Jenny Durkan is the best choice for a Seattle mayor to address the seemingly intractable homeless crisis affecting the city and region.
Graeme Hanson epitomizes the conflict many Seattleites have about the area’s homeless crisis.
A compassionate and religious man, Hanson doesn’t like the idea of “sweeping” homeless people off the street and out of public spaces. Yet his position is evolving after a tragic encounter with a homeless person in West Seattle.
“It’s such a complicated issue,” he said, summing up the dilemma facing the city and voters choosing new leadership amid this crisis.
While Hanson’s wife, Sarah, was walking their five-month-old son, Luke, last month, a homeless woman rushed up from behind and repeatedly cut her with a butcher knife. Sarah is recovering from multiple wounds and won’t be able to use her left hand for months.
The alleged assailant, 26-year-old Kierra Ward, was living in Hiawatha Park before the attack. Members of the Hansons’ church had reached out several times offering help, which she declined.
“We’ve been praying for her every night before we go to bed, which is hard,” Graeme Hanson said.
This editorial board strongly suggests that Hanson and the rest of Seattle voters elect Jenny Durkan mayor in part because of her smart approach to the challenges of homelessness. A big reason is because of her proven experience as a U.S. attorney and in regional and national civic affairs.
Durkan proved her ability to address another seemingly intractable problem as U.S. attorney, when she negotiated Seattle police reforms. That’s precisely the sort of mayor Seattle needs to make substantial progress on homelessness.
Her opponent, Cary Moon, is an activist with no experience managing a public agency or guiding intergovernmental relations, the two skills required of Seattle’s mayor on the homeless front.
Even worse, Moon is echoing divisive rhetoric of fringe activists like Kshama Sawant, who are oversimplifying the challenge with “stop the sweeps” slogans and interfering with progress to reform and improve homeless services offered by Seattle.
The situation’s complexity requires a nuanced response, including more outreach and offerings of shelter and support. It requires more investment in Washington state’s appallingly meager mental-health system and better coordination of regional and state services.
Seattle’s next mayor must be willing to support ongoing efforts to improve contracts with homeless-service providers. With nearly $200 million a year spent regionally on the issue, there must be better outcomes and accountability.
The next mayor needs to be realistic about health and safety hazards created for homeless people and the rest of the community when they decline offers of help and continue living in dangerous conditions.
It is not progressive to condone inhumane living conditions and ineffective service contracts. The help homeless people need is not unfettered access to use parks and streets as campsites and toilets. They need a range of services, from housing support and job placement to mental-health and addiction treatment.
Seattle must also address public concerns about safety and sanitation. Failing to do so puts homeless services at risk.
A surefire way to kill support for these costly programs is to embrace unrealistic, ineffective responses that fail to address health and safety issues affecting everyone, homeless and housed alike.
Elect Jenny Durkan, who offers the best hope for leading Seattle through this challenge, and hope for quick healing and recovery for Sarah Hanson and Kierra Ward.