Bill Bryant, the Republican candidate for governor, came out against the Seattle City Council’s plan to slow homeless sweeps, calling homelessness a statewide issue and proposing zero tolerance for unauthorized camping on state property.
Bill Bryant, the Republican candidate for governor, waded into the debate over Seattle’s homelessness crisis on Monday, attacking a City Council proposal to impose strict protections on clearing homeless encampments, and saying that if he is elected, he would have zero tolerance for camping on state Department of Transportation property.
Speaking in front of dozens of tents in Seattle’s City Hall Park, Bryant said he would work with the Legislature to withhold state homeless funding from any city that allowed camping in parks and on sidewalks.
While homelessness has skyrocketed in Seattle over the last year, Bryant said that he is weighing in because it is also affecting communities across the state.
Bryant assailed a bill currently pending before the Seattle City Council that would require a 30-day notice to homeless residents before the city could clear most unauthorized encampments.
“Seattle’s proposal moves us in the wrong direction,” Bryant said. “Rather than treating the underlying cause of homelessness, it encourages it while putting the homeless at greater risk.”
Seattle’s most notorious homeless encampment, The Jungle, which once had more than 200 tents, is scheduled to be cleared Tuesday. The encampment, partially on state transportation-department property, had just 42 people remaining last week, the city said, after efforts to connect residents to housing and services.
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The City Council bill is based on one written by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that advocate for the homeless.
“Unsafe or unsuitable” encampments could be cleared with just two days’ notice, but the city would still have to offer residents a new place to move.
Suitable locations for encampments — where the city would have to give 30 days’ notice before they could be cleared — could include greenbelts, land under bridges and overpasses and unimproved city land (such as woods in city parks, but likely not mowed fields or playgrounds), according to a new draft of the bill.
Murray, who last month announced a new plan focused on getting people into housing as quickly as possible, will veto any bill that allows camping in parks, his spokesman said.
Bryant spoke in front of two maps, released last week by two Seattle city agencies. The maps indicate that under the City Council’s draft legislation, camping could be allowed on thousands of acres of city parks and on 167 miles of sidewalks — those that aren’t in front of homes or commercial areas.
Under current law, it is illegal to block a sidewalk but not to sleep on one at night, and camping is barred in Seattle parks, all of which close at night.
Jamal Raad, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, noted that last month, Bryant was unclear how local homeless programs are funded in the state.
“Bill Bryant is offering fake solutions to a real problem in order to get press coverage,” Raad said.
Bryant also called for the state to re-examine building codes, to help build transitional and low-income housing more quickly and for less money. He said that as governor he would review state homeless programs and send funding only to the most effective ones.
Bryant is the second Republican candidate for statewide office to take issue with the City Council’s approach to Seattle’s homelessness crisis. He’s also the second one to announce his opposition using a homeless encampment as a backdrop.
Last month, state Sen. Mark Miloscia, a Federal Way Republican who is running for auditor, said that Seattle “needs adult supervision” and announced that he would introduce legislation to punish cities that did not crack down on encampments.
This story has been updated to clarify that Inslee’s spokesman was criticizing Bryant for lack of knowledge about homeless funding, not indecision on the subject