Association class

Downtown Seattle Association Holds Group Therapy Session For The City’s Rich And Powerful – Slog

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On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of members of Seattle’s business community gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the Downtown Seattle Association’s (DSA) “State of Downtown” event. In the midst of a two-and-a-half-hour networking session with an open bar and piles of pastel macaroons, the big asshole of the DSA circle included a panel interview of elected (and unelected), a TedTalk from a planner, and a closing 20-minute briefing on the state of the neighborhood by DSA President and CEO, Jon Scholes.

In his short speech, Scholes focused on the positives: opening of a new PCC on 4th Avenue, increased hotel capacity and projections for a record-breaking cruise season. He then briefly touched on the issues of crime and homelessness, offering vague solutions to ensure these challenges do not interfere with the positive trajectory of downtown. We need to understand “what’s at stake”, create a good “downtown experience”, make the downtown “inclusive” and do it together under the ever-popular public-private partnership model.


While Scholes maintained an overall optimistic view, an interview with City Attorney Ann Davison, Councilwoman Sara Nelson and King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) CEO Marc Dones provided some insight into the situation. attitude of the business world to the challenges of crime and homelessness in the inner city.

feast of pity

As the city continues to fail to adequately address crime, homelessness and the fundamental issue of poverty, panelists highlighted the importance of working together despite political differences.

“The situation is dire. We’re in a crisis and we need to say it out loud and say that word consistently and then act like it’s true,” Dones said, in a city that declared homelessness a “crisis” a while ago. is seven years old.

However, the real “crisis” plaguing the panelists and their host, freelance journalist Brandi Kruse, is their apparent lack of power in local government, the softness of their voices in city affairs, and the frequency with which their concerns were drowned out by the rants and ramblings of the all-powerful “militant class,” a term popularized by Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan and other right-wing commentators.

Nelson, who was backed by DSA-affiliated donors in her run against Nikkita Oliver, seemed determined to defend voiceless and powerless business interests. She said her “first job is to care about downtown” by making sure DSA voices are represented at City Hall.

Kruse piled on that victim story, asking Nelson how she managed to convince her colleagues to listen to downtown businesses.

“What I’m going to do is bring in these new voices and build my political agenda around them,” Nelson said. She added that she will also remind her colleagues, who see the same budget forecast as she does, that “the services their constituents want all over the city are paid for by resources generated downtown.”

Nelson added that the companies think the city needs more cops, but she said she would need reinforcements to make that happen. (She certainly faces an uphill battle. After all, the council fully funded the SPD’s staffing request this year, and the mayor promised to hire more police.) To help her in her efforts, she urged the business community to show up at meetings to tell the board what he was doing wrong and give board members who they wish to do their “positive reinforcement” offer.

“I think we’re all human beings, and people like to be recognized for the good work they do,” Nelson said.

The idea that business interests have no voice in city or county government does not stand up to scrutiny. Business-friendly moderates run Seattle, and they have for a long time. DSA gives voice to members such as Amazon, Goodman Real Estate, RC Hedreen Co., Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and more. The association has supported, and its wealthy members have financed, the last three mayors. The only real check on corporate power came in 2019, when the city elected a nominally progressive majority to the council. This council had exactly three months to pull itself together before a global pandemic and mass protest movement demanded their full attention.

Nonetheless, Kruse further addressed DSA’s concerns about the left, posing the pressing question of how business owners could “express themselves without fear of being labeled ‘NIMBY’, ‘right-wing,’ or whatever. is that the militant class proposes?”

“Call me,” Dones replied, with a second from Nelson, to a room full of business owners, landlords and property developers.

Dones then urged the conversation to evolve beyond “good guys” and “bad guys.” They said that while no one should have to take a psychotic break outside, it’s also stressful to watch it happen, and no one should have to defuse someone by getting milk from the grocery store.

After calling for more nuance and understanding in the conversation, Dones immediately dismissed and infantilized those who would characterize the business interest as right-wing or NIMBY. “I’m sorry, I’m doing adult work,” they said. “And when you’re ready to do it with me, please come.”

Business-friendly politicians plan to solve problems that previous business-friendly politicians could not solve with the same strategies that business-friendly politicians used in the past

Unfortunately, Republican City Attorney Davison still seems stuck in the “good/bad” mentality. During the panel interview, she updated the business community on her High Utilizer initiative, which her office announced earlier this week. The architects of the initiative identified 118 people who cops have charged with committing a slew of low-level crimes over the past five years, then laid out a plan to prosecute them on a priority basis. The city has tried this approach several other times, and King County public defenders have little confidence this time around for better results:

Davison, known far and wide for her eloquence, explained the goal of the initiative: “The longer we ignore someone and the fact that something isn’t working for them, the longer we have a major pathway to help relationships. to feel like a sense of purpose. feel that someone they know is an active member of society. That’s really the ultimate goal.”

I get it? Good.

Kruse noted that many of the people on Davison’s list were unhoused and committed low-level crimes. And so she asked Dones, “Do you think putting them in jail, putting them in jail for minor offenses and giving them a reset is a good idea?

“It depends,” Dones said.

Dones, the most progressive voice on the panel, did not take a strong stance in front of the business community.

They began their response with an approval to chat around the furniture: “I don’t know if we’re going to agree on everything, but I think, and I want to tell everyone, I’m very confident that, d agree or disagree, we’ll be at the same table discussing, and that’s actually what’s essential, isn’t it? Because civic discourse, democracy works when we talk to each other .

They then repeated familiar bromides, saying that we can interrupt the cycles of violence and crime by addressing the material needs that drive those cycles. They added that they believed in “consequences” and were not here to change that. But then they finally dodged the question by arguing that homeless people are more often the victims than the perpetrators of crime, an answer that would serve as a corrective to anyone who assumed that all homeless people commit crimes, but which had little to do with whether or not they believe that jailing people for minor offenses will “break cycles of violence” or even reduce recidivism.

Either way, they said they set aside “personal opinions about the nature of the criminal justice system” to manage the public good. Currently, when it comes to crime, their main goal is to tighten the “handover” between this system and the services provided by KCRHA and other providers.

To wrap up the interview, Kruse asked the panelists to describe the state of downtown in one word. Dones said “strong”. Davison said “hopeful”. And Nelson pulled out his Word of the Day calendar and said, “in the making.” Those business people better hope this town is pregnant with the Boss Baby.