Seattle is a great city and that is why it attracts people from all over the world to work, visit and live. Sadly though, our city is experiencing an increase in crime associated our growth and affluence. It is quite common to see drug dealers and prostitutes operating in broad daylight. Intravenous drug use is rampant, leaving used paraphernalia on the streets causing a health hazard for all. Tent cities and derelict recreational vehicles double as store fronts for these illegal enterprises. Our peace officers are being marginalized by many elected officials and are leaving work for other municipalities. Recruitment is at an all time low and now there are special interest groups advocating for cuts in funding for probation services. This is an action opposed by municipal judges who were appointed by the same Seattle City Council that now wants to cut these services. It’s a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself. Can do better, we will do better.
So how do we fix it?
Enforce Existing Laws – Once the laws are enforced, people who came to Seattle to break the law will eventually leave to find an easier target. Even “basic” laws need to be enforced including: parking, vagrancy, and panhandling. Substance abusers will be given the option of treatment or jail. Anyone requesting city services must be background-checked and verified before receiving those services so the city is not enabling repeat offenders like they are currently.
Support the New SPD Contract – We need to adequately staff community policing, support ongoing reform in the department, and have a chance for success with LEAD, CSOs, CIT, Nav Team – all of which require adequate patrol staffing, and response times to all priority levels of 911 calls. Recruit and train new officers to replenish our depleted force after many years of neglect and demonetization by the current city leadership.
Reject the failed Safe Injection Sites Approach
Meanwhile, Seattle’s homeless are not able to get the services they need. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, homelessness has cost the Seattle area over one billion dollars per year which equals over $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in Seattle.
- Cutting of Funds from Ineffective Organizations – Audit every homeless assistance group. Those that do not meet the basic qualifications for successfully provided services must have their funding eliminated immediately.
- Support Effective Organizations – Non-profits such as Mary’s Place, The Millionaire’s Club, and Union Gospel Mission, with a proven track record, need to be supported, celebrated and publicized to the community as a whole.
- Declare Homelessness a Public Health Disaster – Follow the lead of the King County Health doctors who are demanding all un-sheltered people be immediately triaged and sheltered in FEMA-style shelters. A warm bed and immediate medical attention are necessary as the weather changes. End the low barrier encampments and increase transitional housing to get people out of homelessness. Anyone requesting city services must be background checked and verified before receiving those services so the city is not enabling repeat offenders like they are today.
- Reduce cost of rent and home ownership – by increasing the supply through tax breaks and re-zoning (see links for more about fixing Zoning Laws and Tax Policy).
- Differentiate – between those looking to get help and those who have no interest in helping themselves. (See more about addressing the Opioid Crisis here and Safety here.)
- Reallocate funding towards mental health treatment and care. Work with the State and County to provide excellent mental health care and treatment by bringing our mental health facilities and hospitals up to code and create a safe environment for staff and patients.
Homelessness is an issue that impacts so many. The above options are just that: options. What we truly need is to perform an actual, statistically accurate, homeless head count to find out who is homeless, why are they homeless, where they are from, what services are required, and what practical and customized solutions can be implemented. Only then can we truly take meaningful steps forward.
Our city has given tacit consent to illegal drug dealers and users. Dealers operate on the streets in broad daylight, taking advantage of our most vulnerable. Needles and other drug paraphernalia are found in the parks where our children play. There is no enforcement, not because of our police, but because of the enabling of these crimes and activities by our current City Council.
So what do we do?
- Reallocate Funding Set Aside for SCS (code for safe injection sites) Towards Treatment On Demand – Safe consumption sites are the highest liability and least scaled concept for Seattle’s opioid/meth crisis. Given Seattle’s degraded public safety and urban disorder, enabling more consumption at the expense of providing widely accessible treatment on demand is not sustainable at this juncture. Seattle does not have the policing or criminal justice grounding in place to safely support SCS. We need to properly staff outreach and MAT access at low-barrier clinics and ERs.
- Help Those Who Need and Want It – Provide additional funding for support and treatment facilities and community-based service centers for those with substance abuse problems as well as the mentally ill. Any repeat criminal offenders will be incarcerated as defined by law.
The current City Council has passed and championed regulations on construction and zoning so onerous and expensive that many subcontractors won’t work in Seattle anymore. Taxes on soda send shoppers to supermarkets outside the city limits. Regulations affect supply and demand, and this is directly impacting the homeless crisis.
- Re-evaluate Permit Process and Zone – Look to expedite backlogged permit applications so construction can begin. The majority of Seattle is zoned single family, prohibiting the construction of apartment buildings and mixed use buildings. Zoning and code regulations need to be re-evaluated, in consultation with community groups and neighborhood residents, so more homes and apartments can be built and the city can grow. With increased supply, competitive pricing will lower rents and home ownership costs. Rather than displacing existing neighborhoods, the zoning changes should be examined near transportation hubs, undeveloped commercial areas and major arterial roadways so as not to displace existing residents and communities.
- Roll Back Unnecessary Taxes – Levies and other taxes target landlords and are rolled over onto tenants, causing rental rates to rise. If we reduce our spending on unneeded projects we can cut the taxes used to support them.
- Increase Housing Options – By increasing the available housing options and looking for practical solutions to our city’s problems, without merely adding another tax to increase the cost of living, we can make housing more affordable in Seattle. Let’s give incentives to developers and property owners with tax credits for providing increased affordable housing solutions.
- Remove Burdensome Restrictions on Ride Share Companies – By allowing innovative transportation options to operate in the free market we can ease congestion while allowing for affordable transportation options for all.
The cost of living in Seattle is rising, and while part of that can be attributed to living in a growing city, a significant portion of that is the increasing tax burden being placed on our residents and businesses. We need to learn to live within our means, find creative solutions to problems, and support non-profit organizations without merely looking for excuses to tax.
So what can we do?
- Stop Pushing Business Out of Seattle – By levying taxes on businesses (like the failed Head Tax) and individuals (like the Soda Tax) we are merely pushing businesses and individuals to spend their money elsewhere. We need to stop taxing to punish business and allow our businesses to succeed so they can employ those who truly need the work.
- Increase Support for Non-Profit Organizations – Make it easier for non-profits to do their jobs, and make sure government money is only being spent on those that are truly effective and careful with tax money.
- Seek Out Innovative Solutions – Seattle is a place of huge innovation, and we should be running our city the same way. By tapping into local businesses, small and large, we can learn more about what works for them and what may work for some of our city’s problems. Creative solutions should be considered.
It rains in Seattle 8 months out of the year. The elderly and disabled can’t ride bikes and bike ridership is down. The city can’t be spending 12 million dollars per mile to install bike lanes that are hurting local businesses and snarling traffic. The excessive over-budget spending on the light rail and trolley car prove that the city cannot be trusted with taxpayer money and reforms must be put in place.
So what can we do?
- Increase Practical Mass Transit Options – Currently Seattle’s new Transit projects have run or are projected to run over budget and have not solved transportation issues. The costs need to be audited to ensure fiscal accountability. The routing needs to be examined so as not to negatively affect businesses or make traffic worse. Practical mass transit options need to be explored and implemented.
- Seek Out New Revenue Sources – Citizens are tired of paying up to $500 per vehicle in car tabs, while many ride the light rail for free. Other revenue sources, such as advertising on city transportation, have been under-utilized. At the same time we should not be seeking new tolls on our roads
- Moratorium on all Bike Lane Projects – This is to allow time for an audit to be performed on construction spending so there can be full transparency of expenses. The routing of the lanes needs to be evaluated, with community input and discussion, to ensure full transparency and to reduce the impact on parking and local businesses
- Find New Solutions to Old Problems – Commission a study to find practical common sense solutions to ease congestion with community input as a major component.
Our City Council has made politics a career, and a prosperous one at that. We should look to restrict the never-ending cycle of politicians doing what they can to get re-elected rather than serving the people’s interests. By limiting the size and influence of our Council we can make sure tax money is being spent in service of the people.
So what do we do?
- Trim the Bloat – By limiting the size of the government itself we can use that money for city improvements like:
- more homeless shelters
- tax incentives for low income housing and employment opportunities
- more police