Week In Review: May 6, 2022 - with Matt Driscoll

Week In Review: May 6, 2022 - with Matt Driscoll

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Metro News Columnist and Opinion Editor for The News Tribune, Matt Driscoll, co-hosts with Crystal. They begin by diving into the impact of the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, frustration with the response from many elected leaders, more rights that are on the chopping block, and–now more than ever–the importance of local government. The impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned on the LGBTQ+ community sparks a discussion on Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s actions to block pride flags from flying across the county. Crystal and Matt wrap up the show by discussing the harm that the War on Drugs has inflicted for decades and how I-1922, an initiative to replace the failed War on Drugs with proven approaches that address substance use disorder through prevention, outreach, and recovery services, would reduce that harm.

About the Guest

Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll is metro news columnist and opinion editor for The News Tribune in Tacoma.

Find Matt Driscoll on Twitter/X at @mattsdriscoll.


“Think tossing Roe doesn’t affect WA? Try again. State must protect abortion, other rights” by Matt Driscoll from The News Tribune: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/matt-driscoll/article261030217.html#storylink=cpy

“What the overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean for same-sex marriage rights” by Christine Pae from KING5: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/roe-v-wade-same-sex-marriage-rights-united-states/281-38d7431a-b267-4b90-957e-5e6a4512da4c?ref=exit-recirc

“Democrats Want Your Vote, Socialists Want Your Feet on the Street” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/05/04/72555229/democrats-want-your-vote-socialists-want-your-feet-on-the-street

“Slog AM: Seattle Public Schools Changes Sexual Harassment Policies, King County to "Explore Proposals" to Fund Abortion, and How to Vaccinate a Tiger” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/05/05/72596019/slog-am-seattle-public-schools-changes-sexual-harassment-policies-king-county-to-explore-proposals-to-fund-abortion-and-how-to-vaccinate

“Why Justice Alito’s Draft Opinion to Overturn Roe Makes No Fucking Sense” by Will Casey from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/05/03/72401871/why-justice-alitos-draft-opinion-to-overturn-roe-makes-no-fucking-sense

“End of Roe v. Wade looms large in Idaho, where women are likely to seek abortions in Washington” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/end-of-roe-v-wade-looms-large-in-idaho-where-women-are-likely-to-seek-abortions-in-washington/

“Will Pierce County buildings ever fly the Pride flag? Not at this rate, and it’s shameful” by The News Tribune Editorial Board from The News Tribune: https://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article260828227.html#storylink=cpy

“Legalize drug possession in WA? Initiative should be a no-brainer, but expect a fight” by Matt Driscoll from The News Tribune: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/matt-driscoll/article261098197.html#storylink=cpy

“New Poll Suggests Most of Washington Wants to End the War on Drugs” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/05/02/72070084/we-want-to-end-the-war-on-drugs

“Could WA be the next state to decriminalize drugs? Voters might get to decide in November” by Shauna Sowersby from The Olympian: https://www.theolympian.com/news/state/washington/article260900057.html#storylink=cpy

“WA introduces ballot measure to decriminalize drug possession” by MyNorthwest Staff from MyNorthwest: https://mynorthwest.com/3460600/wa-ballot-measure-legalize-drug-possession/

“Measure to decriminalize all drugs rolls out in Washington state” by Paige Browning from KUOW: https://www.kuow.org/stories/measure-to-decriminalize-all-drugs-rolls-out-in-washington-state

“WA Ballot Measure to Decriminalize Drugs Has Early Poll Lead” by Ben Adlin from Filter: https://filtermag.org/washington-drug-decriminalization-polls/


[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. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome to the program for the first time, Metro News Columnist and Opinion Editor for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Matt Driscoll.

[00:00:51] Matt Driscoll: Thank you. Thank you for having me - I really appreciate it. 

[00:00:53] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - excited to have you, have been reading you religiously for years. If people are familiar with my Twitter feed, they're certainly familiar with your work. And so, just excited to have this opportunity to have you here to chat with us.

[00:01:08] Matt Driscoll: Yeah, yeah - no, I'm really excited too. I really appreciate it - I don't take any reader for granted, so thank you for that. And yeah, it's - I feel like I've - I think we've been Twitter followers for a while now - I feel like I know you - but it's nice to get to actually talk to you quasi in-person and I'm excited about the opportunity. 

[00:01:30] Crystal Fincher: Yes, definitely. And your expertise in Pierce County - this is a show where we talk about a lot happening in Seattle and King County. And it's always nice to get outside of that a bit and talk about what's going on in Tacoma. 'Cause there's good stuff going on in Tacoma and Pierce County.

[00:01:47] Matt Driscoll: Yeah, yeah - good stuff, complicated stuff, all sorts of stuff going on down here. I relish being the token Tacoma-Pierce County guy - but that's my life's goal - is have you guys bring me on and I can tell you what's going on down here. 

[00:02:04] Crystal Fincher: Well, I want to start off today talking about what is on so many of our minds this week. And it was the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision by Justice Alito that effectively overturns Roe vs Wade and those protections. Just starting off on that - what is your read of where we're at with that right now? 

[00:02:32] Matt Driscoll: Well, as a people, as a state, it's - I think we're still coming to grips with it. Obviously, as your listeners know, it's not an official opinion yet, it's a draft, but certainly was ominous. And I wrote about it this week and it's one of those things - it's the least surprising shock ever, right? I think this is something that a lot of us feared would happen - saw writing on the wall continuously over last however many years. But then still - to get the news alerts, to see that you're perhaps on the cusp of it is - it's generations that have grown up with the constitutional rights and then to sit on the cusp of potentially seeing it taken away and the potential ramifications of that, right? The ripples, potential ripples, even beyond abortion in this ruling and some of the things it draws on - it's just a lot to take in and it's a lot to wrestle with. I think we're probably still wrestling with it and will be wrestling with it for a long time if the decision holds. 

[00:03:41] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. It is - I think you nailed it in that this is not surprising, but it is shocking. And just the impact and effect that this has, and that this will set us back 50-plus years in terms of rights for women and people. We talk about this as a women's issue and it certainly is in terms of body autonomy, but this impacts families, this impacts how children are being raised, who is enabled to participate in the workforce and who has upward mobility - this shapes our society overall. And it's just so frustrating to watch this happen. And the thing that I'm feeling - I guess I'm feeling a few different things - just continued frustration, I'm also feeling like I hope - this was surprising to a lot of people - that I saw - the actual surprising part. And it shouldn't have been - there have been people who have been talking about, I've certainly been one of them, one of the many who have been saying that this was the inevitable outcome of the activities that were happening before and we needed to intervene in what was happening before to derail this. And there were a lot of people who characterized mostly women, and a lot of BIPOC women, as hyperbolic and overreacting when we were saying, no, this is actually setting up the elimination of abortion rights, of birth control, of so much more - there's so much at stake here. 

And I really hope that people listening here - and for people who you're talking to - really pay attention to who were the people saying that this was coming and who were the people downplaying that this was a possibility. That oh, they would never turn over Roe vs Wade - this is established precedent - they wouldn't do that, kavanaugh said this was established precedent. And when you have the power to overturn it, it actually doesn't matter - what is precedent. That's just a reason you give to uphold what you want to do when you want to do it, and something you ignore when you want to do something differently. And I hope that you start to listen to what the people who were warning about this are talking about now, because people are still warning about a number of things who have been right in foreseeing what all of this is happening, often because they've been so close to the impacts that this has, when these types of decisions happen. 

It's really, really troubling, but one of the things that you captured so well in the article that you wrote was a quote from Marilyn Strickland in here, who - her quote is, Let's be honest about this stunning decision: desegregation of schools (with Brown vs. Board of Education), gay marriage (with Obergefell vs. Hodges), interracial marriage (with Loving vs. Virginia), and now other rights are in danger. This is a threat to the health, safety, economic security, and basic freedoms that we cherish. Those cases that she cited were cited in Alito's opinion - these are all things that are on the chopping block, and we've heard it from the horse's mouth at this point in time. It's really worrying and people really need to mobilize, and those in power currently need to use the power that they currently have to do all they can to stop this. In these conversations about what to do next, what do we do now? What are you hearing, Matt? 

[00:07:36] Matt Driscoll: That was really well said. I think - so a few reactions before I'm going into next steps. I think it is - I think you're highlighting one of the areas we need to focus in on is - if you look back on this and again, talking about the idea that it was predictable, but still shocking. In the way that we had that conversation, I think it speaks to a few things, right? One, I think that 50-plus years, generations, that this right was on the book. And so I think on some level, there was an ability to take it for granted in a lot of quarters. But I think once you get beyond that, think about who has - who does this decision really affect, right? Who is going to bear the brunt of this? Some of the people that were saying this will never happen, this is precedent, you guys are being hyperbolic, this is you're crying wolf, or whatever. These people - they're still gonna have access to abortion. That's just the bottom line. It's white people, wealthy people - access to abortion, access to reproductive care isn't going away for them. It's going away for the people who were drawing alarm to this for the whole - for years and years and years.

And so, I think that's a lesson from this, right? It's like, who are we listening to? How do things get dismissed and why do they get dismissed? 'Cause I think it speaks a lot to power structures. But yeah, in terms of what comes next and I think Marilyn Strickland, her quote, I think that you hear more and more people talking about that kind of stuff and looking forward now. But she was one of the first leaders that I heard, just in the aftermath of the decision news, articulating it. But yeah, and we're going to hear the same things - we're going to say, oh, and even in the decision, I think, Alito wrote that this should not be construed as pertaining to any other rights. Are we buying that? I'm not necessarily, so I think we do - we need to look at the direct threat to abortion rights as we're seeing it today. And we also need to look forward because I think we'd be foolish to sit here and just listen to the same stuff again and be like, oh, well, that's precedent, that's not going anywhere. 

Because I think what this teaches us is - this is what it's been about, a lot of what it's been about for a long time. It was obvious, it happened in plain sight, people gaslit people and said it wasn't happening, and now it's happening. And so, I think you said it better than I could, but we really need to focus on both the direct threat that we're experiencing right now and the potential ramifications, because it goes far beyond abortion.

[00:10:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it really does. And there's lots of conversations, certainly. What's been interesting, especially working in politics, is seeing the reaction from people who work in politics, from people who are elected. And The Stranger actually had an article about this - the reaction of some people - well, vote for Democrats which - Hey, I'm going to be voting for a Democrat for president. I don't know how excited about it I'm going to be, but I will be. But I also voted for Democrats before with the expectation that they would use their power to prevent things like this from happening. 

And I think there's a lot of people frustrated with watching Republicans use every single lever of power that they have, and even some that they don't while they dare people to stop them. And we keep watching people not stop them - whether it was the scuttling of, allowing the scuttling of Merrick Garland, whether it is listening to - even now, just the characterization by conservative mainstream media and current elected Republicans - talking about grooming and calling people pedophiles for no justified reason, based in nothing in fact. These are really, really disgusting allegations and behavior that they're conducting. And looking at this and thinking, Are Democrats really fighting at the same level and with the same urgency? And hearing - well, we can't. And I'm not saying things are simple, I'm not saying things are not complicated. I'm not saying that trying to keep a majority with folks like Joe Manchin there when you're at - when you have no wiggle room, no extra senators to make up for his vote - is simple. 

But I think people are frustrated at watching - at feeling like people aren't trying hard enough, that they're saying it's impossible before trying and proving it isn't possible. And when the stakes are this high - when this won't stop abortions, but it will stop safe abortions. And it will put people in positions to parent who should not be in that position and who wouldn't be if they weren't forced to. And who may just be thrown into our criminal legal system because they've had miscarriages. Or forced to carry an ectopic pregnancy, which cannot result in a live birth - the only thing it can do is have an unviable baby and potentially take the, and if it goes, take the mother's life with it. Those are the things that we're talking about. These are life and death consequences, and we want to see people fighting like it is. And that is a frustration that I hope Democratic leaders are looking at and understanding. 

There was certainly a backlash when fundraising emails about this came out - people, this is not the opportunity to fundraise. What are you going to do about this - is the challenge. I had my Congressperson send a poll - should we be fighting to codify Roe vs. Wade rights in law? Yes, No, I don't know. And I'm like, if you need to take a poll on this - one, why are you there? Two, this is just some performative nonsense to build a list. This is not the time to be focused on list building. This is the time to be focused on what are you going to do to stop - and if you can't stop, mitigate this. I'm sure you hear my frustration, lots of people's frustration, but this fundamentally is about my right to exist within my own body and not be criminalized. 

The other thing - I guess the last thing I would say about this is - this is why I'm so passionate about state and local government. Because we can't always count on the federal government to provide the protections that we need. And when we look at how different cities are, when we look at how different states are, that should be the clue that that is the power that we have to shape our states. We can make it look anyway we want it to, collectively as a community. And we, in Washington, pride ourselves on our progressive values and have certainly done really good work. We've had great leaders do great work to maintain people's right to abortion, proper healthcare, and rights. But we can't rest on that - we have to make sure that we're continually pushing forward, that people are engaged locally, that people start paying attention to what's happening with their city councils and county councils and with their state legislators - because they are writing these laws, that if the Supreme Court eliminates the protections there, things can just overnight look different on the ground for people in these states. 

And there is a conservative movement that is energized, that is engaging in local races right now, that is excited to put people in positions that often don't have a lot of public attention or scrutiny. And they're getting in without much scrutiny, oversight, attention. And they're the ones writing and pushing laws like this in the most extreme ways. We have legislators in this state who have written laws to criminalize abortion with penalties of prison for doctors who do this - Vicki Kraft and Matt Shea partnered up on that one. They're here. We need to make sure that we're paying attention and engaging locally to protect people in our communities, if we can't count on those protections being an automatic thing that happens in our country. I am - it's bleak - I'm not happy. 

[00:16:43] Matt Driscoll: I sense that. No, I sense that - that's loud and clear in case there was anybody, any questions - yeah, I think that came across. And you should be, and we all should be frankly. There's no minimizing that anger - it's real. Obviously you talked about a lot there - I just, going back to the frustration, but I really feel like that's the story of my adult life - at least following politics - is that tension, right? Going back to Bush-Gore, certainly Bush-Kerry, and obviously, Trump and Hillary - the Democratic consistence that people fall in line behind, supposedly progressive leaders that then don't fight for the things that they say they're fighting for. And then the mainstream - the consensus of it - urges the people on the so-called fringe to step in line. And sometimes they do if there's compelling reason, like say getting Donald Trump out of office. And then sometimes they don't, if that reason isn't there and you know the reality of politics probably better than I do, right? 

The thing about this breakdown is conservatives are a poor group of people that basically are united by anger - grievances around a few things. And Democrats are everyone else. And, we're trying to - and it's just such a cliche - trying to fit under this big tent. But the reality of the situation is that tension, while you could pass it off and you could chastise the Susan Sarandons of the world or whatever for not being willing to vote for mainstream Democratic candidates - when it comes to abortion, the bottom line is they haven't. It's one of the fundamental bedrocks of what the Democratic ticket is - the Democratic platform is the right to abort. It's huge for us and they haven't fought. And so people are right to be angry and it's of course terrifying when you look at the stakes that you mentioned - the reality of what the Republican party is on the, certainly on the national level, and examples here locally within our state too. But they haven't done a lot to earn the support and when you see the fundraising emails come out, or the polls - I'm glad we're not using video on this, because my face when you mentioned the poll, that's just - people are right to be angry. That's all I'm saying - the frustration is out there, and it's real and it's legitimate. And that just is what it is. So, it will be interesting to see how that plays out. I'm sorry - I lost my train of thought, I know there was much more to the prompt you gave, but I I'm forgetting where we were at. But I'm angry too, first of all. It's like, what do you do, right? Like, what is the - vote vote, don't boo, vote. Well, we voted. 

[00:19:42] Crystal Fincher: We did. 

[00:19:43] Matt Driscoll: We've been voting. 

[00:19:44] Crystal Fincher: For you to prevent us. We've been voting this entire time. You've got - you have to demonstrate that you are working to prevent the harm, that you're doing everything in your power. And I think voters have - voters give grace if they watch you try and just not be able to get it done. If they're like, well, you did everything that you could do, what else could you do? But right now there's lots of people who have things on their list that - well, I haven't seen you try this yet. So why are we having this conversation? Got try and prevent me losing my rights and it just is - it is a threat to birth control, it's a threat to women's healthcare - so much of women's healthcare and people's healthcare relies on hormonal therapy. And a lot of it is the same kinds of hormones, or the same kind of stuff used for birth control, sometimes for abortions. And so the policing of this is the policing of just health - people's health - overall, and it is - we're in for a bad challenge. It will affect who, what is covered from insurance, would adjust a lot of stuff. 

I do want to talk about another thing that feels related to me, actually. And it's in Tacoma and Pierce County - the Republican Pierce County Executive has decided to not allow pride flags to fly at any buildings in the county. What happened with this? 

[00:21:21] Matt Driscoll: Well first - Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier would want you to know that this has nothing to do with the pride flag. Just so that's on the record there. No, I think that's one of my and how I'll lead into it is - is the way that - I hate to make it always partisan, I really do. I just, I hate to be that, but conservatives so often find ways to talk about things without actually talking about them. 

So the backstory here is - last year, in preparation for Pride Month, the new Democratic majority on Pierce County Council put forward a Pride Month resolution, proclamation - just standard business - honoring and respecting Tacoma's LGBTQ, or in Pierce County's LGBTQ community. Standard fare, right? That vote came up - all the Democrats voted in favor of it, Amy Cruver voted against it and Hans Zeiger, and Dave Morell abstained. About the same time, Bruce Dammeier decided that he wasn't going to support proclamations that didn't have unanimous support. So he got out ahead of that one, wasn't involved in it. 

But in conjunction with that, they wanted to fly the pride flag over the County-City Building and it was the same deal. Dammeier said, in order to do that there should be unanimous decision of the Council to fly the pride flag. And of course they don't have that. They can't get even get the Pride Month proclamation approved - they don't - there's argument that it would be divisive or again, getting back to my original point, the way they talk about it without actually talking about the pride flag - they say that potentially flying any flag that's not the American flag and the POW flag could potentially be divisive. And so in order to be fair, we're going to limit - we're going to say that no special flags will fly unless it has unanimous decision of the Council. So it's a backhanded way basically of not flying the pride flag. 

So long story short - this year, Democrats put forward a policy. One of the problems was we didn't have official policy here about how you could fly special flags over County-City Building. They put forward a policy that would have made it - you could have flown a special flag with a simple majority of the Council and Dammeier vetoed it. And of course the reason he said he vetoed it is because it has nothing to do with pride flag, it has to do with fairness and not wanting divisive - potentially divisive - symbols to fly on County property and everybody should be unanimous and yada, yada yada. So it's just a backhanded way of dealing with the issue in a way that allows him to talk about it without talking about it. 

And obviously, the most important thing here, and as I've covered, is there's tremendous amount of hurt in Pierce County's LGBTQ community - to hear that a flag that you associate with is potentially divisive in the year 2022? It's backwards, it's just really backwards. And the way they can hide behind stuff and talk about it without talking about it really angers me, but - they tried to override the veto, that failed. I don't know where the issue stands now, but the thing in talking to Bruce, and I talked to him about this, he said, look at all Pierce County does for its LGBTQ community. That's how we should be judged, not whether we're flying a flag - because this is about being fair to all symbols. And I basically said, as I wrote in the column, I think what he's not saying is this is an action - not flying the flag is an action. And it's a hurtful action. And it's embarrassing and it's completely avoidable in the year 2022. And it's just - this is what life is like down here in Pierce County sometimes, Crystal. We've got Tacoma at the center - kind of a progressive city - and we've got a lot of red surrounding us and we've got a lot of support for Bruce Dammeier and Republicans. And that tension exists now here. 

[00:25:17] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I think for me - what I hope people who were surprised by the Supreme Court leaked draft and who view this as - well, it's just a flag. That's not really bad and the same thing - ah, everything else is already happening - is that it always starts like this. Everything, all of the erosion, this is how rights are eroded. This is how we other people in our communities. This is how we signal this group is not as good or as worthy as the other group. And then that trickles down to the types of services we provide or don't provide, the types of protections under the law we provide or don't provide, who we teach are in our schools are valid people who exist in our society or who we don't. This is part of the process. It can't happen without things like this leading it off. So I hope people take this seriously and understand that rights aren't actually granted by God - legally with legal protections - we have to fight for them. We have to have people put them into law. We have to have people appoint judges and folks who will uphold this. Without us standing up and actively playing a role in making sure that happens and actively vetting people who are in office and in power, then things like this can happen and once a foothold gets in - it becomes so much harder to restore something that is lost rather than just keeping and protecting it while it's in place. So I hope people pay attention and understand this for the threat that it is. 

And that a lot of - the other thing is a lot of these policies are precursors and we've seen another county's more draconian policies that had been put in place and people discard it like, well, that's unconstitutional. That doesn't make sense. There's no way this is legal, that there's no way it can make it through a court. And I just want to impress upon people - if you didn't get the wake-up call that there is absolutely a way that it can make it through courts, and there is absolutely a way that our systems of checks and balances get really subjective about when they choose to check and not check - then I don't know what you're looking at. And I hope that you pay attention to people who are treating this with the weight that it deserves. I am frustrated - I'm frustrated. 

[00:28:02] Matt Driscoll: To your point and just paying attention to the subtle cues, right? Because even here in Pierce County - at this point with the County Council now, they're not actively pursuing anti-LGBTQ policy, but think about the signals they're sending just by doing this. It speaks - it speaks without speaking - it sends the message without, and then when you foster that message enough, and then one thing leads to another. And so these subtle little messages - they matter. 

[00:28:37] Crystal Fincher: They matter. And they don't just matter - they're essential parts of the recipe. 

[00:28:42] Matt Driscoll: They work both ways. It's not just - it's an important message for the LGBTQ community - don't get me wrong. But not doing it sends a message to other people too. 

[00:28:51] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. I also wanted to cover this week an initiative that was launched and signature gathering has started. Initiative 1922, which - a group of public health and safety experts and community leaders have really come together and are in line with the consensus that it's time to end the War on Drugs. And replacing the broken policies that we see cycling people through our courts and just not making people more safe, not addressing issues of substance use disorder - and really moving towards an approach that is based on treatment and recovery and what we know works. So we're really committed to ending the War on Drugs - full disclosure, I'm part of this campaign. And you wrote a column about it this week. What what was your take, what did you see about it? 

[00:29:53] Matt Driscoll: Well, yeah - first of all, I'm so excited to get to have this conversation with you, because I know you know it well and I was hoping we would get to talk about it - I didn't know what the rules were, but this is - 

Crystal, I'm tempted to ask you the same question, and I want to here in a second, but my read on it - first, just as an opinion columnist, is I'm supportive and I've been supportive of these ideas - the general idea - I believe back since 2020, which was the first time an initiative was kicked around. I just think - looking around, I don't think objectively anyone can look at how we're treating a drug problem in our community, in our state and say, yeah, this is working. I just don't think you can. I don't think anyone would agree and you guys have the polling that shows that. It's not shocking to see that people are looking around and saying this isn't working. But I'm fascinated by it - and fascinated is probably the wrong word because people's lives are literally at stake - but I think it's going to be a really, I think it's a really interesting question for voters. I know - I've seen the polling, I wrote about it this week, I know there's a lot of support, it makes sense. 

[00:31:10] Crystal Fincher: Well, and just a little background on that for listeners - to your point, just about everyone thinks the War on Drugs has failed. We see a lot of conversations on it - the term "War on Drugs" is almost farcical at this point in time in that it hasn't - for all of the resources that we are currently spending and for the percentage of our tax dollars that are going into the War on Drugs - we have not seen any return, any delivery on what we're spending and the current approach that we have. It has not worked. We've seen - 

[00:31:47] Matt Driscoll: And we've inflicted a ton of harm in the process. 

[00:31:50] Crystal Fincher: We've inflicted a ton of harm for people who are dealing with addiction. I think, even throughout the pandemic, people have an increasing awareness that substance use disorder is complicated and it has root causes that lead to being addicted to substances. And trying to treat that through the criminal legal system, it just doesn't have the tools or the capability to solve that issue. People need treatment. That is a public health problem - it needs a health-based approach. And so this initiative basically says, Hey, we're going to stop treating this as a criminal and legal problem, because it's not and our attempts to do that have failed. And most people agree with that - that's not really a controversial statement. 

And so what it does is it dedicates resources to treatment and recovery and says, we're not going to treat this - just possession - as that. And so for people who have substance use disorder, absolutely getting them to a place where they aren't dealing with that, and we prevent all of the negative consequences that may result from having a substance use disorder and not having access to treatment or putting a barrier to treatment and saying, you can only have access if you land in jail or anything like that - that doesn't make any sense. And then also all of the consequences that having a criminal record has on someone's life actually contributes to the likelihood of using substances or abusing substances in the future. We make it harder for people to hold a job, to get housing, to just function - basically function - in our society. And if we have an interest in helping people become positive, contributing, healthy members of our society, we have to have a more effective approach than the one that we have today.

And as you said, the polling is actually really positive. Most of the state agrees - there's a broad majority of people who are saying, yes, we absolutely agree that we need a new approach. Hence the term of the name of the campaign, Commit to Change, and with Initiative 1922 - it's the vehicle to do that, which is polling very, very well and has a lot of people excited. 

[00:34:17] Matt Driscoll: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with - you hit all the - I agree with all of that. One of the things - it's one of the reasons I'm compelled by it is just because, and maybe it's because I work in Pierce County, and maybe it's a slightly different lens down here, but there's just this undercurrent in the current political discourse - whether we're talking about homelessness or crime - that this idea that we've somehow empowered the criminals and we've made it really easy to be a criminal. And we disempower law enforcement and there aren't enough consequences, and that's the reason that society is going to hell in a hand basket. I wrote about that initiative - I think it just published yesterday. And I've got a handful of emails for it and I should be slightly more compassionate in that - because I do understand - after 50 years of the Drug War - people's ideas around the need for drug use to be treated criminally are really deep and intertwined. People just can't - a lot of people I hear from - they can't imagine - I ask them, okay, so I've shown you all the ways that this has been harmful and hasn't worked - that's clear as day, we can all see that. Show me the instance of where treating addiction as a crime pays a dividend - prevents it from happening. 

And it's a fear of the unknown - the idea that everyone would rush out and start using drugs if it wasn't criminal to possess a small amount. It just doesn't hold up, but still we're just deep - it's deeply intertwined and people - I know it's going to get sucked into kind of that right-left talking point around the left being weak on crime and empowering criminals and all like that. It's going to get sucked into the safe injection site - I can just see it coming, people are gonna see it the same way. And so I'm really fascinated to see how that plays out, and I think objectively speaking, there's just really no argument that you could say that suggests that we shouldn't try a new approach and that this isn't the way to go. But I don't know, does that make me skeptical? Because I've seen the polling too and I know it's like 53% supported the exact ballot language. And those whether it's working or not, those numbers are over 70%, it's all there and Washington's a progressive state, but there's - maybe it's just I get too many emails from east Pierce County, but there's part of me that is girding for, ooh, if it makes the ballots and gets the signatures and all like that, that could be an interesting conversation. I don't know. Do you think I'm - you think I'm just skewed down here in Pierce County? 

[00:37:06] Crystal Fincher: We absolutely have to contend with the range of feelings across the community. And I think that the novel thing, and as we saw in Oregon who passed a very similar initiative with broad support - it sailed through - 

[00:37:25] Matt Driscoll: It was 58% or something, wasn't it? 

[00:37:27] Crystal Fincher: It was very, very popular.

[00:37:29] Matt Driscoll: And it was in 2020. I think we've seen the crime and punishment conversation evolve since then, for lack of a better word. 

[00:37:37] Crystal Fincher: And it's evolved in interesting ways, because when we're talking specifically about substance use disorder, there are so many people - because this problem has been so prevalent, because the War on Drugs has failed to prevent so many people who we know personally from falling victim to substance use disorder and from dealing with that - and lots of people, when you have the opportunity to see it up close, you understand that it's a complicated issue that - it is - actually, Representative David Hackney used to be a former federal prosecutor who dealt with drug crimes. And he talks about this so eloquently in that there are people who did used to think - lock 'em up. Hey, maybe jail is where they need to hit rock bottom. And that'll motivate people to do the right thing and having that consequence will keep people on the straight and narrow. And he talks about so eloquently that he saw, through his personal life and professional, that substance - if someone is dealing with addiction, that's not a logical disease. That doesn't create that - they aren't using because they want to at that point. The choice, once someone is addicted, is out of their hands. They're using because they are physically compelled to. It's an addiction and that's not a logical thing. They aren't making rational decisions and we need to understand that they are under the power of those substances. And until we effectively treat them and remove them from the power and the influence and direction of those substances and what that does, then we're looking at the same thing. If we're going to treat this, we can't jail our way out of it. 

And the drivers of crime, listening to Representative Hackney talk about it who prosecuted drug crimes federally, it's not the people who you - some people think they see on the street, or they're looking at street-level dealers. These are kingpins that they're going after and that type of thing. So we're really not even talking about the problem when we're talking about drivers of crime and ways to prevent it. And in ways we're trying to criminalize something to fix it, and that's only perpetuated both crime and substance use disorder. So, there certainly are people who are part of that 30-something percent minority in that polling who are very stuck on that, and it doesn't surprise me because we've been in a society that has just soaked us in and had so many cultural messages that reinforced, Hey, cops are going to come and save the day. And if someone is under the influence of using drugs, they're bad and we need to punish them, and that will make them better. And some people are probably well-intentioned in that thought, but it just plain failed. We did try it. We let them have a whole run at it. We gave them more resources than we give most other things and that approach has had time to play out. And unfortunately we've seen the results were not like people hoped. And so we just can't keep going in the wrong direction.

I think part of the thing that is culminating right now is there are so many challenging things in our society - we've talked about some of this in our show - that going down paths that we know are unproductive and we know are wasting resources are just things that we can't afford to do anymore. Nobody is being helped by that - if people are concerned about public safety, no one wants to see someone using drugs outside and on the street. And right now the only remedy that we're giving people are, okay, well hey, call the cops. And I guess have them do something. There're police that we've talked to who are like, I don't have the tools to deal with this. Even if I do arrest them today for something, they're going to be back out tomorrow 'cause we also can't afford to jail everybody. So what do we need to do here? And the consensus is we need a new approach. We need to commit to a change and start treating this like the public health situation that it really is.

But we're going to have these conversations throughout this campaign and even beyond I'm sure - talking about, hey, are we actually using the right intervention to solve this problem? And when we do, we make everyone safer because ultimately same kind of thing is going to happen - this passes and either it's going to help or not. And fortunately, there are lots of places where this is successfully helping that this is modeled upon, but it's just really challenging to have some of those conversations with people who, because we've only had one option for dealing with this through the criminal legal system, that's the only thing that people are familiar with. And it's like, well, that is who we call. What happens if we don't? Well, what if we actually treat the problem? When we do that, it works. So it's going to be lively. They're going to be people who are part of that minority who are not going to be swayed, but it really seems like most people are ready for a new approach. 

[00:43:24] Matt Driscoll: Well, I sincerely hope you're right. When we talk about - you do the politics thing, right? So, 55-45% feels lighter, 58-42% feels like a pretty firm majority. Down here in Pierce County, that 42% can be pretty loud sometimes. But just a final thought on that because I think it's an undercurrent to a lot of things I write about - unfortunately I think doing the right thing in this in some regards - it has a lot to do with our willingness to extend help to people because that's what works regardless of whether we agree with all their - our judgments of the decisions they've made in their life - they're irrelevant. And we'd like to think that they matter - I think it provides us purpose to think that people who make bad decisions and use drugs get consequences, and people who make good decisions and don't do drugs avoid those consequences. And it gives us order - to have those sorts of consequences in place, but this one has just been a - it's a health issue and it just has hurt so much more than it has ever helped anyone. And so I sincerely hope you're right about the public reaction to it, but I do expect there to be some dinner table conversations around this one. 

And I'm curious, and I know we're limited on time, but I hope you're right about the public's acknowledgement of addiction and what it's really like - I've certainly seen it in my family, I've been up close to it, it is very complicated, it's not something that can be remedied by making it illegal. But if this initiative was all the money towards rehab and treatment, but didn't decriminalize small possession, what do you think support would look like it, compared to what it looks like for this approach?

[00:45:23] Crystal Fincher: That - definitely some of the people would not be as excited about it. Part of the approach is - so much money is actually being invested in the current system and the status quo. 

[00:45:40] Matt Driscoll: All the disparities and all the ramifications. Yeah - and I - 

[00:45:44] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and the disproportionate harm and absolutely. And so it's just like, why are we wasting money on something that doesn't work, when we're hurting for money on the other side? Everyone knows that we don't have - we don't currently have - enough resources for treatment of substance use disorder. If someone who is not rich and they're dealing with addiction today, what are they going to do? And that's - unless if you're rich, you can afford rehab. And if you're not, we actually force you to get arrested to have any kind of hope to get treatment. And even that is really not necessarily the kind of treatment that meets all of the standards for typically addressing this. 

[00:46:30] Matt Driscoll: It's so interesting. You're exactly right, but you know how those money conversations always work. There's one party who's always really concerned about the money, unless it's something like this where it's obvious that it could be much more effective and efficient and less costly to do it one way and they're just stubborn about it. So it's just funny how those - when people are concerned about the money and when they're not. 

[00:46:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and part of it for me is, Hey, this actually helps everyone across the board. This does provide a continual funding resource for treatment and recovery services, which are just in such short supply right now. And that even if you aren't rich, you deserve the opportunity to have treatment and recovery - it's healthcare - it's just healthcare. It really is another form of it, and so to keep that walled off from people and say, well, if we get arrested, we'll try and get you into treatment and recovery as a condition of their sentence in the criminal legal system. But then we saddle them with a record and things that make it harder to get a job and to do the things that keep people off drugs at the same time. So that's just another one of those things that's challenging and it's - you have to have the resources to make the approach work. And so this not only decriminalizes but also provides the resources, and the combination of those two seems to be what is popular and ideal, but we will see. There are going to be - there are going to be those people out there who will never be convinced and who are very loud and vocal. And there are other people who will have questions and that we need to have conversations with and talk through that. But it looks like we're in a really good place to have those conversations, and most people are starting from the point of - well, yeah, what we're doing right now isn't working. So it's really a question of, what do we do different as opposed to do we stay with what's happening right now? 

[00:48:43] Matt Driscoll: Yeah, and just to drive it home - unless something has changed in recent weeks, Pierce County doesn't currently have any rehab detox beds available within the county for folks on Medicaid. So, it's - it's just how we, how we treat this problem. So I know I've used it before on this show, but backwards. It's just so backwards. 

[00:49:04] Crystal Fincher: It is. Well, talking with you is just so engaging. We have - 

[00:49:09] Matt Driscoll: I felt like I was faking it - I was faking it the whole time. You were clearly the wonk and I was clearly the hack, but I enjoyed it.

[00:49:17] Crystal Fincher: I absolutely enjoyed it, and you were essential - and hack is a good thing on this show - just it is wonderful. So I thank you so much for joining us today. And thank you for listening, all of our listeners, to Hacks and Wonks on this Friday, May 6th - it is May 6th, already - 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assistant producer is Shannon Cheng, with assistance from Emma Mudd. And our insightful co-host today is Metro News Columnist and Opinion Editor for The News Tribune, Matt Driscoll. You can find Matt on Twitter @mattsdriscoll. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. And now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else 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 midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resource referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes. 

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