After taking a verbal battering from city council members yesterday, state Senator Reuven Carlyle published a lengthy blog post this morning defending his plan to spend $1 million to clear and build a fence around the homeless encampment known as "the Jungle."
"As a result of my overly broad statement [last week]," writes Carlyle, a Democrat from Seattle, "the notion of a large, generic fence may have been seen as Plan A from Olympia. It is not."
In the post, as in our interview last week, Carlyle defends closing the encampment because of violence there. He's against adding sanitation services to the area, as Council Member Kshama Sawant has proposed. But people living there should be offered "real services" when they're forced out, he writes.
First, state DOT, Seattle fire, police, utility and public health representatives testified that officials will not move forward with full scale clean up and safety work until hands-on, short term, transitional support services are identified and coordinated. This includes emergency shelter access, mental health, addiction services and more to connect people to real services. It may perhaps include additional sanctioned, semi-sanctioned encampment areas or even surplus property, as well as medium and long term efforts around housing first options. City, county and state officials must double down on transitional support services as part of the emergency declaration. And this does not include, in my view, sanctioning this dangerous area aside I-5 as an endorsed encampment with plumbing, water and other facilities.
This process could take six to nine months, Carlyle writes. Meanwhile, he says he and other lawmakers are pushing for more funding for mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and homelessness services.
Carlyle also downplays his fence idea, which council members yesterday called "insane" and "a very bad use of money."
Second, my statement about installing a fence was overly broad and poorly outlined, and I failed to articulate that I believe we need modest, limited fencing in select, highly dangerous and volatile areas where individuals can access and impact the freeway endangering themselves and the public. I regret not being clearer that cleaning up and securing the most volatile and dangerous parts of The Jungle likely requires limited, targeted fencing not expansive installations. The ultimate decision of logistics should be made by not by elected officials but by a coordinated technical and policy examination by city, county and state officials.
Carlyle's original statement called for an 8,000-foot-long, six-foot-high fence with razor wire. Yesterday, Seattle City Council member Lorena González said, "We shouldn't be building a fence on the southern border and we shouldn't be building a fence on the I-5 corridor."
That didn't sit well:
Still, statements from some local public officials about the use of any safety fencing near The Jungle–a dangerous area where murder, sexual assault and violence is a cold hard reality–being equated to installation of a xenophobic wall along the national border is deeply offensive and below our city’s civic dialogue. The rhetoric inflames debate and thoughtful analysis rather than contributing in any meaningful way to real problem solving of one of the most complex societal issues facing our nation.