1. Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller joined the crowded race for mayor Tuesday, after months of hinting that he would make an announcement soon. He told PubliCola that, if elected, he would propose a bond measure, backed by a property tax increase, to build 3,000 new permanent homes for people experiencing homelessness; back a local version of universal basic income; and work to find “common ground” between people on all sides of the homelessness issue.
“If there’s one issue that we can all agree on, it’s that the conditions of our parks and our streets is unacceptable, and despite spending a record amount of money, homelessness has gotten worse,” Sixkiller said. “One part of the strategy for homelessness going forward is, number one, continuing to move more folks inside and creating safe spaces for people to move into shelter, but second, we’ve got to build or require more permanent places for folks to [live].”
Sixkiller is leaving the mayor’s office to campaign full-time.
As deputy mayor, Sixkiller was in charge of overseeing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s response to homelessness. In that role, he often clashed with the city council, defending Durkan’s reluctance to open more restrooms for unsheltered people early in the pandemic and proposing a huge new “shelter tent” for homeless people in early April of last year, when it had already become clear that COVID-19 could spread quickly in mass shelters. But he also advocated for hotels as a replacement for congregate shelters later that year, negotiating a compromise between the mayor (who was not a fan of hotels) and the council that ended up resulting in about 200 hotel-based shelter beds, with another hotel in north Seattle on the way.
“I think what the charter amendment underscores is that folks across our city and from all ends of the spectrum want to see results… both for folks that are experiencing homelessness and those impacted by it. As an organizing principle, it’s a really important thing.”—Casey Sixkiller
Sixkiller wouldn’t say whether he supports the “Compassion Seattle” initiative, which would impose a new human services spending mandate on the city and lays out conditions for future sweeps. “I’m still looking at” the proposal, he said, adding, “I think what the charter amendment underscores is that folks across our city and from all ends of the spectrum want to see results… both for folks that are experiencing homelessness and those impacted by it. … As an organizing principle, it’s a really important thing.”
Before joining the mayor’s staff, Sixkiller worked briefly as the chief operating officer for King County. Prior to that, he founded a D.C.-based lobbying firm, Sixkiller Consulting, with his wife.
So far, there are 16 candidates in the mayoral race; the filing deadline is May 21.
2. Sixkiller’s departure leaves an open position at the mayor’s office, but not for long; Durkan’s office says they plan to bring former deputy mayor David Moseley out of retirement to take Sixkiller’s place. Moseley will take over most of Sixkiller’s portfolio, which includes transportation, utilities, parks and housing, but deputy mayor Tiffany Washington will be in charge of homelessness.
Washington headed up the city’s Homelessness Strategy and Investment division until 2019, when she resigned to take a position in the city’s Department of Education and Early Learning. Her relationship with the city council could charitably be described as tense; her explanations for city policies such as an earlier increase in encampment sweeps were often vague and inconsistent, and was often defensive in response to criticism, including from journalists who questioned the city’s sunny claims about homelessness.
Durkan hired Washington for her current position last year.
3. The latest call for King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht’s resignation is coming from inside the house: on Monday, the King County Police Officers’ Guild—the union representing most of Johanknecht’s sworn officers—joined county and state lawmakers pressuring Johanknecht to step down from her post.
Guild President Mike Mansanarez told PubliCola on Tuesday that his union’s members have lost confidence in Johanknecht’s competence as a leader and ability to communicate with her officers and other county leaders. “The rank and file don’t see [Johanknecht’s] leadership team—they don’t come to the precincts,” he said. He added that union members are frustrated with some of Johanknecht’s appointment decisions, and with the sheriff’s perceived willingness to overlook misconduct by her appointees.
Opposition to Johanknecht grew in March, after the county reached a a $5 million settlement with the family of Tommy Le, a 20-year-old killed by King County Sheriff’s deputy Cesar Molina in 2017.
After the South Seattle Emerald released an email from Johanknecht expressing support for Molina King County Councilmembers Joe McDermott, Girmay Zahilay, and Dave Upthegrove called for her resignation, followed by state senator and county executive candidate Joe Nguyen (D-34, West Seattle) and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Though Johanknecht has said she does not plan to resign, the scope of the opposition to her leadership will severely limit her authority for the rest of her term. In November, King County voters approved a measure to make the sheriff’s office an appointed position, and the county council has already convened a group of stakeholders to assemble a list of candidates to replace Johanknecht. The department’s rank-and-file officers will also play a role in selecting Johanknecht’s successor.
Mansanarez said many of his fellow guild members believe that county leadership’s frustrations with Johanknecht sparked the shift to an appointed sheriff; though Mansanarez opposed the measure, he said that he has been in regular communication with county council members and Constantine.
If Johanknecht resigned before May 15—the filing deadline for King County candidates—there would have to be a special November election for a sheriff who would serve until the office officially becomes an appointed position on January 1, 2022. If Johanknecht resigned after May 15, she would be replaced by an interim sheriff until Constantine appoints a replacement.