TO THE EDITOR: I agree with your recent article regarding the disgusting evolution of what I like to call Capitol Hell ["Shithole," Amy Jenniges, Oct 23]. Nowadays one cannot walk along even the side streets of the Hell without getting harassed by some nasty scumbag begging for drug money. Something dramatic has to be done. Instead of blaming city government, how about blaming the junkies, beggars, losers, hookers, bums, drug dealers, failures, et cetera, who have actually created this problem? I'm fine with providing more services for these people, but let's be honest--it's their fault the neighborhood has gone to Capitol Hell.
SAVE THE HILL!
YOU GO AMY JENNIGES! Thanks for writing all this! I hope Mayor Nickels will realize that we really need help on the Hill. People pee and shit on the streets; every entrance to a store is occupied by aggressive panhandlers; [the neighborhood has] vandalism, no parking, useless transit, and cardboard buildings where you can hear your neighbor snore; and the flight path is right above all this to complete the misery. I mean, this is where most of Seattle's workforce lives. How disrespectful of the city and the mayor to offer [these] conditions to us. I am beginning to think they want all the decent people to move out of the area and turn it into some human dump, sort of a Pioneer Square extension.
Each big city must have an area for these people, of course, and in Seattle it was Pioneer Square. By pushing them out of there it infested the whole city. Vancouver, BC's secret of being so decent is that its ugliness is concentrated in one area, the Downtown Eastside. Drug addicts have no reason to go to other neighborhoods, because they've got all the services (like the safe injection site) on the spot. The Downtown Eastside is NOT a residential area. It is mostly short-term housing. Capitol Hill is different, and a treatment facility on it will attract the wrong crowd. [These] services must be in Pioneer Square! And we have to let go of Pioneer Square, just like Vancouver let go of its Downtown Eastside, in order to save the rest of the city.
OH, GRANT, SHUT UP
Last night a tall man in Pioneer Square Park was walking around with The Stranger open to page 17, pointing to the photo of himself, allegedly, talking to the bike cops, and asking people, "Quarter for the 'Shithole' model? Quarter for the 'Shithole' model?"
People think Pioneer Square is bad, but it's all a big party down here.
TO THE EDITOR: I have lived in the Seattle area for 20-plus years; I used to visit Capitol Hill at least three or four days a week for shopping, dinner out, or fun with friends. Now it's the last place I go. I have over the years grown so tired of all the drug dealing, drunks, and homeless people. (I have nothing against the homeless, but they harass me when I will not give them money.) I personally know three people who have been mugged. I have been in California for the last 12 months and will be returning to Seattle in June of next year. I have started to look at places to live, and Crapitol Hill will NOT be on my list. Sad, because it used to be my favorite neighborhood.
RIGHT WING RANT
THE EDITOR: Thank you for the very good article by Amy Jenniges regarding the drug/vagrancy problem on Capitol Hill. As sad as it may seem, the residents of Capitol Hill, once one of Seattle's most desirable neighborhoods, are reaping what they have sown. By tolerating--no, by celebrating--the presence of drug addicts, vagrants, and thugs up and down Broadway (I suppose they thought they were exercising "compassion," or celebrating "diversity"), they have sent a message to these elements that all of Capitol Hill can be their playground, and if families and law-abiding citizens don't like it, that's just tough.
Residents of Seattle in general, and Capitol Hill in particular, must understand that a community works only when all people understand not only their rights, but their responsibilities. One's right to be a druggie, thug, or vagrant ends when it infringes on the rights of others to go about their lawful business, or prevents them from enjoying the use of public spaces that they have paid for with their taxes.
It's time for a little "tough love" on Capitol Hill. This is not a heartless right-winger's rant, just common sense.
THE THOUGHTFUL JUNKIE
STRANGER: Seattle voters approve a measure to make marijuana possession the lowest possible law enforcement priority, and now those same voters are frothing at the mouth for the cops to crack some junkie skulls? Drug war: pro or con? Which is it, people?
Or do most Nice Seattle Liberals believe people have every right to make choices about their own behavior as long as they do it in the privacy of their own homes? Unfortunately, for some people home happens to be a cardboard box in the alley. Although Broadway's status quo is clearly intolerable, six new bike cops will not cure drug use and homelessness. There's just not enough room in the jails to contain every single addict.
Look, it really sucks that the straight people have to step over dirty syringes in the park and something has got to be done, but drug abuse is a chronic disease requiring long-term care and cops are not doctors. Shoving all the undesirables off for some other neighborhood to deal with them is irresponsible. Solutions start to emerge when we stop behaving as if yuppies are scum and junkies are subhuman, and begin to look at the problem from a public health perspective.
Unfortunately, the county budget for human services has been cut 30 percent. Currently the wait for a methadone voucher is over a year long. And for the lucky few who receive any kind of care, addiction is usually compounded by poverty. After the state-funded 90 days of treatment, homeless addicts will find themselves back on the streets in the same desperate situations that may have contributed to their use in the first place.
When people have addictions and nowhere to go, the unfortunate consequence is that they use drugs in public. It's not that we want to. We have to. I don't really want to force passersby to deal with my addiction. Broadway should be a safe and comfortable environment for everybody, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or economic class. So where's an IV user to go? I wish there were someplace where we weren't scaring the shoppers or the soccer moms, somewhere where we could take the time to inject safely without fear of the cops, where we could safely dispose of and exchange used syringes (which would help curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis). Maybe even someplace where we could have ready access to drug treatment counselors. I'm not holding my breath, but until we follow the enlightened lead of Vancouver, BC, with regard to safe injection sites, we could at least follow the lead of the Washington State ferry system, which has successfully ended the problem of finding dirty needles by installing sharps containers in the restrooms.
I believe the majority of IV drug users on the Hill feel we could work with the community at large to find creative solutions that would be acceptable to everybody involved. Let's not be afraid to talk to one another. In spite of what you might believe, we are humans too. Whether we live in mansions or recycling bins, Capitol Hill belongs to everybody. Let's make it work for everybody.
A Concerned Junkie
WILSON ON SMITH
KATHLEEN WILSON: Thanks so much for the very sad, very powerful eulogy to Elliott Smith ["XO," Oct 30]. It is one of the few things I've seen written on him that seems to capture him as he lived, and in the context of how (and why) he died. Most people just don't have the experience or empathy to try to understand the terror and agony of a paradoxically addicted free spirit.
An exquisite piece of writing I know you deeply wished you didn't have to write. I truly appreciate your talent.
SO WRONG, SO RIGHT
HEY, KATHLEEN: I'm writing this about your piece on Elliott Smith. And now I don't even know what to say. You wrote about something so very sad and very wrong, and somehow you got every word just right. I hope they value you at The Stranger.