LOCAL NEWS

Seattle council member: Mayor is playing politics with homeless

Oct 14, 2016, 10:14 AM | Updated: 2:30 pm
petition...
Seattle Council Member Mike O'Brien. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

A Seattle council member accused the mayor’s office of playing politics with the homeless.

“I need to understand who released this and why,” Council member Mike O’Brien said to representatives from the mayor’s office at a council committee meeting Friday. “When was it decided to play politics with this, rather than face the human crisis out there?”

Mayor Murray plans for four new tent cities in Seattle

What O’Brien was referring to was a map of Seattle illustrating all the green spaces and parks in the city that could potentially be considered suitable for homeless camping. What is “unsuitable” is currently up for debate among the council — which is why parks, sidewalks, etc. have been discussed.

“This map, my understanding is, it was released by the mayor’s office highlighting areas, and this is not what we have been talking about,” O’Brien said holding up the map.

The council is considering legislation that would define where homeless camping would be allowed on public property and how to move people out of unsuitable areas.

Representatives from the mayor’s office were quick to respond that the mayor is working at the table with the council on the issue in good faith, but that the office will talk to concerned citizens. It was among one of those discussions that the map was likely presented.

“We know it’s misleading,” O’Brien continued about the map. “I don’t know if I’m working with someone in good faith or not.”

Council member Kshama Sawant backed up her colleague.

“Spreading misinformation is not the way you help the situation,” she told the mayor’s office representatives. “My office has received hundreds of phone calls from well-meaning people who have supported my office on so many other things — they were panicking because of all this misinformation.”

The mayor’s office maintained that no one was playing politics. And that it would continue to talk with constituents with concerns.

Homeless camping discussion

The meeting was meant to be a conversation between council members who are working through their own homeless camping legislation, and the mayors office. Mayor Murray introduced additional plans aimed at addressing homeless camping on Thursday night.

Council members each offered their thoughts on how the city is, and should be, dealing with homeless camping.

Tim Burgess

My approach to this issue is to serve all of the people of Seattle. All of us up here, the council, the mayor’s team, probably 99 percent of the people in Seattle believe that individuals in homeless environments are valued, they have worth, they are our neighbors and we want to help them.

But I also don’t think that we have to wait for the absolute perfect solution before we take steps to remedy some of the problems we face. I believe we should not proactively authorize camping in our parks and on our sidewalks. Those are things that are in trust for all the people of Seattle and that would violate that trust.

There’s a lot of trash and garbage in our city where there are no longer campers present. And I would urge the mayor to use his emergency power to clean that up immediately.

Some in our neighborhoods have used this as an occasion to denigrate the homeless in our city. That is not helpful to anybody. What we are trying to do … is to figure out how to balance our compassionate response and make that as effective as we can, while also meeting public health and safety obligations. It’s not one or the other – it’s both.

Kshama Sawant argued that the issue of trash and human waste should not conflate the issue of people camping.

What happens to these human beings after you conduct a sweep? Your responsibility as city officials doesn’t end there. They are human beings, and they have a constitutional right to exist somewhere. So if, at this moment, we don’t have the resources to give them a real option away from being outside, they are going to be in the East Duwamish Greenbelt or elsewhere.

The city can deal with trash. The city can invest in resources for the trash.

O’Brien

What does an offer of suitable housing look like? We spent a lot of time on the ordinance and working on getting that definition right. It’s important. When do we sweep people when we’ve offered housing? What I’ve seen in the greenbelt, the Jungle, a fraction of people accepted shelter, but a vast majority didn’t. I think the lesson is — was that a suitable offer?

Not a city official, but Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant also attended the meeting and made a public comment, continuing his lack of support for the council’s homeless camping legislation. He argued that allowing tent encampments provided incentive for people to remain on the street and not seek assistance from family or services.

I am asking you to reconsider the legislation … You need to move toward zero tolerance for camping in a public space. Relegating people to the margins of community, by enabling them to live in tents is not compassionate, it’s cruel. It’s denying them the tools they need to become members of our communities.

Local News

Seattle council debate...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle council candidates get chance to question each other in Wednesday debate

Candidates for Seattle's Position 9 City Council seat squared off in a debate hosted by Rainier Avenue Radio and Converge Media on Wednesday.
11 hours ago
Seattle vaccine mandate, firefighters...
Nick Bowman

Seattle firefighter union reports 5 members facing termination over vaccine mandate

A statement from the Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local 27 indicates that five of its members are facing termination as a result of the vaccine mandate.
11 hours ago
Snohomish mosque...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Police investigating hateful act at Snohomish County mosque

A 50-year-old man has been arrested and another person is still at large after Mountlake Terrace Police said they made their way into a mosque and threw away religious artifacts.
11 hours ago
unemployment benefits...
Nicole Jennings

People quitting over vax mandate may qualify for unemployment benefits

Do people quitting their jobs over the vaccine mandate qualify for unemployment benefits? That all depends on a certain set of circumstances.
1 day ago
covid memorial...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County councilmember proposes memorial for lives lost to COVID

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is proposing the creation of a public art memorial to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19. 
1 day ago
shakeout...
Kathryn Altena

Washington to participate in Great ShakeOut earthquake drill for 10th year

At 10:21 a.m. on Oct. 21 will be the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake and tsunami drill in Washington. Practice how you would drop, cover, and hold on.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

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.
...
Comcast

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.
Seattle council member: Mayor is playing politics with homeless