Week in Review: May 31, 2024 - with Erica Barnett

Ethics complaint filed in WA governor race; Seattle police chief ousted amid discrimination scandal, replaced by ex-Sheriff Sue Rahr; Councilmember Rivera's budget proviso jeopardizing equitable development funds sparked outrage

Week in Review: May 31, 2024 - with Erica Barnett

Gubernatorial Candidate Mullet Files Ethics Complaint Against Ferguson 

In the race for governor, Democratic candidate and State Senator Mark Mullet filed ethics complaints against Attorney General Bob Ferguson, alleging that Ferguson violated rules against conflicts of interest.

The complaint stems from an incident where two additional candidates named "Bob Ferguson" filed to run in an apparent attempt to confuse voters. Ferguson allegedly lobbied the Secretary of State, Steve Hobbs, to list his name first among the "Bob Fergusons" on the ballot. Hobbs, who has endorsed Mullet, refused the request. The other "Bob Fergusons" later withdrew from the race to avoid facing potential legal consequences from a law prohibiting deliberately confusing voters.

Mullet characterized Ferguson's request as an attempt to improperly influence the Secretary of State for political gain. The Ferguson campaign dismissed the complaint as a cheap ploy by Mullet to distract from his own struggling candidacy, which is currently polling in the single digits. "He seems to be behind so far. It does not appear there is a path for him, in any realistic way, to making it through the primary," assessed political consultant Crystal Fincher.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz Demoted After Discrimination Allegations

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz would be reassigned to "special assignments" and replaced by interim chief Sue Rahr, formerly the King County Sheriff. The move comes amidst multiple lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and racial discrimination within the department, including specific accusations against Chief Diaz.

Despite the severity of the charges, Mayor Harrell praised Diaz effusively at the press conference announcing the change. "If he didn't believe that all the women who have accused Diaz and others of sexual harassment and discrimination are lying, he certainly suggested it by saying that Diaz was honorable and good and essentially above reproach," remarked Erica Barnett, political reporter and editor of PubliCola.

Barnett noted the mayor's language implied the female accusers were liars, saying "He inherited the culture," exonerating Diaz of responsibility despite his 27 years with SPD.

In statements released after the press conference, Councilmembers Rob Saka and Bob Kettle struck a different tone, stating they take the allegations seriously and are very concerned.

Sue Rahr Announced as Interim Police Chief 

Sue Rahr, the newly appointed interim chief, brings a track record from her tenure as King County Sheriff from 2005 to 2012. More recently, she has been involved in reform efforts and attempts to increase the recruitment of women into law enforcement.

Last year, Rahr penned a piece in The Atlantic characterizing policing's problems as a “culture that accepts, rationalizes, and makes excuses for indefensible behavior and prioritizes group loyalty over speaking out” and “rooted in a tribal mentality, built on a false myth of a war between good and evil, fed by political indifference to the real drivers of violence in our communities.” Rahr admitted her own past role in maintaining that culture of impunity as a warning that fundamental changes are needed.

While Rahr's appointment sends an important signal, her ability to enact meaningful reform in an entrenched department culture, especially in an interim role, remains to be seen. The police chief operates under constraints including the SPOG contract and mayoral oversight, which limits their power.

Fincher suggested Rahr could use the interim period to "make decisions that may be hard, that may have been hard for Chief Diaz to make. That maybe she can look like the 'bad guy' - make some tough decisions, take the heat for that, and allow this new police chief to come in and maybe be better positioned to address the culture long term."

However, finding a permanent chief to sustain any progress may prove challenging. "The last time, in the process that resulted in Chief Diaz being appointed permanent chief, there were arguably not a deluge of great candidates that came forward," Barnett cautioned. Recruiting an outsider as Harrell intends will be difficult, and he may face pushback from those preferring an internal candidate.

With a short interim tenure envisioned and an entrenched department culture resistant to change, Rahr undoubtedly faces a daunting task. But her appointment provides a crucial opportunity to begin the difficult work of reform. 

Budget Proviso Threatens Community Development Funds  

In a move that sparked outrage from residents and community groups across the city, Seattle City Councilmember Maritza Rivera proposed a budget proviso that would have effectively defunded the city’s largest anti-displacement program, the seven-year-old Equitable Development Initiative (EDI). The program provides essential funding to dozens of BIPOC-led organizations across the city for capacity building and capital projects.

Despite hundreds of people testifying against the measure, many on extremely short notice, Councilmember Rivera dismissed their concerns. "To listen to three hours of people across the community tell you how essential this is and how harmful this proviso would be...instead of Maritza Rivera saying 'I missed the mark here. I've heard you and I'm responding' - that was not her response," said political consultant Crystal Fincher. "Her response was essentially 'You people just don't understand.' It was so disrespectful." As Erica Barnett put it: "If they didn't know who Maritza Rivera was before, they certainly do now."

Fincher noted the irony that Councilmember Rivera has previously cited displacement concerns to oppose zoning changes and housing density, yet is now attempting to defund a key anti-displacement program. Most of the EDI-funded projects are located in the districts of Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Joy Hollingsworth, with none in Rivera's district.

Other councilmembers including Tammy Morales, Joy Hollingsworth, and Dan Strauss expressed skepticism about the proviso, with Morales and Hollingsworth arguing the EDI organizations need more support, not less funding. 

A final vote for the PayUp repeal legislation and EDI proviso has been postponed until next week.

About the Guest

Erica Barnett

Erica Barnett is a Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola.

Find Erica Barnett on Twitter/X at @ericacbarnett and on PubliCola.com.

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 shows and Friday week-in-reviews delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

If you missed our Tuesday topical show, State Senator Patty Kuderer joined me to discuss her run for Insurance Commissioner - pledging to be a strong consumer advocate, push for universal health care, and get tough on insurance companies. Today, we are continuing our Friday week-in-review shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: Seattle political reporter, editor of Publicola, and co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, Erica Barnett.

[00:01:22] Erica Barnett: Hello, hello.

[00:01:24] Crystal Fincher: Hello, welcome back - we have a lot of news this week. We will start out with news this week that was a little odd in the gubernatorial race, where candidate Mark Mullet filed an ethics complaint against Bob Ferguson. What is he alleging and what happened here?

[00:01:45] Erica Barnett: So a couple of weeks ago, two additional Bob Fergusons filed to run for governor - sort of a guerrilla effort to confuse voters organized by a conservative activist - and the Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has been running for governor for quite some time, was not happy with this. And he spoke with the Secretary of State, Steve Hobbs, and asked him to put the Attorney General Bob Ferguson's name first among the Bobs on the ballot. And the Secretary of State, who has endorsed Mark Mullet for governor, refused to do this. Subsequently, the other two Bobs were struck from the ballot - there's a law that says that you can't do specifically what they were trying to do, which is confuse voters by putting people with the same name on the ballot. And so Mark Mullet, the other candidate, filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Bob Ferguson for attempting to manipulate the ballot, Mullet claims, by putting his name first. And so it's a fascinating story because first of all - the three Bobs situation as it's being called, was pretty obviously illegal from the beginning. It was a stunt. And so Bob Ferguson, the attorney general, trying to go through these extraordinary measures to make sure that his name was first - whether it's an ethics violation or not, does speak to something about his character or a certain prickliness, a certain willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure that he has, if not the upper hand, an advantage on this ballot that he just really didn't need to do. It was kind of an unforced error, and now he's the subject of this ethics complaint and these stories about him.

[00:03:17] Crystal Fincher: Obviously, not stories that you really want. And you're absolutely right - it did look like the filing by the Bobs seemed pretty illegal. You're not allowed to be purposefully confusing to voters, basically - that was clearly what this stunt set up by Republican activist Glen Morgan was doing. Aside from that, there's this issue of the ballot order. And ballot order really matters to candidates - it can influence close races because if your name is near the top of the ballot, people more frequently see that, they're less likely to skip over it. So every candidate wants their name as close to first, as close to the top of the ballot as possible. This matters a lot more in a situation like this, where you have several candidates - more than 10 candidates - so you've got to go quite a ways down the ballot if there are multiple names. And these other Bob Fergusons were going to be listed second and third on the ballot. And I think the real Bob Ferguson was going to be 13th - it was below 10 - so the hope here, certainly by Glen Morgan and these people pulling the stunt would be - Oh, they see the first name, Bob Ferguson. They just fill in that bubble, without looking to see the detail to get to the real Bob Ferguson. So I definitely understand why you would be concerned about ballot order. When I saw the ballot order, I'm like - Oh, if that sticks, that's not ideal. Definitely suboptimal. But then, trying to pressure the Secretary of State to change something. One, I just don't understand why he didn't wait until after the deadline for the Bobs to withdraw - that would have made this not even an issue. I just don't understand why he would have done that - seems like he put the cart before the horse.

And I do think it's fair to raise questions about how and whether you're using your influence to pressure public officials, especially in the climate that we are in today. This was a complaint filed with the Washington State Bar Association. It is considered unethical to use your influence to politically pressure someone to take action. The Ferguson campaign is saying this is just a cheap ploy by this guy who is kind of mad he doesn't really have a shot. He has next to no money right now, he's basically spent through all of his stuff. His prospects haven't been very good, he's polling very low. This is a desperate attempt to try and get some attention, to try and get some leg up. Mullet is saying this is a legitimate question and we should figure this out. It's going to be interesting to see how this turns out. I'm guessing it probably won't turn into anything since nothing really happened, but we'll see. The Washington State Bar Association, I think, will respond to this. They'll let it be known if they see any issue, but slow news week in the gubernatorial race and here we are with this. I don't know that even if this does turn out to be something with Bob Ferguson, that Mullet benefits or gains in any material way. He seems to be behind so far. It does not appear there is a path for him, in any realistic way, to making it through the primary. But we will see and we'll continue to follow this story.

Now, the City of Seattle made quite a bit of news this week. First piece of news that we will talk about is that Chief Adrian Diaz, who's been the Seattle Police Department police chief for several years, is out. He is no longer the chief - that doesn't necessarily mean he's not working for SPD anymore, he is in some capacity. And Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr is going to be the Interim Police Chief for the City of Seattle. How did this come about, and how was this announced?

[00:07:07] Erica Barnett: The mayor, first of all, said that this was not a panic move and we don't make decisions out of panic - we do them thoughtfully, etc., etc. However, rumors started flying about this on Monday night. Apparently, it was a fairly swift decision and we don't know if there was a specific bit of information that was revealed to the mayor that caused him to just say - Look, I can't stand by this guy as chief anymore. But on Wednesday afternoon, the mayor announced that Chief Diaz would now be in charge of "special projects" - did not define what those special projects will be, although people did ask. And that Sue Rahr, who's a former King County sheriff, who has worked on police recruitment and is involved in the 30 x 30 initiative to get more women on police forces nationwide, will be the interim. And so the optics - just on that level - are he is appointing a woman at a time when the police chief and many others in the department are under fire for specifically sexually harassing and discriminating against women, racially discriminating against some Black officers. And then in general, creating a culture of misogyny in the department that has been really well documented by a lot of different reporters and in a report on the 30 x 30 initiative. So the optics of that are - I'm appointing a woman to take over and look into this. However, at the press conference, the mayor, I would say, completely undermined that by spending most of the press conference praising Diaz - calling him an honorable person, a good person, saying that the public should have absolute faith in the police department, and many, many other things of that nature - that if he didn't believe that all the women who have accused Diaz and others of sexual harassment and discrimination are lying, he certainly suggested it by saying that Diaz was honorable and good and essentially above reproach.

[00:09:05] Crystal Fincher: Exactly. This was noticed by just about everyone, certainly, I've talked to, seeing conversation in group chats, online. So much of the news conference - he would speak a little bit, change the subject, go back to talking about how great and honorable and decent Diaz was, talk a little about something else, and then go back to - He's a stand-up guy, he's done so much, he's wonderful - giving Diaz the opportunity to talk and go through all of his accomplishments. And it struck me for a number of reasons. One, it was such a contrast to - we're in a situation where this isn't just allegations against SPD proper and he's the head, therefore he's responsible. There are specific allegations - several against Chief Diaz personally, where they're alleging his direct behavior has been discriminatory, retaliatory, those kinds of things - that's where this litigation is. And in so many other situations, when they're asked to speak about victims of this behavior, victims of other police misconduct, they don't say anything - no comment on anything - they can't talk about it at all because there's pending litigation. Yet we have pending litigation with this guy and you are going on for several minutes, literally just nothing but effusive praise - I know this guy, I know his heart, he's a good, outstanding, upstanding guy, he's bent over backwards to help the community. And just as a woman listening to this, it - I think what struck me and many other people was it sounded so familiar. It sounded so familiar to so many other situations where there have been allegations - usually men, not always, sometimes it's also women - but men just kind of brush that aside and they say - Well, my experience with him is good. Therefore, he must be a good person. And we'll just overlook and discount and not take into account how this person's behavior potentially impacted other people.

[00:11:11] Erica Barnett: Just looking through these comments - because I spend some time just compiling all of the comments - and one of the things that Harrell said, and I will say, if you're just looking at what he said, I think Harrell was implying very strongly that all these women are lying. And I say that because of what he said about the chief - and that he inherited the culture - was the comment that just jumped out to me that exonerated Chief Diaz, not only for the specific things he's alleged to have done, which do include sexually harassing subordinates, but also the culture at the department. And I think it's kind of funny to say that somebody inherited a culture when he has been there and been part of that culture for 27 years. When did he inherit it? The exonerating language was, for me, and also just as a woman sitting there and having read about the allegations and talked to some of the women who are suing about their very painful experiences that they've described - it just kind of made my blood boil because it just felt like these women don't exist. They don't exist and nobody wanted to talk about them. And at the end of the press conference, I said - I understand you can't talk about the litigation in detail, but can any of you say, are you concerned about these allegations? Are they a problem? Is it a problem that so many women are suing the department and Diaz for their behavior? And Sue Rahr, the new interim chief said - Well, yes, of course I'm concerned, it's a problem in every police department - which I don't think answered the question.

[00:12:39] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I mean, what I don't see is every department facing multiple lawsuits from women and some of the most visible officers and celebrated officers in the department saying - Yeah, so actually my experience has been hell. And this is why there's a culture of misogyny that has to be addressed, especially at a time when they're having so much trouble recruiting. And so many people in the community are like - Hey, throwing money at the problem isn't actually going to solve this problem. You need to address the culture if you want to attract people to move here. People looking at this department, certainly women looking at this department and seeing so many women say - This is not a welcoming, supportive, healthy place to work is going to discourage women from applying. So just hearing that was jarring and odd, and I think stepped on the message that Sue Rahr was really trying to start with - and so that certainly was a concern. And really kind of the bottom line is you can't speak that glowingly that long, at length - if you actually really believe what the women are saying. You could certainly say - Hey, my experience with this person has been, but we need to find out others if there was, we need to see how this investigation goes and we'll see that then. But - Hey, I stand behind this guy. He's got tons of other departments knocking down his door. He's in demand. - those are all the things that when women see and hear that with someone who has had allegations against them, it tells them that one individual person is not the end of the problem. That there is a broader culture and acceptance that is being signaled by the complete discounting of the allegations and - Yeah, anyway, but this guy is a great guy.

[00:14:36] Erica Barnett: Yeah, and we talk about how women don't come forward. Most sexual assault allegations are not reported, sexual harassment is not reported - there are a lot of reasons why. In SPD, one of the reasons is apparently that the equal opportunity process when you make a complaint is generally very slanted against people making complaints. And another reason is that when you're in a culture where you know you won't be believed and where you now know that the mayor will stand up and essentially - if not call you a liar - imply that you are probably a liar by saying that the person that you are accusing is the best guy in the world, this is why people don't come forward. And I also think that for Harrell to stand up there - they did address the fact that the investigation is ongoing and we'll see how it goes, but the context in which they did that was to say that Chief Diaz deserves due process. Not that the women deserve their day in court even, but that Chief Diaz deserves due process. And at one point, Harrell said - We shouldn't demean or belittle - I can't remember the exact words - the women who are making these allegations. But that was basically it. Not they deserve their day in court. Not we take these allegations seriously. You don't have to stand up there and say - We believe women - which, of course, I would love to see a politician ever do in the city. But just to say that you take these allegations seriously and they could be true. And we did not see that from anybody at that press conference. City councilmembers Rob Saka and Bob Kettle actually spoke - Bob Kettle put out a statement and Saka spoke to reporters at the press conference - and said they did take the allegation seriously and were very concerned. But we didn't see it from anybody at the press conference itself.

[00:16:10] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that was certainly noticeable. Now, we do have a new Interim Police Chief, and Bruce Harrell did stress that this will be interim. Sue Rahr says that she's not interested in holding the permanent position, so they are about to launch a nationwide search for a new permanent police chief. But in the meantime, there's Sue Rahr, who is a known entity in Seattle and King County - former sheriff. What do you think this hiring means? Who is Sue Rahr? And what do you think we can look forward to while she's leading the department?

[00:16:47] Erica Barnett: Sue Rahr is very well respected. She was the sheriff before a period of relative chaos in the sheriff's department that went on for a few years, but her tenure is generally well regarded. She is an expert on recruitment and is very involved in efforts to get women in law enforcement. So my hope would be that she will be a stabilizing force for however long she is in that position, and that her appointment does send a signal to women that - at least on a macro level - the City is trying to take seriously the concerns about misogyny in the department. That is my hope. Now, she hasn't been in the game in terms of actually being in law enforcement and being the chief of a department in a very long time. A lot has changed since she was sheriff and the appeal of policing, I think, has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years - as we've seen from the fact that it's become harder and harder to hire police. So she has her work cut out for her. But I think that choosing someone from outside the department was also a good choice. There was a lot of rumor flying around this week about who it was going to be, and a lot of the names were people in the department - and I think that would have been problematic. So leaving everything else aside, it seems like a smart choice by the mayor's office.

[00:17:59] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I don't know how quickly this decision was made or what went into it, but it certainly seems like out of the realistically available options on somewhat short notice that this seems like it turned out pretty well as far as the choice was concerned for what they're looking to project and convey. Sue Rahr, as you said, hasn't actually been within a department for quite some time, but has been active in related organizations and advocacy and has made some fairly strong statements. She wrote a piece in The Atlantic last year that basically said - Hey, people talk about "bad apples" in policing, and I can tell you it's not a "bad apple" problem. It's not a rogue cop problem. It is a pervasive cultural problem that leads to and enables and reinforces violence. And I was actually part of the problem - we don't hold each other accountable, there's just this culture of - Hey, we're the good guys and we just back each other up. And that has to change if we're going to change policing. Interesting to hear that from Sue Rahr, thinking that a number of the perhaps new councilmembers would classify that as too harsh and wishful thinking and not the kind of thing that would attract recruits. They've certainly been critical of other people who have said very similar things. But I think from a City perspective, and especially as we've seen these mounting lawsuits, controversies, findings of misconduct, investigations - that the city is calling for more accountability. And even people who are saying - Okay, we want more police, but man, you got to get your arms around these problems that we're seeing with our own eyes. There's got to be something more that can be done about it. - and hoping that Sue Rahr has the opportunity to do it.

Now, realistically, a lot of people think of a police chief as they are the ultimate boss, they can do whatever they want to do. In reality, the police chief has a lot less power than people assume. One, the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract - their union contract - dictates so much that it actually takes a lot of decision and judgments out of the hands of the chief, of people in the city, and defines a process in and of itself that is followed when it comes to accountability. Unfortunately - accountability - they have a say with that in the contract. And the mayor has a lot of say. The mayor is the boss of the police chief and oversees and manages - that is the role of the executive, sometimes people forget that. So it'll be interesting to see what she can really do. I do think that in an interim role, there is the opportunity to make some decisions that may be hard, that may have been hard for Chief Diaz to make. That maybe she can look like the "bad guy" - make some tough decisions, take the heat for that, and allow this new police chief to come in and maybe be better positioned to address the culture long term, to address some of the issues that have been plaguing them long term. I think that would be a healthy thing. So there's an opportunity here for Sue Rahr, for the mayor, for the City to really act quickly and swiftly to - I think most people would probably agree - there need to be some significant changes among the leadership ranks to address the culture issue. Are they willing to do that? There is the opportunity here. And it would be great to do, I think, on an interim basis. But we'll see what happens. What do you think?

[00:21:32] Erica Barnett: I totally agree. I think that the challenge is going to be finding someone to come in on a permanent basis who is going to continue whatever Sue Rahr is able to do in the short period of four to six months that they're talking about. The last time, in the process that resulted in Chief Diaz being appointed permanent chief, there were arguably not a deluge of great candidates that came forward. Some of that might be because Diaz was seen as sort of a fait accompli, but I think it's going to be a challenge recruiting a new police chief. And it sounds like the mayor probably wants to recruit someone from outside the department - I think that's probably a good move, but it's going to be tough. And Interim Chief Rahr is only going to be there for a short period, presumably - although as we know, things can change - look at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and its many interim directors. So we'll see. I think too, when an outsider comes in, I don't know that the entire department is going to respect her in the same way as they would an insider who is supported by the police union, etc. So there's also - the culture of the department is not something that one person can change by snapping their fingers and saying everybody has to shape up and act differently. So she's going to have a lot of challenges too, and I'm sure she's well aware of that. But it's going to be an interesting and probably tough four to six months.

[00:22:51] Crystal Fincher: I agree. Now, I also want to talk about a major attempt to strip some funding, certainly an attempt that a lot of people found troubling - with Seattle City Councilmember Maritza Rivera's attempt to pass a budget proviso that impacted the Equitable Development Initiative funding and projects. What is the Equitable Development Initiative - referred to as EDI a lot of times - what would it do and what would this proviso that Councilmember Rivera proposed have done?

[00:23:25] Erica Barnett: EDI is a program that has been around in various forms since 2016, and it funds largely community groups that are not already developers - whether that's developing housing or childcare or community centers, things like that. It helps them get started. It helps with what's known as their capital stack - so if you're building a capital project, you need startup funding, you need site acquisition funding, you need all kinds of different funding from many different sources - and EDI is one of those. And it just is a way of helping community groups to build capital projects, among other purposes - that's just one of the big ones. And it's not for big developers - it's for small groups, like Wa Na Wari in the Central District, to help them out as they're getting started. And sometimes it's for capacity building when they're before that process even begins of building a capital project, so it's incredibly important to a lot of these groups. Dozens and dozens of groups have received funding through it, projects have been built all over the city.

So the proviso that Councilmember Rivera has proposed, which is a freeze on spending - I want to be really clear what it would do because Councilmember Rivera has sort of muddied the waters in the days since by saying that it would be essentially just a minor request for a report. So here are the two things it would do. It would request a report, and that report would contain a bunch of information about how EDI is going, the status of all the various projects that are being funded by it, and some other information that she says she has been unable to get from the City so far. So that's number one. Number two is that it would continue to freeze the money - and it's about $25 million from 2024 - until the City has completely spent down the money that is in the budget and that keeps getting carried forward from year to year, which is about $53.5 million. And it would give the City - and by proxy, all of these dozens of organizations - three months to spend that $53 million. And I think that it's really important to understand what that money is - it's money for largely capital projects, which are multi-year projects inherently. And when you're talking about brand new developers trying to put together capital stacks to fund these projects - that is an intensive and lengthy process. So asking them to spend all of this money - these dozens of organizations, to expend all of this money - by September is essentially impossible. And the budget proviso says that the money for this year - the $25 million - cannot be released until those conditions are met. So effectively, what this does is once those conditions are not met by September, it will defund the EDI program and put all the money back into the general fund where it can be used to close the budget deficit, which is now around $250 million. So, Rivera has attempted to obfuscate that fact, I would say, by putting out a statement saying that the people who are upset about this - and there have been thousands of emails and hundreds of people showed up at the very last minute with no notice on Tuesday to decry this decision in Council chambers - she said that they are all simply mistaken and they're victims of misinformation and that her proviso would merely ask for a report and isn't that reasonable? But that is not what it would do.

[00:26:40] Crystal Fincher: You know, it is... it is taking effort to speak in a measured way about this. Everything about the way this was handled was really disrespectful - in so many different ways. One, this was announced on a Friday before a holiday weekend, with a vote on this happening on the Tuesday returning from that weekend. So when you say no notice, essentially no notice - causing all of these organizations to have to scramble to, one, understand what this proviso was and figure out how to not be defunded suddenly over a holiday weekend. Because this does matter to so many people in the community, because this does impact so many organizations in the community. Despite next to no notice, as you said, hundreds of people showed up to testify, representing every corner of Seattle, representing every element of the BIPOC community in Seattle. These were not hastily awarded funds. These were part of a participatory budgeting process. This happened after analysis showed that communities of color were continuing to be impacted by displacement, loss of access to opportunity, and there was an acknowledgement that these community-based solutions were going to be essential to address that. It is also notable that this council and Maritza Rivera has used the - We're worried about people being displaced - as an excuse to oppose additional density in the Comprehensive Plan, which is being advocated for as a reason to not proceed with expanding zoning in neighborhoods across the city and not addressing the housing crisis that we're in, saying it's because we're really concerned that some of these things you're talking about may increase displacement. It is notable that the opportunities that they've had, including Tammy Morales's ordinance that was proposed and this money here, which is existing to address this, is also attempting to be stripped. So what is the real opposition here? Because it's not wanting to prevent displacement - they're trying to defund the things that prevent displacement.

And to listen to - there were over three hours of public testimony, again, with next to no notice - people took time away from work, away from family to show up and testify. And these are people whose job is to understand this, who have been dissecting the way that this funding works and how this impacts organizations for years. These are policy professionals in the City of Seattle who are respected and esteemed in every corner of the city. And after listening to three hours of people across the community tell you how essential this is and how harmful this proviso would be if it was passed, instead of Maritza Rivera saying - You know what? I am a new councilmember and I'm still learning. There are some things that I missed in this process and I clearly needed to think this through more, didn't realize it would have the harm. I missed the mark here. I'm gonna go back. I've heard you and I'm responding. - that was not her response. Her response was essentially - You people just don't understand. It was - Hey, there's been misinformation, people mischaracterizing what this would do. You clearly explained, other people clearly explained, everyone clearly understood. Maritza Rivera also used the excuse - Well, OPCD, the department in Seattle, didn't respond to my questions and didn't meet with me. And I guess another one of the things that Councilmember Rivera doesn't understand is that we can see who meets with who, oftentimes in the City, especially with councilmembers. And numerous people from OPCD on three separate dates before this met with her. So clearly, they did their job. I do notice that it was BIPOC people that she was throwing under the bus that met with her in OPCD, also, as she's trying to defund these BIPOC organizations. I did notice that. But then to just dismiss that and to just really insult everyone who testified and saying - You just don't understand - is just so disrespectful. So disrespectful. And it just symbolizes the problem that we're dealing with and also shifts, to me, that these are new councilmembers - it's going to take time to get up to speed on a number of issues, there are going to be things where they just need to learn. This actually was not a problem, as it wound up, of her not learning. It's a problem of her being unwilling to listen and of trying to cast blame. And it is really not a good look.

[00:31:33] Erica Barnett: Well, and she - I would say her demeanor during much of this meeting was to sort of be looking down at her computer, to not look people in the face. People were saying - Why won't you look at me? There were tribal leaders who spoke, who are representatives of a sovereign government, and she would not look them in the eye. She was literally staring at her computer, fussing with her computer while tribal leaders were speaking and saying - This harms us. And I just think there is a certain amount of arrogance that one has to have to run for office. But I think to tell people, including people who designed the program that you are now saying you understand better than them as a brand new councilmember, to tell them that they don't understand the clear language of your bill is just - a lot of people saw that as profoundly insulting.

And you mentioned, what is the real objective here? I think we have to look at the fact that Tammy Morales, who represents District 2 in Southeast Seattle - this is a program that she supports. And more importantly, most of the projects are in her district because the projects are for BIPOC organizations - and I would say, I don't know if it's primarily Black-led organizations - but it's a lot of Black-led organizations in her district. And also, there are many in Joy Hollingsworth's district, District 3. There are none in Maritza Rivera's district, which includes Laurelhurst and Windermere and Northeast Seattle neighborhoods - there's not one in her district. And I think that that cannot be discounted. And I also think the fact that Cathy Moore, another councilmember who supported Maritza Rivera in this effort, has suggested that Tammy Morales is essentially the same person as Kshama Sawant and attributed Kshama Sawant quotes to Tammy Morales - suggesting that she is an unreasonable leftist who will do anything to win and has no respect for anybody, etc, etc. I think that they're trying to paint her as this cartoon socialist, which was belied this week in Council chambers, because what you didn't see - and I remarked on this on Twitter - I have rarely, if ever, seen such a diverse array of organizations, of individuals, of City officials showing up spontaneously, not all organized in red shirts representing one city councilmember, but spontaneously showing up and saying - This is wrong and please don't do this. And so I just think the comparison of Tammy Morales with Kshama Sawant or suggesting that she's the one that organized all these folks from all these different groups is just absurd. She did put out action alerts, but people showed up spontaneously of their own accord.

And one last thing, one really interesting thing that happened was they also postponed voting on reducing the minimum wage for gig workers. And there were a lot of gig workers who showed up because that decision was last minute and they thought there was going to be a vote. And by about halfway through the meeting, if not before, the EDI folks were saying - Please don't cut this program, and also don't cut the minimum wage for gig workers. And the gig workers were saying - Hey, please don't cut my wages. And also don't cut this EDI program that I just learned about - that sounds terrible. So it was just, it was a fascinating dynamic in the room.

[00:34:47] Crystal Fincher: Fascinating dynamic. And again, even with both of these things, just so little notice. And I wish the council would better understand how much of a privilege it is to be able to show up to a City Council meeting, even virtually on demand. And to just haphazardly schedule things with very little notice - scheduling a vote, scheduling testimony, and then saying, Oh, we're postponing it. People take off of work, they get childcare, they have to rearrange their lives in order to try and be active in their community. We say this is what we want people to do - this is part of being an involved resident in the city. And I do wish they would respect people's time more than they have, certainly. I wish they would respect people overall. I do want to say - so yes, you talked about Cathy Moore, Maritza Rivera. Sara Nelson seemed like she was aligned and supportive with this initially. But there were concerns, certainly beyond Tammy Morales. We saw Joy Hollingsworth express caution, saying that she does not think that this was helpful, that if there were concerns about how the money is being spent, how quickly the money is being spent - we know, again, this was purposely designed to include these new organizations, these new developers. So they have to get up and running, build the infrastructure in order to carry out, as you said, the multi-year long-term plans that they're doing. It's not like they're so behind schedule - these are long-term on purpose. And so Joy said - If anything, it sounds like they need more support, that we need to help them with infrastructure and that type of thing. Let's talk about what would actually help. Let's be solutions-focused here. I believe Dan Strauss said that he didn't think this was the right path forward. And so there was a question - should they just vote on the proviso that day? Or, as Councilmember Rivera wanted, basically tabling it for I think at least a week, to - as she characterized it - address the misinformation and the misunderstanding, when again, people understood it quite well. It seems like if anyone didn't understand, it was her, which seems to be a chronic problem based on feedback from her past that is well documented, but the Council ultimately voted to punt this for a week. So this is coming back, which means people are going to have to spend more time again. But just an absolute fiasco that, as you said, just included so much fundamental, personally insulting things, disrespectful. Really, this was eye-opening to a lot of people who actually weren't really engaged in what this council was doing before.

[00:37:25] Erica Barnett: Yeah, if they didn't know who Maritza Rivera was before, they certainly do now.

[00:37:29] Crystal Fincher: Everybody knows who Maritza Rivera is now.

And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, May 31st, 2024. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is Seattle political reporter, editor of PubliCola, and co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter at @ericacbarnett, on PubliCola.com. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks and find me at @finchfrii, two I's at the end. 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, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at OfficialHacksAndWonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.