Week In Review: March 18, 2022 - with Nicole Thomas-Kennedy

Week In Review: March 18, 2022 - with Nicole Thomas-Kennedy

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal’s co-host is criminal defense attorney, abolitionist and activist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. They discuss how a powerful lobbying group used a focus on local control to sink statewide housing reform, and how to overcome that in the next session, a rundown of candidates running for open seats, the disconnect of prioritizing the wants of downtown stakeholders over real solutions to homelessness, the Seattle City Attorney’s repackaging of a failed initiative, and mixed results on the plan for some concrete workers to return to work while concrete companies continue to drag their feet on negotiating a fair contract.

About the Guest

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy is a defense attorney, abolitionist and activist.

Find Nicole Thomas-Kennedy on Twitter/X at @NTKallday.


“Here's What Happened in Olympia” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/03/15/68343035/the-strangers-rundown-of-2022s-huge-confused-legislative-session

“What Will It Take to Get Statewide Housing Reform?” by Matt Baume from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/03/16/68207458/what-will-it-take-to-get-statewide-housing-reform

“Surprise Sweep Displaces Fourth Avenue Encampment, Scattering Unsheltered People” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola: https://publicola.com/2022/03/09/surprise-sweep-displaces-fourth-avenue-encampment-scattering-unsheltered-people-throughout-downtown/

“Downtown Sweep Highlights Urgency of Resolving Seattle’s Other “Top-Priority Encampment,” Woodland Park” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola: https://publicola.com/2022/03/16/downtown-sweep-highlights-urgency-of-resolving-seattles-other-top-priority-encampment-woodland-park/

“City Attorney’s Office Introduces Latest Initiative to Target “High Utilizers” of the Criminal Justice System” by Paul Kiefer from PubliCola: https://publicola.com/2022/03/15/city-attorneys-office-introduces-latest-initiative-to-target-so-called-high-utilizers-of-the-criminal-justice-system/

“Harrell postpones Seattle police plan to crack down on ‘disorderly conduct’ at Third Avenue bus stops” by David Kroman from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/harrell-postpones-seattle-police-plan-to-crack-down-on-disorderly-conduct-at-third-avenue-bus-stops/

“Cigarettes and Fentanyl: All Aboard” by Nathan Vass from NathanVass.com: http://www.nathanvass.com/blog/cigarettes-and-fentanyl-all-aboard

“Some Seattle-area concrete drivers return to work, others await go-ahead from employer” by Nick Bowman from MyNorthwest: https://mynorthwest.com/3398180/seattle-concrete-drivers-return-others-await-employer/

“Concrete strike continues in King County as union workers who offered to return didn't show” by KING 5 Staff & Adel Toay from KING 5: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/concrete-strike-king-county-union-workers-no-show/281-f14d167c-c88c-44db-91c8-591171124209


[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. For transcripts and resources referenced in this show, you can visit officialhacksandwonks.com and reference our episode notes. Today we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program for the first time, today's co-host: criminal defense attorney, abolitionist, and activist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. Hey.

[00:00:55] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Hello. Thanks for having me - and this is the second time I've been on - must have been so memorable that first time.

[00:01:01] Crystal Fincher: No, this is your first time as a co-host on the Week In Review. Yes, we did an interview last time, which was very good and incredible. And a number of people were like, well, we see who you want to win. And it's just like, look, if she happens to be making great and salient points, it's not my fault. But yes, just really, really excited to have you here on the Week In Review.

[00:01:28] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: I'm excited to be here. Thank you.

[00:01:30] Crystal Fincher: Well, and so the first thing that we have coming out of the gate was one thing I wanted to talk about - coming out of the end of the legislative session - we talked last week and broke down a number of bills. The Stranger this week had a great article that we'll put in our episode notes that also further broke down what was great about the legislative session, what was disappointing, and how we can move forward.

And then Matt Baume also had another article talking about the failure of bills that would have mandated more density, specifically near transit, that would've helped address the affordability crisis that we have here in the state. And I thought it was very good - it was focused on, hey, what needs to happen moving forward to actually succeed in passing bills that require more density statewide? In that, he talked about the AWC, Association of Washington Cities, being a vocal opponent. They are a powerful lobby in the State of Washington. Their purpose, they say, is to represent the over 200 cities in the state. And their position largely was - it's really important to have local control in these and the one-size-fits-all solution that would come from the state just may not be right for our communities, so therefore we need to do nothing. The challenge in that is that most cities have not moved forward on doing anything. As you look at this issue, Nicole, what do you see as being the barriers and, I guess, the opportunities for moving forward successfully?

[00:03:16] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: I think that when I look at this, first I think it's funny that there is a coalition of all these cities that are all saying the same thing - we want local control - that seems to be the only thing that they agree on. But I think that on a state level, there needs to be a floor created for affordable housing and density, and that's really all we were talking about for the most part with these bills. It wasn't any incredibly specific directions that each city has to take on a certain timeline on a certain budget - anything like that. It was about just creating a floor of affordable, dense housing that is needed in pretty much every community.

And I think that what I heard a lot in the last year was that - the reverse of there needs to be local control - which was now we have municipalities competing against each other for who can do the least. Seattle is - Sara Nelson and other people are calling out other cities for not doing their part and spending their money on addressing the crisis. And it seems to be like a race to the bottom in terms of who can spend the least. And because the idea, I think, is that if you build services, if you build affordable housing, people will move into them. And why do that when you can concentrate a lot of the unsheltered population in one place that provides the minimum to keep people alive? And that's what I see going on.

[00:04:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and definitely a resistance to people who are defined as others and outsiders from even being able to buy into communities. It was really interesting in this article - there were representatives from cities across the state, from Port Orchard to Tacoma to University Place, and a number of them were leaders within AWC and talked about - we need local control, we are all very different. But one very consistent thread in these is that the median home price in most of these areas has doubled. This housing crisis is not just a crisis in major municipalities. It is a crisis across the board in areas that were affordable - that people used to consider being affordable and that people could buy into and still work in a major area where jobs are concentrated. And still live, even with a commute unfortunately - that it was possible to buy a home there with a median income. It is no longer the case in many of these places. And sometimes, like one of these examples in Port Orchard, they touted - well, we built new homes. Well, yeah, those are half million dollar plus homes adjacent to a golf course. If we're concentrating on making sure cities are accessible to people across the board and that you don't have to be rich and that we aren't displacing people outside of cities and just gentrifying them, then we have to have a solution across the board.

Also, interestingly, the National League of Cities, which the Association of Washington Cities is a member of, had a 2019 report that said, "While local control is often at the heart of policies that accelerate progress, there are examples, particularly in the affordable housing policy arena in which state policy is needed." To your point, there has to be a floor. We have to establish a minimum boundary. Cities can determine the right way that they're all going to get there, but what we can't do - what is not sustainable, we're already paying the price for - is continued inaction while just spouting excuses like, well, it's not local control, therefore it's nothing.

I would love to see leaders within the legislature say, "Well, you say you want local control? This wasn't successful this session. You now have this coming year to address this within your own cities. If you do, we can find a way to create legislation that respects what you've done." And more than likely if you're taking meaningful action, the floor is going to be below where you set it. But it's not going to be an option to continue to not take action next session and further on in the future. I would love to hear that from legislative leadership and leaders across the state - it just should not be an option. We have to make cities and housing affordable and accessible for people to live in, or else we're going to make our homelessness problem worse, we're going to make our displacement problem worse, we're not going to have people available to fill jobs that are necessary within cities. This is a critical economic development issue just in addition to a housing and social issue. So I hope we address that. Go ahead.

[00:08:31] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Oh, I was just going to say too that I really like how you talked about these are communities that used to be affordable. When we talk about Port Orchard - my in-laws live in Port Orchard, and so when they bought their home, it was very affordable and the amount of money it appreciated to was pretty astronomical. And so when we're resisting building affordable housing - and affordable really is - we're talking about homes that are less than half a million dollars, which is just a wild concept that that's where we are with the average home prices in an area. It wasn't always like that. So the idea that these - the people that are already there should be able to stay with this huge, expensive appreciation that they have in their home value, but then not let anybody else in that is going to be coming in at the same level that they came in at. And unfortunately they're not going to be able to afford - they're going to have to have less in terms of space and in terms of all of those things. And so it's interesting to me to want to keep out the same people that are essentially already there, I guess.

[00:09:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it absolutely is that issue. And then as I look at this, it's like the people who are in housing whose housing has appreciated and who are resistant to any kind of acceptance of other people in their communities - we're talking about their kids, we're talking about their employees, we're talking about their students. And again, people talk about, well, I can't find anyone to fill this position in my company. We can't find people. No one wants to work. But is it that no one wants to work? Or is it that you're now forcing people who can't live and work in the same community, and maybe the compensation doesn't work for someone who has to commute 45 minutes each way and drop off their kids beforehand and pick them up after? It just isn't tenable for so many reasons.

I feel like we leave housing and affordability out of economic discussions and it's just so critical and a big part of those two. So I hope that we see significant action, and that candidates are talking about this on the campaign trail, and our leadership is making it clear in both the House and the Senate - that this is something that needs to be acted on and will be acted on next session, and that cities are on notice that they need to move in the right direction.

[00:11:19] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Yes, I agree. Yes. That needs to happen. And I think there needs to be some - maybe more clear calling out of what is actually happening. If municipalities are saying, oh, we want to sit down, we want to sit down, we want to talk, we want to talk - but then they're not asking for any more talks and they're not proposing anything of their own. I think it's maybe time to call a spade a spade and say, are you really interested in solving this problem, or are you really just kicking the can down the road?

[00:11:47] Crystal Fincher: Exactly. Well, the legislative session did recently conclude, and that means that now we have a number of legislators who are kicking off their re-election campaigns and starting in earnest. One thing I don't know if everyone who listens is aware of is that - while our legislators are in office, they can't actually raise money, so they can't do a major element of campaigning. There is a prohibition against doing that, also for certain employees of the state. So once session concludes, they're all trying to catch up to people who have already been running and doing that. And so a lot of them are - people are receiving a lot more emails from their representatives and appeals for donations - that's happening now.

And I just wanted to do a quick little rundown of where there are open seats. There are a number of representatives who are retiring or moving onto different positions, some in the House are running for Senate seats - but that is leaving some positions open that are now contested by several different people. The 22nd Legislative District in Thurston County - having Beth Doglio and Laurie Dolan who are Democrats, and Loretta Byrnes running for those - that's Position 1 there. 30th Legislative District in Federal Way, where Jesse Johnson has decided not to run for re-election - we have Kristine Reeves, who's filed to run, Leandra Craft, Lynn French, Ryan Odell and Ashli Raye Tagoai, I think it is, and Janis Clark.

And then in the 36 District in Seattle, where Reuven Carlyle decided not to run and then Noel Frame decided to run for Reuven Carlyle Senate seat, leaving that House seat vacant - there's Julia Reed, Jeffrey Manson, Elizabeth Tyler Crone, Nicole Gomez, and Waylon Robert. And in the 46th District - and just a reminder, I am working with Melissa Taylor - there is Melissa Taylor, Lelach Rave, Nancy Connolly, Darya Farivar, and Nina Martinez who have filed for that seat. That's in north Seattle, northeast Seattle.

47th Legislative District, which is eastern Kent, Covington, Maple Valley area, where Pat Sullivan is no longer running, he's not going to be running for re-election - there's Carmen Goers, Kyle Lyebyedyev, Jessie Ramsey, and Satwinder Kaur, who is a Kent City Councilmember. And then King County Prosecuting Attorney is an open seat because Dan Satterberg is not running for re-election - and so there's Stephan Thomas, Leesa Manion, and Jim Ferrell who are running for that seat.

So there is a lot to come - we're certainly going to be having conversations with several of these candidates, but running these campaigns are getting off in earnest now - and you'll be hearing lots and seeing lots, and the end of the legislative session is a big turning point in campaign season with another big milestone coming up. There are lots of people who can file to run and you can start your campaign committee in May - in mid-May is where people officially declare that they're running for a specific seat - and that will determine who actually appears on your ballot. And so that'll be the final say on who is running for what, so people in the interim can potentially switch positions they're running for, choose not to run - lots of choices and paths that this can go down. As you're looking at this crew, does anything just come to mind for you? Or you've run a campaign - a big campaign citywide before - what do see just ahead for these candidates and for voters who are evaluating them?

[00:15:59] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: I mean, I see some candidates that I think are exciting - I also love Melissa Taylor. I used to work on the other side of Leandra Craft - I think she's smart and knows what's going on. So I think I'm seeing some good candidates. Campaigning at that level is different because there just has to be so much fundraising done, whereas in the City, we're so lucky that we don't have to spend all of our time doing that. I just - I wish everyone the best because - oh yeah, oh, Nicole Gomez too. There's some people to be really excited about, I think, and so that's great. I just wish everyone the best. I hope everyone's taking good care of themselves - that's what I think when I see this list.

[00:16:45] Crystal Fincher: Running for office is a very, very tough thing. It's not fun - you're putting yourself out there to be scrutinized - people do not always consider the human when they are communicating with or about candidates. And they are humans - even when we disagree with them, they're humans. I do think, as candidates are kicking off their campaigns, certainly fundraising is a big deal in the City of Seattle - with City races, there are Democracy Vouchers where every resident gets money from the City that they can donate to the candidate of their choice. That is not the case in these campaigns this year - they have to raise all the money they need. And campaigns do take money because unfortunately there is not broad media coverage, and getting your message out to most voters requires communicating directly with them. And so whether it's knocking on their door, giving them a call - which still takes resources - and usually also involves communicating with them via mail or online or on TV - just a lot of different mediums there.

And then people are also focusing on endorsements - especially early on, people are trying to figure out - what do these candidates stand for, what have they been involved with, and how have they worked before in the past, what is their history? And sometimes endorsements can be revealing and highlight what that candidate prioritizes, who is in their corner, what kind of issues they'll be strong on and a leading a advocate for - not simply a vote. So lots of that happening right now, and certainly just hope for the best and hope they are successful in getting their messages out. It is an interesting time and campaigns are kicking off once again.

I did want to pivot to a number of news items in the City of Seattle surrounding public safety - first being the issue of sweeps of a number of encampments. And so we had a 4th Avenue encampment sweep, which scattered a bunch of unsheltered folks. There's probably other sweeps to come soon, and the issue of another encampment that has been viewed as a top priority at Woodland Park. As you look at what's going on with these sweeps, what do you see as far as what's happening?

[00:19:33] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: What I see is the huge amount of disconnect between what the public thinks is happening and what is actually happening - and that's just such a huge disservice to everyone. I know that there's a narrative out there that people are refusing services and they're refusing shelter. And I guess the idea is that some people are camping out in the cold and rain, because that's preferable somehow to be sheltered. And that's not what the case is - we don't have enough places for people to live that they can afford to live in. We don't have the services that are needed to stop this from continuing to happen.

Also, the thing is - it really just moves the problem around. There's nothing really - it will clear one area of sidewalk for a certain period of time, but all it does is move things around. And the more people are destabilized, who are already barely, are clinging to stability and security in the most tenuous way possible - are then pushed around and have all the belongings they need to survive thrown away - because that's what we saw in the downtown sweep is - it was different than some of the other sweeps in that they didn't really offer services, they didn't offer anything. There's different timelines that they went by because they called the tents downtown an obstruction, a sidewalk obstruction, which means that they're - all of the things that they're supposed to do during the sweep, they didn't have to do any of that. And they didn't. And so we just see people's belongings being thrown away, tents thrown away.

And I think what's also missing from the narrative around these sweeps is just how much stress that puts on service providers. I talk to a lot of people and they say, well, the Navigation Center is just up the street and I'm like, how much do you think that they can handle? Because as a public defender, something that I saw often was people being displaced by going to jail. That means when they get out, they have to get a new ID, a new EBT card, they have to go to DESC and see if they can get a tent and a sleeping bag - because there's things that people need in order to survive. And people don't just evaporate after a sweep, they are still existing.

And also my partner has an office in Pioneer Square and he watched the 4th Avenue sweep, and he's seen a lot of sweeps around . That area. And he says, it's just really hard to watch people who are barely hanging on become so dysregulated by the horror of what is actually happening to them. And he said he would see people huddled together in alleyways trying to get away from the police - it's just a really horrifying scene that doesn't - it really truly does not solve any problem other than that one piece of sidewalk for a little bit of time. And so we're spending millions and millions of dollars to essentially make this problem worse. We move it around and make it worse. And so, I get that people don't want to see this anymore, but if that's what they want, then we're going to have to take some steps towards solutions and sweeps just aren't it at all.

[00:23:04] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. You raised so many good points - it's absolutely correct. The bottom line is the actions that we're taking are not moving people into shelter and permanent housing. It is not an ideal solution to have people on sidewalks and have people living on streets. But when people don't have a home to go to and they don't have anywhere else to go, that is the option. That is the option. Unless we just expect people to die, we can't jail our way out of the problem. There certainly is a contingent of people who are just like, well, they shouldn't be on the sidewalk and that should be illegal and that's an obstruction and it's bad, and they should be arrested and they're probably criminals anyway and they're causing problems and creating crime. When the reality is people who are unsheltered are actually many times more likely to be victims of crime. They're a very vulnerable population and that's all just factless propaganda that we're hearing otherwise.

But our services are not set up to meet the needs that actually exist, and time after time - when we listen and we hear things like they were offered shelter and they refused, we really do have to dig a little bit deeper and think about what were they offered? So many times what they were offered does not actually accommodate the needs that they have - if they have a partner, if they have a dog - those people that they have relied on that again, because they're in such a vulnerable position and because they are so exposed to the likelihood of having crime committed against them, having people that they can count on who help to look out for you, that help to protect your belongings - is essential to survival. And a lot of times we're asking them to give that up for a night in a shelter, for a week in a shelter. It's not even like they have the opportunity to transition in a permanent way and okay, maybe it's going to be okay. That stay in the shelter could be absolutely destabilizing for them and could tear apart the only thing that is keeping them safe and warm and alive.

And so we just have to get really serious about this. I think Marc Dones has talked a lot about this issue and that we have to get real about - when we see such high "refusal rates", which can just be a service didn't fit. And when we see high rates of people being referred to services and then not showing up or following through, there's a reason for that. And if we want to get to the root cause of this issue and if we want to get people off of our sidewalks, which I think everybody wants, then we have to actually address the issues there and meet the needs that exist, not the ones that - they have to be solutions that meet the needs that they're identifying that they have, not what we think they should have, not what we think they deserve, not what we think is right or good or moral or all of that stuff. If we aren't addressing the things that they say will, hey, yes, that is something that I could do to move forward to get off the streets, then we're just moving people around to different areas.

And again, a sweep is just moving people off of a block - the City and the County will acknowledge, have acknowledged - that no, it's not solving the issue of homelessness, it's moving them off of a block. I think another missing part of this conversation is that we seem to be prioritizing the needs and wants of downtown moneyed interests and not those of the rest of the community. We're perfectly fine spending tons of money - allocating tons of time and officer resources, City resources - to clear a block here and there at the behest of the Downtown Seattle Association, or the Chamber, or a business owner who's been loud and vocal, but we're actually not doing the same thing in other neighborhoods where just regular people are living.

In fact, we're displacing the problems that existed in the downtown area to other communities - freely admitting it and saying, hey, we just spent the money that we could have spent to house people - which is the biggest problem of homelessness is people lacking houses - and we're treating this like a criminal solution and basically putting the problem into your lap now. And doing a victory lap because this one block downtown is clear for now. It just does not make much sense to me. And I just feel like so many people are just like, well, you don't care and you want all the sidewalks to be like this. No, no one does. We just want to actually not keep kicking the can down the road and waste the money that we could be using to actually solve this problem.

[00:28:33] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Absolutely - and I also think that there's - I don't really understand why there is so much comfort in subsidizing downtown businesses using all the resources there to make sure that they can have what they want, but everybody else has to deal with the fallout and they just have to take it on. But like downtown - their sidewalks, everything - the City as a whole pays to subsidize clearing those blocks for them and for their businesses. And I don't understand why anyone is okay with that idea, especially because yes, we're not talking about solutions. And I think that if you're not talking about getting people housed, then you are just talking about moving the problem around.

And there's a lot of reasons why - you were talking about people might refuse services, but there's also - and they're very real. Like you said, there's a community aspect that is the only thing that's keeping a lot of people truly alive, truly safe, truly alive - the modicum of safety and life that they have. And that's not considered. And I think that it's a very convenient - to say, well, they refused services - but it's just like, well, did you give them a three-night hotel voucher where they can't take any of their belongings? And so therefore they know if I do this, then I'm going to be out again in three days and I'm not going to have any of the things that I need to survive. There's a lot more that goes into decisions about what services to accept and not, rather than just personal preference. And I think that's how it gets sold - is like, oh, well, you maybe don't like this, but that's what there is. And it's just - first of all, I think people should have choices. But second, we're talking about the difference between life and death.

And so the idea that, and this is what I would see in court all the time too, especially around issues like addiction or not having shelter is - well, if we just punish you harder, then you won't be like this anymore. I'm - this person lives under a bridge and is fighting for their life. I don't know how much lower we can take this - there's no point in making people who are suffering suffer more. I think there's this idea that they'll just suffer more and then they'll just stop - suffer more and then they'll magically have money to move into an apartment that costs twice as much as it did five years ago? That's this weird, magical thinking that is really, I guess, hypnotic on some level, but it's really pervasive. And we can see that it hasn't worked, so I don't really understand clinging to those notions.

But yeah, that's where we are. And it's incredibly - I saw a picture the other day of some bike officers at a sweep and there was 12 of them just in the picture - and if you think about median income for a sworn police officer for SPD, I think it's $163,000. So even just looking - if we just rounded to $150k - 12 officers at $150k in this picture - that's almost $2,000 an hour. And I'm sure that was only a small number of the officers that were there. So in addition to parks, in addition to all of the other services that may or may not be provided - we're spending gigantic amounts of money to make the problem worse. And that just doesn't make any sense.

If you want people off the sidewalk - I do too, this is horrible. Yeah, and I think there is this idea that if you say you don't like sweeps, then you must love people living in the street. And I think it's the complete opposite - you can be in favor of the sweeps, but you are not in favor of getting people off the street. You are in favor of getting people off your street temporarily. So it really - but I think it's really hard for people when the narrative is, oh, they're refusing services - as if people are being offered an apartment and they're saying, you know what - I really like it outside in the cold and rain. Yeah, it's hard, it's hard, there's - the media around this issue is really hard, making it really difficult for a lot of people.

[00:33:30] Crystal Fincher: I agree with that. Another thing that we saw this week was the City Attorney Office pivoting back to a strategy - another strategy that we've seen unveiled many times before - an initiative to target "high utilizers" of the criminal justice system. And so Ann Davison has identified - I think it was 118 individuals who they say are responsible, 118 "high utilizers" who "create a disproportionate impact on public safety in Seattle." And so there have been similar initiatives launched in 2012 and 2019. And you may have heard other terms like high-impact offenders, prolific offenders - but this is the same strategy that they're using there. These clearly were not successful programs in the past, but we are returning to them. And certainly this is something that has been championed by more conservative folks, by the "law and order crowd".

And we have varying opinions with this - there's a PubliCola article that goes over this - but King County Department of Public Defense Director, Anita Khandelwal, views the initiative as just repetition of a failed strategy, saying, "Over the last decade, the city has repeatedly announced similarly named initiatives that would focus more law enforcement resources on those already most policed as a strategy for addressing public safety. This is a tired strategy of arresting, prosecuting and jailing. It's expensive and clearly ineffective." Lisa Daugaard, the co-executive director of the Public Defender Association and co-founder of the LEAD diversion program, who we've talked about before - most recently supportive of the failed Compassion Seattle initiative - sees potential for success, saying the initiative is built on a solid foundation - addressing the needs of "high utilizers" on a case-by-case basis. She believes Davison could avoid the errors of past crackdowns by pushing her counterparts in city and county governments to expand programs like LEAD to accommodate a new surge in clients.

Also, Lisa admits that if LEAD took on all 118 of those people's clients, they would not have any more capacity for additional clients in the future. And again, it's important to note that it does not appear that Ann Davison has expressed at all that she has any interest in diverting these programs to LEAD, or any other diversion program that is focused on treating more root causes to prevent this recidivism and reoffense that has been a hallmark of just arresting and jailing people. We have to do different things in order to get a different result. What do you think about this?

[00:36:47] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: I think it's funny - the repackaging every year - Ann really sold herself as this - someone so opposite of what Pete Holmes did, but now she's - this is the same exact thing. And it really is just window dressing in my opinion. And the idea that we can spend more on law enforcement and it's going to help is so ridiculous. The one thing that the 118 people that were identified have in common is none of them have shelter.

[00:37:28] Crystal Fincher: Literally none?

[00:37:30] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Right. Yeah. No, none of them do. They're all unsheltered. And so instead of spending this astronomical amount of money on more law enforcement, why don't we put money into housing? Because also when you look at the breakdown of the repeat crimes, it's usually low-level shoplifts and trespassing, which is just sleeping under an awning. And so how much of that could we just remove by getting people sheltered? And that seems to be the last solution. It's just - try everything else, except for providing shelter and services to people, which are so - it's so much less expensive to house someone and give them wraparound services - wraparound services like onsite case management, medication management, things like that - is so much less expensive than putting them in jail. And it's stable, right?

Because no matter how much you hate that someone sleeps under an awning or steals a sandwich, no matter how much you dislike that, the criminal justice system will always fail to provide a solution because it's a temporary thing. The maximum sentence on almost every misdemeanor is - well, the maximum sentence is either 90 days or 364 days. And with the way jail time works, everyone's going to be back out on the street in 9 months - that's the max. We cannot just think of jail as this permanent housing solution and permanent incapacitation solution for low-level misdemeanors that could be so - I don't want to say easily, because it's not easy - it's not getting people into affordable housing, we don't have any first of all. And it's not an easy solution, but it's the only one that actually makes any sense.

And I think that when we talk about LEAD or any of these other things, we're just putting more money where it doesn't belong. I don't think lawyers and cops should not be dealing with these situations. That's not where the money should go. The money should go to service providers, to housing, to professionals that deal with addiction or mental health issues - that's where the money needs to go and those are prioritized the least, and it's all about arrests and incarceration. And again, it's just like the sweeps - you're kicking the can - there's nothing about that that's going to solve the problem. And so no matter how many times someone gets arrested for these things, they're going to get out of jail. If it doesn't escalate into a felony and we're talking about the people that are these "high utilizers", or a couple years ago repeat offenders or prolific offenders, we're talking about a lot of misdemeanors. We're not talking about people with a bunch of murders or something like that.

[00:40:24] Crystal Fincher: Committing violent crime, assaults - that type of thing.

[00:40:27] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Yeah, so if we're talking about this low-level stuff, there's - it's a completely inadequate response that sucks up all of the resources needed to actually combat the problem.

[00:40:39] Crystal Fincher: It does, and it is a real challenge. We have done this before, it has not worked. We keep spending resources on what has been proven to not work, while simultaneously demanding data that proves that doing anything else will completely solve this issue, and create a nirvana and just be the end-all and be-all, when that is actually not the standard that we're applying with our humongous expenditure of resources.

And just another reminder that jail is really expensive. It costs a whole lot of money. The criminal, just our entire criminal legal system is a really, really costly system. So we do have a lot of resources available - we continue to make choices to spend them on lawyers, on jailing people, on all of the people and buildings and apparatus to support that. And when we actually have tons of data that that does not fix this problem - in fact, it is likely to make it worse. And so if we are focused on data-driven approaches, that is what is clearly being indicated - what we have a long track record locally that we can draw on that proves that, but certainly also looking nationally - so much data to back that up. We will have to see.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was a story that came out this week - David Kroman wrote about it in the Times - with Harrell postponing Seattle Police Department's plan to crack down on disorderly conduct at Third Avenue bus stops. The police department was looking at using the City's criminal code regulating disorderly conduct on buses - things like smoking, playing loud music, littering, drinking alcohol, "loud raucous and harassing behavior" and other conduct that is inconsistent with the intended use and purpose of the transit facility, transit station or transit vehicle. These have often not been cited.

We will put it in the episode notes - there's actually an article I need to track down by a bus driver that I thought was really thoughtful. And it does seem like it is a fact that there is more disruptive activity happening on buses than there was before. This bus driver was thoughtful and like, yeah, this is happening - and also there are lots of reasons why it's happening, and there are lots of reasons why taking a criminalizing approach may not be helpful, why taking a different kind of the law and order thing or just kicking people off buses may not be helpful. It's a complicated thing to solve. We do need to acknowledge that driver safety is important, that rider safety is important, but also have the lens that if we want to address this problem - again, like the conversation we just had - simply arresting and jailing someone actually doesn't fix and solve the problem. A lot of times this is a result and a symptom of failures in so many other places of people not having access to mental health treatment that they need, of substance use disorder treatment that they need, public health problems that we actually don't have those facilities for. What is your view on this, and on Mayor Harrell's decision to actually step in and postpone it?

[00:44:34] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: I think it's interesting because again, like as we already talked about, it's not a solution. There's lots of reasons for why these things are happening and it's not because there's lax enforcement. First of all, there is enforcement on buses - I've had many bus cases myself and there is some degree of enforcement. Is that something that's going to - or has that been working? Is it going to continue to work? Is the scope of the problem in a lack of enforcement? And it doesn't really seem to be. Like you said, there's lots of reasons that these things are happening. And when we're talking about mental health, addiction, housing - all of these things - addressing these things are going to help with those issues, but that's not what we put money towards. We just keep throwing it at this system that is not working.

It's interesting to me that it was walked back - they're putting that on pause. And I wonder is that because they realize - oh, that's actually not going to make that much of a difference - but there's also the fact that buses and bus shelters are not under the City's jurisdiction. Those are county issues, so maybe that was not known - I don't know - beforehand. But when the City talks about cracking down on things going on on the buses, they don't have the jurisdiction to do that. So that could be one reason why it got walked back as well.

[00:46:10] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. That's really interesting because - very clearly talking about enforcing things on buses - which yes, there is a jurisdiction issue there - but it also looks like they were planning to take action within 25 feet of transit stops. Is that defined as - technically the stop facility - or is there, I guess that's a really technical and wonky question, but I could totally imagine, to your point, that there are jurisdictional questions.

[00:46:49] Nicole Thomas-Kennedy: Yeah, I don't know what that - I have not looked that up. No, I think that's under City jurisdiction - that would be under City jurisdiction. Yeah. Just not anything on a bus - I don't think would be. But yeah, I would have to look that up, but I do think that would be the City still. It just depends - there's different parts of the City, like when - I won't go into jurisdictional issues, because no one wants to talk about those things for long periods of time - but they don't have as much control. Let me just say - they don't have as much control over things going on on a bus as they think they do. If someone's committing a felony on the bus, then SPD could potentially get involved, but it's still - it's going to be prosecuted by the county. And if it's misdemeanors, the misdemeanors on a bus are also going to be prosecuted by the county, because of county - see, I could go on, it could be a really long time.

[00:47:47] Crystal Fincher: Well, I just learned something because I did not know that misdemeanors committed on a bus would be prosecuted by the county and not city. Very interesting - these discussions are very interesting. But I think overall we'll just keep our eyes peeled on it and continue to update on it.

Just another quick update in terms of the concrete workers strike - there was talk this week about some of them potentially returning to some job sites as a show of good faith and an attempt to lessen the impact on the greater community. That seems to have had mixed results and a mixed outcome where some talked about returning, others didn't. One particular company looked like workers were willing to return and the company was unwilling to let them work again. But again, we've seen city and county leaders say that they want a quick resolution and that this is impacting various projects around the county, but also workers need fair conditions. And the workers are saying, hey, they're asking us - when you consider inflation - to take a hit to our salary, to healthcare benefits, and to our pension - it's across the board. And companies saying, but we're technically offering more money than we did before and so it should all be good. And still not doing much to come to the table and participating in this activity - hoping that public pressure just forces the workers back and they can just ride out the storm and do nothing, and hope that public pressure does some negotiating on their behalf.

So we will continue to follow it - the county, we had talked about before, had tried to issue an RFP to other companies to try and work around this and have greater protections for unionization and worker conditions. And that - no one responded to that RFP actually, so we seem to just be in this position - and unless there is some specific call or pressure, it seems like - on the companies to negotiate in better faith and to move closer to the workers, it looks like we're going to be stuck in this position for quite some time. So we will continue to see how that unfolds.

And again, I thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on today, Friday, March 18th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler, assistant producer Shannon Cheng, with assistance from Emma Mudd. And our wonderful co-host today is criminal defense attorney, abolitionist and activist, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. You can find Nicole on Twitter @ntkallday, and you should be following Nicole. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcast - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced on the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.