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Rantz: False claim leads to ridiculous Seattle homelessness conspiracy theory

Some unintentionally bad reporting by an activist newspaper in Seattle has local activists spreading a homelessness conspiracy. And the people spreading this false information aren’t correcting it.

Tim Harris of Real Change first reported that, under Mayor Jenny Durkan, the city quietly revised Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules (MDARs) to allow for Seattle’s Navigation Team to remove homeless encampments with just a 30-minute notice — instead of 72 hours which is common practice in Seattle.

Harris claimed:

Additionally, nine new cops were added to the Navigation Team. This did not add human service capacity. Just more law enforcement.

He continues:

This means that the 400 or so unauthorized encampments on the city clean-up docket at any given time will get churned faster. That is all. There will still not be nearly enough housing or shelter or even places to go, but complaints from businesses and residents will get handled faster. The misery will remain.

Harris’ claims are incorrect.

“It [MDARs] has not been changed,” Will Lemke, spokesperson for the Navigation Team, tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “There’s no process happening to amend the MDARs.”

It’s unclear where the 30-minute and staffing claims came from, and it’s being viewed as a simple mistake that Harris would end up correcting. He revised the original report with the following correction:

An earlier version misstated the state of the Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules (MDARs). The community-led MDAR Advisory Committee met for 18 months and has dissolved without the adoption of any recommended changes. Also, the expansion of the Navigation Team includes funding for outreach services and field coordinators.

But the initial, incorrect claim spread quickly, with Lemke receiving emails asking about the report. Activists across Twitter jumped all over the incorrect claim.

Dae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr., a relative newcomer to Seattle who grew bothered that Seattle “is not the progressive paradise it appears to be,” reacted with the absurd notion that “Durkan has declared war against poverty.”

He then offered baseless stats on how often these sweeps would allegedly occur, tweeting: “…allowing them to destroy encampments with a 30 min notice means we are about to see 50x the amount of sweeps.” He continued by calling this a “major violation of human rights.”

Others, like Candace Faber, compared this policy change to genocide, tweeting: “Instead of destroying shelters so people can’t live in them, have @SeattlePD dig some mass graves and shoot people in them. Same effect, same intention on your part, but far more efficient.”

Tammy Morales, a Seattle City Council candidate, appeared to tweet criticism based on the report, too (the tweet was posted on the same day as the article with the error).

As I’m writing this, I haven’t seen these critics correct their claims — all based on a misleading report. For them to be true, there would have to have been some conspiracy to secretly change already-controversial policies without any media knowing.

Ironically, while the MDARs haven’t been changed, the Navigation Team technically can already move an illegal encampment in 30-minutes (or less), so a change wouldn’t be necessary. This is done in extreme cases where an encampment poses an immediate safety threat to the inhabitants or the people around it. Though the Navigation Team hardly heartlessly destroys property in cases like this.

Update: since this story was published, Faber has acknowledged the error, and also elaborated on her position. 

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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