KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Homeless addicts the real reason for Seattle Public Library closures

Apr 14, 2024, 5:45 PM | Updated: Apr 15, 2024, 12:09 pm

Photo: Seattle Public Library...

The Seattle Public Library. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

The Seattle Public Library (SPL) closures announcement means branches are dark one day a week. But the decision has been shrouded in misinformation and a lack of transparency. While local media and politicians cite a staffing crisis that ostensibly began in 2008, the truth tells a different story. This decision comes from homeless addicts burdening the system.

SPL’s intermittent closures, set to continue through at least June, are not due to a genuine staffing shortfall. In fact, Seattle library staff numbers have grown since 2019, before the pandemic. The real issue? The libraries have become battlegrounds for the city’s housing and drug crises, necessitating increased staff for safety, not service.

Seattle’s libraries have shifted from being just about books to dealing with the fallout of these crises. Drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless individuals have escalated emergencies across library branches, creating an environment where safety concerns are dictating too many operational decisions.

More from Jason Rantz: Seattle Lululemon latest closure as downtown struggles to recover from Democrat policies

What’s really behind Seattle Public Library closures? 

If the city of Seattle didn’t embrace permissive policies around the homeless, the libraries would be open as normal. But Seattle libraries have become so dangerous that they need more staff for safety. 

“When something disruptive occurs, such as a police incident nearby or a drug-smoking attempt in a restroom, those kinds of activities require additional staff on-site to coordinate the appropriate response,” explained a Seattle Library spokesperson to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The library saw close to 400 such incidents in 2023, affecting both staff and patrons.

Because of Seattle Democrats’ failures, drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless have created an emergency at various Seattle library branches. And the threats they pose are trending upward. As of this year, SPL has already encountered over 100 incidents.

“Having more staff on site helps make those interactions a bit easier as we also work to provide a full suite of Library services,” the spokesperson explained to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, highlighting how essential services are being overshadowed by the need to manage disruptive behaviors.

Homeless impacting libraries is a widespread issue

This is not an isolated issue. Across the Pacific Northwest, libraries are grappling with similar challenges. 

Homeless addicts took over Everett public library bathrooms to smoke fentanyl. It was causing problems for staff and patrons alike. It prompted the libraries to install drug sensors in bathrooms. When it detects smoke, it triggers an alarm for security to intervene. Drug users may be barred from the libraries for 60 days.

An attack at a Portland, Oregon library branch several weeks ago sparked demands from librarians that the county step in to help. A homeless man in an apparent mental health crisis “bum-rushed and head-butted” a library staffer, according to an incident report.

The Willamette Weekly reported in February that this was “just one incident in a series of violent confrontations in recent months at the county’s public libraries, which often serve as a refuge for people living on Portland’s streets who are struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, and the trauma of living outside.”

The union representing staff is demanding better security.

More from Jason Rantz: Seattle Times can’t figure out why fentanyl floods the city

Seattle Public Library brought this problem on itself

Seattle Public Library has inadvertently exacerbated these challenges by maintaining an open-door policy for the homeless, who use the facilities to sleep, use restrooms or escape adverse weather. While staff are clearly well-intentioned, they brought the problem on themselves.

Last year, SPL introduced the option for staff to carry Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, reflecting the severe drug use issues at its central downtown location. SPL even hired “social services librarians” to help homeless people navigate city and county resources.

SPL, through a spokesperson, makes it clear that the branches “welcome everyone, and that includes people from many different backgrounds and life situations, including people who are in need or are in crisis and need additional support.”

While this isn’t necessarily new, as homeless obviously frequented Seattle library branches in the past, the crisis has grown out of control, further straining library resources.

DEI is playing a role, too, in Seattle Public Library closures

Though it wasn’t labeled as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) cause at the time, Seattle library leaders and both the council and mayor helped forward a plan to end late fees. 

Then-mayor Jenny Durkan, with the approval of the council, put a $219 million property levy for a vote. About $8 million of the levy was supposed to provide financial cover so that SPL could eliminate late fees. Advocates argued late fees disproportionately impact “communities of color,” which is a progressive codeword for calling something “racist.”

SPL downplayed the impact ending fines would have on its budget. However, it clearly impacted the SPL budget which could have helped to fund additional staff to deal with the homelessness crisis.

More from Jason Rantz: You’re being lied to about permanent supportive housing in Redmond

Problem politicians and activists to the rescue

The very politicians and activists who either implemented or advocated for policies that worsened homelessness now say that we should adopt their plan to address Seattle Public Library closures. 

The City of Seattle has a projected budget deficit of $230 million in 2025. The previous far-left council consistently spent money it didn’t have, wasted it on feel-good programs that got no results and then poorly managed the COVID-19 pandemic. A new council, which consistently sounds more moderate, is looking to make cuts to nonessential services.

Socialist councilmember Morales is using this as an opportunity to demand even higher taxes on “corporations.”

As the lone remaining socialist on the council, this talking point is all she has. But the previous council’s decision to overtax business pushed Amazon out of Seattle and into nearby Bellevue, where they just restarted construction on a high-rise building that will bring thousands of additional employees to the Greater East Side.

 Seattle media mostly silent again

The ongoing silence of some in Seattle media on these underlying issues is notable and expected. Their coverage often avoids confronting the real reasons behind the library closures, instead perpetuating narratives that focus on surface-level staffing issues rather than addressing the root causes of homelessness, addiction and mental health crises that are overwhelming the city’s public institutions. Maybe if they didn’t champion it in previous coverage, tipping their hats to their biases, they’d be more honest about the current problem.

These reporters might skirt around it, but here’s the truth: our libraries are under siege by a wave of problems stemming from policy failures. Homeless encampments spill into children’s reading corners and librarians are doubling as security guards and social workers — this is the new normal, sanctioned by a mayor’s office still mired in progressive paralysis because he surrounds himself with ideologues, not pragmatic problem solvers.

Seattle’s approach to hire more staff will only create a more significant problem down the line. More staff, as if a thicker line of human shields could stem the tide of systemic failure, means larger budgets you’ll have to pay for in the next budgets while the homelessness situation continues to worsen.

We could have a strong media point all this out. But the narrative pushed by some in the media rarely strays from the progressive line — more about managing symptoms, less about curing the disease. Until we address the root causes — homelessness, addiction, mental health — expect more closures, more excuses and sadly, more silence.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Homeless addicts the real reason for Seattle Public Library closures