New Hires and a New Draft of the “Compromise” Homelessness Plan

The Seattle Public Library has rented its downtown auditorium to a controversial group that works against the civil rights of transgender people. Image via Pixabay.

1. Learn to trust the Crank: As I reported she would on Sunday night, Mayor Jenny Durkan has hired a new deputy mayor to replace David Moseley, who is leaving the city on January 15: Casey Sixkiller, who’s been the chief operating officer for King County since last year. Sixkiller has spent most of his career as a DC-based political consultant working for a variety of clients, some of which lobby the city and state on issues such as homelessness, deregulation, and privacy. He also worked for several years as a legislative assistant to US Sen, Patty Murray.

According to FEC records and his LinkedIn profile, Sixkiller started a firm called Sixkiller Consulting in 2010. According to his LinkedIn profile, Sixkiller is still a managing partner at the company, along with his wife Mariah Sixkiller, who is still active as a consultant. Last year, Sixkiller Consulting had eight clients who paid the firm a total of $650,000, including Microsoft, the Software Alliance, Noble Energy (a Houston-based oil and gas firm), Motorola, and Virgin Hyperloop One.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kamaria Hightower says Sixkiller will recuse himself from working on issues involving Sixkiller Consulting’s clients, in compliance with rules saying “that City personnel are ‘disqualified from acting on City business’ where an immediate family member of the covered individual has a financial interest.” Moseley, who is married to consultant and sometime city contractor Anne Fennessy, officially recuses himself from issues Fennessy is working on.

According to an internal email from senior deputy mayor Mike Fong, Sixkiller will take over Moseley’s portfolio, which includes housing and the city’s response to homelessness. Fong’s email to staff touts Sixkiller’s “collaborative leadership approach” at the county and his “unique blend of public policy, business, and management experience.”

Asked about Sixkiller’s experience working on homelessness , Hightower pointed to his work “coordinating the delivery of [the county] Executive’s initiatives as it related to increasing shelter capacity in King County,” including the new shelter in the west wing of the downtown jail, a new day center in Pioneer Square, and “accelerating conversion of Harborview Hall into a 24/7 enhanced shelter.” (Harborview Hall, which was originally supposed to be an enhanced shelter, opened as a basic shelter in 2018 and was just upgraded to an enhanced shelter late last month.) Hightower also said Sixkiller advised Murray on housing and transportation “As such, he’s familiar with federal programs and funding streams supporting housing and homelessness, and the complexities around financing of affordable housing projects,” she said.

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2. As the city prepares to merge its homelessness efforts with the county’s, Seattle’s Human Services Department has a new spokesman: Will Lemke, a member of HSD’s communications team, will replace former spokeswoman Meg Olberding, who left last month. Lemke will make about $116,000. The job posting for the position, which called for a person who “value[s] the opulence of a diverse workforce with authentic perspective,” lists a starting salary of $95,000 to $142,000. Lemke will make around $116,000.

3. Speaking of the homelessness reorg, the city council posted the latest amended version of legislation establishing a new regional homelessness authority on Monday, but the proposal will likely be amended further on Thursday, when the council’s special committee on homelessness takes it up again.

As I’ve reported extensively in this space, Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and most members of the King County Council agreed late last month to toss out a plan developed over the past year, which would have put a board of experts in charge of the new agency’s policies, budget, and executive director, and replace that structure with one governed by a board of elected officials from across the county. (The 12-member board would include three people with “lived experience,” but their votes could be overruled in all cases by the elected supermajority). The new “governing board” would have ultimate say over the direction of the authority.

In addition to shifting power back to elected officials, the proposed compromise also gives new authority to suburban cities organized as the Sound Cities Association, including three seats on the governing board and the ability to create “sub-regional plans” for addressing homelessness that would not have to be evidence-based or follow known best practices, such as the principles of Housing First. Sound Cities member cities will not contribute financially to the new authority, which is being funded by the city of Seattle (57 percent) and King County (43 percent.) Nor, under the compromise, will they ever have to contribute; the latest draft includes a provision explicitly saying that the new body will not have taxing authority.

Council members have been particularly alarmed by the fact that, under the compromise proposal, as few as six members of the governing board (a supermajority of a plurality of nine) could alter the authority’s budget, write new policies, or hire a new CEO for the agency. (The title was changed from “executive director” to “CEO” during drafting, an on-brand change for a document that consistently refers to homeless people as “customers.”) The legislation still requires as few as five “yes” votes to approve budgets or policy documents without amendment or to confirm the CEO.

The latest draft from the Seattle City Council increases that number a minimum of nine, requires suburban cities receiving money from the authority to adopt policies that are “evidence-based”; and removes a requirement, adopted by the county’s Regional Policy Committee last week, that the “implementation board” that will send legislation and budgets to the governing board be exactly reflective of the racial makeup of King County. (That policy was likely unenforceable; the council’s proposal changes the wording to say that the authority will “strive” toward a goal of racial representation.)

But the new draft doesn’t fundamentally reshape the proposal in a way that takes the authority out of elected officials’ hands and puts it back in the hands of subject-matter experts on homelessness—a major goal of the initial plan. And it is not, to use a word thrown around frequently by elected officials these days, “transformational”; rather, it shifts power around in incremental ways, gives experts and people with direct experience of homelessness a nominal voice, and provides no actual funding for new housing or programs—an explicit goal of the One Table process that led to this legislation.

4. As I mentioned on Twitter last Friday, the Seattle Public Library plans to rent the Microsoft Auditorium at the downtown central library on February 1 to a group called the Women’s Liberation Front, a “radical feminist” group whose members believe that gender is synonymous with biological sex designated at birth and that works against the civil rights of transgender people. For example, one of the group’s legal efforts involved excluding trans women from women’s restrooms on the grounds that they would sexually assault “real” women—a claim that is contrary to the gender-inclusive policy of the very library where they will be holding their panel on “Fighting the New Misogyny: A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity.”

Anticipating pushback, head librarian Marcellus Turner issued a statement over the weekend about the library’s commitment to intellectual freedom. “I hope you can recognize the difficult situation this has created for us,” the statement said. :We are exploring every option we have in response to this moment, talking to other libraries who have been through it, scheduling discussions with our transgender staff and community, and consulting with the City of Seattle’s legal department on our options.

Yesterday, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she was not familiar enough with the group and the controversy surrounding the event to make a comment. In response to questions about the process for approving the panel, library spokeswoman Laura Gentry said the library “does not discriminate when making its facilities available for public use. … Permission to use our meeting rooms does not signify an endorsement of any group’s policies or beliefs.” Gentry said that the library has not turned down any request to book the auditorium this year, except when a the room was already booked. She said that any decision to cancel the event would have to be made by the Library Board of Trustees, not the library itself.