Sawant and Durkan feud over homelessness escalates

Mar 1, 2019, 3:23 PM
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmember Kshama Sawant...
(Getty Images, AP)
(Getty Images, AP)

A growing feud between Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Mayor Jenny Durkan continued to grow this week, culminating in a scathing editorial published by Sawant in The Stranger Friday.

RELATED: Sawant committee votes to delay Durkan nomination

To understand all of this, a little background first:

Mayor Durkan recently nominated interim Human Services Director Jason Johnson to assume the role permanently. Sawant then drafted and subsequently passed a committee resolution to delay the nomination process, objecting to the way Durkan chose Johnson, claiming it was too secretive and didn’t included community buy-in.

Durkan has yet to respond publicly to the resolution now that it’s been moved out of committee, but new developments indicate the flames of this rivalry are still burning hot.

First, the aforementioned op-ed from Sawant in The Stranger. It reads:

Mayor Durkan has chosen to disregard this reality as well as the city’s workers and community members in her search for a new director of the city’s Human Services Department (HSD), which is ground zero for allocating public funds to social services. She has systematically ignored those voices, nominating interim director Jason Johnson without a public search for candidates. The city should not move forward with this nomination without engaging the community, which is why I am opposing the appointment of Mr. Johnson.

This comes after a move earlier this week from Mayor Durkan, that shortened Seattle’s contract with homeless shelter operator, SHARE/WHEEL.

Sawant — who has advocated in the past for funding SHARE/WHEEL, despite the organization’s history of controversy — saw that move from Durkan as a shot across the bow.

“It really seems like it’s out of retaliation, because SHARE and WHEEL activists have spoken in solidarity with the Human Services Department employees who are demanding that the mayor hold a transparent and equitable search committee to find the new director,” said Sawant on Thursday.

SHARE/WHEEL’s own response was equally as pointed.

“Our WHEEL and SHARE communities again are threatened by political punishment and de-funding,” the organization’s website reads. “Mayoral [and] Human Services Department mistreatment of WHEEL and SHARE — and disregard for the City Council’s authority — is shameful and wrong.”

RELATED: Conflict brews between Durkan and Sawant over homelessness

SHARE/WHEEL’s relationship with the city has been steeped in controversy over the years.

Most recently, the city voted in September to shut down SHARE/WHEEL’s Licton Springs tiny village when its permit expires in March, claiming that there weren’t enough people being moved into permanent housing and they were staying in the village too long, more than a year in many cases.

In the past, the organization has been accused of encouraging its shelter residents not to seek permanent housing.

SHARE/WHEEL then pulled out of Licton Springs in October, a full five months ahead of the end-date set by the city.

Concerning Johnson’s delayed appointment, Durkan and her office’s own frustration can be seen in correspondence with Sawant’s office in letters released by the council member on Wednesday.

“It is disappointing that Councilmember Sawant has ignored the Council’s own practice and rules regarding confirmations and abdicated a core responsibility required by the City Charter,” one letter from the mayor’s office reads.

Sawant’s committee resolution to delay Johnson’s nomination will go before the full council on Monday, March 4 for a final vote. The city’s Human Services Department has been without a permanent director since Catherine Lester stepped down from the role last spring.

Local News

crime, shooting...
Associated Press

Clark County deputies shoot, kill suspect after pursuit

Authorities say police shot and killed an assault suspect after a pursuit near Vancouver in southwest Washington.
1 day ago
rapid covid test...
MyNorthwest Staff

UW doctor: When to use a PCR versus rapid antigen test for COVID-19

Dr. Geoff Baird with UW Medicine has a simple formula for weighing the two main COVID test types: PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid antigen.
1 day ago
USS John McCain...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Naval Station Everett welcomes USS John S. McCain

The USS John S. McCain is now docked at its new homeport, Naval Station Everett.
1 day ago
vaccine booster, heart...
Stephanie Klein

What to know as Oct. 18 deadline for vaccine mandate approaches

The deadline for state workers, including educators, and healthcare workers to show their employers proof that they're vaccinated against COVID-19 is Monday, Oct. 18.
1 day ago
KIRO 7 News Staff

Police: Two in custody after hit-and-run suspect rams patrol car; officer fires shots

Two people were taken into custody after a driver suspected of a hit-and-run rammed an officer’s patrol vehicle, resulting in the officer firing shots at the car Saturday night in Medina.
1 day ago
Seattle library...
MyNorthwest Staff

Last of Seattle Public Library branch closures from pandemic comes to an end

Seattle has reopened its NewHolly library branch, meaning that for the first time since the start of the pandemic, all 27 of the city's branches are now up and running.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Sawant and Durkan feud over homelessness escalates