Rantz: Fed up activist threatens to tow derelict RVs to homes of Seattle councilmembers

Oct 7, 2019, 5:58 AM | Updated: 4:07 pm

Community activist and former Seattle City Council candidate Ari Hoffman is fed up with the derelict RVs lining the streets outside the Bikur Cholim cemetery, and he let the council and mayor’s office know that if they don’t handle the escalating situation, he will tow the RVs to the homes of his council representatives.

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Only after the threat did it get one councilmember to act.

The issue has been ongoing for about two years. Derelict RVs, occupied by the homeless, set up camp along the streets of the historic Jewish cemetery, where Hoffman serves on the board. The homeless leave trash, used needles and condoms, and human waste everywhere — including on the actual premises.

What’s worse, we’re in the middle of Jewish high holidays, when more people visit the cemetery, and there’s a midday funeral Monday.

In a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, the entire City Council, and the Seattle Police Department, Hoffman explained the dire situation and minced no words.

“Once again, we are having problems at the Jewish cemeteries caused by the occupants of the RVs that the city has not [been] removed and turned a blind eye towards,” the letter complained. “Drug abuse, drug dealing and prostitution are an ongoing problem.”

This time, Hoffman said his crew discovered used needles and human feces (“found in a cup in a bag”), in addition to the standard RV problem he has. He said the RVs were ticketed, but ended up just moving across the street.

And it’s not just the cemetery dealing with the problem. At his office in Georgetown, where Hoffman runs an amusement rental business, the same broken-down RVs have illegally parked for over a month.

“They have stolen gas from my trucks and when SPD issued a 72 hour notice, they responded by building a wooden structure of material stolen from neighboring businesses,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman is frustrated and has had enough. He issued ultimatums to the Mayor and Council. Among them? He’ll tow the RVs:

I have a friend with a auto body shop who has agreed to lend me his tow truck which I will use to tow the RVs from the cemeteries and my office to the nearest council member homes. In this case that will be the homes of council president Bruce Harrell and Council Member Deborah Juarez. I will also be sure to video the process.

Harrell is the council representative for Hoffman’s business and Juarez represents the area of the cemetery.

This ultimatum caught the attention of the Council and SPD, knowing Hoffman would follow through with his threat.

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Juarez, a few hours after receiving the email, personally responded to tell Hoffman that her office alerted the Navigation Team, a specialized group of police and social workers tasked with connecting homeless people with resources, and the precinct’s Community Police Team, which handles RVs. She also promises that Seattle Public Utilities will handle the trash.

A Navigation Team sergeant contacted the occupants of the RVs, emailing Hoffman: “They agreed to move and I looped in both North CPT and PEOs so compliance will be checked. I referred both of the campers to North Pct LEAD case managers for follow-up.”

Only threats get you action — sort of

Juarez is one of the least accessible councilmembers and she only responded because of the threat, all during a tough re-election campaign against an opponent, Ann Davison Satler, who is meeting as many residents as possible.

Juarez only responded because she wants to avoid the RV-towing spectacle. Harrell never responded and Durkan’s office claims they didn’t see the letter. But after they were made aware of the concerns, they were still silent.

What message does this send? Seattleites are fed up with the inaction on homelessness and addicts leaving needles on our streets, parks, and cemeteries. Businesses have routinely sounded the alarm about how this is impacting their services, while residents cry out for some help.

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This council refuses to respond, instead using it as an opportunity to pass the blame to literally anyone or anything than their own policies and inaction. Durkan at least attempted to tackle the derelict RV problem, only to have a cowardly council rewrite legislation to let RV occupants stay where they’re parked.

Hoffman replied to Juarez’s email, noting how difficult it’s been to get action from her:

… why did it have to take an email from me announcing that I would tow the RVs to your home for this to be resolved? Why has it been over a year since we have heard anything from your office and yet this issue has been covered by the local, national and international media with no action from your office. Could it be that there is an election coming up in November so you are suddenly interested in helping us? That does not give me much hope for what will happen after the election is over if you win.

It appears that the only way to change things is to boot the incumbents from office. Every incumbent is facing a challenge from a solutions-oriented opponent.

Now what?

As of this writing, the RVs are still at the cemetery and his business. Hoffman told me that he’ll start the towing operation if they’re not moved by 10 a.m. on October 7. When that happens, The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH will be there.

Hoffman joins me this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on KTTH with an update.

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

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