Rantz: Seattle CM Herbold asked police chief for help before RV became media spectacle
After the media showed up, Seattle city councilwoman Lisa Herbold told a couple they could park their RV in her driveway to avoid being towed. It was an act of compassion. But before it became a media spectacle, Herbold privately asked Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best for options on how to handle the RV, sources exclusively tell the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
This move shows the privilege of dealing with homelessness when you’re a councilmember.
A day after community activists threatened to move derelict RVs near the homes of councilmembers, an RV was parked in front of the West Seattle home of Herbold. It was assumed that the RV was parked by an activist making a point that the problem had gotten out of control, thanks to questionable decisions by Herbold.
Herbold released a statement at the time scolding “individuals taking matters into their own hands, and doing so to create political theatre, not productive solutions.” In a conversation with the Seattle Times, she explained she thought former council candidate Ari Hoffman was behind the stunt, even though he doesn’t live in her district.
It turned out not to be political theater. It was a huge coincidence. The RV was owned by a couple struggling to make ends meet and intended to park their RV temporarily in that spot.
The following day, when the owners came forward, Herbold said she was concerned for the wellbeing of the couple, even offering her own driveway as a spot to leave the RV so it wouldn’t be towed.
The night prior, however, Herbold reported the RV to Chief Best to get help handling it, all before it became a media story bringing reporters to her home.
Generally, city leaders are extended the courtesy to contact Chief Best – or other high ranking Seattle police officials – given they’re involved in unique security concerns as public officials. This makes sense.
This call wasn’t due to a threat, but something everyday citizens deal with on a regular basis, without the luxury of a personal call to the chief. Herbold’s constituents have repeatedly asked for something to be done about derelict RVs in front of their homes and businesses, with little meaningful response thanks to the Council limiting the work police are allowed to do to engage with the homeless. When Herbold was directly impacted, she was afforded the special privilege of contacting the chief directly.
And, in this case, if it was given special consideration, it would have been to Herbold’s benefit. Any story highlighting the problem of Seattle homelessness, and the Council’s inaction, would look bad for her re-election campaign.
In a statement to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, Herbold admitted she called the police, though she didn’t divulge her contact with Best directly, which I independently verified with Seattle Police.
“I asked whether SPD could determine whether the trailer had been reported as stolen property because if it had been stolen I wanted to make sure we could return the property to its rightful owner,” Herbold emailed me.
If she was hoping to get special treatment by appealing to Best directly, she didn’t receive it. Herbold was told to report the issue to the non-emergency line. When she called that night, Herbold says “the non-emergency menu option outgoing message said the office was closed and to call in the morning.”
Herbold did not ask for any special treatment beyond personally contacting the chief.
“In the morning I did not call the non-emergency line to report a possible recovery of stolen property because by then I had become aware that it was unlikely to be a stolen vehicle,” she said.
At that point, Herbold went from suspecting the RV was stolen or placed in front of her home as a statement, to a rallying cry to treat homeless people with more respect and dignity.
“It’s unfortunate and I don’t think it’s right to make fun of the plight of people who live in their home in order to make a political statement,” Herbold said at a Seattle Police Officer’s Guild candidate forum the evening before we learned about the owners.
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.