Help Fund PubliCola in 2023

By Erica C. Barnett

To all of PubliCola’s readers: Happy new year, and thanks for your continued readership and support.

Before I get into our annual roundup, I want to take a moment to thank all of the readers who make PublICola possible by contributing financially to keep us going. For seven years, I’ve been running this site full-time with the help of a talented crew of writers (including former police reporter Paul Kiefer, now working in public radio) and PubliCola co-founder Josh Feit, who edits, wrangles our legislative coverage, and writes the Maybe Metropolis column) and hundreds of supporters who believe in the value of independent local media.

I say this a lot, but PubliCola literally would not be possible without reader support; we are ad-free, independent, and funded entirely by contributions from readers like you.

If you want to help PubliCola continue growing and thriving in 2023, please take a moment RIGHT NOW to make a one-time or sustaining contribution by going to Paypal, Patreon,https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PNWWFTE3394WY or Venmo (erica-barnett-7). You can also send PubliCola a check at PO Box 14328, Seattle, WA 98104.

Or read on to find out more about why PubliCola is an indispensable resource in Seattle’s media landscape.

In 2022, PubliCola continued to break stories that legacy media either missed completely or picked up weeks later.

In February, we broke the news that the King County Homelessness Authority planned to use private donations to fund efforts to “dramatically reduce” visible homelessness downtown, a week before the formal announcement received cursory coverage in  the mainstream press. This effort, known as the “Partnership for Zero,” will be an ongoing story in 2023, when the KCRHA will reach its informal deadline for reducing the number of unsheltered people in downtown Seattle to “functional zero.”

We broke the news that people incarcerated at the King County Jail had no access to running water. Our initial story was picked up nationally, but we continued to follow the story long after the mainstream media stopped paying attention.

We also broke the news that the KCRHA and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development were operating a new, emergency operations-style “housing command center” to facilitate the Partnership for Zero’s goals, a month before the mainstream media reported on the official press release.

In April, we were the first to report on findings that Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability routinely waved off mask mandate violations by Seattle Police Department officers, dismissing the practice as a “cultural issue” rather than a public health violation. As we exclusively reported, the state Department of Labor and Industries fined SPD twice for failing to maintain a safe workplace by requiring masks.

Later in the year, we learned that people incarcerated at the King County Jail had no access to running water, because of an unknown problem that was causing the water to come out of taps cloudy or brown. Our initial story was picked up nationally, but we continued to follow the story long after the mainstream media stopped paying attention. The staffing shortage at the jail, which we covered throughout the year, could come to a head in 2023.

We also went deep on issues like homelessness, policing, and the criminal legal system.

When the city decided to remove a large encampment from Woodland Park, we were the only media outlet to explore what happened behind the scenes. Our reporting revealed that an event the city heralded as a model for future encampment removals was actually an ad hoc, last-minute response to an unanticipated threat—one that proved only what the city can do if it prioritizes a single encampment over the thousands of people living unsheltered across Seattle.

As the Harrell administration ramped up encampment sweeps to a pace that rivaled Jenny Durkan’s pre-pandemic peak, people living in vehicles were especially vulnerable. In addition to ramped-up RV removals that continued even during the summer’s hottest heat wave, the city towed away vehicles whose owners went to great lengths to remove them—even when the only result was to turn a vulnerable person living in their vehicle to a vulnerable person living in a tent.

In May, we profiled a homeless man who was engaged in case management and getting ready to move into a new apartment when the city pursued him on years-old shoplifting charges, disrupting his progress and dumping back into a criminal legal system that had already failed him dozens of times.

In 2021, we were the first outlet to report on private businesses’ use of concrete “ecology blocks” to prevent people living in their vehicles from parking on public streets. Last year, we continued to cover the proliferation of these war zone-style barricades, focusing on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s ongoing refusal to enforce the law making it illegal to place barriers in the public right-of-way.

Homelessness and crime were often intertwined in Seattle residents’ minds, and our coverage often explored the ways in which punitive approaches to low-level crimes committed by homeless or unstably housed people can fail to produce the desired results.

For instance, Mayor Harrell’s “Operation New Day“—a crackdown on drug and shoplifting offenders in the Chinatown-International District downtown—succeeded primarily in pushing low-level criminal activity across the street or around the corner, rather than addressing the root causes of the criminal activity or markedly reducing crime.

When city attorney Ann Davison successfully pushed the Seattle Municipal Court to exclude such “prolific offenders” from community court, which directs people to services and case management, critics saw it as another step in a backlash against people whose crimes stem from homelessness, mental illness, or just plain poverty.

In May, we profiled a homeless man who was engaged in case management and getting ready to move into a new apartment when the city pursued him on years-old shoplifting charges, disrupting his progress and dumping back into a criminal legal system that had already failed him dozens of times.

We followed the city’s slow, halting progress toward creating alternatives to police response for some emergency calls—a plan birthed in the aftermath of 2020’s protests against police brutality and stalled ever since.

We reported exclusively on the Durkan administration’s decision to ignore a law placing an expiration date on police hiring bonuses, a decision that had financial and legal ramifications for the incoming Harrell Administration.

We literally can’t do this work without you; donations from readers like you are the way we pay for every aspect of this business, from wages to office space to the costs of running the website itself. To support independent, local journalism, please make an ongoing or one-time contribution today by going to Paypal, Patreon, or Venmo (Erica-Barnett-7), or send us a check (made out to PubliCola) at PO Box 14328, Seattle, WA. 98104.

And we wrote extensively about the planned closure of King County’s youth jail, which County Executive Dow Constantine pledged to shut down by 2025, a deadline that seems increasingly tenuous given recent increases in the number of incarcerated children and the county’s renewed focus on the staffing shortage at the juvenile jail.

As always, we also covered important stories about density and housing (including Leo Brine’s ongoing coverage of last year’s pro-density agenda in Olympia and Andy Engelson’s widely read piece on design review), transportation (Lizz Giordano’s pieces about the debate over a future Sound Transit rail station in Chinatown and unpaid fines for illegal Spokane Street Bridge crossings during the West Seattle Bridge closure were two of our most-read stories of the year), and (continuing, for example, our dogged coverage of Sound Transit’s efforts to crack down on “fare evaders” on light rail trains).

And, of course, we brought you comprehensive coverage of the 2023 city budget (and how it reflected the Harrell Administration’s priorities) the 2022 elections, and stories that got little or no coverage elsewhere but are important to us (and, judging from our readership numbers, you).

We told you about the candidate for Seattle Public Library director whose spotty reputation at his previous job included running a big-city library system from 2,000 miles away; the drawn-out Seattle City Council redistricting fight; the city’s parks and housing levies, which both stand to double in the coming years; and the debate over whether Seattle libraries should allow library staff to use Narcan to reverse overdoses (a debate we’re proud to say we played some small role in resolving, simply by shining a light on the issue).

We even found time to start a podcast with our friends Sandeep Kaushik and David Hyde, (listen and subscribe to Seattle Nice here), run thought-provoking columns by the likes of PubliCola co-founder Josh Feit and Katie Wilson, and make endorsements in key local elections (coming up: Initiative I-135, on the ballot next month!)

We literally can’t do this work without you; donations from readers like you are the way we pay for every aspect of this business, from wages to office space to the costs of running the website itself. To support independent, local journalism, please make an ongoing or one-time contribution today by going to Paypal, Patreon, or Venmo (Erica-Barnett-7), or send us a check (made out to PubliCola) at PO Box 14328, Seattle, WA. 98104.

Happy new year, and thanks for your support.

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