Politicians around here get a lot of flak for how much time they spend talking about stuff before actually doing anything. Task forces, stakeholder groups, "bringing everyone to the table." So, you might think they would avoid drawing a bunch of attention to the fact that they're going to talk some more about one of the region's most pressing issues. You'd be wrong.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw, and leaders from other cities around the region held a press conference today to announce their intention to get together and discuss a regional homelessness plan. In an apparent effort to completely humiliate themselves, they are calling it "One Table."
"With almost no help from our federal government, we must find solutions that work for our cities, for the entire region," Constantine said today, "and we must find those solutions together: government and business and philanthropy and nonprofits and other organizations and yes, individuals taking personal responsibility to do what they can."
Across King County, about 11,600 people are currently experiencing homelessness, about 5,500 of whom live on the street, in vehicles, or in tents. It's been two years since both Seattle and King County declared civil states of emergency because of homelessness.
Constantine today promised a "multi-pronged action plan" and a "set of recommendations and action steps that serve the entire region." He said the county can seek a
.001 percent .1 percent (or one tenth of 1 percent) sales tax increase for homelessness/housing, but did not commit to any new funding source or policy changes. He said regional leaders will discuss the sales tax and "other potential revenue options."
Durkan today called the homelessness crisis "a life or death matter for so many people." Noting that today is World AIDS Day, she also pointed out that homelessness disproportionately affects LGBTQ people.
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon issued a statement saying "a joint approach is essential for our region."
If you feel like you've heard all this before, it's because you have (at least at the city level).
Back in 2014, former mayor Ed Murray convened a task force on unsheltered homelessness. The following year, he created a committee focused on housing affordability. (That group's 65 recommendations are now driving city housing policy.) Last year, Seattle funded two reports to lay out how the city should change its spending on homelessness and is now following those recommendations. Earlier this year, Constantine and Murray scrapped a proposed city levy for homelessness, promising to instead pursue a joint city/county approach. At the time, they promised a city/county task force to talk about the issue. Auburn has a task force on homelessness, too. And last month, the Seattle City Council rejected a new tax on large businesses to fund shelters and affordable housing. The council instead opted to create a task force to discuss it.
Stay tuned to find out what comes from the big table.