Last week, I invited the District 4 (that’s us, Wallingford!) Seattle City Council candidates to share their positions on two topics that have been impacting our community: homelessness and crime. On Sunday I tried to run the answers I received on one of the topics, but bungled the posting terribly, posting the right answers to the wrong questions, trying to fix it but still making mistakes. Sorry about that.
In the hopes of sorting it all out, I’m going to post their answers to the both questions below. Some of this will be a repost of Sunday’s article, but half of it should be new, and hopefully it will make 100% more sense. I extend a genuine apology to the candidates for my carelessness.
Question 1: There is a growing frustration in the neighborhood with the rise in petty theft, vandalism and property crime, and a perception that police are either indifferent, under-resourced or both. What policies would you advocate in your role as City Council representative to address this?
The police data confirm that crime is up in our North Precinct. Our police officers (and fire fighters) need support from city leaders to keep pace with the challenges that arise with a growing population.
Source: SPD’s Crime Dashboard, CLICK HERE. (Note: for 2019, only the 4 months of January through April are available.)
- Public Safety should be a top priority of city government and that includes reducing thefts from your porches, yards, vehicles and neighborhood businesses.
- The City Council should work collaboratively with our Mayor to keep all communities safe by reducing crime.
- The City Council should also use its oversight authority under the City Charter to gather data and hold the criminal justice system accountable, so that the most prolific offenders are not continually released back into communities without proper help and supervision, as documented in the report System Failure.” I carefully reviewed the report “System Failure” and followed up with its author as well as with the University District Business Improvement Area (BIA) in D-4. The report should have been a wake-up call to the current City Council. Yet we have not seen real action. On the one-month anniversary of that report’s publication, I issued a press release calling on the City Council to use its oversight authority from the City Charter to launch public hearings. The hearing the City Council had on May 22, 2019 was unproductive and disappointing with no action steps.
- Specific measures to reduce crime include:
- Increasing proactive crime prevention and community policing efforts to foster trust with all communities (funding can be redeployed by controlling police overtime costs).
- Ensuring police are assigned/deployed in the most effective manner possible (e.g. patrol and prevention vs. special operations).
- Hiring more officers to reduce response times and relieve stressed or overworked officers.
- Boosting the morale of our police officers, so that they feel appreciated and we retain them. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/seattles-weekend-of-violence-stretched-police-thin-chief-says/
- Concentrating enforcement efforts on problem places and worst offenders.
- Enabling police to patrol and walk the beats more; fill out paperwork less.
- Continuing to seek opportunities for Diversion and Restorative Justice
- Exploring having two cost-effective precinct stations to cover our north precinct (which is the largest geographic area in our city).
- Monitoring and maintaining police reforms from the consent decree.
Why I Can Deliver Solutions:
- I will work with, not against, our police department.
- I have the experience as a City Council legislative aide for one of the foremost crime prevention experts who chaired the Council’s Public Safety Committee: Tim Burgess, himself a former police officer.
- I have the credibility advancing evidence-based, upstream crime prevention programs:
- Nurse Family Partnership I led the process to secure the investments to fully fund the program.
- Seattle Preschool Program: I am proud to have crafted the original resolution and plan (#31478) for this program which has become a nationally recognized model of success.
- Gun Safety Research: Despite resistance from the National Rifle Association, I led the effort to fund innovative research with the University of Washington to improve gun safety – the first of its kind in the nation.
I’ve walked up thousands of stairs and knocked on nearly 7,000 doors in District 4. I’ve talked to dozens of people who’ve been victims of crime — from having packages stolen off their porches, smash and grabs from cars, bikes stolen from the garage, even witnessing fist-fights.
I’ve lived in the same house in Wallingford for 35 years and know we’ve always had “minor” crime — although any crime that happens to you feels “major”. The big difference in the past few years is slow police response and the way our community has responded by becoming more insular and suspicious.
I know people in District 4 truly are caring, compassionate people. We also want our neighborhoods to feel safe for us and our families.
As your Seattle City Council member, here are four programs I will advocate for to improve safety:
1.Community Outposts are necessary to supplement the Northgate North Precinct Station. Seattle Police Department officers working from Northgate must respond to every Seattle call north of the ship canal, and get stuck in traffic all the time in our dense, growing city. North Seattle is a huge area for SPD to cover effectively and officers would benefit from places to rest and reset outside of their main precinct.
Councilmember Abel Pacheco researched where small outposts might be located and how to fund them. I promise to continue advocating for small outposts. Secure outposts will be a great way for police to feel more integrated into the neighborhoods they serve.
2.Community Service Officers are in the budget. We’ll make sure the city keeps its promise to hire unarmed police employees to cover north end beats in order to free up police officers to better respond to 911 calls and do proactive policing work. Money has already been set aside in the City budget for Community Service Officers. I’ll make sure it gets spent.
3.Diversion programs pair SPD officers with unarmed staff and have excellent evidence-based outcomes. “Diversion” puts social workers side-by-side with police to take cases of people who struggle with mental illness and substance use disorders.
The North Precinct has just begun contracting with LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) to bring case workers into non-emergency police calls. Jailing people is expensive – over $80,000 annually. Barrier-free transitional housing is much less costly and is an effective way to move people from parks and unsanctioned encampments onto the road to permanent housing and productive futures. I’ll make sure we grow diversion services in District 4.
4.Community standards. I will convene focus groups including people who live next to major roads, families, and elders, to discuss and communicate standards we would like to see enforced. As neighbors, we want to do our best to have safe, thriving communities. I will be sure to coordinate these discussions with full support from the Community Policing Commission. I believe this diverse commission of civilians brings wisdom, accountability, and reform measures that we must consider in keeping Seattle safe.
Our justice system both criminalizes being homeless and releases people directly back into homelessness, vulnerable to further contact with the police. Research shows that 44% of people released from Dept. of Corrections facilities in Washington go straight into homelessness. To make matters worse, in many cases a longer jail stay can actually render one ineligible for homeless services. Our approach to public safety around homelessness cannot be to arrest our way out of it, as our own Police Chief acknowledges; yet, as it stands we have not adequately invested in other options. Policies like Emphasis Zones create unnecessary contact with police, while diversion programs like LEAD and VITAL (King County) are sorely under-funded.
I support expanding Seattle’s nationally reknowned LEAD program to reduce criminal recidivism of low-level offenders. While some proportion of the perceived increase in crime has to do with the visibility of homelessness and a small number of prolific repeat offenders, we recognize there are other crime concerns for our neighbors. We must have more effective policing that is based on community, rather than only responding to incidents.
I support exploring new community policing initiatives, including hiring more officers from underserved communities and increasing the number of non-police community resource officers and victim advocates to support victims of domestic violence and abuse. This way we have more community focused first responders and community officers that can build relationships and are more likely to deescalate situations.
Question 2: Homelessness continues to rise sharply in the city. Some regard this as a humanitarian crisis, others as an assault on their community and its standard of living, but all agree something needs to be done. How would you address this issue?
The common ground on the regional homelessness crisis is the desire to solve the problem. Compassion requires results. As someone who worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during the Clinton Administration and has over 15 years of experience preserving low-income housing, I believe I am the candidate with most relevant experience to address homelessness. The City Council must (1) Cooperate with our Mayor to consolidate efforts with King County and measure outcomes on this regional crisis and (2) Fund only programs proven to work.
- It’s high time for a comprehensive regional plan with relevant performance metrics and outcome goals visible to all, so that we ensure we are truly helping the most people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, this City Council failed to prioritize the homelessness crisis like they should have over the past few years, instead spending too much time on divisive land use / zoning changes. Just this past week, the City Council was still arguing about which performance outcomes to measure and how residents should report unauthorized homeless encampments. I will work collaboratively and persistently with our Mayor to achieve the necessary coordination with King County on mental health and drug addiction programs. This accountability from both the city and the county can rebuild the trust not only of frustrated city residents but also of the business and philanthropy communities.
- As the chief funder of programs that provide services and create low-income housing, City Hall must be held accountable for how it spends your tax dollars to address this crisis. I will use my extensive background in low-income housing and commitment to accountability to fund only data-driven best practices proven to prevent and reduce homelessness as we have seen in other cities. Other cities have reduced homelessness because they adhered to evidence-based strategies and applied them across their entire homeless response systems. These solutions have been highlighted for years by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness under the Obama Administration and the National Alliance to End Homelessness such as:
- Housing First
- Permanent Supportive Housing, including less expensive but high-quality modular housing
- Enhanced, low-barrier emergency shelter that exit people to permanent housing
- Diversion for the newly homeless
- Coordinated Entry
- Homeward Bound
- “By Name Lists”
- Rapid Rehousing
- Long-Term Stayers focus
- Landlord-Liaison (which is being reinvigorated into the “Housing Connector”)
We should also stop demolishing existing, naturally occurring affordable housing or ensure it is immediately replaced.
To be truly compassionate toward people experiencing homelessness, our government leaders must get results. It’s time for a change.
In my 35 years in Seattle, I’ve never seen so many people in tents, lean-tos, and boxes along our freeways, in parks, along our streets. As a Seattle Parks planner, I was aware of homelessness while planning park maintenance and design. As a community activist, I volunteered for Family Works, Solid Ground, and the One Night Count. My understanding of the causes of and solutions to our homeless crisis have grown exponentially running for council.
I’ve spoken with experts working to reduce homelessness across the country, and in Seattle, to pinpoint the most effective actions we can take to comprehensively address homelessness in this city. This is a complex problem that requires many different solutions. Homelessness is visible on Seattle streets and in parks, but we often don’t think about the 10% of Seattle school children who do not have homes, or the hardworking parents who had to fix their car, fell behind on a week of rent, and were evicted onto the street. This is where I will use my decades of experience as an effective city advocate to identify what solutions work and, most importantly, put plans into action. Over 11,500 people have no homes in the Puget Sound region: homelessness has become a regional crisis that has worsened into an emergency.
Here are some of my plans to respond to the homelessness emergency:
1. Meet World Health Organization guidelines for refugee encampments: provide drinking water, handwashing, toilets, sharps containers, and waste containers. We must provide regular public health services to homeless residents and identify public land (not parks or school yards) where temporary sanctioned encampments can be set up. This isn’t a permanent solution, but a public health solution that provides immediate relief.
2. Diversion. I will expand diversion programs. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program has proven a success at diverting our homeless population from the streets or jail into the mental health or substance abuse programs they need. This is compassionate, practical, and evidenced-based.
3. Address root causes. The best way of addressing homelessness long term is preventing homelessness in the first place. Many people end up on the streets after they miss just a month of rent or mortgage payments.
Seattle rents are skyrocketing, affordable old apartments are torn down and replaced with pricey condos. More people will end up on the streets. That’s why, as a simple first measure, I’m calling for the extension of eviction notices as well as more legal support for renters. Many people, especially our neighbors living on fixed incomes, cannot afford to pay mortgages and property taxes. I will expand programs of tax and mortgage offsets.
4.We need more housing. Our nurses, teachers, baristas, and firefighters simply don’t have enough housing options within their grasp. Our retired population is pushed out of the homes they grew up in because of rent and property tax hikes. We need to build, build, build more housing of all types for all of our neighbors.
Most importantly, throughout this process, I will continue listening to you. That’s why, when elected, I will have an in-district office so you do not have to come all the way downtown to bring up your concerns. I have knocked on doors for 6 hours in District 4 every day, rain or shine so I can hear from you. I promise to keep listening.
In a city with growing wealth and rising wages, it is a failure of our systems that we have so many people living unsheltered and without stable homes. A plan to address homelessness must be multi-faceted and evidence-based, recognizing the diverse needs of people in our city facing homelessness. We believe in solutions that provide housing first, protect the dignity and property rights of all people, and, when possible, prevent people from entering homelessness to begin with.
We have to build permanent supportive housing with wraparound services including case workers, occupational therapists, and peer support groups. We must better monitor and track population of people experiencing chronic homelessness to facilitate transition into permanent supportive housing as it is built. In the short term: we must employ case-workers not navigators to support transition out of homelessnessm provide adequate garbage services and restroom access to encampments until we have sufficient permanent housing, expand tiny house village and housing first apartment models which provide 24 hour access and allow families to stay together, legalize lot use and provide restrooms for those sleeping in cars, and ensure safe shelter options for LGBTQIA+ people experiencing homelessness.
We should also increase the options for homelessness prevention and diversion: providing legal and financial support to people about to lose their homes, provide rent subsidies or downpayment support to divert people from homelessness, and add caseworkers to support teens and young adults facing homelessness and connect them with potential long-term housing options with friends or family. Finally, we have to be addressing our affordable housing crisis with zoning reform and permanently affordable public housing, including deeply affordable housing.
Learn more about the candidates:
And the rest of them can be found at the Seattle Times site: https://projects.seattletimes.com/2019/local/who-should-lead-seattle/