by Erica C. Barnett
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
At a press conference a few hundred yards from an encampment in Woodland Park on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 2, mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell said that if elected, he would implement the key elements of Charter Amendment 29 — the “Compassion Seattle” ballot measure. A King County Superior Court judge tossed the initiative last week, agreeing with opponents that things like budgets and land-use policy are outside the scope of local ballot measures, but the campaign appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals, whose ruling could come tomorrow.
Harrell’s “Homelessness Action Plan” would require the City to spend 12% of its general fund on homelessness, build 2,000 new emergency housing (shelter) beds within one year, create individualized “service plans” for every person experiencing homelessness, and, as Harrell put it, “ensure that our city parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces, sidewalks, and streets remain open and clear of encampments.” These proposals are all identical to provisions of Charter Amendment 29, which Harrell supported.
At Thursday’s event, which was billed as a press conference but resembled a campaign rally, Harrell fielded questions primarily from a large group of supporters rather than the assembled press. “If and when you become mayor, how soon can we as Green Lake citizens expect to see these encampments gone?” one supporter asked. “I will say January or February, because I work with a sense of urgency,” Harrell responded.
Another asked how he’d respond to critics who say that his plan would mean sweeping encampments without providing services. “Look at my record,” Harrell responded. “There are no dog whistles. I don’t have a dog whistle. And I say, how dare people say that, when my wife and I’ve been doing this for 20, 30 years.”
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