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Tell The Mayor: Enough Excuses

August 27, 2010

I have made no secret of my utter disappointment and outrage at Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s blatant disproportionate treatment of, and lack of attention to, community crime across the city.

At focus, the city’s 8 point plan for public safety in Belltown, which includes extra policing (and the poop/vomit patrol) while other neighborhoods are left to deal with violence and crime with the same sub par resources they’ve always had- like South Seattle.

I’m not the only one who’s taken notice, and it’s not just South Seattle that’s feeling the pain (literally), but other neighborhoods as well.  Each want to know when their neighborhood is going to get a special plan like Belltown’s (hint: never).

Yesterday and today I took to twitter to share word the mayor has scheduled a public safety meeting in Rainier Beach (RB).  It sounds great- until you realize it’s not happening until September 30th, more than a month a way.  With the up-tick of violent incidents, one has to wonder why the mayor would wait so long, when violent incidents in Belltown brought about an unprecedented response from hizzoner and SPD, complete with a press conference so crucial, local stations interrupted regular broadcasting, and streamed it on the internet. All for Belltown.

In the midst of my twitter musings on the mayor’s intentions and rationale, the Mayor’s official twitter account popped up.  You have to understand- this is beyond rare.  Unless you’re asking a neutral question or raining praise on his office, the mayor does not respond to what people say about him or to him on twitter- neither do his staff.  Their policy is to ignore.

Before I knew it, Aaron Pickus, who works in public relations for the Mayor, was challenging my assertions. Publicly.  Apparently I struck a nerve.

And so, the debate about public safety, policing levels, and whether the mayor cares or has a plan to deal with crime in South Seattle, was on. While the conversation was with Aaron Pickus, who identifies himself in the tweets with “ap”, lest we forget, Pickus’ job is to speak for the mayor.

He started by saying the safety initiative unveiled around Belltown is actually city wide.  I disagreed, and he insisted:

@sableverity Belltown is only 1 of the neighborhoods where Late Night Public Safety Initiative is active. Was in RB last weekend ^ap

The problem with his assertion, is that what the city is doing for Belltown, they clearly are NOT doing for the rest of the city, including RB.  Belltown gets extra cops, on specific days and specific hours.  That’s been set in stone.  A second look at Aaron’s tweet gives us a hint towards what the city is actually doing for other neighborhoods: roaming patrols of “additional” cops, hence “Was in RB last weekend.”

I asked for clarification on this point and was told:

@sableverity It is a city-wide initiative. Precincts work together to see where officers go ^ap

I reminded the mayor’s staffer, this is not the same thing as the Belltown 8 point plan:

@mayormcginn Rolling patrols is not the same thing that Belltown gets, as described by the Mayor and the Chief at their presser for the Belltown 8 pt. plan.

I see your press release about Belltown. Can you point me to your press release or footage of a presser on the plan for therest of the areas in the city, where these rolling patrols are defined? And why is it a lottery selection for everyone else but Belltown has a dedicated crew, from cops to poop clean up?

Pickus latched on to the poop patrol comment:

@sableverity That plan is only a pilot effort. It’s free to the city and run by CleanScapes. ^ap

When I said the program is not free but was created through a contract negotiation with CleanScapes, he stuck with ‘it’s pilot, and it’s free’ (it’s not free).

But poop clean up isn’t what the conversation was about. So I got back on subject:

@mayormcginn and we can both agree that poop and public safety are two separate things. Belltown has a specific plan for violence. So what does that have to do with a plan outside of Belltown? Roaming patrols is not the same thing. When does everyone else get a special plan. we’ve established that you’re securing the status quo. What do you plan to do for those who aren’t in that category? Plan. The key word is PLAN. What is the PLAN? And why wait so long for a meeting? Give me an excuse, I’ll give you a solution.

Because I believe my community cares enough about its youth and its wellbeing to adjust their schedules, if ever need be. tell me the Mayor will clear his schedule, but the community just couldn’t fit it in until September 30th. We can fix that.

Since Belltown got its special plan from the Mayor, CD/South end have had no less than 25 incidents of violent, victim crimes and those are just the ones covered by the press. I have links, if you need them. They’re in chronological order starting with the most recent shooting on Rainier and Henderson.

I attended a few community meetings last night. the constant theme was feeling disgusted and insulted by the mayor’s blatant ignoring of other communities besides Belltown. Why? Because people are dying.  People are living in fear. Parents are afraid to let their kids play outside, or take the bus to school. Adults are scared to stand at bus stops in their neighborhoods. so if the mayor’s plan is to come to a community safety meeting in RB to express his empathy and tell those residents what he cant do… Come with a plan. One that shows he cares and is responsive to the blood spilled, to the terror experienced. You can do better for others, you can do better for those that need it most.

To the points made, and the valid questions asked, I received no reply. None.

You can check out the full back and forth here.

It’s important to pay attention to what was not addressed and what was not answered.  The mayor does not have a plan for crime or violent crime in South Seattle or anywhere else in the city (though he did tell FOX news the other day he plans to put new street lighting in RB in a few years. Yes, a few years.)

Now the mayor is planning a “forum” on public safety in Rainier Beach for September 30th.  There are no other details available at this time, including time and place. Further evidence the mayor doesn’t have a plan and hasn’t made much headway in developing one.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “forum” red flags go up. That’s political speak for “we’re going to listen, not talk.”

That’s not good enough. It’s another barrier to accountability, one we’ve all seen before.  The mayor and his staff need to be prepared to do much more than come into a community and “listen”.  These communities suffering under rampant violence don’t need a hug or a shoulder to cry on.  The need, demand and expect action.

It must also be said that the fix to crime isn’t simply more police. It’s a vibrant, prosperous economy, where real dollars are coming into a community, not just the regurgitation of community dollars in that community.  It’s real opportunities for our youth. It’s empowerment for our families.  That the mayor would wait a year to develop recommendations from his youth and families initiative, using the same resources is nothing less than a sham.  It’s taking tap water and sticking it in a bottle with a pretty label and calling it “purified.”

We’re smarter than that, aren’t we?

The only way to help the mayor to stop protecting the status quo and take action on behalf of those who need it, is to demand action and demand accountability.

Yes, come to the public forum. But don’t come ready to take 5 minutes on the mic.  It only takes 30 seconds to ask the mayor “where is the plan.”

Enough excuses, rhetoric and side stepping.

Where is the plan?

As he did with Belltown, he should come to the community with a plan and swift action- it has to be that balanced approach or it means nothing.

Look around this city- look at what the mayor is and isn’t doing.  Look at where resources are, and are not going.

The Mayor is making things happen for Belltown, transit and light rail interests groups, developers and the downtown business community.

Not only is he making decisions and taking action for them, he has NO problem overstepping his authority and jurisdiction, ticking off everyone from the Governor to members of the city council, to King County officials and oversight bodies like the liquor control board, all in the name of being “responsive” to community needs.

It’s a slap in the face and it goes against what Seattle government claims to be about:

In 2010 the Race and Social Justice Initiative will focus on three goals.

  • Continue to address racial disparities internally within City government as an organization.
  • Strengthen the way City government engages the community and provides services.
  • Begin to address race-based disparities in our community in areas such as economic equity, environmental justice, criminal justice, health and education.

When it comes to race, Seattle is no different than any other city in the United States. Race influences where we live, where we work, how well we do in school, how long we will live, and the likelihood of our involvement in the criminal justice system. To eliminate these inequities we must focus on the root of the problem: institutional racism.

The mayor’s office is an institution. Police departments are institutions. Both are screwing South Seattle. Could it have anything to do with the population in need?

Mark your calendars: September 30th.  Be there to tell the mayor, enough excuses; what is the plan?

Is Seattle Policing Neighborhoods Equitably?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2010 2:12 pm

    South Seattle needs to secede from Seattle and start its own “exurb”.

    The style, composition and needs of “Soberg” are not those of the Downtown Syndicate, Greenlake joggers, or Alki Beach partiers.

    Seattle imposes itself on Soberg. It puts its forces in and they oppress. Soberg needs to be liberated and form a government “by the people”.

    Exurbs like Kent and Issaquah, have healthy Governments, because they are right-sized, with 100,000 people or less. Soberg should form its own City and eject the weight of an unresponsive and repressive Downtown Council.

  2. Kate Martin permalink
    August 29, 2010 11:33 am

    Mike is more the A.D.D. type. A lot of talk and jumping from subject to subject and initiative to initiative with no preparation and no follow through. Have you gone to the website and checked in on the Youth and Families Initiative lately? I’m not sure any of his staff are behind the scenes analyzing data and evidence to present anything in the way of plans for that. It’s just raw information and no focus precipitated from it. I imagine this will be the general theme we’ll witness no matter what the subject for the next 3 years. I just want to stop them and have them tell me 1, just 1 thing they’ve concluded from all the “outreach” and 1 thing, just 1 thing they’re going to do to make a difference.

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