Welcome to a new election column from The Stranger that looks at the biggest policy issue dividing each pair of candidates fighting for a seat on the Seattle City Council this fall. In District 1, we decided it was funding homeless service policies. In District 2, it was the candidates' approach to police accountability. In District 3, it was progressive taxation. In District 4, it was zoning laws. Today...
District 5: Council Member Debora Juarez versus challenger Ann Davison Sattler. Juarez, a veteran attorney specializing in Native American law, is running for her second term on the council. Sattler, also an attorney, is running for office for the first time. Jaurez earned 45.1 percent of the August primary vote while Sattler won 26.7 percent of the primary vote. If you're wondering where District 5 is:
What’s the biggest issue that divides Juarez and Sattler?
Juarez and Sattler say: Absolutely nothing. Neither candidate responded to our repeated requests to participate in this story.
What we say: the criminalization of homelessness.
Sattler has focused much of her campaign on solving the city’s homelessness crisis and a central tenet of her platform is forcing homeless people off the streets. She’s called on the city and the Seattle Police Department to aggressively go after people sleeping outside and force them into shelters, writing on her website that “the only way to ensure the crisis will improve is by enforcing no-street-camping regulations.”
Many service providers and homeless people themselves say removing encampments does not reduce the visible homeless population and only further destabilizes at-risk populations. They also point out that there are legal problems with enforcing anti-camping laws.
A recent federal court case led to a ruling that it’s “cruel and unusual” punishment for cities to ban camping if they don’t also provide enough shelter space for the people being removed. But Sattler has a somewhat crazy plan to solve this: she wants to create “refugee style” tent shelters to house thousands of people together inside three abandoned warehouses across the city. A shelter expert said the financial numbers behind her plan did not make sense, on top of it being problematic to house thousands of people together in makeshift shelters.
Juarez has called for the removal of specific encampments in her North Seattle district, saying in one Facebook post that city departments need to “enforce the laws of the city of Seattle,” but she has also said she opposes aggressively sweeping the homeless. Juarez told the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) that she does not support Mayor Jenny Durkan’s increase in the frequency and aggressiveness of homeless sweeps (Durkan’s administration removed 75 percent more encampments in the first four months of 2019 compared to the previous year, according to the Seattle Times). Juarez also told the SECB that cops should instead focus on actual crimes.
“If people are selling drugs,” Juarez told the SECB, “if they are assaulting people, if there are raping people, if they are running a sex ring which we had on Lake City Way, they should be arrested. I don’t care if you are in a tent or a house. But I don’t think that just because a bunch of neighbors are pissed off that someone put up two tents because they have nowhere to go, that you should send out three officers to remove them.”