Week in Review: May 7, 2021 - with Marcus Harrison Green

Week in Review: May 7, 2021 - with Marcus Harrison Green

This week Marcus  Harrison Green, publisher of the South Seattle Emerald and columnist for  the Seattle Times, joins Crystal to discuss the whistleblower  revelation that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office intentionally  mishandled public records requests, Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller’s  announcement that he’s running for mayor and trying to position himself  as an outsider, and the one thing everyone seems to agree on: the King  County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht should resign.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s guest, Marcus Harrison Green, at @mhgreen3000. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.


“Public  records requests mishandled after Seattle mayor’s texts went missing,  whistleblower investigation finds” by Daniel Beekman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/public-records-requests-were-mishandled-after-seattle-mayors-texts-went-missing-whistleblower-investigation-finds/

“Deputy Mayor Sixkiller Joins Crowded Mayoral Race; Police Union Joins Calls for Sheriff’s Resignation” from Publicola: https://publicola.com/2021/05/04/deputy-mayor-sixkiller-joins-crowded-mayoral-race-police-union-calls-for-sheriffs-resignation/

“King County Police Officers Guild calls for Sheriff Johanknecht to resign” by Chris Daniels: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/king-county-police-officers-guild-calls-for-sheriff-johanknecht-to-resign/281-d4361f0a-0df9-4bf4-8d92-d49f7b123289


Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00]  Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this  show, we talk with political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight  into state and local politics and policy through the lens of those doing  the work and provide behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our  state. For full transcripts and resources referenced in the show you can  go to officialhacksandwonks.com and view our episode notes. Today we're  continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the  week with a guest cohost. Welcome to the program today's co-host  publisher of the South Seattle Emerald and columnist with the Seattle  Times, Marcus Harrison Green.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:00:49] Hi, thank you for having me here.

Crystal Fincher: [00:00:51]  Love having you back - always love having you on the show. I, you know -  there's a few things that we could talk about this week. I guess,  starting out - I wanted to talk about news that broke yesterday about  Jenny Durkan and the mayor's office - and public records requests that  were handled in an inappropriate way. And the whistle was actually blown  by public records employees in the City. Have you had the chance to  catch up on this at all?

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:01:25]  I have not, unfortunately - it has been quite a hectic week, but, I'm  definitely waiting with bated breath to see what else comes across out  of this so -

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:37]  Yeah, this was a story by David Beekman of the Seattle Times - we'll  put the link in the show notes along with others, but her office  mishandled several public records requests. And after discovering about  10 months of Durkan's text messages were missing.

And  just as a kind of recap for people in public office, what people are  doing with taxpayer money on the public dime as our elected  representatives and public servants is subject to view by the public.  And this is how we hold our people in power accountable, our elected  officials accountable. This is how we understand what work they're doing  and to see if we're getting our money's worth, if they're following  laws. It really is a tool of information and accountability - and it's  routine for anyone in the public, but quite often members of the media  will submit public disclosure requests saying, Hey, we would like to see  correspondence about a certain subject involving the mayor or from  peoples in the mayor's office. And so if you specify what the subject  is, who you're looking to hear from it from, the City or any public  entity is responsible for turning over the information requested.  Sometimes that can take a long time, sometimes there is a fee attached  to that, but basically it is the law that those are public records and  whether it is something on the computer - I sound so old, something on  the computer - whether it's written communication or a text message - if  it is discussing City business, regardless of the medium, it is a  public document and can be requested. Everyone in government knows this.  Everyone adjacent to government knows this. So this isn't a surprise or  a secret. And there are people employed and this is their job - it's to  process these requests, to find and track down all of the documents and  communications that apply, and to give those to the requested parties.

Now,  sometimes there's information that is sensitive or can be redacted. So  sometimes we get documentation that has stuff blotted out, or they say  they can't turn it over for privacy or one of the acceptable exemption  reasons. But these communications did not fall under that. And it looks  like they were playing really fast and loose with terminology to hide,  or to avoid turning over communications. And so it just is one more  thing on the very long list of behavior from the mayor's office that  doesn't just look inappropriate, shortsighted, and unethical, but in  this situation also illegal - and is troubling. Have you dealt with  public records requests in your time reporting and writing?

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:04:33]  I certainly have. I mean, it's - this has been a huge issue, I just say  in general, in terms of getting full transparency from local  government. I mean, obviously there's issues at the federal government  level, but that's a whole 'nother story. But certainly I, with local  government, whether it's been the mayor's office, governor's office, or  the school board. And I just think - at end of the day, right? These  folks work for us, they're paid by us, and everything else. And should  obviously be accountable to us, and a part of the way that they are  accountable to the public that they at least ostensibly serve, right, is  to be fully transparent and transparent in a very timely manner when it  comes to public records requests. And unfortunately it appears that  this has not been the case and that it is - it seems like it could  potentially have deliberately not been the case.

Crystal Fincher: [00:05:40]  Yeah, it is. And it looks very deliberate. And just to be clear, the  article says that the allegation is that the mayor's legal counsel,  Michelle Chen, engaged in improper governmental action when she excluded  Durkan's missing texts from certain requests. And again, these are -  this is according to a whistleblower complaint, meaning that there are  people in this process - there are people who were working for the City  and who are basically filing a report and a complaint of misconduct  against their employer. And so there are certain protections provided to  whistleblowers. This is another way that we hold people in power  accountable. We have to give people who call out illegal activity  protection from retaliation, intimidation, and harassment. Otherwise,  people in power could always intimidate people into being silent. That's  still an overarching dynamic, but in specific situations, definitely  those that involve illegal activity - there are now and have been laws  and protections in place for people in the process who are specifically  calling out illegal behavior of their superiors and their workplace.

And  so this is a whistleblower action. And so saying that they hid the  existence of those texts, that they diverge from best practices when  they wouldn't inform requesters of those texts. And again, this is a  city issued phone, so it's not - this is not a gray area of they did not  know that this should have been subject to disclosure. This is a public  asset, talking about public business - you know, no ambiguity there.  They just decided to hide it and also play fast and loose with  terminology saying that, You know, well, communications in the mayor's  office don't necessarily apply to the mayor. And providing - recreate a  text - only to requesters who asked for Durkan's communication  specifically, and not those who asked for mayor's office communications -  obviously, mayor's office communications do include the mayor. They  decided to act like they didn't, and only to requesters who asked for  communications as opposed to correspondence. Correspondence - you know,  according to most common terminology, is included in communications, but  just - it seems like this office has bent over backwards to try and  skirt rules and to get around issues.

And  it's like, if you would just apply that same effort to just doing the  thing that you should be doing, or that you actually promised you would  do, you could get that done. But they seem to be working so hard not to -  it is just another confounding thing. So I'm certainly interested in  following this reporting by Daniel Beekman at the Times to see how this  unfolds and to see if there is accountability tied to this. One thing  that is not particularly encouraging is that there doesn't really seem  to be a method for accountability in this process. That they will just  have to figure out how to do better, which is just another thing that I  think the public is consistently frustrated about. We watch blatant,  unethical behavior, or illegal behavior, and there just doesn't seem to  be any accountability attached to it. So frustrating. But we will see.

I  also think it's notable how many people from inside this administration  are speaking out against it. People who are currently inside, or who  were inside and subsequently left, it seems like there are more people  than average who seem to be very dissatisfied with operations,  practices, and just the general direction that this mayor's office has  taken. Even from management, to communication, to you name it, people  seem to have an issue with it.

Not  fun, but I guess that leads into the other piece of news this week. The  deputy mayor announced for mayor this week, Casey Sixkiller. What is  your view on his announcement and how do you think that's going to  change the dimensions of the race?

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:10:28]  I don't know if it will change - this announcement will change too  much, too many of the dimensions of the race to be quite honest with  you. It just seems that it's - obviously, he's been deputy mayor so he  has, for the most part, tracks with obviously, with what Durkan had -  you know, the Durkan administration, and her actions, and agenda, and so  forth. And I think he'll obviously continue to do so. I mean, I know he  is sort of trying to present himself as somewhat of an outsider, but  it's hard to do when you've been inside for so long. I think you see it  as - you'll be seen, rightfully so, as a very status quo establishment  candidate. I don't think that they're - though although I know that he  did say that he was going to, as a person of color, he was going to try  to govern as such. So, or excuse me - allow it to influence his  decisions, I believe is what he actually said. That being said, right, I  mean, it's - he's been deputy mayor for this long, I think you would -  if him as a person of color, if that was his guide in governing, I'm not  sure that bodes too well necessarily for the rest of the City here and  folks of color. So anyway.

Crystal Fincher: [00:11:53]  I mean, there seems to be one issue after another that has come out of  the mayor's office. As senior leadership in the mayor's office, it  certainly is interesting to hear his take on how he would run in this  situation. I think it's also interesting, as you said, trying to paint  himself as an outsider - that seems to be the buzzword. And in the same  way - you know, I always crack up when you see these, you know, 30,  20-30 year Republican incumbents be like, I'm an outsider. I'm like,  You're the insider-iest insider that there could possibly be. You are  the status quo. And it reminds me of this situation, in that you are the  deputy chief of operations, deputy mayor of operations here - have you  know, homelessness is in his portfolio and handling that.

I  think that there is universal agreement that we have not made the  progress - one, that was promised in this administration. So just  according to their metric and what they campaigned on and laid out -  that wasn't achieved. And to be fair, Jenny Durkan is the mayor. He is  not the mayor. So, it will be interesting to hear where he disagrees  with the mayor. If there is a point where he would have differed in the  implementation, or in the handling, or even in relationships with people  within departments, departmental leadership, and the Council - that  will be really illuminating to hear. Because what we have heard from him  so far has been obviously, complete consistency with Mayor Durkan. And  continued challenges - one of the biggest recent ones about whether or  not to take FEMA money to help reimburse the costs of sheltering people  without homes. So this'll be really interesting, but I think the  outsider label - I don't know that I would have attempted to even try  that. It actually seems like one of those where it's like -

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:14:05] You call it false advertising, right? I mean, God.

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:06]  Oh yeah, like that - it doesn't quite ring true and it's not quite  credible. And maybe speaking about a specific issue might be a little  bit more on the nose. In terms of the race, I think this is an  interesting dynamic. I actually - this is me as an outsider, I'm not  working with any of the mayoral candidates. I'm not doing any of that.  So I can just look at this as a spectator.

It's  been interesting, with the mayoral race, the dynamics of Lorena  González being on the Council and being another insider, who - it's hard  to say that Lorena is an outsider coming from, as the president of the  council. But a lot of people reading every frustration that they have  with anything that's happened in government with someone on the inside -  Well, they're an incumbent, therefore we want a change. And they're on  the inside, so we want a change. Certainly Lorena González is an insider  on the Council perspective, being the Council President - and a lot of  people are running against what the status quo is. But because she was  the only insider in the race in that kind of position - very visible and  policymaking - it made the status quo seem like what - anything that  happened.

But what was  happening from the council perspective is very different than what was  happening from the mayor's office. And you have two very different  perspectives. So if someone is unhappy with the direction that things  are going in city government - they can be unhappy with the general  direction of things, but be pretty happy with members of the council. Or  conversely, be pretty happy with the direction of the mayor, because  the council and the mayor have not seen eye to eye on several issues.  There have been - Council passed policy, the mayor's vetoed it, Council  has overwritten that veto - more than one occasion. And so you can't say  that city government is unified and if you're unhappy about an issue,  then automatically voting against Lorena González would make you happy.  Maybe that would make you more unhappy. Maybe it would actually make you  happy. But it's just not as clean of a conversation. It goes beyond  insider and outsider, and gets more to policy. And then there is someone  in the race who is going to be defending the Durkan position, because a  lot of people have been, frankly, running counter to what the mayor's  office has done in some situations. So it's going to be - go ahead.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:16:41]  I was going to say, yeah, I mean, I think you have it. Sixkiller acts  as a proxy, essentially, for Durkan and so now, I think you have a  "villain" for central casting that some other folks can now point to and  say, Oh, well this is Durkan - you know, essentially Durkan Lite, or  Durkan with, in sheep's clothing, so to speak. And if you didn't like  anything that Durkan did, Well, hey. Then why in the world would you go  for him? Why don't you go for me? And so at the very least, even if  you're not high up on another candidate, at the very least you can say,  Well, you want to vote for more of the same, or you want to at least try  something different. I'm not promising you more of the same. And so, I  think like you said, it does maybe potentially boosts the prospects of  someone like a Lorena González, or someone else who is certainly trying  to put themselves in opposition to the Durkan administration.

Crystal Fincher: [00:17:34]  Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And I think there are going to be some people  who are happy to hear Durkan administration policies being vigorously  defended. There are certainly people who agree with the direction that  things have gone, or who feel like the Council has been on the wrong  track, and who agree more with the mayor. But it's really - to me, this  is just going to be really interesting. And I'm going to be -  interesting to see how fundraising shapes up, how this impacts where  people affiliated with the business community - and the Chamber  donations that are not going to be coming from the Chamber, but  certainly going to be there and with other names plastered on them.  That's going to be interesting to see how that turns out.

And  where endorsements go. Like the Times. Lots of people, you know - we  were having a conversation about this. I've had several conversations  with people about where's The Times going to go, where is people in the  business community going to go? And that's an open question. I mean,  we've heard people thinking that Jessyn Farrell was angling for that,  certainly Casey Sixkiller, Bruce Harrell - are all names thrown about -  can they make it? And I think people are trying to see who's going to  take a lead, or who feels like they're taking a lead, and see if they  can hop on a winning horse.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:19:11]  Right. And you got to factor in too, right? Especially as it comes to  the primary with endorsements - which is, you know, typically primary is  the low turnout race, because it happens in August. It's also the fact  that this will be the first summer that's post-pandemic and more folks  will be - it's predicted that more folks will be going out and traveling  and so forth in August. And just getting out of the confinement of the  geographic location of Seattle for a little while. And so I think  endorsements like the Seattle Times, and to a certain extent, The  Stranger, obviously, may have even more outsize weight than they've had  in previous years.

And  I'll say this - I think the three previous mayoral elections have had -  it has pretty much ponied up the Seattle Times endorsee versus The  Stranger endorsee. And I don't have any reason to think that that won't  be the case again this go around. And so, it should be interesting to  see, in terms of jockeying for endorsements and so forth, and also  jockeying for the narrative, right? What is the narrative that is going  to stick to a particular candidate - insider outsider, policy person  versus I-feel-your-pain person. And we'll see, I mean, it's somewhat  intriguing, especially with this field - how can you distinguish and  differentiate yourself? And I quite frankly, I don't know if anybody has  truly done that at this point. I mean, I -

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:49] I don't think so yet.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:20:50]  Yeah. I don't know what your gauge is on like the enthusiasm factor,  but I just don't see it out here. It just doesn't seem that there's a  ton of people who are super enthused about things.

Crystal Fincher: [00:21:00]  No, I'm with you. I don't think there has been a big distinction or  delineation yet. I think that is certainly what a lot of candidates are  trying to figure out how to do - for several different positions. But  it's also this weird time in that campaigns kind of start playing an  insider game and then they finish with the outsider game. So right now  people are chasing endorsements and chasing fundraising - certainly  chasing donations, chasing democracy vouchers. And there are people who  are looking strong in that arena, in fundraising, and who may not look  as strong in some of the coveted donations, but we will see - coveted  endorsements, I meant. But it's going to be hard.

I  think that as we progress in the next couple of months - give it a  month or two, and people are going to be speaking to the public more  consistently. There'll be some forums where people get a chance to see  candidates speaking plainly on the issues and compare them side-by-side.  I think it's really challenging to not be able to kind of stack them up  one against the other and say, Okay, now I hear them all talking about  the same thing at the same time. And this is who - I'm feeling it, this  is who I'm definitely not. So, you know, we have yet to get there. But I  think it's hard for people to look at this crop, much of this crop, and  to really point out obvious differences between many of them, except in  cases where someone coming from the Durkan administration is going to  be different than someone coming from the Council and certainly a number  of those pushing from the outside. So we'll see how it continues to  unfold.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:22:48]  Yeah, I - unfortunately, I don't see - it's my opinion that we need  somewhat of a transformative candidate in this upcoming race. And I  don't know if the field contains anyone like that. So -

Crystal Fincher: [00:23:05]  I think it might. And you know, jury's out - we will see. I think that  what - that there is a space for someone to say, You know what? We've  been talking about all this consensus, and working together, and being  all happy, and waiting until everyone agrees. And you know what -  everyone is just not going to agree. And as we sit here just trying - to  be paralyzed, waiting for a consensus that is never going to happen -  the problems keep getting worse. So, you know what I'm going to do. This  is my plan. And when I get elected, regardless of whether or not  everyone agrees, or if I'm catching criticism from people who lost and  didn't get as many votes, I'm going to move in this direction. This is  my plan. I'm going to implement it. It's okay if the Chamber doesn't  agree. Or it's okay if this constituency doesn't agree. We're going to  move forward and push forward and do this and not wait for everyone to  be on board. You can count on me to make a difference - this is going to  look different at the end of my term than it did at the beginning. You  can count on me - if it doesn't, then I won't run again. Like hold me  accountable, I'm holding myself accountable.

I  feel there's a space for that - Hey, I'm ready to actually get  something done. Not talk about it, not put a task force on it, not wait  for people to agree, and have more meetings about it. We know what the  issues are, there's been lots of data, lots of hand-wringing, and it's  time for action. And I'm actually equipped to take action. I understand  what needs to happen from a policy perspective. And I understand what  needs to happen from an implementation perspective. Because I do think  that we've seen some implementation challenges in this administration  and the prior administration.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:24:51]  Well, I just yeah, well I'll say this. I mean, I just wish somebody  would actually articulate that - stick to that being the message the  whole time. This is what I'm sticking to whenever I'm out doing my stump  speech. And we talked about people trying to draw clear distinctions  earlier. I mean, I think that would be - if somebody were to say that  and stick to it the entire time, I think that would definitely draw a  clear distinction in this particular field.

Crystal Fincher: [00:25:18]  I think it would and I think there are some people who can credibly say  that in this race, but we will see. It's gonna be really interesting. I  think there's also the space for - this dynamic is different than the  Council. The Council is a legislative body - you actually do need a  majority of the members on the Council to move in a direction. You can't  have one person say, I'm going to do it. I'm going to get this done.  Because you can't get something done with one person on the Council.  It's irresponsible to suggest that's possible. You can certainly have  people lead and work with colleagues. And working with people in that  capacity is also important, but the mayor, the buck stops there. That's  an executive position. You do have the ability to command what is going  to happen in many different areas. And to say, We are moving forward  with this. I'm going to make this decision - we're going to move forward  and that's just going to be how it's going to be.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:26:22]  Oh, sorry. I was just gonna say, I mean, to your point, right? I mean, I  think, you don't need everyone, you just need enough people, right? And  I think we, unfortunately, we don't want to - a lot of our politicians  have not made peace with just moving forward with enough. And we need  to.

Crystal Fincher: [00:26:41]  Yeah. I have conversations with clients and people all the time, but  the election is the mandate. If you were straight about who you are and  what your plans are when you get elected - which is why it's honest to  be transparent about who you are, it's prudent to be transparent about  who you are when you're running - then you getting elected is the  mandate to do exactly what you want to do. And you don't have to be  afraid of, Well, maybe if I do this, people are not going to be happy.  Like they elected you knowing full well that's who you were and were  going to do. And so you get that done and then they're happy that they  got what they voted for. It's when you get scared about doing what you  were elected to do, that that creates the problems. So we will see what  happens with that. But I am hoping to see someone really take the mantle  and say, I'm ready to get something done. And it's okay if people don't  agree. I'm ready to implement some strong leadership here.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:27:44] I wholeheartedly agree. And hopefully, that will happen. But as you said, we shall see.

Crystal Fincher: [00:27:52]  We shall see. Well, we certainly - as is always the case on these  shows, we have a long list of things that we can talk about. And then we  get into talking about something and then we run out of time. We were  going to talk about everyone in the world wanting the King County  Sheriff to resign.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:28:07] Yes. I mean, it grows by leaps and bounds every day. So.

Crystal Fincher: [00:28:14]  Yeah. I mean, yeah. Everyone from King County Councilmembers, both the  King County Executive and his challenger Joe Nguyen, in addition to the  King County Officers Guild. I mean, every - the call's coming from  inside and outside of the house. Everyone is calling. Everyone is like,  please leave. Please just go. Get out - we have no confidence.

Marcus Harrison Green: [00:28:39] Yeah, one point of agreement on - it seems, you know, that we're able find these days. And so, there you go.

Crystal Fincher: [00:28:45]  Yes. Bi-partisan, united agreement on the fact that Sheriff must go. We  thought we weren't going to unite around this, but here we are. Well,  with that, we are at time today. We thank you for listening to Hacks and  Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, May 7th, 2021. Our chief audio  engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is  Lisl Stadler. And our wonderful co-host today was South Seattle Emerald  publisher and Seattle Times columnist Marcus Harrison Green. You can  find Marcus on Twitter @mhgreen3000. You can find me on Twitter  @finchfrii (that’s f-i-n-c-h-f-r-i-i) and now you can follow Hacks and  Wonks for the full versions of the show 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 our Friday almost-live show and our  mid-week show sent directly to your podcast stream. We appreciate you  continuing to tune in. We'll talk to you next time.