Week in Review: May 19, 2023 - with EJ Juárez

Week in Review: May 19, 2023 - with EJ Juárez

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by the former Director of Progressive Majority who has now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juárez.

They discuss today being the final day for this year’s candidates to declare their candidacy for elected office, the legislature’s decision to make personal possession of drugs a gross misdemeanor, Crosscut laying off women reporters in a pivot to podcast and video, Marc Dones’ resignation as CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, and Seattle reclaiming the title of America’s fastest growing city.

About the Guest

EJ Juárez

EJ Juárez is the former Director of Progressive Majority who has now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington.

Find EJ Juárez on Twitter/X at @EliseoJJuarez.


Becka Johnson Poppe, Candidate for King County Council District 4 from Hacks & Wonks

King County Council races begin to take shape by David Gutman from The Seattle Times

Washington to Paper Over Drug War with Some Treatment Money by Ashley Nerbovig from The Stranger

OPINION | In Special Session, Lawmakers Are Hiding Behind a False Moral Imperative to Justify the War on Drugs by Jude Ahmed for South Seattle Emerald

Slog AM: Crosscut Lays Off Five Newsroom Staff, LA Pride Pulls Out of Dodgers Pride Event, Bouncy Castle King Accused of Arson by Nathalie Graham from The Stranger

Regional Homelessness Authority CEO resigns by Greg Kim from The Seattle Times

Why Did Marc Dones Resign? by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger

Seattle is once again the fastest-growing big city, census data shows by Gene Balk from The Seattle Times


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday midweek - our Tuesday topical show - I chat with Becka Johnson Poppe about her campaign for King County Council District 4 - why she decided to run, the skillset she brings from overseeing half of King County's $16 billion budget, and her thoughts on addressing human services sector wages, issues plaguing the King County Jail, housing and homelessness, drug possession and substance use disorder, climate change and air quality, and budget transparency and efficiency.

However, today we're continuing our Friday almost-live 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: the former Director of Progressive Majority who's now transitioned into public service and remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juárez.

[00:01:34] EJ Juárez: Hi, Crystal - thanks for having me back.

[00:01:36] Crystal Fincher: Hey - always excited to have you and your perspective on the show. Today is Friday, May 19th. For people who are involved in or adjacent to politics, this is known as the last day of filing week - the week where candidates officially declare their candidacy to run for a position on the ballot. We have hundreds and hundreds of positions up for election in Washington State. Here in King County, there are some interesting races shaping up. We will see - the deadline is 4 p.m. today - what the official candidate field looks like. We're nearing the end. There's usually a flurry of late additions just before the end of the last day of filing. I guess - what are your thoughts as we head into this final day?

[00:02:24] EJ Juárez: My thoughts are - I love Friday of filing week. It is my favorite day of filing week because you get to go hang out at Elections and watch the folks at 3:50 p.m. that are standing around watching which races don't have anybody filed, so they can get a free pass or where they're gonna jump in. But I think some of the most exciting races out there right now - King County Council is starting to fill up with some late additions to the pack, especially in some races that looked fairly settled where we had clear challengers and clear insurgent candidates - and now we've got a different mix happening. And I would not be surprised if many organizations who were planning to do early endorsements are putting a pause on those plans because of new faces that are getting in - and just the pure number of folks that are running for some of these open seats, whether that is King County, City of Seattle, or some of the suburbs.

[00:03:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. This week, we did see a new dimension in one King County Council race - I believe it's District 4 - to replace Councilmember Kohl-Welles. And already in the race were Sarah Reyneveld and Rebecca Johnson Poppe. This week, we had Jorge Barón join the race, formerly of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project - that's where I'm certainly familiar with him from. And this is gonna be a really interesting race and I don't know how it's gonna wind up.

[00:03:40] EJ Juárez: Yeah, I think of all the King County Council races this year, this is the one that excites me the most - because there are three really great candidates who are bringing such different perspectives and have such different, I think, experiences that they would supplement the Council with. Certainly with Becka - newcomer, bringing a really deep set of experiences from her own personal and professional life. But then Sarah, who I don't think it is a surprise to anybody - who has been fairly widely known to be running for this for quite a while now, and now the opportunity is here. And then Jorge, which was a complete surprise and I think now within the last week has caught a lot of people off guard and really thrown a wrench into - certainly, Sarah and Becka's campaign plans, I'm sure. His decades of advocacy and his quite frankly historic leadership at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project would bring some really interesting perspectives to council as well as that race - representing a part of Seattle that has not always led on some of those issues. And Sarah being an Assistant Attorney General - I am so excited to see what issues bubble to the top and how this plays out. How about you?

[00:04:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I'm interested - I'm certainly interested - three people who have formidable resumes behind them in different ways, but certainly all who have, I think, valuable perspectives to be shared. I think a lot of people are going to be wondering - hey, they clearly know what they're doing, they're professional, but what does that mean in terms of votes and how they're going to represent me and fight for the issues that are important to me? To not just be a vote, but to be a leading advocate for the issues that are important to me. How can I trust that? And I think how well each of those candidates addresses that is going to make a difference in how people view them and see them. Because we do have a lot of people who make a lot of promises, get elected, and then the way they vote doesn't quite turn out how people assumed based on their value statements. So it's gonna be really interesting to examine and see - those are not necessarily critiques of anyone in this race at all - just one of those overall things that will be interesting to follow.

[00:05:49] EJ Juárez: It'll also be expensive. I cannot even imagine right now how much money will be spent in this primary, especially given the deep networks of all three of these candidates - I would expect this to be a very expensive seat.

[00:06:03] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that is probably a lock on that one - maybe a historically expensive King County Council District race. We will see. I'm also just curious to see - certainly in the City of Seattle, a number of the larger cities - candidates usually start early. Late filing week doesn't usually - we don't usually get significant surprises today, or people who enter the race and you're like - Okay, they are in a prime position to win this thing. But for most of the suburbs and other cities that are not the handful of large cities, that's not the case. And the Friday of filing week brings just a flurry of activity. Names that pop up - some people are familiar with, some people aren't. But these city council races across the state, school district races - which are definitely extremely important to pay attention to. Don't know that we'll have any Municipal or Superior Court Judge races here in King County, but there certainly are elsewhere in the state. So some of those races that - once again - don't necessarily get top billing in the news, that people are clamoring over and paying attention to. But that are vitally important to just the daily lives of people - where we see sometimes in coverage of national politics and Congress, the debates that they're having in other states, the legislation that they're passing that are obliterating people's civil rights - particularly trans people at this point in time. But the eradication of teaching anything basically, but white-approved material, and not teaching any kind of LGBTQ queer history, any kind of ethnic history - to the people who are here and who've made contributions to our country and our communities. And this is happening here locally. We have people trying to ban books here locally, people talking about taking away funds from public education to go to vouchers and private education and dismantling parts of the system. These are really important races that don't get a lot of attention, but I hope wherever you are listening from - you pay attention to in your community, because they make a big difference and your vote just counts so much more in those elections because so many people don't vote. A few people can make a really big difference. So we will keep our eyes on who files today.

Also this week, there was a one-day special session on the 16th to address legislation - known as Blake legislation - coming out of our State Supreme Court's Blake decision a couple of years back, which invalidated - basically struck down personal possession laws for substances, illegal substances - drugs, basically. This didn't have anything to do with dealing, distribution, paraphernalia - but for simple possession, it said that the existing law was invalid, which made the Legislature act. And at the time - this was either two or three years ago, pandemic time is weird for me - they intervened, made possession a regular misdemeanor. And at the time, the justification for that was - hey, we know that decriminalization is the right thing to do. We don't think we have adequate supports in place yet. So let's double down on providing resources to localities and counties to make sure that they have treatment services, diversion services established so that we aren't doing nothing, that we are doing something to address the problem. And we'll put a sunset in this bill for 2023 so that we can revisit this, hopefully things have progressed as we've intended, and we can then proceed with decriminalization. So they did that - I believe in 2021.

And this year comes around - maybe - it was probably 2020. This year comes around - sunset's happening, they have to deal with this legislation. And during the regular session, they were not able to come to an agreement. There was certainly a significant faction of people who followed evidence and data and said - This should be treated like a public health problem. The War on Drugs has failed - we need to move in a different direction in order to finally address this and improve this problem. Others were in favor of a misdemeanor. Others wanted a gross misdemeanor - which, for people who don't know, gross misdemeanors can actually carry jail time and fines that exceed that of the lowest level felony penalty. As people talk about this, felonies certainly are a different class of crime, and stay on your record differently, and happens differently in background searches. But one of the things we do know is that jail is very destabilizing. And taking someone out of their community, away from their job, away from their family for that amount of time has - as any criminologist will tell you - proven to be more destabilizing than helpful, which is why locking people up for jail is frowned upon by most people who actually study this. It's viewed as counterproductive, making the problem worse and not better. And if we look at the War on Drugs over the past 40 years - I did the DARE program when I was in elementary school - we've only gone backwards in that time after spending billions, if not trillions, of dollars in that time on this War on Drugs. So when we had this decision, it was really viewed this time coming up - hey, they stated their intention when they first passed this legislation, now it's time to continue to work and do the job.

Now - real talk - we did have a pandemic that slowed down some of this implementation, so it's not a shocking surprise that all of the infrastructure wasn't there. But it seemed like it was a time to double down on actually getting that done instead of just walking backwards and moving towards a gross misdemeanor. How did you feel about this?

[00:11:44] EJ Juárez: I had a lot of thoughts. And first and foremost, I think the thought that comes to my mind the most is that - and you brought it up a couple of times - we are collectively still in a pandemic. And during that pandemic, many people's access and proximity to services to help them either in recovery or manage their life sober went away. And at the same time as many of those services and support systems - whether that was a person, or a formal group, or medical assistance - was taken away from people, they became isolated. And the expansion and explosion of addiction and dependency issues is here in our communities. And for as much as I love a good sunset in public policy - just like I love the ability to evaluate if our policies are going well - in this case, this is one of the ones that I think is well-timed to really say - Does this meet where we are as a community and a state right now? How are we gonna make this last and make good policy?

And I think unfortunately, what we saw in this one-day special session from the Legislature was not necessarily the most bold solution and was not a solution that was - I think really, in my opinion - based on helping the most amount of people become the person that they wish to be, but instead was a failure of leadership to count votes within their own caucus. And I think - as much as I think the Speaker is an incredibly historic figure and I think having her leadership has definitely changed the nature of our House - we watched this fail to pass in the regular session, having to come back, and watch Democrats fight other Democrats on a bill that should not have been that contentious.

[00:13:30] Crystal Fincher: And that's such an important point - and especially that this is really about Democrats. Democrats control both the House and the Senate - and the Governor's office - by healthy margins. And sometimes we hear that - Well, Republicans won't let us do that. That wasn't actually the case here. And I'm very curious to hear more information about the negotiation that took place - because there are a couple things that were odd to me. One, the motivation for acting - for why it was so important to step in for the state, for our Legislature to step in and make a law - was that there is a fear that patchwork legislation on-the-ground in cities would create a wild variance between laws in different cities and counties. So - hey, it could be a felony in one place and completely legal in another place, and that could be problematic in people not knowing what the deal is within a particular jurisdiction.

In reality, what actually happened was that there seemed to be a coalescing of opinion on the Republican side - because we saw a number of Republican mayors, county council people step up in the last month or so of session, when it became clear that it was definitely a possibility that Blake legislation may not pass, certainly not during the session. And they said - You know what? If the Legislature doesn't act, we will step in. But what they said they would step in with did not exceed a gross misdemeanor anywhere. In fact, there were some Republicans, including Republican Reagan Dunn on the King County Council, who were proposing misdemeanor. And so I'm wondering who Democrats were actually negotiating with here. It doesn't seem like it was Republicans - because in that situation, Democrats seemingly would have been where the base was at. And the State Democratic Party passed a resolution saying that they favored decriminalization, and as an absolute last-ditch effort in a negotiation - a misdemeanor. Certainly nothing as far as a gross misdemeanor. So as they were negotiating, if that's the Republican starting position - is gross misdemeanor - where were Democrats at? And how did we only wind up at the exact place where Republicans - some MAGA Republicans - were at, right? We have not heard anyone talk about felonizing this. So what was this negotiation? It doesn't seem like we were negotiating with Republicans. And so if this was just where Democrats were at - this seems like this would be the result if this is just where Democrats were at.

[00:16:03] EJ Juárez: Yeah, and I think it's just an important point to really explore - when Democrats are negotiating with Democrats, you have to look at two different places. One, who's recruiting the people that are at the negotiating table, right? And two, the folks that are at the negotiating table - what is their personal ambition? And I think we have a number of people this year that are watching openings coming up for Attorney General or other positions - where taking a vote that would have aligned with the Party that they support and identify as would have, anecdotally, hurt them in their own opinion. The polls do not support that opinion. The population does not support that opinion. And unfortunately we let, I think, individual elected officials' own personal ambition probably influence these negotiations, right? I wasn't in that room. But it is not unreasonable to assume that when you recruit more moderate candidates than the actual party that they identify with and the planks in that party's platform, that they are going to be pulling from the left towards the center - which allows the right much more room to hold on to that gross misdemeanor line that they have in the sand here.

It was particularly telling with the quotes that came - I think that were published in The Seattle Times right after this kind of failure to get across the finish line before sine die happened - that this was a Democratic problem and this was an own goal on Democrats. I'm glad that they did get something done. But again, if it doesn't match the Party, I'm really curious what accountability looks like, especially for those legislators in King County where they do not have either their local LD or their county parties in alignment with perhaps the vote that they took.

[00:17:47] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that's going to be very interesting to see. We have heard some legislators try and justify this by saying - Well, we got some additional money in for some services. And wow, when you look at the actual money that was there and added - one, I would argue that that money was always going to be part of the package. Two, it's so minute in comparison to anything else. If you were negotiating with that, it seems like there would be something more substantial that happened than the money that actually ended up being tacked on at the end. And I don't know that that justifies a wholesale criminalization statewide with no sunset. This is now just the policy moving forward that is, as you say, not in alignment with local parties and is not in alignment with evidence. And we're saying we have limited resources. And this costs money - criminalizing something, arresting people, jailing people, prosecuting people costs so much money. And so the limited resources that we do have are once again being spent in a direction that we know can't fix this, while we're starving the resources and somehow trying to justify throwing some coins in the other direction, saying - Well, this is gonna be part of improving it. It's just really difficult to see how this is really going to improve things.

[00:19:16] EJ Juárez: And I know we need to move on, but my last point on this is really - this is where the lack of a real robust advocacy organization in our state that does this work - that brings in the stories and brings in the experiences at a scale that can hold legislators accountable - their absence is profound in these moments, right? Our ecosystem of advocacy organizations that influence policy has some pretty deep holes when it comes to some of these issue areas, and this is one of them. And I don't mean to discount the groups that are doing great work in this space, but those that are doing hard, (c)(4)-dollar, political expenditures that can engage in political activities is fairly thin. And I can't help but believe that if we had a more robust set of advocacy organizations that were playing in the political side, we would have better policy and we would actually get to the problem of the systems. Because we can't buy our way out of these problems with just more funding for services - we need to change systems, and that starts with how robust our advocacy systems are and how good our candidates are once they get into office.

[00:20:23] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also in the news this week is a local layoff - a local media layoff. Crosscut - Cascade Public Media, which is Crosscut's parent company, announced that it intends to lay off five newsroom employees - all women, by the way, two of them happen to be women of color, some with seniority over other people there. They're laying them off effective July 1st - in a pivot to video and podcast. This is just reminiscent of the mid-2010s and the really perilous, tragic pivot to video - that wound up being based on gerrymandered metrics - that led to a real decimation of many newsrooms across the country. And we're seeing this - some newsrooms have cited AI, there's recent - MTV News is closing, BuzzFeed News is shuttering. So many local media outlets are struggling and making do with so many fewer staff than they used to have. But this is really curious from Cascade Public Media. They're not saying they don't have the money to continue employment. They're just saying we're shifting directions - we're moving to podcast and video. We're gonna lay these people off and we're gonna replace them with additional video and podcast producers. Joseph O'Sullivan - to his credit - who is a white male reporter there called out online - Hey, curious to see why I'm safe from these layoffs here - I don't have seniority, but I definitely noticed that everyone laid off was a woman, two of whom were women of color - that just doesn't seem like it makes that much sense. Certainly not a good look. How did you see this?

[00:22:09] EJ Juárez: I, and maybe this is the most inappropriate way to articulate this, but every time I have seen or heard a media company say they are pivoting to video and podcasting, I think that is really the death rattle, right? That didn't work for VICE, who just had a historic bankruptcy just this past week. It's not working for BuzzFeed, which is shuttering its newsroom. It didn't work for so many other companies. This is how I think big corporations - and in this case, public media - preserves its assets while it's winding down its obligations. The true cost is - we are in Washington state, I think, at a real critical juncture around how many local reporters we have left covering city halls, school board meetings, library trustee meetings. And all the sites that have suddenly become the most contentious sites of culture wars - we now lack the journalistic infrastructure to actually tell us why those places are becoming so politicized and why they are becoming the place where these fights are happening.

It is incredibly disappointing that Crosscut - to me - has made this pivot because podcasting and video doesn't give you investigation. Podcasting and video doesn't give you the ability to do the long-term relationship building behind the scenes where you're developing sources and you are cultivating broad swaths of information from different people. What it does is it gives you the ability to be on somebody's TikTok as they're scrolling in their bed at night. But I would say the issues that we're facing are much more deep than 30 seconds can provide any one person. And the dearth of long-form reporting is what is going to kill this republic. The fact that we don't have the ability to go deep on why water treatment systems are so difficult to fund and renovate and keep operational - because they're unseen and unsexy, right? So it's incredibly sad to me. And I think it is even more telling that - as Crosscut probably increased their donor rolls on the backs of their highly promoted people of color coverage, are now laying off those very same reporters that brought in new donors. And I don't think that's lost on anybody. I think that this is what happens. You bring in folks to do the racial work, to do the work in communities that traditional media has not been able to do - and then they're first out the door after they've made their profit for the bosses.

[00:24:36] Crystal Fincher: And we've seen this replay in so many different layoff scenarios exactly as you just laid out - whether it's mass media, whether it's news - it's just frustrating. Certainly a lot being talked about in - is AI part of this? We've heard in other layoffs cited that - well, AI can do so much more than it used to do, and we can rely on that for some of this. Or - hey, not lost on us, right? We're talking on a podcast - talking about how a pivot to podcast is not the thing to do, but it's not. That's - it's a different thing. And sure, supplement reporting and coverage with that, but to just replace it - like you said, this is what happens before they die. And it's also not lost on people that this is seeming - this is not the first action that people have felt in this direction. When they cut off their community editorial, guest editorial program - which did a really, really good job - was something that picked up a lot of support and steam, actually talking about on-the-ground solutions to many of the issues that plague us. One of the reasons I do this podcast is because I'm - I get so frustrated with the lack of conversation about actual solutions about what works - Should we address this or not? Not how do we address this? What are the options on the table? And there are usually a lot of options on the table that even people who consider themselves aligned politically can disagree on, different things need to be tested and tried out - there's so much to talk about in terms of how we solve things. And that series was really informative in that reason.

And it was rumored - because of some board leadership or new leadership that came aboard, they felt like that was catering too much to progressive forces where it's - this is Seattle, that this is serving. It is reflective of the community that it is serving. But certainly if you are not living in Seattle, or if you do not interact with many people from Seattle, you may think that it is more appropriate to do that. Wasn't lost on people that - in the Crosscut Ideas Festival, people were platformed with severely anti-trans views, advocating for punitive criminal legal system policies and procedures, the othering of so many people, criminalization of homelessness and poverty. And Michael Cohen was there. Just things that made a lot of people scratch their heads and say - one, what in the world anywhere, but especially in Seattle, what is happening? What's even going on? So it just seems like the people who are making decisions just have a different alignment. And even though they said this decision was partly in place to pursue a younger audience - seemed like they were doing that - and they're getting rid of the people who were successful at doing that.

[00:27:31] EJ Juárez: I think you hit the nail on the head of - this idea of pursuing a younger audience is not always pivot to video. It is reductive to assume that young people cannot consume anything more than 30 seconds. And it also does them a disservice when this is an incredibly politicized set of young people and set of generations that are hungry to understand their world in really complex and nuanced ways, and Crosscut has missed that boat. For me, what I think of a lot when I think of Crosscut now - and especially after the last Ideas Festival, which to me was less about ideas and more about provocative speakers to bolster their brand - was really this idea that you touched on around Crosscut had a moment in which it was super relevant. And that moment of relevancy was incredibly dense, but it was on the upswing and it was with those editorials. It was with the expansion of their reporting. What Crosscut did not do is capture its own growth and capture that moment, and instead pivoted towards a very traditional understanding of how that business needed to be run. They benefited greatly by the Seattle PI shutting down its very last legs of local content. And frankly, at the same time, as The Stranger really losing a lot of its best reporters and watching their own newsroom shrink and the quality is what it is now. But I think there's definitely a market change in both the Seattle and Puget Sound landscape, and Crosscut is such a cautionary tale of watching a group of people not capture their moment.

[00:29:03] Crystal Fincher: Cautionary tale indeed. There was a point in time where - everyone I knew was tuning in to Crosscut, checking out Crosscut and what was there - the coverage was just so relevant locally. You really nailed it. And it's a shame that they moved in a different direction and it's certainly is not what it was, and moving further away - by the day, evidently. The union that represents those employees does say that they do plan on fighting this, that it doesn't seem like this transpired fairly. And so we'll definitely be paying attention to how this unfolds over the next weeks and months.

Also this week, we got news that Marc Dones from the King County Regional Homeless Authority is stepping down and resigning from his position. How do you see his tenure and, I guess, the establishment - 'cause he basically built the thing from the ground up - of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority?

[00:29:58] EJ Juárez: I think this one is so complex. I think there are many reasons why we're in this place and this surprise resignation - that maybe wasn't so much of a surprise. I feel like - for the past year, the only thing we've heard about the Regional Homelessness Authority in the news has been terrible. It has been punch after punch after punch where the nuts and bolts of that organization have left the folks on the ground doing the hardest work waiting to be paid, waiting to get the funds that they're promised. We've also seen, I think in some ways, a somewhat confrontational approach from that organization with the very regional structure that it's supposed to uphold. One of the things I think with this is I think Marc - I do not know Marc - and my interactions with that organization are as a spectator and somebody who depends on them to do the great work that they've set out to do. The vision that that organization set forth is incredible. And unfortunately, I think that in order for any organization to develop on an incredible vision, you have to build a great team. And unfortunately, that's an organization that did not build a regional team in order to execute on that vision. So you can be bold and visionary, but if you don't have the chops and you don't have the ability to bring a team with you - ideas are a dime a dozen, but true organizers and folks that can bring folks with them - I think that is what that organization desperately needs in its next leader.

[00:31:25] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, for me, it feels like this was a challenging task from the outset. And I don't know that there was even the alignment between the regional parties involved that would have supported anything, but what had been happening in a status-quo-type of path moving forward. People who know me have probably had this conversation with me, but - even the formation of this regional homelessness authority felt like - we heard, certainly Ed Murray when he was the mayor, talk about the need for regional solutions. Several people talk about the need for a regional solution. To me, it always felt like that was an excuse and a way to escape accountability for local action, for action in their purview and in their jurisdiction. Certainly there was a lot more that a - Mayor Ed Murray, Mayor Jenny Durkan could have and should have done to address this - that they just didn't. They didn't agree with, they didn't execute on. And here we have now Mayor Harrell. And it just seemed like the vision that Marc Dones laid forth and the vision that you heard from local leaders like Mayor Harrell or some housing providers were never in alignment. And it seemed like there were silos there. It seems like there was some feeling that they needed to protect what they were doing, and maybe the Regional Homeless Authority was gonna take away some of their power or their resources. And a reaction to that was what it seemed like was happening in a few different places.

Certainly Marc Dones talked about doing things in a different way. People didn't always agree with that way. Is that on him, or is that just on a lack of alignment? Certainly they hired him, so it seems they would have hired someone who was closer to what they - the direction that they wanted to go - but it's challenging. And it took - it's hard to build an organization. And what he got dumped on him was a ton of money and said - okay, build it and go. It took longer than anticipated to build it. It does seem like they were achieving some good results, especially recently. But as you said, there were other stories always peppered in there. And for every step forward, it felt like there was a story or something about a challenge that they were facing. And even the issue of - this latest major issue where somehow, because of someone's lack of oversight - and I'm still not sure exactly who that is - this organization wound up overspending its budget by quite a lot, which could leave people evicted, basically, without any place to live through no fault of their own in this situation - was really, was a challenge. And it seemed like that was a result of a lack of alignment, and people operating in silos and not wanting to share or collaborate on what they were doing. And so I certainly hope that this next person who is stepping in can manage those relationships better, or at least level set better. And hopefully these partners will give them the tools that they need and the collaboration that they need to succeed. But we will see how this continues to play out.

Also, we got news - and I guess we will wrap up on this today - Seattle's, once again, the fastest growing city in the country. This is particularly amusing to many people in Seattle because of a long-term kind of insistence in trying to spin a narrative from some very conservative forces - in a documentary a while back that was pretty hyperbolic and exaggerated that "Seattle is Dying." And it's alternating between a city that's controlled by anarchists, that's being burnt down by Antifa, and being overrun by drugged-up zombies and homeless people who they characterize as all criminals and out there due to some moral failing or their own fault, right? And that just does not - it was just false. It is not the reality on the ground for most people. Most people are not fearing for their safety as they're walking throughout Seattle. They're just carrying on about their lives. And sure, there are challenges. And sure, there are people outside who shouldn't be - although the problem with that is the people outside, not people needing to see the people who are outside. And so it just is curious and interesting. And I'm wondering what you think, or why you think Seattle continues to be one of the fastest - or now the fastest - growing city in the country once again.

[00:36:06] EJ Juárez: Seattle's awesome. I think that's - I love Seattle, and I think Seattle has a problem with people saying that they love Seattle. And there is a real culture in the Puget Sound of the other cities' political leaders scoring cheap political points by dunking on Seattle, right? And at some point, the chorus of those other politicians doing that work becomes something. And that has unfortunately permeated into the City, where I wish more people were open about how much they love this place - because that's why people are moving here. That's why people want to be here. And I think especially as we look at this return-to-the-office moment that we're in, Seattle is gonna come back. And I think that the work that the Downtown Seattle Association and the Mayor's office are doing to reimagine what's possible in our downtown, given that we have so many opportunities unlike other major cities - I'm super excited about it. I also think that we might be on the first wave of climate migration. I think that it would be foolish for us not to at least consider - those who have the means and opportunities now to relocate to a place where they are less exposed to natural disasters comparatively from where they might be from, where heat swings - barring last week - are less frequent. So I think that we're well poised for a comeback and I think that this is the first maybe harbinger of that, where we've got folks coming back and we're growing again.

[00:37:44] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's a very valid point, especially talking about - now is the time with people - when people of means are making changes based on this. And I've had conversations with people about this, and people are absolutely looking at - What is the weather likely to be? Is there likely to be flooding? Is there likely to be extreme heat waves? On top of that - of the challenges brought by climate change - the challenge is brought by our failure to manage our infrastructure appropriately. Some folks in Texas - not only is it a problem with heat waves or extreme cold, but also their power being completely unreliable when that happens. Or elsewhere in the country - or water being completely unsafe to drink and unpredictable in that way. Different ways that also a failure to manage infrastructure is exacerbating our struggles with climate change and leaving people more vulnerable to that.

I also think that we are - we're, comparatively, a very educated place, a very engaged place. It's a beautiful place to live. It's not - this is one of the easier places for businesses to attract employees to come. And really that's what was behind our incredible population growth in the first place. This is a place, this is a good place to do business. We heard so many times from - whether it's the Association of Washington Cities or the Chamber or Washington Roundtable - these raises in minimum wages or this tax that the city council wants to put on businesses, it's gonna make the sky fall. Everybody's gonna leave. Everyone's gonna move out. And now they're - as the "Seattle is Dying" crowd will be - bad things are taking over Seattle. No one wants to be here. And that is just laughably false and continues to be proven laughably false. Definitely don't wanna give the impression that there are not significant challenges - there are lots of significant challenges everywhere. And the set that we have is, unfortunately across the country, a better set than many people are dealing with in other places. We should do better. We should still be doing better. But comparatively a lot of places are doing worse. Not to mention just attacks on civil rights, and people being able to be people and live their own lives in different places. And we are a place that is welcoming to people - as you talked about before. So I definitely understand why Seattle is at the top of this list and continues to return to the top of the list. I hope we do things to make it even more welcoming and inviting and support the population that is moving here, like making appropriate decisions on housing and renter protections and rent controls and preventing displacement from the continued population growth.

[00:40:40] EJ Juárez: I think a key difference, too, as we look at some of those places that are less hospitable to business - Washington was rated number one best place to open and run a business multiple times here in the last few years, including last year. But I look at places like Florida, where also massive migration to that state and also very large high profile exodus by companies out of that state - because it is so hostile given the conditions for its employees to live safe, prosperous lives within their communities. So to places like that and people that are talking about how great Florida and Texas and all these other places are, I say - Hey, Disney just canceled a billion dollar expansion in Orlando for their employees because they did not believe their employees were safe in how hostile that government was towards them. Hey, come on up to Washington. We like Mickey Mouse, let's do it.

[00:41:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we won't just exact a vendetta against a company because they didn't agree with what the governor said. So it'll be, it's certainly an interesting exercise to go over all the things that do make Seattle a pretty cool place to be - took me longer than many people to warm up to Seattle, but I have arrived, I'm here.

[00:42:06] EJ Juárez: Just wait two years, it changes every two years. You'll like one of them.

[00:42:09] Crystal Fincher: Oh goodness - with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, May 19th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is the former Director of Progressive Majority, who's now in public service and remains involved in numerous political efforts - and you all hear how insightful and intelligent he is when he's on - EJ Juárez. Thank you for joining us.

[00:42:36] EJ Juárez: Thank you.

[00:42:37] Crystal Fincher: You can find EJ on Twitter @EliseoJJuarez. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, it's two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & Wonks wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get the full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.