Another Sweep in Ballard, Durkan Will Help Choose New Public Health Director, Anti-Union Group Launches Unhinged Attack

1. The city’s removal of a small encampment near Reuben’s Brews in Ballard, part of several scheduled encampment sweeps this week, cleared a sidewalk in front of one business while, less than a block away, other people living in other tents were left alone for now. The city, as we’ve reported, is increasing the pace of encampment sweeps to previous, pre-COVID levels, using a reconfigured and renamed Navigation Team (now known as the HOPE Team) to do outreach and tell people about available shelter beds before they have to leave.

The city prioritizes encampments based on a number of factors, but one is “emergent complaints” from businesses and housed neighborhood residents who contact the city.

Ballard is full of encampments, because Ballard is full of people who have nowhere to live. A spokeswoman for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said the city “requested that outreach efforts… intensify this week with the goal of getting all who are onsite situated into shelter and on a path towards a permanent housing solution,” which suggests that the city has sufficient, desirable shelter and “permanent housing solutions” for everyone who is willing to accept its help.

This, of course, is not true. Although the city has now separated the work of the renamed Navigation Team from actual encampment sweeps (which are performed by Parks cleanup crews), the effect of doing outreach (or, controversially, directing nonprofits that serve specific subpopulations to do the work for them) prior to a sweep, the result is still that people pack up and leave because they know a sweep is coming.

In language strikingly similar to the city’s standard response about Navigation Team actions prior to the pandemic, the spokeswoman said, “the HOPE Team has made at least 130 referrals to shelter from high-priority sites such as Rainer Playfield, Miller Park, University Playground, Gilman Playground, Albert Davis Park, and Broadway Hill.”

Some do go into shelter (the HOPE Team has exclusive access to a large number of beds that aren’t available to other outreach teams); according to the mayor’s office, the outreach provider REACH offered shelter to eight people remaining onsite, and two “accepted shelter referrals.” (Referral “acceptance” is not the same thing as checking in to a shelter.)

In language strikingly similar to the city’s standard response about Navigation Team actions prior to the pandemic, the spokeswoman said, “the HOPE Team has made at least 130 referrals to shelter from high-priority sites such as Rainer Playfield, Miller Park, University Playground, Gilman Playground, Albert Davis Park, and Broadway Hill. A referral indicates that an individual experiencing homelessness has accepted an offer of shelter and they have been connected to an open shelter resource. The majority of these referrals have been into new hotel-based shelter resources.” 

Those resources consist primarily of about 140 beds at the downtown Executive Pacific Hotel. (Another hotel, King’s Inn, is for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and is currently full.) As of January 2020, there were at least 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County.

The actual selection of a new Public Health director, however, will be up to two elected officials, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Constantine is up for reelection in November and has an opponent, state Sen. Joe Nguyen. Durkan is leaving.

2. King County Public Health Department director Patty Hayes announced her retirement this week after seven years in the position; Dennis Worsham, the director of the department’s Prevention Division, will be her interim replacement. The county also announced an advisory committee of stakeholders that will “inform the process for recruiting and selecting the next permanent director.”

The actual selection, however, will be up to two elected officials, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Constantine is up for reelection in November and has an opponent, state Sen. Joe Nguyen. Durkan is leaving.

Constantine has been lauded for the county’s timely, prudent public health response during the pandemic, thanks in huge part to the now nationally-recognized leadership of public health officer Jeff Duchin.

The same can’t be said of Durkan, who spent millions renting a hotel for first responders that stood empty while homeless people languished in encampments and crowded shelters; belatedly rented two shower trailers at an astronomical cost while King County deployed similar units at a fraction of the cost; closed restrooms throughout the city and replaced them with unsanitary “sanicans”; delayed the deployment of sinks for people to wash their hands, arguing that “Purell on a pole” could serve the same purpose at lower cost; and resisted providing hotel rooms for people living unsheltered, despite ample evidence that private rooms improve public and individual health for people experiencing homelessness.

PubliCola asked the health department about the timeline for choosing a new director; James Apa, a spokesman for the department, said that’s up in the air, but that the committee should interview finalists “by the end of the year.” Since the mayoral election is November 3, I asked whether the mayor-elect will have a role in the selection process between their election and when the new mayor takes office next January. Apa responded, “We’ll have a better sense of timeline when recruitment begins, and that will determine who’s involved in decision-making.”

3. The Freedom Foundation, an anti-union, anti-government, anti-tax group whose tactics include lawsuits, public relations campaigns, and pressure tactics to convince workers to leave their unions, has turned their sights on MLK Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer Nicole Grant, urging union members to “stop supporting Nicole Grant” by opting out of their union membership.

Share the Cities posted the latest attack mailer, which is similar to an email the Freedom Foundation recently sent to city employees, on Twitter. On the front, it reads, “Your union dues pay Nicole Grant’s $167K salary. Keep your guns; keep your money” next to an anti-gun tweet Grant posted in April. On the back, it includes a quote from the labor council’s website praising Grant for her commitment to racial, gender, and LBGTQ equity, followed by the tagline “Stop Funding Nicole Grant”—a clear dog whistle to those who consider efforts to welcome women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ people into the union movement a step in the wrong direction.

Contacted about the mailers, Grant said, “It’s hard to think of a more vile organization than the Freedom Foundation. They are right [up] there with the Proud Boys.” On gun violence, she added, “I don’t think we talk about gun violence enough in the labor movement. And even though the people that disagree with me have guns and I don’t, it is still a conversation that I am willing to lead.”

“Evidently the Freedom Foundation wants the labor movement to feel bad about having a woman leader who cares about women’s issues like the gender pay gap, who lead on expelling police from MLK Labor in light of recent racist police killings, and opposes homophobic policies like the anti-trans legislation the Freedom Foundation has supported,” Grant continued. “These guys have a lot of money and they do everything they can to undermine working people but it just hasn’t worked. Our movement is growing. Unions have never been more popular. We are reaching out to community and we are uniting.”

 

2 thoughts on “Another Sweep in Ballard, Durkan Will Help Choose New Public Health Director, Anti-Union Group Launches Unhinged Attack”

  1. talker2: You are wasting your time with factual comments here because facts don’t matter in this forum. These Progressives live in a fantasy world where more free stuff can “solve the homeless crisis”. They never took a real economics class, so they are clueless as to why robbing the productive class to hand out more and more free stuff can never solve the problem. I follow Erica Barnett strictly for the entertainment value. Progressives are why Seattle is failing with no end in sight. Steve Willie.

  2. Whoa . . . hatin’ on Jenny Durkan again. For your information Dow Constantine also reserved 80 rooms in Hotel 116 in Bellevue for doctors and nurses – King County and City of Seattle actually worked together on this. And how was this “bad”? It was the beginning of the pandemic when nobody knew what was going to happen and we needed every first responder we could get and we were asking them to go into situations where they would have lots of exposure to sick people! https://1199nwcovidresponse.org/king-county-and-city-of-seattle-offering-free-hotel-rooms-to-healthcare-workers-impacted-by-covid-19/

    Your mention of the homeless situation at Reuben’s Brews and other places also sounds like an opinion piece. It sounds like you aren’t satisfied with the HOPE team giving referrals to housing at the Executive Hotel Pacific, even though in the another paragraph you complain that the hotel rooms reserved for first responders were not all used – and weren’t offered to homeless at the beginning of the pandemic. You can’t have it both ways – the homeless are occupying the rooms now so you should be happy right?

    In addition, you suggest that giving a referral for shelter to a homeless person is not adequate because sometimes they don’t go to the shelter. Would it be adequate if the homeless who were referred were transported straight to the shelter and then forced to remain there and you were personally notified each time? It doesn’t seem like any entity would satisfy your requirements for how to treat homeless unless we just let them camp wherever they want, and do whatever they want including harming themselves and others for the rest of their lives. How is that humane?

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