Seattle councilmember faces full-throated anger at town hall

May 3, 2018, 6:19 AM
town hall...
Ballard residents hold signs that read "Listen to us!" during a town hall meeting April 2. (Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio)
(Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio)

As Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien walked into Wednesday’s town hall meeting at Ballard’s Trinity United Methodist Church, he noticed the “mock” encampment some of his angry constituents assembled — complete with shopping carts full of garbage with signs attached that read “Recall O’Brien.”

“I’m a politician, but I’m also a human being,” he said. “My family lives here and they see that. I agree with them, what’s happening with people sleeping outside is criminal. I’m working for change.”

But O’Brien, who was joined by councilmembers M. Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda, faced 90 minutes of ear-ringing, full-throated anger from a large group who packed the church.

Seattle council: Amazon is making head tax all about them

The anger became explosive when the audience was told they would not be given the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the city’s homeless policies and the idea of a corporate head tax to fund them.

O’Brien had planned to present reasons for voting on the $75 million head tax and take audience questions by text. Faced with non-stop shouting, O’Brien relented and allowed citizens to speak.

“Now Amazon is going start packing up and leaving because of you guys. Why should we trust you?” asked one man.

“Looks like you got a revolution on your hands, Mike. It may not be the one you wanted,” said another.

O’Brien took the heat and tried to answer some questions, like where the $75 million would be spent.

“We would be able to build 300 to 500 units of additional emergency shelter beds to help get people off the street immediately while we continue to add affordable housing units,” he said.

But the anger and shouting did not stop for 90 minutes. ”I represent a lot of people who are really unhappy with Mike O’Brien,” said David Preston, who pointed blames Seattle city policies for making the problem worse.

“I think the message is pretty clear. I’m working to recall Mike O’Brien,” Preston said.

“This is also a drug problem,” shouted a Ballard resident. “I’ve only heard it being mentioned as a housing problem!”

Some in the room loudly supported the head tax to the boos and jeers of the crowd.

“We’re going to stop putting all of our tax burden on the poor and on the middle class,” said Summer Stinson. “That’s what this is and I support the head tax!”

O’Brien appeared to be surprised by the anger. “The tenor frankly in this country right now of whoever yells the loudest or says the most horrific thing, and that gets covered in the press, it’s really awful,” he said. “I hope that attitude is not about to be here in Seattle.”

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Seattle councilmember faces full-throated anger at town hall