Week in Review: October 07, 2022 - with Evelyn Chow

Week in Review: October 07, 2022 - with Evelyn Chow

On this week’s Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal Fincher is joined by transformative justice advocate, community organizer, writer, and sociologist Evelyn Chow.

We Start off the show with a reminder that Crystal will be hosting a candidate forum for the Seattle Municipal Court Judge Positions 3 and 7 races, featuring Position 3 candidates Adam Eisenberg and Pooja Vaddadi, and Position 7 candidates Nyjat Rose-Akins and Damon Shadid. The forum will be streaming live on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube on Wednesday, October 12th at 7:00pm. See our blog for more details: https://www.officialhacksandwonks.com/blog/municipal-judge-forum-october-12-2022

Also, starting this week, applications for the Institute for a Democratic Future (IDF)’s 2023 program are now live! You can find more information at IDF’s website at https://democraticfuture.org/.

In national news, President Biden has announced his administration is pardoning people who have received federal simple possession charges for marajuana. In the announcement, Biden asked state governors to do the same for state charges, and requested the secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Attorney General to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. This is a big step that will help many people, and will hopefully be emulated by the states, but it has its limits - pardoning doesn't equate to ending prison sentences and doesn't include expungement, which has logistical and financial hurdles for people to climb.

In county news, while we've heard stories from other parts of the country facing issues with clean water access, King County is facing its own water crisis. For the past week, the King County Jail in Downtown Seattle has been without clean water. People in the jail have been forced to use water bottles, and the schedule at which they can refill them is unclear. This is another terrible example of how our jails do not provide rehabilitation, and instead subject people to inhumane and dehumanizing treatment. This story also follows many other instances of horribly under-resourced and under-staffed King County jails leading to outrageous conditions for people staying in the jails. We have to do better. This is inexcusable.

This week saw some very informative reporting following up on Harrell's proposed budget putting $1M into the controversial ShotSpotter program. Amy Sundberg from Notes from the Emerald City and Melissa Santos from Axios both put out stories, linked below, covering the program's history - which shows it's not only ineffective in its purpose of catching gunfire as it happens, it's also incredibly wasteful of police resources. ShotSpotter has no positive impact on gun crime or public safety, and none of its alternative surveillance programs are any more effective.

It’s budget season! Evelyn gives us an in-depth explanation of the City of Seattle's participatory budgeting process, and encourages folks to get involved and make their voices heard! If you want to speak your mind about the city’s budget, you can send written emails to the City Council at this email: council@seattle.gov. You can also attend Budget Committee meetings in-person and remote on October 11th and October 25th at 9:30am. In addition, there will be public hearings on the budget, also remote and in-person, on October 11th at 5:00pm, November 8th at 9:30am, and November 15th at 5:00pm. See here for more info: https://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/select-budget-committee

In local homelessness news, we look at the on-going story of King County's planned expanded enhanced shelter and behavioral health services hub in the SoDo neighborhood, which has seen a lot of pushback from local residents. This is a complicated story about providing care to those who need it, while at the same time making sure that the county works with local communities about what happens in their neighborhoods. The CID has faced heavy burden during the pandemic, and has dealt with a number of government projects that have been pushed through with little community engagement. If a community is telling us there wasn't enough engagement, there wasn't enough engagement, and we need to remember not to dismiss these grassroots community voices just because there are bad faith actors trying to take advantage of them.

About the Guest

Find Evelyn T Chow on Twitter/X at @evelyntchow.


Hacks & Wonks is hosting a Seattle Municipal Judge Candidate forum on October 12th at 7:00pm! Please see the link here for more details: https://www.officialhacksandwonks.com/blog/municipal-judge-forum-october-12-2022

A poster advertising Hacks & Wonks' Seattle Municipal Judge Candidate Forum for Wednesday, October 12th at 7:00pm PDT.  Stream via Twitter @HacksWonks & Facebook @officialhackswonks. Moderated by Crystal Fincher.

The Institute for a Democratic Future is now accepting applications for its 2023 program! The Early Application Deadline is November 2nd, with an application fee of $35, and the Final Application Deadline is November 13, with a fee of $75. See their site for more details: https://democraticfuture.org/

“Biden Pardons Thousands Convicted of Marijuana Possession Under Federal Law” by Michael D. Shear & Zolan Kanno-Youngs from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/06/us/politics/biden-marijuana-pardon.html?auth=login-email&login=email

“In a Sign of Worsening Conditions, Understaffed King County Jail Has Lacked Water for a Week” by Erica C. Barentt from Publicola: https://publicola.com/2022/10/06/in-a-sign-of-worsening-conditions-understaffed-king-county-jail-has-lacked-water-for-a-week/

“Proposed Surveillance Tech Can Lead to Biased Policing” by Amy Sundberg from News From the Emerald City: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/amysundberg/issues/proposed-surveillance-tech-can-lead-to-biased-policing-1383779

“Seattle mayor budgets $1M for controversial gunfire detection tech” by Melissa Santos from Axios: https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/10/07/mayor-million-shotspotter-gunfire-detection

“$30M Seattle participatory budgeting effort gears up with staff, workgroups, and a steering committee” by CHS from Capitol Hill Seattle Blog: https://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2022/10/30m-seattle-participatory-budgeting-effort-gears-up-with-staff-workgroups-and-a-steering-committee/

Learn more about how you can get involved in the Participatory Budget process here: https://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/select-budget-committee

Seattle Solidarity Budget: https://www.seattlesolidaritybudget.com/

“Chinatown International District pushes back at expanded homeless shelter. Officials ask where else?” by Greg Kim from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/chinatown-international-district-pushes-back-at-expanded-homeless-shelter-officials-ask-where-else/

“OPINION | Hooverville Then and Now: Who Is Worthy of Space?” by Caedmon Magboo Cahill from The South Seattle Emerald: https://southseattleemerald.com/2022/10/03/opinion-hooverville-then-and-now-who-is-worthy-of-space/

“King County planning expanded enhanced shelter and behavioral health services hub in SoDo with new lease“ from King County’s Press Office: https://kingcounty.gov/elected/executive/constantine/news/release/2022/March/23-SoDo-Enhanced-Shelter-Transmittal.aspx


[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 are continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program for the first time today, our co-host, Evelyn Chow. Hello!

[00:00:51] Evelyn Chow: Hi, thanks for having me.

[00:00:53] Crystal Fincher: Hey, I am excited. Just so people understand who you are - you're a transformative justice advocate, community organizer, writer, and sociologist. You were born and raised in Hawai'i, moved to Seattle 7 years ago where you received your degree in Sociology from Seattle University. Currently work as the District Director to Councilmember Tammy Morales, representing Seattle City Council District 2. Previously, they worked for non-profits Real Change and Ingersoll Gender Center, and did communications work for several local and state political campaigns. You are a force to be reckoned with.

[00:01:34] Evelyn Chow: I appreciate that praise. I don't feel like such, but -

[00:01:41] Crystal Fincher: I am so thrilled that you are here on the show today 'cause I have appreciated and admired your work for a bit here. So I'm excited.

[00:01:51] Evelyn Chow: Thank you, Crystal, for having me.

[00:01:53] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Before we get into all of the stuff, there are two reminders, or upcoming things that are coming up. One is the Municipal Judge Forum that we are putting on next week - it's a live candidate forum that will be streamed via Twitter and Facebook - and it will be a Municipal Court judicial forum. So the two contested seats are Position 3 and Position 7 - Adam Eisenberg vs Pooja Vaddadi and Nyjat Rose-Akins vs Damon Shadid. So we will be hashing it out, talking about what they believe in, want to do on Wednesday, October 12th - that's this coming Wednesday - at 7:00 PM, which will be live streamed online. So pay attention to that.

Also want to remind you about something we've talked about before on the program. The Institute for a Democratic Future, or IDF, is opening its application period. This is a six-month program, with about 10 weekends over those six months across the state of Washington and in Washington DC, covering politics and policy from all vantage points throughout the state - how policy passed is actually implemented and impacts the people on the ground. Great network, great education - it's responsible for my career in politics. Just a great preparation, whether you want to work in the political sphere as a candidate or staff, policy - wide variety of options there, even in the nonprofit or advocacy space. Just great preparation - helps you get a great understanding and connections to people in a great network. So if you're interested in that and - you don't have to want to work in politics, but maybe you just want to advocate for policy or explore what options may be - I highly recommend the Institute for a Democratic Future. We'll include the information in our show notes. Feel free to @ me, email me if you have any questions, but just wanted to make sure that is on everybody's radar and the application deadline is in November, so you have a little bit of time. But now is the time to get started on that if you're interested.

Now we'll get to the news of the week. So there's a lot that has happened in a lot of different areas. We had a couple chaos days with news this week of every kind, but looking at politics and policy in the state - want to start talking about some big news that broke yesterday with Joe Biden pardoning federal simple possession of marijuana. What did you see as the most important takeaways from this settlement?

[00:04:33] Evelyn Chow: What we saw yesterday - huge news, in terms of Joe Biden setting his agenda by making the statement that, on a federal level, simple possession convictions of marijuana will be pardoned. And I think across the board we've seen a lot of different parties, people, interests react. On my end, while I'm really hopeful that states will follow suit across the US and do the same thing, which will impact more people, I also want to. acknowledge also that pardons don't mean, necessarily, released from prison. Nor are they expungements of criminal records. And the administration does say that about 6,000 people will be pardoned. And which is really again, huge - it means you're forgiven - but it's still on paper. I would love to see the expungement of it from records, though we also know, just from doing work in community, that expungements are costly. Lawyers have to file the expungement, on top of cost of filing, and they know that this is a cost that a lot of working class people might not be able to afford. And the method becomes like a fiscal generator for municipalities.

Sorry, now we're going down the rabbit hole of the negative or maybe the under-the-surface, but I think on the surface this is really huge. I do hope to see more states follow suit in that - this is not nothing. For a lot of, I think, abolitionists and criminal legal system reform advocates, I've seen a lot of this just kind of brush through. And I understand where that sentiment comes from and at the same time, this is not nothing. This just - it's a something that will hopefully evolve.

[00:06:31] Crystal Fincher: It is, absolutely - I think that's exactly right. It's something that is positive, that hopefully continues to evolve here in Washington State - we've been more fortunate than a lot of other states in the country. There are states where you can go to jail for possessing a joint, where there is no legalization at all. We're used to the ability to go to the store here and pick out our selection of weed - that is not the case in a lot of the country. And there have been recent - pretty pointed - efforts on behalf of the Republican Party in several states to roll back marijuana legalization. So it is not even like legalization, in one form or another, is even safe in places where it has been implemented. So I think this is important - one, as you said, in setting the agenda and really urging states to move down the path of decriminalization, which I think is important, and just puts a little bit of external pressure on different states.

I was surprised to hear about this just because of the news, previously, that Biden didn't have the friendliest marijuana policy for his own administration and looking at issues with that. But I do think that this moves the conversation forward across the entire country. We're ahead of the conversation a little bit in Washington State, but a lot of people are not there and this is meaningful for a lot of people in states where the population - the people there - want this change, but they have leaders who are very, very resistant. Also, looking at the rescheduling of this - to keep it from being classified similarly as heroin or fentanyl - it clearly is not. All the public health data shows that, and it's a barrier to research and a bunch of other things. So this is a step in the right direction, I think. Still have a lot more to go, but it's a fight that Biden is willing to take on even before we get to these elections. It's a winning issue and it's the right thing to do. So if you can - absolutely, if you can win on an issue and it's the right thing to do, should be moving forward with it. And I'm glad to see that this happened.

So in other news this week, we saw that the King County Jail is lacking water. They've lacked water for a week. This is a story that PubliCola broke on Thursday, I believe. And we've seen news and lots of people have made their opinions known about the water crisis in Jackson - sometimes it's just, Oh my goodness, that's horrible there, it could never happen here. It's happening here. It's happening in a place where people have literally no other choice, no other option about what to do. They're being given bottled water instead of being able to access the water, because there are currently health issues. And there are questions about whether people are even getting enough water - it looks like they're having to choose between hydration and hygiene. What do you see with this?

[00:09:52] Evelyn Chow: I have a status as a volunteer at the women's prison down in Purdy, in Tacoma. And was a volunteer for a few years until COVID, in which - none of us have been able to get back in for programming, except for a few of the churches - which is a discussion for another time. But, I think often the way that we see punishment in this country is, in a way, a just sweeping things under the rug - putting people in prisons and jails is this. And when you put people there, there's that perception of - all of the stigmatization of what you put on a population that has often done things that maybe you have also, but maybe I've had the privilege of not being caught for. And what happens to those people is they get forgotten, or they get put into conditions that we would never ourselves want to be in, regardless of any of the harm that we have caused as individuals. I think in this issue - sorry to get philosophical with it, I just needed to set that context of -

[00:10:59] Crystal Fincher: No apologies necessary.

[00:11:01] Evelyn Chow: This is not, obviously, the first time in the US or even across the world where prisons, people who are getting placed into prison, are experiencing extremely degrading and violent circumstances, right? From the article, we hear that there are women in the jail who are getting their period and they're unable to get a change of underwear for the week. And this is also something that is across the board even pre-COVID, pre-pandemic times, of people needing to spend the very limited resources they have on hygiene products - things that should be guaranteed rights for people. It's inhumane, it's also just a clear liability for the county.

[00:11:47] Crystal Fincher: It's infuriating. It's infuriating because - one, this could have, this started and went on for a week before it even caught notice. And thankfully for PubliCola's reporting, it did - otherwise it would've gone on longer - that inmates often have no voice in our community. We make it so hard for people who are incarcerated to communicate, to advocate for anything. They frequently face punishment for just bringing up issues of clear illegality, or challenges just in terms of health, violations of policy - and too many people in the community who just feel like we can discard rights of people who are incarcerated or that somehow they're deserving of it. And if someone is incarcerated, the sentence is the incarceration. That does not in any way absolve all of us because they are being held, on behalf of our society with our tax dollars - this is a community responsibility to make sure they are treated as humans. One, because it's the right thing to do. They should not be subjected to harsh, inhumane, insufficient - facilities, supplies, regulations, any of that. We should be treating them and making sure they have all of the provisions they need. And it's wrong morally not to do so, it's also highly ineffective and increases the chances that they're going to come out when they get released - because everybody's, just about everybody's getting released - and are not going to be able to successfully integrate into our society and contribute to the problems that so many people then complain about on the other side.

We have to invest in people, treat people, make sure they have resources - access to education, access to therapeutic programming, arts, lots of different things. We need to make sure that they come out more whole than they go in, if they are going in. That is what's best for our community, that's what's best for the safety of everyone, that's what's best for legal liability resources. And so this is just infuriating. And on top of this, the jails are understaffed. And so there's a big question about - are people dehydrated right now? They don't have a way to tell us most of the time. They are limited to receiving one bottle of water at a time - I'm assuming these are small, 20-ounce bottles of water that we normally see - because they're afraid of affiliated, associated safety concerns. They can exchange an empty bottle for a full bottle. How frequently is that opportunity to exchange? Why are we rationing water to people? It just doesn't make sense, we have to do better - this is - we have to do better. And so this is on Dow Constantine, this is on all the employees there, this is on every elected official - the King County Council. We have to do better - this is inexcusable.

[00:15:22] Evelyn Chow: And I'd also, if I could Crystal, just point out - this recent, this ongoing water shutoff is only the most recent example of the different types of problems that they've been experiencing at the jail over the past few years, if not since the jail has been there. We've been hearing from folks there that they are getting limited access to medical care, to their attorneys, to even spend time calling people like family members and loved ones. All of this has been exacerbated by COVID, but is a statement of the existing conditions at a lot of these jails and prisons. So I agree - there has to be a better way of - people need to do better, our electeds need to do better.

[00:16:04] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and these are public resources that are being spent or misspent in these ways. We need to demand better. They must do better. And to your point, this is the latest in a litany - and as a reminder, both public defenders and the corrections officers in our King County jails came together earlier this year to ask King County to release more prisoners 'cause they're woefully understaffed. This is a safety issue for the corrections officers, it's a safety and health issue for the people who are incarcerated there. It is working for nobody and ignoring this is only allowing those conditions to get worse. Someone is going to end up injured, ill, or worse. And this is entirely preventable.

In other news, more discussion this week about Mayor Harrell's budget proposal, including part of the proposal that he has to address gun violence with the ShotSpotter surveillance program. What is this program and what is your perspective on this?

[00:17:12] Evelyn Chow: Shotspotter is a private program and it's - over the past years - been marketed to dozens of cities across the US. However, they've proven to have little investment on their return. So the description of what they are proposing that this technology does is - it's a microphone system and it triangulates the location of where they would hear supposed, or alleged, gunshots. And that would allow first responders, specifically the police, to show up to that scene quickly and supposedly de-escalate the situation or apprehend whoever had fired a gun. I think the system, as we've seen in cities across the US like in Charlotte and in others that have actually used this technology - we've seen that the system generates a lot of notifications when the sensors are triggered. But there's very little evidence that that data leads to any arrests, convictions, or even - most importantly - victim assistance. Cities across the US have already been canceling their contracts with ShotSpotter for the past few years, citing the poor results. And I think even in New York City, the system had triggered enough false positives that the NYPD Deputy Commissioner a few years ago was like - this is an unsuccessful system and it just logs noise. It was logging things like an exploding volleyball - like a popped volleyball - or a car backfiring.

And so I think, before we choose to invest a million dollars in this upcoming budget cycle in a technology that is proven time and again and again that it doesn't work - perhaps that million dollars could be better spent in other places that will actually promote community and public safety. And I just also want to make the point that there is already increased surveillance technology equipment in SPD, especially around South Seattle communities, but citywide. And the data that it collects is not transparent in any way. With existing technologies and this new proposed, or not necessarily new, but proposed technology - we need to, at least - the public deserves to know how that data will be used and who will have access to it. I know a few years ago, when the ShotSpotter was being proposed, they talked about how it, as a private entity company, owns that data. And so there's a lot of repercussions that I can see coming up with - if the city decides to move forward with implementing ShotSpotter. And I also hear a lot of people who have very fair questions, candidly, about whether this is going to be effective at all. And, my answer is no.

[00:20:17] Crystal Fincher: Your answer is no. And so many different entities' answers are no. An AP investigation earlier this year found serious flaws with prosecutors using ShotSpotter for evidence - noting, as you said - it can miss live gunfire next to its microphone, but misclassify the sounds of fireworks or cars backfiring as gunshots. A study published last year in the peer-reviewed Journal of Urban Health found that ShotSpotter appeared to have no significant impact on firearm-related homicides or arrest outcomes in 68 large metropolitan counties from 1999 to 2016. It has no impact on gun crime, it has no impact on public safety. A separate study on Philadelphia's use of SENTRI, a ShotSpotter alternative - and it's important to note that there are different alternatives - they all experience these problems, so if they substitute another one with ShotSpotter, these surveillance programs that are essentially trying to hack public safety and hack a solution to gun violence are just not effective - that found that the technology increased police workload. At a time where they keep complaining that they're overworked, that they don't have enough police to address public safety concerns - it increased police workload by sending officers to incidents where no evidence of a shooting was found.

So once again, we're in a situation where Bruce Harrell has the opportunity to define what his plan for public safety is going to be and we're hearing things, that not only have no evidence that they're going to work, they have evidence to the contrary. While lots of people are suggesting things that are backed by data, backed by evidence - when he came in office, he said, Look, I'm going to be evidence-based, data-driven. People are like, So here's that evidence that you said you wanted, and here's this data that you had said you wanted - let's do this. And it's, No, let's go to this thing that has been demonstrated not to work. And we do need public safety solutions. We do need to make our streets safer. We do need to reduce the amount of people who are being victimized urgently. And we can't afford to waste this time and money on solutions that have proven not to make people anymore safe. We just can't afford this. And I am asking, I'm begging public officials to - yes, follow the data. There is so much available that shows what is helpful and useful to do. And I will note that some programs - Bruce has defunded, that have been effective in doing this this year, so it's just frustrating to see.

And I wonder - this is me wondering, obviously - a lot of people have moved here over the last 10 years and may not remember Bruce Harrell being on the City Council. He was for quite some time. And I think that we are hearing a number of proposals that were talked about 10 years ago when he was on the council. And he was on the council for several years - for a decade, basically.

[00:23:39] Evelyn Chow: I think three terms - yeah.

[00:23:41] Crystal Fincher: Yes, and so it's like we're bringing back the hits from 2010, 2012 - and sometimes, there was even some promise for some of those things at that time. Wow - they've been implemented in so many cities across the US, we've had the opportunity to gather data and figure out what has evidence of effectiveness and what doesn't. And that just doesn't seem to enter into what they're proposing. It's really confusing and we're waiting - we're waiting on proposals that will make people more safe - and more than just hiring more police, which can't even happen until next year. What is going to happen now to make people more safe? It's frustrating, as I am sure you deal with in a very immediate and present way on a daily basis.

[00:24:35] Evelyn Chow: Yeah, absolutely. Everything you said - public safety, community safety is an urgent issue and they keep trying these tried techniques, right? Tough on crime didn't work in the nineties, it's not going to work now. And investing in all of these things that are scientifically, with data and evidence, proven not to work is just not the way we need to move forward. And I think similar to King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay's op-ed in the Times, I think a few weeks ago now, talking about how public safety is not about scoring political points. I think the executive put out this proposal with a very specific - I guess, his specific base in mind. And that does not encompass the lived realities of a lot of people across, especially South Seattle, but across the City as well.

[00:25:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. So we'll continue to keep our eye on that. Also, it's budget season in the City, in the County - which you are in the middle of and steeped in. And so, there was an article in Capitol Hill Seattle this week covering the $30 million Seattle participatory budgeting effort that is now gearing up. What is happening with this, and what is happening just in the budget process overall?

[00:25:53] Evelyn Chow: The mayor gets eight months to put together his proposed budget and then it comes to Council - it came on September 27th, a few weeks ago now - and we get about eight weeks in the council to splice and dice that budget. And you brought up participatory budgeting - I am glad to see that - I think the context, to just set a little bit of groundwork for participatory budgeting - this was money that was allocated in September of 2020, following the protests that sparked nationwide after the police murders of George Floyd, of Brianna Taylor, of too many others. And it really came as a demand from community to the council to direct money into community-led safety initiatives. And this is an opportunity for the community that's most impacted, that's usually furthest away from being able to make decisions about how their money is spent, to be engaged in that process. And the Seattle City Council allocated $30 million into this participatory budgeting process, and this is going to be the largest undertaking in, I believe, North America with a similar initiative. And so just a little bit more of groundwork before I get to where we're at - King County Council did the same allocation on a smaller scale of $11 million. And they've already executed their contracts and that money has gone out into community. I believe it was about $11 million to 45 different community-based organizations.

And where we are now - it's been a couple of years since the money has been allocated, and I know that some people are starting to ask - what's the status update? And I know in the Neighborhoods, Education, and Civil Rights Committee on the Seattle City Council - we recently held presentations to get that status update from the King County Council and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, where that contract is now housed. And so - I believe they're in the design process and that they are working to make sure that community engagement is really steeped in this step and every step along the way to direct this funding. I think at this point, it sounds like the group that got contracted from the City is called the Participatory Budgeting Project. They're a national organization and they are currently working to hire local staff to help on their steering and working group committees, which will in turn shape and launch this effort. So I'm excited to see - I think at a time when we're talking about the budget season in Seattle, on the county level - and a lot of folks are feeling particularly enraged at several of the proposed line items in the mayor's budget around these new technologies, around the caps for service workers on their raises. This is an opportunity - participatory budgeting - to put funds towards, quite frankly, where the executive is not going to invest right now - in these types of solutions that we know community has already been working on, for years, to address violence on an interpersonal and on a state level. So I'm excited to see this continue to be underway.

[00:29:42] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I'm excited too and I'm broadly in favor of the community being actively engaged, actively involved in allocations that impact them and that they should have a voice. All neighborhoods in Seattle should have a voice. Traditionally, some have had much more of a voice than others. And there are some that have had many more resources, that have had close relationships, the time and ability, and frankly privilege, to get familiar with budget processes, engagement processes - which can be very exclusionary and hard to figure out how to even become a part of it. And they're not necessarily friendly to someone just walking up trying to figure out what's happening. Making sure that we reach out to every single community in the City and that they have a voice in shaping the investments is really important. I'm also excited to see this, excited for this money to get distributed and for this process to actually get started. And then for the budget process overall - so we've talked about this participatory budgeting, but this is in the context of the larger budget process overall, which is a big process - lots of resources there. I guess we'll talk about specific hearings and stuff in a moment, but what would your personal advice be, if people are looking to become more involved in budget decisions in the City, and how money is invested and where it's involved?

[00:31:26] Evelyn Chow: That's a great question because it's - I don't see it enough, especially in communities where there's intentional, whether implicit or explicit, ways to de-incentivize people from being civically engaged. Where I've seen the people build the most power - and we saw this in 2020, as well as when people with their specific values and interests come together - and really work on contacting their elected representatives, setting up meetings throughout the year, making sure they're being held accountable to the votes they're taking in committees, in Full Councils and being like - here are the updates that I see on the ground, as people who are doing work as - at community-based organizations and non-profits, etc. And here's the needs that we see emerging in our communities, and here's what you can do about it in the budget season.

[00:32:16] Crystal Fincher: So I'm glad that participatory budgeting is hopefully going to be getting underway. At least they're hiring - hopefully the money actually gets distributed soon. Engaging in budget processes is always complicated overall. I'm sitting here - I've worked in politics for a while, I've worked with tons of people who've worked with budgets - and budgets are so opaque and so complicated, and so - these are documents over, that are thousands of pages long, oftentimes. You have to have a deep and intimate familiarity with everything to even understand what they are. You can see the numbers on the paper, but is that more than I spent before? Is that less? What does that mean? Where did this money come from? Is this continuing? It's a complicated and convoluted thing. And we have this budget process, which is at a certain period of time during the year.

One, I always just want to reiterate and reinforce with people, 'cause we don't talk about this enough, I don't think - is that a lot of the groundwork, whether it's budget, whether it's legislation, or anything - there's a period of time where there are hearings and everything to discuss it and that's valuable. But a lot of the groundwork, a lot of what actually shapes that - happens long before that process. And so the importance of engaging within community, within organizations that are familiar with the budget and advocating there, being familiar with your County Council person, City Council person, mayor and keeping that line of communication open - and anyone can call your elected representatives. They are your elected representatives. If you are a resident - you don't have to be documented, you don't have to be anything else. If you live in whatever jurisdiction, they represent you and they should be responsive to you. But you can ask questions, you can do all that kind of stuff and start there. That's always helpful to do and sometimes that helps to get an understanding of things so that when these processes do officially ramp up, that you know where everything stands and can be prepared to advocate for what you want - hopefully already getting that and how it's shaped in there. But if you don't, you're prepared to advocate. For people who are getting engaged in this process now - now that this process has spun up - what are ways that people can get involved, whether it's hearings or anything else?

[00:34:43] Evelyn Chow: Couldn't have said it more eloquently - thank you, Crystal. I can give a vague overview, or I can give a timeline of the budget process. Anyone in the public gets to provide feedback on the budget. You can call your representatives, you can send emails into their offices. I will say that mail form responses don't receive as many individual responses as just a personal - Hey, I'm concerned about this - you know what's going on. The Seattle City Council does have public hearings. There will be three in the next few weeks. The next one is coming up next week on October 11th, which is a Tuesday, at 5:00 PM. And then in November there will be two public hearings on November 7th and November 15th. The Select Budget Committee will be meeting throughout these weeks. And on the first meetings of the Select Budget Committee, I believe there will also be public comment allowed. Now this is a shift from, I think previous years where, people could give public comment at each committee hearing, and so I've definitely heard some pushbacks on there. I think a lot of the reasoning is just that - we are still in COVID but - yes, there will be those public hearings. And folks are able to give feedback in public comment during the Budget Committee hearings. And the first one had already happened on September 28th. There will be another one coming up on October 11th, similarly, but in the morning. And those Select Budget Committee meetings are happening all week.

And next week is when the Council is going into, going to deep dive into basically every issue area with the Central Staff. And so it starts next Tuesday - I believe Tuesday is just going to be a general overview of the General Fund and Capital Investments. And then each day throughout the week - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - they'll be covering several different issue areas, whether it's SPD, homelessness, Office of Planning and Community Development. And so - folks are really encouraged to stay on top of the Budget Committee meetings as well - there is a link on the City of Seattle's website to stay on top of when these committee meetings are happening throughout the weeks. So just to summarize, there will be Budget Committee meetings that folks can give either remote or in-person public comment to - for the Select Budget Committee, which is just made up of members of the Seattle City Council. And there will be public hearings on the budget specifically. The first one is set for next Tuesday, and then there will also be on - November 8th and November 15th. And at any time throughout the budget process, folks are encouraged to reach out to their elected officials, to stay on top of their representatives - either social media, newsletters, mail - all of the different forms to get information. And partnering up and joining up with these organizations that you specified, Crystal, that have been doing this type of advocacy work and have dedicated staff people to dissect those year-round. Just a number of ways -

[00:37:56] Crystal Fincher: There are - number of ways - not the simplest process to follow, but there are ways to get engaged. One of those groups with the Seattle Solidarity Budget - we'll include all of this information and all of the dates that Evelyn just talked about in our show notes - Solidarity Budget is another effort involved in this budget process, a more community-focused budget that they're advocating for. The website will also link to - has information, ways to advocate, you can look through that - also, ways to help - social media stuff - with alt text provided for the social media graphics that they provided, which I appreciate. But just a lot of different things. So I encourage people to get involved because we all talk about the impacts and effects of there's not enough funding here, and we need to do this, and why aren't we doing this? And this is how these decisions are made, this is where those funding decisions are solidified, and this is the time to engage if you have an opinion about what is happening within your city. That's a lot there. It's a lot to go through, but definitely worth it.

I also want to cover news - it's been making news throughout the past several weeks. Just talking about the SoDo shelter expansion and some pushback from within the CID. Starting off - what is happening, Evelyn? And then we can talk about some thoughts about what's happening.

[00:39:32] Evelyn Chow: Yes, I'm happy to give a quick overview of that. King County is planning to expand their - this enhanced shelter, that is currently housed in SoDo. It's right along the bottom edge of the CID, under where the Uwajimaya is on the south end. And the proposal is to expand the shelter - it currently has 269 beds, they want to add an additional 150 beds - mind you, these are congregate shelter. And they want to expand into having a behavioral health services center, as well as support for RV residents and Pallet shelters, which are essentially tiny homes. So that expansion of 150 that has been talked about by the executive - King County Executive - is going to bring the total number of people at that site to approximately 419 people. So that's just a high-level of what's happening.

[00:40:36] Crystal Fincher: And it's also known as the Megaplex, correct?

[00:40:39] Evelyn Chow: Yeah, I guess a lot of folks have been trying to call it the Megaplex. Yes.

[00:40:44] Crystal Fincher: But just for people's familiarity, if they happen to hear that term - this is what that's in reference to.

[00:40:49] Evelyn Chow: Yes. Yeah. I didn't really like that term because I feel like it dehumanizes the people who live there.

[00:40:54] Crystal Fincher: It does.

[00:40:55] Evelyn Chow: So I just call it the SoDO shelter.

[00:40:56] Crystal Fincher: Yes.

[00:40:57] Evelyn Chow: But you are correct that that is what it's being called by a lot of more clickbait media. The Seattle City Council allotted funding from their federal ARPA - the emergency, the American Rescue Plan Act - funding towards this. And last year, I believe that Councilmember Tammy Morales did propose an amendment to divert that funding from where it currently is to the Salvation Army Shelter, to instead Chief Seattle Club for them to build a unit or several units of non-congregate shelter. But that amendment did not pass. And towards the late summer of this year, I think around September, is when we heard of the plans for expansion. That is when the county had announced, more fully to the public at the CID Public Safety Forum, and there are claims of doing community engagement before these plans started moving forward. The county claims to have done community engagement prior to the implementation of these plans. And I think a lot of community folks have pushed back being like - No, we actually didn't hear about this at all. They have their list of people that they've reached out to and we've heard some critiques be - Yes, we did hear about a plan to expand a shelter, but I think if we had known the size of this project, we would've had more engagement. And so I think, just on the government side, there hasn't been a lot of authentic community engagement with folks in the CID.

And there are other players in this situation, namely some right-wing think tanks of the Discovery Institute that have been trying to co-opt what is happening in the CID for their political agendas. And so it's created this extremely tense environment to be able to talk about the dynamics of - yes, everyone deserves housing, everyone deserves shelter - I think there's no doubt there. There are indeed some people who don't believe that, who are part of the pushback. And the CID is a really small neighborhood, it's also the third CID that the City of Seattle has seen, right? They've already relocated two times. And throughout the pandemic, a lot of folks in the CID have burdened a lot of the the impacts of the pandemic. And businesses have been slow to open back up if they have it all. There's boarded up windows everywhere and people generally have really valid concerns around public safety in the neighborhood. There are a lot of other government projects that are taking place in the neighborhood that have been plowed through without also similar meaningful community engagement. Most recently, the Sound Transit expansion of the West Seattle Ballard Link extension, where their proposed Fifth Ave or Fourth Ave options still do propose closing businesses - and all of this to say, and I'm sure there's more to say - there's a lot of moving factors around what's happening in the CID right now. I think some of the bottom lines are that the community there does not feel like engaged in these decisions that are being made. Going back to our conversation earlier around participatory budgeting, it's really important to have dedicated forces of people who will meaningfully take what people have to say and propose solutions, have meaningful dialogue.

And people also need to be housed and it's an urgent crisis. So this is where we're at. I will say, just in the blog put out by the King County on this project, they stated that the lease renewal for that site in SoDo, which currently encompasses the Salvation Army Center as well as the surrounding block - it is supposed to be a one-time lease for five years. If they did not use the funds they secured to renew this lease, they would've had to close this already-existing 270-bed shelter which seems like a terrible ultimatum to give in a lease - it's like they had to renew the lease and take that additional property. And so now they're trying to find uses for that property - and so that's where I've seen the county's messaging come through.

[00:46:03] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that overview - it's good kind of level setting for the conversation. I guess thinking about this - one, I've seen a lot of reactions to this. I've seen a lot of commentary. And a lot of it has just been dismissive in one way or another. And looking at the situation and - Oh, these are people, this shouldn't be anywhere and this isn't the solution. Or these are NIMBYs just not wanting this there. And I think we have to be real. And sometimes, oftentimes, these conversations aren't simple. One, as you said, engagement is so important. You just talked about the West Seattle Bridge extension - even with the deep bore tunnel and that issue was hard on that community - that community homes so many services and service centers overall there - just so many different things involved there. And we keep asking a small percentage of the communities in Seattle and in King County to bear the majority of the brunt of infrastructure challenges, infrastructure disruptions - public safety concerns aren't being held, or being heard, or being dismissed. And yes, there are challenges everywhere in the City, including there, with people who need housing. Yes, there are challenges there and so many places in the City with people feeling unsafe in their neighborhood. But there seems to be a divergence between how those concerns are heard and what is done in response. And what I continue to hear from people in the CID, people in the Rainier Valley, people in other places are - Hey, people in Magnolia are saying this and we are saying this. And they keep getting listened to over there and somehow projects always get diverted away from there and then land here. Projects always get picketed somewhere else and then land here. And we have been doing our fair share and other people have not. And so once again, you're asking us to bear the brunt of this without even having a conversation with us first. And kind of news flash - if the community is saying you haven't done adequate engagement, you haven't done adequate engagement. That is the community that wants you to engage with them. You gotta go deeper than the organizations that you have - like that's a flag and a signal to the organization - you have to go wider and deeper than you have before, clearly.

At the same time, there are also people with bad faith criticisms. There have been some King County GOP efforts - they showed up with picket signs and basically astroturfed some stuff and are joining onto this effort to try and get publicity to try and characterize it in their own way. And so certainly, that's a bad faith effort and they're not coming with the same concerns. They're not rooted or invested in that community and they're exploiting that community. But that does not give us the right, or I guess the moral authority, to then ignore the concerns that are genuinely rooted in that community. And so there should have been better engagement, there needs to be more engagement clearly. There need to be more alternatives cited. There need to be invest - we have to look into how we determine where potential sites for this are. We talk after the fact - well, these requirements or specifications for a desirable location say it can't be near this, and it has to be that, and it can't be near this. Well, yeah - they're written that way to exclude certain communities. How do we make this impact more equitable? How do we make sure that we don't unduly burden individual communities and ask people to continue to bear the brunt of what other neighborhoods say that they don't want. And how do we make it work all over the place?

So I do think this is not a simple solution. We do have a crisis of people on the street and they do need to get housed. We need to take action on that quickly. We can't do that without listening to community, and we can't shortcut this process by just saying, Okay, we'll just put it over here again. We can do it over here and maybe they won't yell as loud as some people in other neighborhoods, or maybe because they may not have enough financial resources, that they won't be, they won't have enough time to engage and they won't be as much of a "headache" to us as other people will consistently - it's just not good enough. And we have to engage with that reality. We have to talk within communities. And that doesn't mean that those communities are automatically NIMBYs for that, right? They have valid concerns that we have to listen to and work through.

[00:51:34] Evelyn Chow: Yeah, and something else on this issue that I just, I really wish I was seeing more of - from both the county and other local partners on this - is engagement with the actual people who are living unhoused by that shelter. I think in terms of the the people who are involved in these decisions, that's one entity. The people who are housed in the neighborhood, or provide services, or have businesses in the neighborhood - that's another one. Also, I want to hear also directly from the people who are living outside - what their thoughts of - a lot of, and I won't say this is either in good or bad faith, but we've been seeing protests outside of the existing Salvation Army shelter for the past few weeks now, since the news broke. And the shelter is right next to a large, I guess, unsanctioned encampment of folks who have to listen to these protests day in, day out about just the circumstances that they're under in life. And I can't imagine what the relationship would continue to look like or evolve between those who are living there because they seemingly have no other options currently - and that site is also close to other services that they are receiving - and the residents and business owners of the neighborhood, many of whom have developed extremely tense relationships and antagonistic relationships with each other over the past years, especially since COVID when just socioeconomic conditions across the nation have worsened. And I just think, in moving forward with these conversations, the engagement has to be inclusive of the whole CID community. I think a lot of the folks who are very vocal now are the ones who are also historically vocal in a lot of decisions. And that's not to say it's a good or bad thing, it's just there's a lot more to folks in the CID than the three dozen people who show up to protest because they have that time every week.

[00:53:54] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - well said. So I hope that engagement does happen with this - continued and for all the future stuff. And we have to look at why we keep having to have these conversations in the exact same communities and they're telling us that, repeatedly - Hey, there hasn't been enough engagement and now you are just implementing something, ramming it through, and we're paying the price. We're happy to do our fair share but why are we doing the majority of it when the rest of the City exists? And that's with this issue, that's with so many issues. It's with issues surrounding public safety, around environmental and climate change, impacts around education, around so many things. And the reasons why are related and share the same root cause. So I hope there are better conversations about this while also - no need to entertain the bad faith conversations, but engage with community.

[00:54:57] Evelyn Chow: Unfortunately, the bad faith conversations are really good at co-opting narratives right now. So I think it's on -

[00:55:02] Crystal Fincher: Yes, they are.

[00:55:03] Evelyn Chow: - people with, it's on people to, if they don't already have existing relationships, build those and continue to show up, especially our elected leaders. To make sure that everyone is being served in the best possible way.

[00:55:17] Crystal Fincher: And with that, I want to thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, October 7th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler. Our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng, and our Production Coordinator is Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today is Evelyn Chow. You can find them on Twitter @EvelynTChow, E-V-E-L-Y-N-T-C-H-O-W. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just search "Hacks and Wonks." Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek 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 episode notes.

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