1. Ever since an unknown civil engineer named Kenneth Wilson eked out 16 percent of the vote to come in second in the August council primary, the conventional wisdom has been that City Council District 8 incumbent Teresa Mosqueda (who in actual fact won with 59 percent) is facing “a more competitive race than expected,” thanks to a “surprise” upset by a “frugal,” “competent” “fresh face” whom one pundit called just the kind of “Mr. Fixit” that the council “badly need[s].”
As compelling as those arguments may seem, we’d like to offer a counterpoint: Wilson’s own words.
During his closing statement in a debate last weekend moderated by PubliCola’s Erica Barnett, Wilson explained that one of the reasons he started “becoming political” was the presence of “ghetto-type paintings everywhere” (presumably: Graffiti-style murals), which he associated with crime. In her own closing statement, Mosqueda responded that Wilson, “as someone who says they’re analytical, should analyze how that statement is not a good thing to be saying.” She also pointed out that Wilson constantly talked over and interrupted the moderator, which he did.
In response to a question about how he would deal with the confirmation process for and appointment of a permanent director for the city’s arts office—a process Mayor Jenny Durkan upended by appointing a new temporary director to replace one she appointed earlier, all without input from the arts commission or the advisory body set up to advise her on the selection—Wilson responded:
“So, first, first and foremost, the arts and culture are so fundamental to our life. We saw the great impact that we lost with what happened in COVID. So many things shut down. So having this important position is valuable to our community and something that we need to build upon. So I would take that very seriously. … I know we had questions even about what’s your qualifications for a position to teach in school. I think some of these jobs have a background to them but an educator, even having some of your background in arts and doing these things firsthand. So being a performer and how we’re going to select this and criteria that we would add to our thing is really valuable to me.”
Sometimes it really is okay just say you don’t have enough background to answer the question and leave it at that.
Finally, at a forum sponsored by Seattle Fair Growth, Wilson responded to a question about preventing displacement by suggesting that someone who makes $50,000 a year and can only afford a $1,600-a-month studio apartment in Seattle should take advantage of their “mobility” and “use their $1,600 maybe down at Angle Lake and get a three-bedroom apartment. Here in Seattle, we’re having other challenges.” Moving away from an urban neighborhood where you’ve lived for a long time to a suburb 20 miles away is pretty much the definition of displacement, not its solution.
Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington said the city planned to “loan” the HOPE Team’s system navigators to the Parks Department, where their job will consist of being “present on the day of a clean to offer shelter to the one or two people that are left there.”
Wilson has raised about $62,000 in his bid to unseat Mosqueda, and so enchanted Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat that Westneat devoted an entire column to his virtues. The Times did not endorse in the primary, expressing astonishment that the popular incumbent did not draw “stronger” challengers.
2, As the city’s homelessness services move over to the new regional homelessness authority, one major unanswered question is: What will happen to the HOPE team?
The team, whose acronym stands for Homeless Outreach and Provider Ecosystem, was supposed to be a less-punitive replacement for the Navigation Team, which was primarily responsible for removing encampments. In reality, the team became a kind of vanguard for the Parks Department, which now conducts most of the city’s sweeps.
Prior to an encampment removal, nonprofit outreach workers are supposed to contact the HOPE Team for shelter referrals. The team has exclusive access to about a third of the city’s shelter beds, which makes it possible for providers to offer shelter to most people who remain at an encampment in the days before a sweep. This is how the city is able to say they offered shelter to every person in an encampment, even as the number of shelter beds available to the general public on any night is in the single digits.
Overall, the total number of permanent shelter beds in Seattle has declined since the COVID pandemic began.
According to Deputy Mayor TIffany Washington, who answered city council members’ questions about the future of the HOPE Team last week, “There is no HOPE Team, because we’re moving shelter, which is a function of the HOPE Team, and outreach, which is a function of the HOPE Team, to the regional authority, so it’s just a misuse of words.” Elaborating further, Washington said the city planned to “loan” the HOPE Team’s system navigators to the Parks Department, where their job will consist of being “present on the day of a clean to offer shelter to the one or two people that are left there.”
Council members seemed confused by this description, and homelessness committee chair Andrew Lewis said that the role of the HOPE Team will be “an area of intense scrutiny this budget cycle. … I’m worried about people experiencing homelessness misunderstanding who is interacting with them and whether there will still be some sort of outreach component that is in the HOPE Team,” Lewis said.
Contacted for clarification, mayoral spokeswoman Kamaria Hightower said the city’s Human Services Department, Parks, and the new regional authority would sign a memorandum of agreement to implement a “pilot program that will include System Navigator positions working on loan to the SPR department. This pilot program is designed to address the need to align the services provided by the KCRHA to connect people living unsheltered to pathways to housing with City operational obligations to ensure public spaces are clean and accessible for all.”