Week in Review: October 6, 2023 - with Lex Vaughn

Week in Review: October 6, 2023 - with Lex Vaughn

On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn!

They discuss how the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) Vice President who mocked Jaahnavi Kandula’s death is now on red light camera duty, how a KING 5 story effectively victim blamed Kandula for what she was wearing, and how Seattle will pay nearly $2M after a man died of heart attack after incorrectly being on a 911 blacklist.

Crystal and Lex then talk about Senator Nguyen’s bill to detect gas price gouging, the Week Without Driving, Burien making their camping ban worse, how Bruce Harrell’s dual responder program fails to civilianize crisis response, and a new GOP candidate in the 3rd Congressional District race.

About the Guest

Lex Vaughn

Lex Vaughn is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Founder and Editor of The Needling.

Find Lex Vaughn on Twitter/X at @AlexaVaughn.


Maritza Rivera, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 4” from Hacks & Wonks

Ron Davis, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 4” from Hacks & Wonks

Seattle police officer heard joking after woman’s death has been taken off the streets” by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times

New video shows moments before woman is hit by Seattle police vehicle” from KING 5

Seattle to pay nearly $2M after man dies of heart attack at address wrongly on 911 blacklist” by The Associated Press and KIRO 7 News Staff from KIRO 7

Sen. Nguyen moving forward on bill to detect price gouging at the gas pump” by Brett Davis from The Center Square

Could You Go a Week Without Driving?” by Tanisha Sepúlveda from PubliCola

Burien Makes "Camping" Ban Worse, Auderer Now on Red-Light Camera Duty, Harrell Order Subtly Improves New Drug Law” from PubliCola

Harrell’s Dual-Responder Proposal Would Fail to Civilianize Crisis Response” by Amy Sundberg from The Urbanist

Lewallen emerges as GOP alternative to Kent in rematch with Gluesenkamp Perez” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times

Find stories that Crystal is reading here

Listen on your favorite podcast app to all our episodes here


[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 show and our Friday week-in-review 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 this week's topical shows, we continued our series of Seattle City Council candidate interviews. All 14 candidates for 7 positions were invited and we had in-depth conversations with many of them. This week, we presented District 4 candidates, Maritza Rivera and Ron Davis. Have a listen to those and stay tuned over the coming weeks. We hope these interviews will help voters better understand who these candidates are and inform their choices for the November 7th general election.

Today, we're 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: Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn. Hey!

[00:01:36] Lex Vaughn: Hey, nice to be back.

[00:01:38] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back. And I just have to say before we get into it - The Needling is so good. You do such great work there. And like the last two weeks are as good as it has ever been. There's no one in the country doing it better than The Needling right now. It's just absolutely great. If you guys are not tuned into The Needling - website, Patreon, social media - please get into it.

[00:02:03] Lex Vaughn: Thank you so much, Crystal.

[00:02:05] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Well, we have a number of things to talk about this week. Wanna start off talking about an update to the story of pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula, who was killed by an officer who ran over her while going over 70 miles per hour in response to a call - although he did not have his siren going at the time - and a story that came out in KING 5 also related to that. But just starting - update to that story is the SPOG Vice President, Daniel Auderer, who was caught on tape mocking Jaahnavi's death is now on red light camera duty - has been taken off the street. It is not uncommon for officers to be reassigned to administrative positions while investigations are ongoing - that's the case here. What do you think about where we stand here in terms of accountability?

[00:03:00] Lex Vaughn: I think no one should feel like anything real has happened as far as accountability or punishment goes - he's been reassigned, but he could be, as soon as we take our eye off this, he could be put back in the same position he was before. Auderer is still a major part of the guild leadership, so it's like - this isn't just any cop. This is guild leadership that forms a lot of the culture of the entire department, so it's upsetting to not see - once again, how - it's just upsetting to see how hard it is to even get real punishment happening for some of these people after what they do. They should be fired. And I think the next thing I'm focused on is just what's gonna happen in this next police guild contract - it's up this year and it's in negotiations right now. I just, I hope it's slightly better than the contract before - and it would just be nice if it was easier to hold police like this accountable.

[00:03:59] Crystal Fincher: I'm right there with you. And I hope it's significantly better than it is right now. And there's a model in place for it - the City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2017 that included many accountability procedures that the SPOG contract that's currently in place, that was signed in 2018, supersedes. It has written in there that it supersedes City law - so if there's a conflict, the SPOG contract is what wins, basically, over what the City says. And as we've seen, there've been several examples of things that regular people look at and say - This is not okay, this is not what we want - where we see officers commenting across the country saying - This is inappropriate, incorrect. Yet it seems like not much can be done, and the most that's done is they're suspended without pay then reinstated, or assigned to desk duty, various administrative tasks. It's a challenge.

[00:04:55] Lex Vaughn: And I'm so tired of the shrug that happens - Well, I don't know, police contract. What are you gonna do? Well, now we're in negotiations. You are actively in a position to do something about it long-term. I don't want any shrugging right now about this 'cause we are actually in a zone where we can change the contract, or change how the City interacts with that union as a whole. I'm just learning myself about what options there are in increasing accountability. Is there a way to decertify this union completely if - I mean, I think a lot of what they support and don't fight against in their own ranks is kind of criminal itself. You're enabling people to kill innocent people - for me, to me, that's criminal. And it's like, I wish that was kind of acknowledged more often - where's the line here where some of what they're doing is criminal.

[00:05:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and you know, the other thing I look at here is this is a threat to public safety in Seattle, particularly for people who say and believe that - Hey, we need more officers on the streets now, we need to hire more officers, there is a shortage. One, if there's a shortage, why are they responding to overdose calls, crisis calls in the first place and redeploying it?

[00:06:11] Lex Vaughn: You know, as outlets like DivestSPD have reported in detail, it's - this call, where this young woman was killed by a cop going three times the speed limit in a high pedestrian area at night without a siren - he was rushing to a reported overdose call where health personnel, paramedics were already headed there. And apparently there were like six police units headed there as well? This is just inefficient, like at a minimum, at a minimum - incredibly inefficient and dangerous. And it really kind of underlines - how could you think we need more cops when in a situation like this, they're over-responding and actually a danger to the community. The entire way this operation is working is faulty and not increasing public safety.

[00:07:07] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely not increasing public safety. And hurting the effort that they've invested a lot of money into to recruit additional officers. Since they offered retention bonuses, you know, there was a lot of talk over the past couple of years that - Oh, they need more money, they need an incentive to stay. Well, the incentive is not money. Many of them are compensated fairly handsomely, but since that was approved and they've been receiving retention bonuses - the attrition has not improved - we're still hurting as badly as we ever have. And it's time - and I appreciate Tammy Morales in a forum last night, as well as others, and there've been several other people who've also talked about this - just plainly stating, Hey, these incidences happening are a problem, are a disincentive for people to apply to be a police officer, to want to be a police officer, particularly in Seattle. And especially when so many cities are talking about having shortages, why would they choose a city that has so many visible problems and problematic officers instead of another one there? So, I mean, this is - the culture is as much of a problem in terms of recruiting as anything else. But also, we do have to stop and say - What are we even doing overall? - to your point.

I also want to talk about this KING 5 story that came out recapping it, but got a pretty severe pushback and lots of call-outs - because in that story, they detailed what Jaahnavi was wearing, while it - was it dark colored this or that, you know, potentially talking about a drug test. And as you said - to be clear - she was in a crosswalk. She was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing. The person doing what they weren't supposed to be doing was a person responding to a call that was questionable that they should be going to anyway.

[00:08:55] Lex Vaughn: I cannot stand anyone acting like - Oh, she just didn't look both ways. This was a high pedestrian area - at night, no sirens. How many of us would expect, as soon as we're entering a crosswalk, for a cop, a giant car to barrel at us at over the speed limit of what's, on our freeways? Okay - that's fast. She didn't, she barely comprehended what was going to happen to her before it happened to her.

[00:09:26] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and when you look at there, it's not - one, it's a crosswalk, and drivers should be aware of crosswalks and crossings marked or unmarked. This is a marked crosswalk - there's a crosswalk sign, there's barriers in the road - this is not an area - Oh, who would know that there would be a pedestrian there? Like, if there was a place for a pedestrian to be, it is there. And to essentially victim blame in that way and not talk about the responsibility of the person in the vehicle that has the power to instantaneously obliterate someone - what their culpability and responsibility was there - is just really disgusting.

[00:10:04] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I have to say, I'm really disappointed in KING 5 for that report, 'cause I mean, in Seattle, I think we tend to think of KOMO as the station that would run something like that, not KING 5. And it's hard to understand what the motivation of that report was. I mean, I guess they were maybe giddy that they had new video that hadn't been seen before, and I don't know, maybe there was only so much they had to say about it - she's wearing black clothes - but it just came off as very victim-blamey. You know, this is not a report that you wanna turn into a pedestrian safety cautionary tale - where that's not really the moral of the story here - 'cause I think any of us, most people, that would have happened to them, no matter what they were wearing, I doubt that cop would have all of a sudden had time to brake if she was wearing yellow. He was going way too fast.

[00:10:57] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Absolutely going too fast to respond in any kind of way at that speed, to be able to take any kind of evasive action - and we see that in how the accident played out. I think this is reflective of the super car-centric culture and how problematic that is - instead of realizing that everyone has a right to use the roads and therefore everyone, whether you're walking, biking, riding. But the responsibility that people have in understanding that - yes, if you have the potential to do greater harm, then you must take greater responsibility. The consequence for a pedestrian walking out into the street to a car is negligible - there's going to be no damage there, right? Like, you know, looking at the worst-case scenario is entirely different than someone losing their life. And so I suspect in this situation - a problem that we've seen in lots of news media in that they saw the video, they looked at the police report and what the information that the police gave out, which unfortunately too often only focuses on, especially when situations when police are involved, only focuses on the pedestrian that is involved or the non-police entity that's involved. Just really striking, we - was the officer driving - were they tested for drugs or alcohol? Were they, I mean, you know, a sign of impairment there, so how in the world it makes sense?

[00:12:22] Lex Vaughn: They were not. She was, he wasn't - despite the fact that this guy who ran her over, apparently had had his driving license suspended in Arizona the year before he came here and got hired with a bonus. So, you know, if you think these bonuses are getting us anyone quality, all you have to do is look at this case - not the case - we're not getting anyone special here.

[00:12:48] Crystal Fincher: Well, you know, I don't know who it's bringing, but there absolutely needs to be a different strategy implemented here. And everyone needs to do better in reporting, and considering how they talk about this, and what our stance as a community is about this.

I also wanna talk about another story this week that didn't seem to percolate, but that was surprising to me. And it was news that Seattle had to pay nearly $2 million to the family of a man after he died of a heart attack after getting delayed response because his address was wrongly on a 911 blacklist. One - okay, there's a 911 blacklist - there's news.

[00:13:29] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I did not even know that. Oh, God.

[00:13:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so the situation is this person had a heart attack, fell out - had lived in the unit for a year. The people who lived in it before him wound up on a list - and responders and police say they keep a list of people who have been hostile to or problematic with police, which, you know, I don't know what hard and fast rules about that, how subjective that is, but you can see how that could come to be. But they wound up on this list because of a prior tenant - that wasn't told to them on the call, there was no indication, you had - no one has any idea -

[00:14:06] Lex Vaughn: I had no idea that was a thing.

[00:14:09] Crystal Fincher: - that - yeah, that the list exists or that they may or may not be on it. So this guy's lived here for a year. It's not even like he just moved in there.

[00:14:16] Lex Vaughn: And I'm like - oh my God. So it's like based on address, not even like phone numbers? 'Cause like I would imagine almost everyone has like a cell phone now. Like almost no one has a landline.

[00:14:27] Crystal Fincher: Some people have a landline.

[00:14:28] Lex Vaughn: I mean, okay.

[00:14:29] Crystal Fincher: Some people don't have cell phones.

[00:14:30] Lex Vaughn: It's like a small fraction of people.

[00:14:32] Crystal Fincher: Most people do, some people don't - but either way - so they call and they're like - Okay, help is on the way. But the help is - they see there's a flag, so they have to wait for basically police to co-respond with them, which delays the call. You know, another 911 call comes in after a paramedic is apparently on the scene, but not going in because they're waiting for police. And they're saying help is on the way, but no indication that there's a delay. The man passes away because of - looking at the settlement, feeling like had he received more timely medical care, he certainly would have had a better opportunity to survive. But that this was the reason why he died - and that this list exists, that finding out through this, that evidently the list was neglected - they don't take people off the list or hadn't before this - was very problematic. In response to this, they're now saying they'll age people off of the list after 365 days. But you can imagine-

[00:15:28] Lex Vaughn: Why did it have to take this to do that obvious a thing?

[00:15:31] Crystal Fincher: Why did it have to take this? And how does no one engage with the fact that, especially with half of Seattle residents renting, right?

[00:15:39] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I'm a renter. And I read this and I was like - Okay. I mean, I've lived in this place that I'm in for three years, so well - I mean, I don't know. It's like, I want to check - I don't know who lived here before.

[00:15:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, how do you get on? Is there an appeals process to come off? The lack of transparency surrounding this seems like it could create another situation like this in the future. So this was a story reported by KIRO 7 - would be interested to find out exactly what criteria are to get on the list. Are people ever removed from the list now other than aging off? And even with things aging off over a year, people move all the time - renters move all the time - this is absolutely disproportionately impacting people who rent. And a year is a long time to wait for something to edge off. If you have an emergency and you haven't lived in your place for a year, who knows if when you call 911, there's some reason that you don't know why people aren't responding. So I found that just really interesting.

[00:16:43] Lex Vaughn: And just another important part of that report is that apparently a dispatcher was punished and also sued the City because he tried to fix that system. And he was kind of like wrongfully punished on the job for trying to bring up and reform that 911 blacklist. And it just seems like - wow, you know, a person like me - I didn't even know it existed, but I think we all got to take a hard look at that 'cause that's a tragedy that didn't have to happen.

[00:17:14] Crystal Fincher: Absolute tragedy. And very interested to learn more about how that list operates and if it is in line with best practices and it just seems-

[00:17:24] Lex Vaughn: It seems very outdated.

[00:17:26] Crystal Fincher: It really does. Wanna talk about another story that is part of a larger story. And it's Senator Joe Nguyen, our state Senator, is moving forward on a bill to detect price gouging at the gas pump. Gas prices have been in the news a lot lately - they find their way into the news every year for a variety of reasons that - the price of gas is high. It's a cost that a lot of people incur. And as the prices rise, people feel that in their budgets, certainly - don't wanna minimize that at all for people who are on a tight budget. But for people who care about that, I hope they also have urgency in dealing with housing costs, childcare costs, some of the biggest costs that people have. But gas is a factor in there, and so we have a situation where gas prices are volatile - they have been, they always are. In this situation, we have Democrats and Republicans calling for a couple of different solutions. Republicans call for a gas tax holiday, they blame the Climate Commitment Act - which was passed here in this state, which assigns basically a price to carbon - and saying, This is the reason why gas prices are high. Other people have pointed out for quite some time that we still have these oil companies making record profits and that accounts for more of the gas price there. And these increases in price don't seem to correlate with the increase and decreases in cost. And we hear - Oh, you know, refinery's offline for maintenance. Well, that seems to coincide with major holiday weekends and times when they know people will be driving to make the price skyrocket.

California passed a bill similar to this, which Joe Nguyen said he looked at and is modeling this off of. And they found that there was some, you know, shady stuff going on. And what this does is basically establish a commission, or a tribunal, or some organization that can review pricing information and kind of proprietary data from these companies - saying that this isn't public data, so it's not like there are gonna be competitive disadvantages for sharing and it's not gonna be given to the public. But this group can review it and say - Okay, is this in line with costs, or are you just raising the price of gas to price gouge consumers - which appears that it's happened before. So this is an interesting bill that Senator Nguyen is moving forward with to detect price gouging. And I'm gonna be really curious to see how this plays out. What do you think?

[00:19:47] Lex Vaughn: I mean, I'd be interested to see how they plan on changing that behavior. 'Cause I guess I applaud the effort to detect price gouging and do something about it, but I'm almost in like a state of - I've just accepted oil companies do that all the time. I mean, I think especially in that year after - since the war in Ukraine, it seemed like there was a period where they were artificially jacking up the prices when they didn't really need to - even after President Biden had taken action to reduce that problem, the prices were still high. So I'm just so used to the price gouging that I assume is always happening, I'm like - Oh, okay, you gonna do something about it? Good luck with that. I don't have high hopes, but-

[00:20:34] Crystal Fincher: Well, I think there are bigger structural issues involved. I mean, we are trying to phase out fossil fuels in a long-term perspective, and that is going to make the cost of gas increase in the long-term. Now, as with many things - and part of that is the price is inherently volatile, it's gonna become more volatile, especially as - even if we wanted to burn all the oil in the world, there's a limited supply of oil. So this was coming at some time. How do we make this transition in a way that is as fair and equitable as possible? And that's what the proceeds of the Climate Commitment Act are supposed to do - these proceeds that are exceeding expectations from these carbon credits - that's what the push towards more renewable forms of energy, electric cars - but even better, getting the cars off the road and using transit - and making, building our infrastructure and building our communities in a way that make that a viable and attractive option for people. 'Cause right now we still have a long way to go for that.

And in this Week Without Driving, many of us are experiencing that firsthand-

[00:21:39] Lex Vaughn: How was that?

[00:21:39] Crystal Fincher: It's still ongoing. I shared online that I have a trip today to make where it's a two hour one-way trip, even though it's only 17 miles - but it underscores how important it is to improve transit service everywhere - and it benefits everyone. We have to get out, we have to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We have to get on this and accelerate our efforts to meet our 2030 goals - to have a shot at meeting our goals that are further down the line. We have a long way to go, but improving the accessibility and the experience on transit will improve traffic, will improve air quality, will improve finances. It costs a lot less if that's a reasonable option to do.

[00:22:24] Lex Vaughn: I'm always shocked when people aren't completely on board with building great public transit as fast as possible everywhere. 'Cause even if you're a driver and you're never taking public transit, how is it not in your interest as well for as many people as possible to be in public transit? You get less traffic. It should be a win-win-win for everybody to get more of these things online.

[00:22:49] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think there's a lot of misinformation about there. And I think the way that we have allowed communities to build and grow - that we've allowed sprawl and basically enabled-

[00:22:59] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, yeah.

[00:23:00] Crystal Fincher: -the inaccessibility of transit in communities makes people - the default lifestyle for many people is a car-based lifestyle. And we've allowed transit to atrophy in many places, if it even was readily available in the first place. So people - when people can't see it and can't see it working, they have a hard time conceptualizing it.

[00:23:22] Lex Vaughn: Oh yeah. And I mean, whenever you do that Google Maps route - I mean, I do that sometimes where I'm like - Oh, what's the public transit route? If it's very long, I'll opt for using my car for part of that trip somehow. And that usually is the defining thing, right - is just looking up on a Google Map - is this a half hour trip or a two hour trip?

[00:23:43] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:23:44] Lex Vaughn: I mean, that's a big difference.

[00:23:45] Crystal Fincher: It's a humongous difference. And for several - I fortunately am privileged enough to not have to drive often. But for those I do, that's an absolute consideration. And I would like to take transit. And there are some advantages even on a longer trip - you can do other things, you can multitask, you can just decompress - you don't have to be present and aware, paying attention while you're driving, you don't have the stress of traffic sometimes, which is nice. So I mean, even on a longer trip, there are some advantages to transit, but also it can be less convenient depending on there. And if you have to walk a long way, especially in poor weather, when it's cold. Or if there aren't adequate facilities at a transit stop - I saw someone yesterday comment, Hey man, I looked up something and it was a two and a half hour trip, and my bladder can't securely make that trip and we don't make public restrooms readily available to people. There are a lot of structural barriers in place for people to be able to use transit, and we have to do a better job at removing those barriers if we're gonna make progress. And so the Week Without Driving is really bringing that home to a lot of people in ways that we can talk about, but when you do it and you feel it, it just provides additional insight and urgency into that.

I also wanna talk about the City of Burien - yet again - who passed their camping ban and then decided to make their camping ban worse. So what Burien did was now expand the number of hours per day in which being unsheltered will soon be illegal. PubliCola has been doing an excellent job covering what's been happening in the City of Burien - we will link this article and update in our show notes also. But basically the Burien city attorney said that the city decided to make the adjustment after learning that shelters begin making their decisions about who to admit around 4.30 in the afternoon. And by 10, most are closed. And according to him, it would be too late to take people there - that's questionable reasoning. And by starting the ban earlier in the evening, the city thinks that it can plausibly say shelter was available - which is important in order to pass the constitutionality test - and that people refuse to accept it. Those are not hard and fast rules, and especially with some of the new shelter coming online, it is more flexible. The shelters making such decisions and closing early are part of the reason why it's hard for people to do that anyway. A meaningful percentage of people who don't have homes still have jobs. Lots of people who don't have homes or who are housing insecure have jobs. And if their shift goes beyond 7 or 8 or 9 or whatever the closing time is-

[00:26:32] Lex Vaughn: Very unreasonable.

[00:26:33] Crystal Fincher: -you have to choose between keeping the job that has a shot at either getting you back into housing or keeping you from falling into a further precarious position on the street. It just doesn't make sense. So they expanded the hours that they were doing that. During the meeting - there's a lot of misinformation that comes from the council majority on this council - they were saying that they, Hey, it increases the amount of time that they're able to camp, which is just false. Like it was weird. It only allows camping between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. - or the ability to be in public while you're unhoused, basically - even though that there aren't good options for where these people to go. And as we've been reminded several times, options are available and on offer to the City of Burien to have people have a place to go - land has been identified for them. And this is a seven-member council, it's a split council - so four members in the majority, three members in the minority. That four-member council majority has not decided to take the county up on the offer of a million dollars to help with long-term placement, hasn't taken - two entities now who have offered Pallet shelters here. It's just really unfortunate.

[00:27:49] Lex Vaughn: Has that city been sued yet? Or like - 'cause it does seem illegal. I mean, they're not even, they're rejecting housing for these people and then doing this camping ban at the same time. I would think that's illegal.

[00:28:03] Crystal Fincher: Well, that's the question. And it does strike a lot of people as illegal, which is one of the reasons why the King County Executive's Office sent a letter to Burien saying that - Hey, because your police department contracts with the King County Sheriff's for your deputies, we're telling you our deputies cannot participate in these sweeps because it's unconstitutional.

[00:28:23] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, that's great.

[00:28:24] Crystal Fincher: And they say - Ah no, it's not. They try to do an end around and find a loophole by leasing to a seemingly faux dog park organization that - then they could trespass people off of land. It's just a whole mess.

[00:28:40] Lex Vaughn: The extent they're going to boot homeless people out of their city is crazy - without helping them.

[00:28:48] Crystal Fincher: Without helping them, yeah.

[00:28:49] Lex Vaughn: The option is right there, the money is right there - and they're not using it. I imagine a lot of these things just aren't true that they're saying? But is that true - that thing they said about all these homeless shelters accept people at 4.30 and not afterward? Is that a thing?

[00:29:06] Crystal Fincher: And the way he phrased it even is vague in and of itself - they begin making their decisions at 4.30.

[00:29:12] Lex Vaughn: Begin making their decisions at--

[00:29:14] Crystal Fincher: Yes.

[00:29:14] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, and it's like - yeah, just think about, I mean, the average person is not done with work at 4.30. They're not even home from work at 4.30, if they're not a remote worker. And yeah, and there's a lot of different shifts out there that people might be taking. And it assumes that people who don't have shelter don't have jobs, which is just the worst piece of misinformation.

[00:29:38] Crystal Fincher: Or don't have any other interests, or places to go - it's just challenging. And speaking of the King County Sheriff's, this is a big concern - who are they gonna have to actually enforce this? - which is a question that was asked. And Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling said on the dais that - Hey, the King County Sheriff's Office signed off on the change. However, PubliCola followed up with the King County Sheriff's Office, and a spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine told PubliCola that the county has not made a decision about whether and how to enforce the law. So, that is absolutely not true - what Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling said - that evidently is still under review. And it looks like they were, once again, in a rush and moved hastily without even knowing if this is something that they can enforce. It is just, it's just a challenge.

[00:30:31] Lex Vaughn: Come on, Burien - get some new people on that council.

[00:30:34] Crystal Fincher: Speaking of challenges that are pretty easy to foresee, or things that don't quite make sense based on what we're being told - is news that, hey, finally, finally, the mayor's office who has had the funding to do this and for some reason hasn't for a long time, announced that they're going to launch a dual responder program. However, this dual responder program would still fail to civilianize the crisis response, which is what the mayor's office had initially said they wanted to - we had a conversation with Deputy Mayor, then-Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell on this show about that before. But in the way this is going to be - in the way it's proposed, in the way it looks like it's going to happen - a new Community Assisted Response and Engagement Department, or CARE Department, will launch a dual dispatch pilot consisting of teams of two civilians, some of whom are behavioral health providers, who can be dispatched alongside SPD officers. And so this program hired six responders so far, $1.8 million has been proposed from the mayor in the 2024 budget.

And in the press conference, which I think you said that you watched, they talked about this being similar to or based on programs that have gotten acclaim in a few other major cities. However, ours is substantively different than theirs - in that, theirs don't rely on co-response - meaning that an armed officer has to go with someone all the time - or they have options out of that, that is not a requirement of the dispatch. And there's good reason for that. One, most of these calls don't apply to that. In Denver's program, they found that they only needed to call for armed police response 2% of the time where their crisis responders were dispatched - especially as you said before, when they're saying they don't have enough cops to do the job that is expected of them, you would think that'd be like - Oh, that's great news. We can deploy our resources in areas where they can be more effective.

[00:32:44] Lex Vaughn: That's why it's probably a dual response. They don't want our city to discover that we don't need police at every single one of these calls. And it's unfortunate that the mayor and this police department are more concerned with how can we get this police department more money, more people. It's, I guess, a rough transition here - to say the least - to get this city to wrap its head around the fact that you do not need police at every single one of these 911 calls. And in fact, it's very dangerous for a lot of these cops to show up, especially in cases where someone's having a mental health crisis or something. When I was a reporter at The Seattle Times, I unfortunately reported on cases where someone was having a mental health crisis and they were shot for not immediately obeying orders. That was, you know - I - if you have a loved one that struggles with mental health issues, the police - they're not who you want to call. It's dangerous, 'cause I think a lot of police are - they're just too willing and ready to shoot as soon as they're not listened to. And so I'm very disappointed that this is a dual response thing, when it's so clear we need that CARE team to just respond on their own, with their own expertise, without anyone armed on the scene.

[00:34:09] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and especially in crisis calls, armed responses - an armed presence - is its own escalator.

[00:34:17] Lex Vaughn: Yes - yeah, like duh - for anyone. And then imagine you're also in crisis - just not a great mix.

[00:34:24] Crystal Fincher: It's challenging. You know, Crosscut previously reported that while only 2.2% of calls for service in Seattle were crisis calls, those calls accounted for 25% of Seattle officers' use of force. And if we recall, Charleena Lyles in 2017 was a perfect example of that, really unfortunate example of that. It's just really challenging. They seem determined to have an officer respond - to your point, it seems like they are afraid of relinquishing anything. But that seems to be happening - if you listen to their logic - at the expense of everyone else's safety and more effective deployment across the city. Then another really meaningful point brought up is just the scale of this pilot - what are we really able to see?

[00:35:12] Lex Vaughn: Six people, right?

[00:35:12] Crystal Fincher: Six people - yeah, absolutely. And that is completely out of line with the scale of the programs in these other cities.

[00:35:21] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, Albuquerque - 70 people. They're really doing it.

[00:35:25] Crystal Fincher: Look at how many officers we have. Look at the size of the city. And one thing that's been noticed by lots of people for a long time is that we put out these pilots, we say we need to see results, and we need to get data on them to see if they're gonna continue. And you just throw a couple people out there - and you can't reasonably expect any meaningful intervention from a few people. Now when you do look at that, they do outsize good for what they're there. So it's like, just imagine if we were to appropriately invest and deploy in numbers that could effectively manage this problem citywide. But we continue not to do that, which is frustrating, and watch more of the budget continue to go to police officers, vacant police officer positions - and it's just frustrating.

[00:36:16] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, I mean, it's like the police department and the City are trying to make this argument that we don't have enough officers. And it's like - Well, what if we're just not doing this efficiently at all? And it's just unfortunate to see that the priority here seems to be retaining dependence on a police department that is as bloated as possible, and not just creating a more efficient public health and public safety kind of operation system here. Like you said, a lot of these calls - they do not need an armed cop, especially one that might be barreling through a high pedestrian area at 75 miles per hour, coming to the call. And if we're really interested in public safety here, I really think we don't need more cops. We need to use the cops we have more efficiently, with more accountability. And expand this other program, the CARE program, and let them respond independently to a lot of these calls and expand it. And I'm worried that this program is being set up to fail. Some people might say that - Well, this is better than nothing. It's a start. - I guess, but I think it's being set up to fail. This is six people - not that many people - and they're not being allowed to be the first to intervene, which is really where I think the magic of those programs happens. It's like - Wow, the situation did not get escalated. This person got the help they needed without a gun on the scene.

[00:37:48] Crystal Fincher: And it feels like someone is coming to help, right? And it really is the difference in - is someone coming to help me, or is someone coming to control me? Is someone coming to make me do something, to stop me?

[00:37:59] Lex Vaughn: Yep, that is - that's it - right there, yeah.

[00:38:04] Crystal Fincher: And that makes such a big difference when someone is already in a place where they're unstable, where they're worried, concerned, where they're not perceiving things as well as they can be. And then expecting them then to be able to - oftentimes be calmer than the officer that's responding - and just rationally follow everything. You're being called because this person is not behaving rationally, right - so we know that from jump - everything else that stems from that, it's predictable that that's not going to have a great outcome. And again, we have to get to dealing with the root causes of this. There's nothing a police person can do to address a behavioral health crisis.

[00:38:47] Lex Vaughn: That's not their expertise at all.

[00:38:49] Crystal Fincher: That's not their expertise, it's not their job. It's not their - no training, no resources in order to do that. The people who actually can make those connections - who do understand our complicated and inadequate, but you know, system - and to try and get people in there and to get them some help that they need, so this is not a chronic problem. So this doesn't escalate. It's really important.

The last story I want to talk about today is the emergence of a new GOP candidate in Washington's 3rd Congressional District. This district is now notorious for being one of the biggest districts in an upset race in 2022, where Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez beat Joe Kent, a very far right-wing Republican in 2022 - biggest upset race in the country. And so Joe Kent announced that he was running again, he's been running, and he's endorsed by the likes of Trump and you know, a lot of really, really, really far right extremists. And that is what a lot of people blame on his loss that - wow, even that was too much for this pretty solidly Republican district. So it looks like other Republicans in the state - I don't want to call them moderate Republicans, 'cause I don't think that is an accurate descriptor - but ones who realize that Joe Kent-

[00:40:11] Lex Vaughn: Maybe just smarter, like more strategic Republicans.

[00:40:16] Crystal Fincher: Right - is a tainted brand, right? And are trying to operate more strategically. And so Leslie Lewallen, a city councilmember in Camas in Clark County, has entered the race and drawn early support and endorsements from prominent Republicans like former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former Secretary of State Sam Reed, and Tiffany Smiley. And Tiffany Smiley, who's the challenger to Patty Murray in 2022. And so they are not going the MAGA route, they're trying to go the other route. Although if you look at the issues that she's talking about, this is really, you know, how they're dressing up someone who holds a lot of the same core beliefs when it comes to women's choice, when it comes to these really troubling attacks and book bans that we're seeing in schools, attacks on the trans community and the LGBTQ community - just a lot of worrisome things. This is not, you know, what we had previously described as a moderate Republican. This is still a pretty far right Republican, but it's not Joe Kent. And, you know, Joe Kent is out of touch with reality in a variety of things - it's hard to really explain how wild this guy is without just being like - look at this, I cannot - I had to do this in 2022. Like I can't do justice to what this is with an explanation, just watch him talk.

[00:41:42] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, him and Loren Culp were kind of an insane, you know, pair to talk about back then.

[00:41:48] Crystal Fincher: They were just not in touch with reality. But, you know, this will be interesting. And we see this effort, with Dave Reichert in the governor's race, to try and dress someone up as a more moderate Republican to kind of assuage some of the fears that people have of someone too extreme. MAGA - the MAGA brand - is not popular throughout the state, that's not a winning brand in the state. And Republicans have been losing ground because of it. But I think, especially when we look at a lot of these races in King County - like I'm thinking of the 8th Congressional District race, the Reagan Dunn race against Kim Schrier - even someone who has, you know, traditionally branded themselves as a moderate, they still hold beliefs that are pretty repugnant to lots of people. Kind of first and foremost, the issue of abortion rights, right - these are pretty fundamental rights. The issue of privacy protections - pretty fundamental rights. Wanting a stronger safety net - pretty fundamental, you know, support by a lot of people in the state. And Republicans seem to disagree with that.

[00:42:48] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, or at a minimum, they're just spineless because Reagan Dunn, at certain points, has - if it's advantageous to him, you know, hasn't been as conservative, but just depends on where he's trying to mold himself.

[00:43:03] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:43:04] Lex Vaughn: Yeah.

[00:43:04] Crystal Fincher: So at this moment, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez has a pretty substantial financial lead. I think I read that she has like a million and a half dollars and Joe Kent has like a shade under $500,000. But I - this will be a district that this cycle, I'm sure, attracts a lot of attention and a lot of outside spending. Definitely on the list for Republicans to pick up. Now, you know, we're sitting here as Republicans just kicked out Speaker McCarthy, which makes Patty Murray now second in line to the presidency since there's no current Speaker of the House. But, you know, Republicans have problems from the very top of the ticket all the way on down, so it'll be interesting just to see how they manage this chaos.

[00:43:49] Lex Vaughn: Yeah, well, this whole next year is gonna be an interesting Republican identity journey - I don't know if it's a crisis, they've kind of been in crisis for a little while, but it's - they're gonna have to make some decisions about who they're gonna be in the future. Are they gonna continue the Trump route or are they trying to find this other, I don't know. I guess almost as far right, but just a different tone, different leaders at the helm kind of leading that. I don't know.

[00:44:24] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, very - it'll be interesting to see. And, you know, we'll have another shutdown battle coming up in about a month. Who knows if we'll have a speaker by then? Who knows if we'll be in any better position for anything by then?

[00:44:39] Lex Vaughn: I just heard yesterday there's a possibility of Trump being a speaker?

[00:44:43] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so-

[00:44:45] Lex Vaughn: Oh my God, I didn't know that was a thing.

[00:44:47] Crystal Fincher: Fun fact is the Speaker of the House does not have to be a member of the House or Congress. So yeah, they can appoint - they could do that with Trump if they wanted to, I think?

[00:44:58] Lex Vaughn: Ahh, this world is insane.

[00:45:00] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's, you know - it is frustrating - the Republicans are not a party serious about governing right now. And I just wish we would contend with that more directly. Or at least-

[00:45:14] Lex Vaughn: And the people who vote for them. Like what are you doing?

[00:45:16] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. So we'll continue to follow this, but that will certainly - is an interesting new element in that 3rd Congressional District race that will have impacts here locally and nationally.

And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, October 6th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful cohost today is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Founder and Editor of The Needling, Lex Vaughn. You can find Lex on Twitter @AlexaVaughn, V-A-U-G-H-N. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can find me on Twitter and most other networks @finchfrii, with 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 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 - talk to you next time.

[00:46:41] Lex Vaughn: Bye.