Markovich: Compassion may be expensive – kindness is not

Dec 29, 2023, 9:10 AM | Updated: 12:55 pm

seattle homeless crisis...

Experts told the city council that there is enough resources to address the Seattle homeless crisis if the city focused its efforts. (AP)


In February 2017 – that’s nearly 7 years ago – I asked a question to then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray that I still think about to this day.

He was holding a big news conference – on a proposed $275 million property tax increase to pay for housing the homeless.


He was surrounded by supporters of the idea.

I knew I would be asking simple but potentially hostile questions in that atmosphere.

I asked if Seattle is too compassionate – and how much is too much to spend on homelessness.

Two years earlier in 2015,  Murray declared a homelessness emergency in the city.

Murray gave me one of his famous stare-downs and jumped all over the question – calling it inappropriate, saying Seattleites are compassionate.

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He would not put a price limit on that compassion which is what I was asking about.

Two months later, he scrapped the idea of that $275 million property tax increase.

Homelessness seems to grow exponentially after that and that emergency is just become a daily fact of life, like a frog not realizing the water he’s in is about to boil.

Fast forward to this year – a KOMO News report says Seattle has spent nearly $1 billion over the last 11 years in contracts dealing with the homeless.

And in November city voters approved a $1 billion property tax level to build affordable housing far more than the $275 million Murry was asking for.

Let me offer this – Be kind – it can be a cheaper alternative than the compassion I’m talking about here.

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Be kind to someone you see on the street on a regular basis.

To that person living on the street realize that person being kind to you has a story as well – maybe a hard worker supporting their family but is taking the time to be kind to you.

Don’t demand but have gratitude for the kindness you are receiving.

The Rev. Rick Reynolds used to run Seattle Nightwatch, a small homeless outreach group that would give out bus tickets for guys who needed to leave the city.

He never wanted me to do a story about it, even though it would probably bring more donations for the cause.

He just didn’t want to publicize his act of kindness.

Well, I just did. Compassion can be expensive, but small acts of kindness are not.

A good resolution for the new year.

Matt Markovich is filling in for Dave Ross on Seattle’s Morning News this week. He covers politics and public policy for KIRO Newsradio.



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Markovich: Compassion may be expensive – kindness is not