Tackle homelessness by booting Mike O’Brien from office

Nov 16, 2017, 7:11 AM | Updated: 7:30 am

Mike O'Brien...

Seattle Councilmember Mike O'Brien. (Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

Want to help end homelessness? You can blame Amazon.com all you want for the problem, but the leading cause of our failures on this issue is the council member who has taken a lead on it since he was elected in 2010.

If you want to end homelessness, you need to boot Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien from office.

RELATED: Sawant is savvy but Socialist movement lacks teeth

Homelessness is complex and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you. Most politicians won’t be able to tackle this issue in a short timetable. The problem is that O’Brien pretends — or actually believes — that he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t.

Homelessness has become worse under O’Brien’s leadership. He lacks what sometimes seems like a basic understanding of the issue. In his world, if you throw money at a problem — while demonizing businesses, of course — the problems go away. That hasn’t worked, but that won’t stop him from trying to bilk tax dollars from businesses he hates. O’Brien attempted to push this line of thinking with the failed, hastily-conceived head tax that even nonprofits like the Millionair Club Charity rejected.

“…it may be that my presence at a table [with business leaders] is not helpful,” O’Brien said at a council meeting this week, with a smirk and a chuckle.

He seems to relish that the business community wants nothing to do with him on this. Leaders don’t push stakeholders away; they bring them together. O’Brien has no interest in that. He simply wants ownership of an issue, without any consequences for the lack of results.

But could the issue be significantly tackled without the $24 million he initially asked for? I asked that question to Jon Fine, president and CEO of the United Way of King County, a group that actually works on the ground with the homeless.

His answer? “Yes, I believe that’s conceivable.”

Well, how about that.

Fine argues we’re sometimes spending money inefficiently and end up giving too much of it to well-intentioned, but ineffective programs. He urges the government use “performance standards.” In other words, you give money to programs that show results, not just good intentions. This is not political. He takes no stand on the head tax, for example. It’s an opinion informed by the reality of some programs designed to help the homeless that are clearly not working.

We often hear O’Brien imply shelters are at capacity. They’re not. Fine estimates about 80 percent of them are filled. I’ve heard similar statements, without percentages, from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission over the many years I’ve chatted with their folks. Shelters aren’t over-capacity; they’re just not transitioning people out fast enough.

RELATED: Seattle council is too lazy to stop pricey streetcar project

What is it that Fine, the Millionair Club, and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission knows that O’Brien doesn’t? A lot. Maybe everything. O’Brien wants to demonize big business; nonprofits want to work with businesses to find solutions. O’Brien finds it acceptable that the homeless live in parks and in broken down cars without any worry. Our nonprofits want to get people into programs and into permanent shelter.

Here’s a novel idea on tackling homelessness: leave the guy with few results out of the equation and maybe we’ll get somewhere.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-7pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

Bellevue officer to lose health benefits. (Emergency room photo: KIRO 7 | Insert photo: Bereta's at...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Bellevue officer losing health benefits after VP Harris motorcade injuries

A Bellevue officer suffered serious injuries on a Vice President Kamala Harris motorcade in 2023. Now, he will lose his insurance.

4 hours ago

Image: A person gets led away in handcuffs by members of law enforcement. Migrant crime concerns pe...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: ICE Seattle nabs child sex criminals as migrant crime concerns persist

As U.S. cities experience migrant crime, ICE Seattle is nabbing child sex predators and other dangerous criminals.

17 hours ago

A stolen car was driven through the storefront of Hashtag Cannabis in Redmond. The incident happene...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: City of Redmond rejected security request, then car drove through storefront

A month after the city of Redmond rejected a business owner’s request to install better security measures, a stolen car was driven through its storefront.

1 day ago

Image: Mt. Baker is seen adorned with snow...

Steve Coogan

Cliff Mass explains where ‘there will be massive amounts of snow’

Cliff Mass said that we're in an extremely favorable situation and before the week is over, some areas "will have yards of new snow."

2 days ago

Edmonds housing...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Edmonds housing stalled over a small tree, extortion policy

The process should have taken a few months. Instead, it took nearly two years and it was nothing short of extortion.

2 days ago

Image: Some believe the Washington primary ballot isn't all that private....

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Integrity concerns over Washington party declaration on primary ballot envelope

Voters are again concerned about Washington party declarations appearing on primary ballot envelopes. So why do we do it?

3 days ago

Tackle homelessness by booting Mike O’Brien from office