think some of the allies that they thought they could count on are no longer there. There is a standard, I think, that people have for governance - that you at least need to engage in ways that have an opportunity to solve the problem and that are lawful, that are constitutional, that don't violate fundamental rights of your constituents. They have rejected that and are really taking an aggressive stance against this rhetorically and in action. We talked about defunding, but Kevin Schilling - now the mayor who presented themselves as a Democrat initially, and then seemed to align with conservative Republicans and has made a lot of inflammatory, really, really heartbreaking and cruel statements that dehumanize the homeless population - is now leading the charge in conjunction with their city manager in taking these actions. And their allies seem to be slipping away. And so it's going to be interesting to see how they proceed. And now they - while facing a budget deficit - have invited lawsuits against them that are costing the city, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who knows what that tally is going to be by the end of this? So really unfortunate for the residents of Burien. Really sad to see just kind of an abdication of leadership here and a refusal to engage in a constitutional way. We'll continue to follow this, but Burien has really gone rogue.

[00:40:48] Robert Cruickshank: They certainly have. And I'm glad to see that some people are trying to rein them in, but they have all the incentive to keep doing this as long as the elections are the way they are.

[00:40:58] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, March 15th, 2024. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today was Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, longtime communications and political strategist Robert Cruickshank. You can find Robert on Twitter and elsewhere by searching his name or @cruickshank on Twitter. You can find me anywhere, same with Hacks & Wonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else 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 shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, please leave a review. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources that we've referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.