Council Chooses Juarez, Library Explains Systemwide Closures, “Seattle Nice” Debates Durkan Legacy

1. District 5 City Councilmember Debora Juarez will serve as the next city council president, PubliCola has learned, after an intense and unusually public campaign for the position.

In addition to a lobbying campaign by Juarez’ supporters (including the leaders of a dozen Native American tribes), the Seattle Times weighed in on Juarez’s behalf, arguing for Juarez over her chief rival for the position, District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold, on the grounds that Juarez would strip Herbold of her position as chair of the council’s public safety committee. (The Times’ editorial board, which usually talks about “the council” as an undifferentiated mass, seems to believe that  Herbold is far to the left on police funding; in fact, she fought consistently for reductions to the budget cuts her colleagues proposed).

The city council president is in charge of committee assignments, presides over regular council meetings, and is nominally in charge of the entire legislative department. In the past, council presidents have used the role to represent the interests of the council in negotiations with the mayor’s office, to mixed success. The usually low-profile job typically goes to a senior council member.

2. Seattle Public Library branches, which were supposed to serve as places where people could get warm during the cold and snow emergency last week, were mostly closed last week. Over the course of a weeklong emergency, the entire library system shut down for two full days because of weather (in addition to previously planned closures on Christmas and New Year’s Days), and opened between 9 and 12 of its 27 branches during the other four days of the emergency.

“It requires a certain number of staff in certain job classifications to safely and effectively open each branch, and we need to feel confident that those staff can make it in to work and make it back home safely,” SPL spokeswoman Laura Gentry said. “[W]hile we can change an employee’s work location, we cannot change their scheduled shift or their job classification. Contractually, we also cannot ask someone like a Security officer to staff our Circulation desk, or ask a Children’s Librarian to shovel and de-ice our walkways.”

While library branches across the city were shuttered, more than 150 executive department staffers of all job classifications signed up to work paid shifts staffing shelters or driving vans to transport unsheltered people from encampments to shelters and warming centers.

Both these examples are fairly implausible; a more likely real-world scenario would be one in which several library staffers of various classifications showed up to open a branch’s doors during a weather emergency, leaving libraries without a full complement of job classifications but enough to open safely at a time when most housed people were stuck at home. The lack of a children’s librarian or circulation desk staffer at any given branch would be significantly less urgent if the library decided that, for just a few days during a temporary weather emergency, the primary purpose of library branches was to give unsheltered people a to get warm.

This kind of flexibility might be rare for a government agency, but it isn’t impossible; for example, while library branches across the city were shuttered, more than 150 executive department staffers of all job classifications signed up to work paid shifts staffing shelters or driving vans to transport unsheltered people from encampments to shelters and warming centers—duties for which the city offered between $150 and $250 in bonus pay.

In recent years, physical public library buildings have become havens for unhoused or unsheltered people who are not allowed in most other indoor public spaces during the day; during severe weather, libraries are among the only places unsheltered people (or those staying at nighttime-only shelters) can come indoors.

The issue of whether library workers should have to deal with homeless people has been a subject of debate in practically every major city, but the question of whether they do have to deal with homeless people has long been resolved; if you work in a public-facing role in a public library system, you will encounter unhoused and unsheltered people. In fact, “experience working with people who are unstably housed and/or with individuals who have mental health challenges” is one of the “desired characteristics” for entry-level positions at the Seattle Public Library.

3. If you haven’t tuned in yet to Seattle Nice, the new half-hour podcast where political consultant (and my longtime pal) Sandeep Kaushik and I spar about local news and politics (with producer David Hyde as moderator), this week’s episode, in which we discuss the legacy of ex-mayor Jenny Durkan, is a great place to start.

How did Durkan do on homelessness, COVID response, police accountability, and transparency? Find out what we have to say on those subjects and more and subscribe so you won’t miss a single week.

—Erica C. Barnett

5 thoughts on “Council Chooses Juarez, Library Explains Systemwide Closures, “Seattle Nice” Debates Durkan Legacy”

  1. Public libraries no longer serve a useful purpose. We have this thing called the internet now. The quality of life in Seattle would improve for the productive class if they closed all Seattle public libraries, transferred the collections to UW, and transferred the budget to SPD and other first responders. Maybe the libraries should have a user fee to get inside. Why do our libraries need to be hotels for drug addicts? You also make yourself look stupid when you try to play library administer and tell them how to keep their facilities open and safe. The same thing happened when you tried to claim how easy it is to install a public water fountain. The regulations and some other rules may not make sense to you, but most bureaucrats are not going to deliberately exceed their authority. They tried to explain it to you but you still don’t get it. Maybe they should just put you in charge…that would be fun to watch. Steve Willie.

    1. Based on your close-minded, rude attitude, your awful logic and grammar, and your hatred of your fellow man, I’d say Seattle needs to double its budget for public libraries and related institutions. Clearly the region is producing and catering to too many dimwitted boomers like yourself 😉

      1. Beev: Thank you for supporting the massive waste of money on homelessness. It makes you more entertaining and makes Seattle die a well-deserved death even sooner. Refer to the documentary: “Seattle is Dying”. If you actually wanted to improve the situation, you would focus on the illegal drug use and alcohol abuse. Chinese Fentanyl-synthetic opioids-meth-etc. pouring across Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border are causing homelessness by several means, including drug-induced psychosis (which results in permanent brain damage). Most homeless are drug addicts. You claim to care but you are only an enabler. How has that been working out?

      2. Beev: Of course you failed to respond because you are rightfully embarrassed by your errors. Here is something I heard today: a hit of Fentanyl costs about $2.00. I don’t believe it would be that cheap, but however cheap it is, the cause of the low price is Chinese Fentanyl. So here are some absolute 100% proven facts for all Lib-tards to finally get through their thick skulls: 1. Regardless of what caused someone to initially become homeless, they will never be able to climb out of their situation until they beat the addiction. 2. The addiction is caused by the availability and low cost of the drugs. 3. Chinese Fentanyl is pouring across Joe Biden’s wide-open southern border as you read this. 4. Although none of you apparently ever took an economics class which was worth a damn, this is simple supply-and-demand at work here. I will even go the extra mile and spell it out for you: low drug cost + high availability = addiction. = more homelessness. Wow, such incredible stupidity every day on this site, But very entertaining. Steve Willie.

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