EDITORIAL | New Homelessness ‘Czar’ Has Experience – From 90s

With little fanfare, Mayor Ed Murray announced his selection of George Scarola to serve as Seattle’s first director of homelessness late last month.

Honestly, would it kill Murray’s PR writers to include a photo of these top-level new hires? We shouldn’t complain, as Mr. Scarola’s Linkedin page does little to paint a picture of what some media outlets are calling the city’s first homelessness czar; what the hell is that about?

According to the folks at Murray’s office, Scarola has spent nine years as legislative director for the League of Education Voters, a three-pronged organization pushing for a better state education system. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the head banging in Olympia and the gavel slamming (do they have gavels?) by the state Supreme Court knows that’s a fight with no apparent end in sight.

Scarola just returned from Hefei, China, where he was lecturing at the University of Science and Technology — it probably paid better than teaching in the United States.

Scarola did lead the Sand Point Community Housing Project, turning Sand Point Naval Air Station housing into homes for unsheltered youth, adults and families — that was in the 90s.

This would appear to be the most Scarola has worked toward curbing homelessness, and that was 20 years ago. According to the thorough PR folks at the mayor’s office, Scarola “is an experienced public affairs and community relations manager having led advocacy organizations in Seattle and Olympia for over 25 years.” Again, Mr. Scarola, update your Linkedin profile.

No, education seems to be more suited for Scarola. Luckily, Seattle has a huge population of children living in poverty, so there should be some crossover there.

In the early 2000s, Scarola served as a “top aide” to Rep. Frank Chopp and was executive director of the Washington House Democratic Campaign committee during the 2002 election cycle that secured a Democratic majority in the House, the PR folks report.

Well, now he has a very difficult task ahead of him, which is multifaceted. Not only does he have to address the state of emergency revolving around Seattle’s homeless crisis, he has to undo a lot of the negativity the city has stirred up within the homeless community.

Since Murray declared a state of emergency in 2015, the mayor has faced on-and-off criticism for his handling of the crisis, such as his failed attempt to shut down The Jungle, which he later admitted will take more time to accomplish. We doubt that homeless encampment will ever go away, but he’s welcome to keep trying.

Then there was that third-party contractor the city has been paying to go around throwing homeless people’s belongings away in the process of cleaning up the smaller encampments that pepper the city.

What else? Oh yeah, there were those lots set up for people who live in campers, trailers and other vehicles. Another great success, if you never bother to drive around the industrial part of the city.

While education, which is Scarola’s bag, is still poorly underfunded in this state, we hope the $137,500 our new “czar” is getting annually to address the homelessness crisis buys us more than the $80,000 the city was paying Barbara Poppe, who only led Obama’s homelessness work from 2009 to 2014.