Here in Seattle, we want everything now. While that might not have always been the case, this constantly expanding metropolis now dictates we be in a constant state of impatience.
Housing is too expensive, so we need to make it more affordable. Let’s get this Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda package out, even though it may only alleviate the problem slightly.
With the cost of housing, many people need good public transportation. King County Metro’s route shuffles are great fun to learn and relearn, but how about a more expanded light rail system?
U-Link has been a great success in terms of ridership since opening last month. We’ve got the Northgate Link opening in 2021 and East Link — assuming Kemper Freeman has no other legal recourse — opening in 2023.
A not-so-new but spotlighted problem Seattle is now trying to do more about — and quick — is fixing its homeless problem.
There are plenty of statistics to point to — the last One Night Count found 2,942 people living on Seattle streets — but there’s really no need. One doesn’t need to go far in this city to get a sense of how bad it is here.
Mayor Ed Murray threw in an additional $5 million — a drop in the bucket to the $49 million spent annually to combat homelessness — when he declared a homelessness state of emergency.
Murray has an affinity for getting his face out in front of causes and cameras and has been particularly insistent that the state and federal government step up its game to help with this one. So it seems odd that the mayor isn’t making a bigger deal out of his plans to hire a director of homelessness who would presumably be able to give this issue the focus it needs.
A few local news agencies found the job posting online, which offers an annual salary of $97,000 to $160,000. A Seattleite himself, Murray must have been impatient with the slow progress the city has been making with the $80,000 it’s paying national homelessness expert Barbara Poppe.
The mayor’s office has only confirmed Murray’s desire for a director of homelessness through a statement it released to inquiring media outlets. Here’s the part KIRO 7 sampled: “This new position will lead engagement with regional partners, service providers, philanthropies and the community. And it will provide recommendations on how to implement more effective solutions in the city’s approach to addressing homelessness.”
We can spend a lot of time criticizing the mayor for throwing more money at growing a cabinet of well-paid city department heads and speculate about this director of homelessness’ future failures, but that’s about as productive as the tunnel-boring machine about to work under the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Maybe a homelessness director could take a real assessment of what exists now and work with these organizations to maximize efficiency, create new partnerships and determine how everyone can benefit, rather than compete for the small pots of funding from state and federal agencies.
Some critics of this new position say it will open Seattle up to even more homeless people coming into the city because the government thinks helping the homeless is the decent and right thing to do. Those numbers will continue to grow regardless of one more bureaucratic chess piece.