Lost in avalanche of nutty news coming out of Seattle City Hall last week – like protests to “disarm” city cops and regulations to let government determine when businesses can hire new employees – was a hearing before the council’s Human Services Committee “to vet ACLU legislation about homeless sweeps (the proposal was co-drafted by the ACLU and homeless advocates at Columbia Legal Services and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness.)”
The hearing provided some comic relief about the very serious homelessness situation in Seattle. It seems that according to Councilman Tim Burgess, “if we follow this approach, we will be voting to allow permanent camping on public property that the city defines as ‘suitable.’ It suggests that our response to homelessness is to allow camping in the city.”
Evidently that didn’t bother Councilman Mike O’Brien much, as he said “until we have sufficient housing for folks, I’m not prepared to say you can’t stay outside in our city.”
It was left to Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw to provide the humor, by agreeing with both her colleagues – first siding with O’Brien (“My goal here, is not to say camping is the preferred alternative,” she said, noting the recent mayor’s report calling for providing housing first. “But we don’t have that right now.”) and then Burgess’ concerns (“We also have to acknowledge that neighborhoods and businesses have rights to. Both those things are true.”).
Out of this confusion will undoubtedly come an expensive new city policy that will not solve the problem, but will likely appease the ACLU. Maybe they could start by giving folks free bikes, since they will soon have a few of those to hand out.