1. When Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that he planned to include information about homeless encampments in a public-facing dashboard about the state of homelessness in Seattle, advocates worried that the website would include a map of existing encampments, endangering the privacy of unsheltered people and making them more vulnerable to vigilantes. The dashboard Harrell rolled out this week does not include this information; instead, a map shows encampments that have been removed along with the number of “verified” encampments in each neighborhood.
On Thursday, King County Councilmember (and Republican Congressional candidate) Reagan Dunn proposed legislation asking King County Executive Dow Constantine to direct the Sheriff’s Office, Department of Parks and Natural Resources, and Department of Community and Human Services to identify and map the locations of every encampment in the county, along with the approximate number of people living at each site—a proposal that would put a virtual target on the backs of thousands of homeless people around the county.
The bill also asks Constantine to “develop a comprehensive plan to remove homeless encampments for unincorporated King County” by this October.
During a media briefing on Thursday, King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones said, “I do not and will not ever support the disclosure of information about where people are living or what the needs of those people are because that is protected information in a number of ways.”
The legislation—which, like Dunn’s vote against a resolution supporting abortion rights, serves largely as a statement of priorities for Dunn’s Congressional campaign, does not come with any cost estimate. The county, like the city of Seattle, is facing down significant budget shortfalls over the next few years. On Wednesday, county budget director Dwight Dively told a council committee that “right now, the 25-26 budget is horrendously out of balance.”
2. Earlier this year, responding to the Durkan Administration’s decision to permanently delete the city’s public-facing employee directory offline (a decision that has not been reversed by the Harrell administration), we created our own searchable city directory, with all the same public information that used to be available on the city’s website.
Now, we’ve updated and improved that original directory, adding more detailed contact information and consolidating the whole directory in one searchable database that includes phone and/or email contact information for every city employee.
As we wrote back in February, the public City of Seattle directory was the only place ordinary citizens and members of the press could access contact information for city employees, from city council aides to the neighborhood P-Patch coordinator. When the city made this public information private, they didn’t just limit access to public information—they also reduced the number of access points between the public and city officials, replacing the comprehensive directory with a list of links to city departments’ websites and media contacts, along with a generic 684-CITY phone number.
Our new directory is both comprehensive and searchable; you can find a list of contacts for an entire department or the contact information for a single city employee by using the tools at the top of the page.
Although this database duplicates (and is more comprehensive than) the former city directory, it isn’t a substitute for public transparency. The city of Seattle could and should provide this basic information to residents, as other cities do across the country. Until they do, we’ll continue to update our directory periodically and let you know when we do.