Seattle’s homelessness response is lacking — Here is some of what is broken

With reporting by SCC Insight

Last week, the Seattle City Auditor released its review of the city’s homelessness response related to early outreach, hygiene services, and evaluation. The report was critical of the city’s execution on all three.

“The City does not currently use a robust systematic approach for managing homeless outreach field operations, which involve nine nonprofit organizations, multiple City agencies, and King County,” the report reads. “Outreach providers, including the Navigation Team, need direct access to diversion resources to better serve newly unsheltered individuals, and the Human Service’s Department’s December 2018 diversion guidelines represent a significant positive step.”

The report is part of an ongoing evaluation of the city’s response to the crisis and comes as Kshama Sawant has moved to block Mayor Jenny Durkan’s nomination of Jason Johnson as Director of the Human Services Department in a battle over how the city manages its homelessness resources. It also comes as Capitol Hill’s business community awaits progress at City Hall on an agreement about how money from the neighborhood’s chamber of commerce will be spent to power a homelessness outreach effort here on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

City marks 100 years since the Seattle General Strike

Attention young labor agitators, the Seattle City Council’s committee on Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Thursday morning will include a session on the city’s labor history and the 100th anniversary of the great Seattle General Strike of 1919.

“Never before had the nation seen a labor action of this kind. Many in Seattle were expecting revolution — and a few wanted it — but when 65,000 laborers walked off the job that day, the result was more an eerie calm,” Historylink.org writes of the February 6th, 1919 start of the strike. Continue reading

$15K vs. ‘unreasonable special interest policies’ — Seattle considers hiring bonus to attract new cops

Facing competition from departments across the country, Seattle might begin offering hiring bonuses up to $15,000 to attract new police officers.

“We have a responsibility to ensure we can hire and retain the best police officers in the country while continuing the important work of reform,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said about the proposal. “Our officers have already shown they can meet the challenge of delivering on reform, and we need to support them. I look forward to Council supporting this plan so that under Chief Best’s leadership we can continue to advance public safety and build the best community-based police department in America.” Continue reading

Seattle forms Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council to address ‘missing middle’ housing needs — UPDATE

(Image: City of Seattle)

When it comes to Seattle’s largest problems, Mayor Jenny Durkan likes to have a posse.

Durkan announced Monday morning that a newly formed Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council to address “missing middle” housing needs will meet for the first time later in the day at City Hall.

“As the City continues its focus on addressing housing needs for low-income residents, the Advisory Council will work to identify investment strategies and related tools to help close existing market gaps and attract significant capital investment to build more for-rent and for-sale homes that are affordable to Seattle’s middle-income wage earners,” the announcement reads. Continue reading

‘Who runs Seattle?’ — Sawant bracing for million dollar battle for District 3

Sawant embraces Ubah Warsame, a Seattle East African community leader, during Thursday’s press conference at 12th Ave’s Saba restaurant

With promise of tens of thousands of volunteers and support of the Socialist Alternative movement, Kshama Sawant kicked off her 2019 re-election campaign Thursday morning inside Saba, the 12th Ave Ethiopian restaurant she has committed herself to help save as it searches for a new location in the face of planned redevelopment.

“This year will be a referendum on one vital question: Who runs Seattle? Amazon and big business,” Sawant declared. “or working people?” Continue reading

With music festivals facing ‘interesting time,’ Seattle looks at keeping costs down for events like Capitol Hill Block Party

Matt and Kim (IMAGE: CHBP WITH PERMISSION TO CHS)

Capitol Hill Block Party will rock again in the summer of 2019 — but after that, the city says it is ready to “assess the viability” of the annual neighborhood event. The attention on CHBP comes at an “interesting time” for area music festivals. Wednesday, the Paul Allen-backed Upstream Music Festival pulled the plug on a 2019 event as it searches for “the best format” to continue the event.

Amid the upheaval, City Hall says it is looking for way to better support Seattle’s largest, most popular events even as costs continue to rise.

Organizers for Upstream didn’t call out the fees specifically but many event organizers have complained that the city’s increased fees for Seattle Police and Seattle Fire support have climbed too high even as City Hall has sought to further increase its “cost recovery” for staffing assigned to support permitted events. Continue reading

SDOT rolling out revised plan in ‘coming weeks’ to speed up Broadway for First Hill Streetcar

Last week, CHS reported on Seattle’s $286 million plan for a 1st Ave streetcar route (and lots of budget for infrastructure work along the way) linking the First Hill Streetcar to the South Lake Union Trolley via downtown.

We asked city officials about a much smaller $50,000 to $75,000 investment in the existing streetcar resources that has been held up at City Hall for more than a year and finally heard back — changes to speed up the streetcar on Broadway are coming… but we won’t know the details of the proposal for a few weeks. Continue reading

Sawant, D3 candidates respond to reports on Socialist Alternative influence at Seattle City Hall

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant has responded to reports on the control the Socialist Alternative party has over her Seattle City Council office.

Meanwhile, her possible opponents in a race for the D3 seat have weighed in with harsh criticism.

In her statement, Sawant does not refute that she is “democratically accountable” to Socialist Alternative.

“I was elected and then reelected to the Seattle City Council on the basis of my pledge to unwaveringly use my office to help build movements to win victories for ordinary working people,” Sawant’s statement on the reports reads. “A recent article from SCC Insight, now happily picked up by the corporate conservative media, argues that pledge is somehow at odds with my long-standing and publicly declared commitment to remain democratically accountable to the members of my organization, Socialist Alternative.”

Her full statement is here.

Seattle City Council Insight reported this week on findings from a trove of internal Socialist Alternative documents and communications that showed the extent to which Sawant “has handed over her Council responsibilities to Socialist Alternative.”

CHS examined the documents and reported how the Socialist Alternative structure determined Sawant’s votes on City Council actions like the confirmation of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

The documents and letters show that not only is Sawant beholden to the tenets and causes of Socialist Alternative but that the political organization is also calling the shots in Sawant’s City Hall office, setting her policies including how the veteran council member votes, what she will say about her decision in the council chambers, and who works on her city payrolled staff. Continue reading

Mandatory Housing Affordability zoning changes planned for March vote

View the city’s MHA proposal maps here

The City Council is planning a March vote on Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning hoped to further stem the tide of Seattle’s expensive rents and impossible house payments.

The council’s MHA committee meeting met for the first time in 2019 Monday to begin the process of sorting out amendments to the proposal before a February 25th public hearing on the plan and the March 18th vote hoped to bring the multi-year process to fruition. Continue reading

How Socialist Alternative calls the shots in Sawant’s City Hall office

Critics have long accused Kshama Sawant of putting party before district in her work on the Seattle City Council. Documents published Monday by the Seattle City Council Insight news site seem to show that not only is the District 3 representative beholden to the tenets and causes of Socialist Alternative but that the Trotskyist political organization is also calling the shots in Sawant’s Seattle City Hall office. You can read the full report here — all the documents gathered by SCCI are posted here. SCCI provided copies of the documents to CHS in advance of publication for review and so we could begin our own reporting.

“The IEC agrees that the running and staffing of KS’s office in Seattle be agreed by the national EC of the organisation in consultation with KS,” conclusion number four of a resolution adopted by the worldwide Committee for a Workers’ International and Socialist Alternative’s National Executive Committee in December 2017 reads.

The alphabet soup directive — International Executive Committee, Executive Committee, and, yes, KS for Kshama Sawant — came last winter after a round of infighting over concerns that the Seattle City Council member’s office had been “unaccountable” to national leadership. Continue reading