Too early to say Seattle's Dying?
By Jean Godden
Mark Twain famously said that "the report of my death was exaggerated." That's sort of the way I feel after watching the KOMO hour-long special under the inflammatory headline "Seattle Is Dying."
By now Eric Johnson's documentary has been watched by most tech literate souls in Seattle and has gotten the endorsement of right-wing pundits from Sarah Palin to Tucker Carlson. The special has fueled anger in residents who were previously only on the cusp of concern. It has succeeded in directing rage against the homeless in ways that are as irrational as they are worrisome.
No one is saying that the humanitarian crisis in Seattle is tolerable. Fifth, drugs and crime are troublesome to see as are mental health outbursts shown in the documentary. But the blame-the-homeless theme, set off with the manipulative headline and the choice of music are dishonest.
A friend of mine who has taught communication says that, if he were teaching today, he would use the documentary as a test question: What's wrong with this picture?
One of the things wrong with the picture has been discovered by Crosscut, a reader-supported news magazine. Reporter David Kroman revealed that the man repeatedly followed by the documentary is not homeless. Robert Champagne, who was never interviewed, has been in supportive housing for three years. Making him the image of homelessness is something of a travesty.
So too was the move to equate the lack of a home with substance abuse, addiction and mental health problems. These are separate conditions and, if we are to solve them, they will require separate solutions.
That speaks to the point. The documentary didn't try to take up the important questions of what to do about homelessness and other problems. On the contrary, the documentary merely alludes to the solution used in Rhode Island, locking up drug users.
One of the documentary's ploys was to show an image of McNeil Island Prison, as though that might be some kind of panacea: a place to confine the addicted. But McNeil is hardly vacant or available. Imprisoned there are 240 sex offenders deemed too dangerous for release.
Johnson's documentary, one of three he has done on street issues, is the baldest of the lot and most troubling for its omissions. Not surprisingly it aired on KOMO, a station owned by Sinclair, a network known for requiring that scripts critical of "fake news" be aired by all its affiliates.
Nevertheless, there is one thing to be said in the documentary's favor. It obviously struck a nerve. And, while "Seattle is Dying" takes some complex realities and boils them down into simplicities, it does focus attention.
There is no dispute that Seattle has serious problems that require solutions. These are problems the city has been struggling to solve. The city's navigation team is during some good work, even if it moves slower than we'd like. Dedication to housing first, rather than allowing illegal encampments, is the right way to go. The need for subsidized and affordable housing is great and, although there are some good projects underway, more are needed.
Housing first, however, is expensive, so too are mental health and addiction treatment. There is a need for many millions. Where all that will come from is one of the questions before us.
Currently, we do have an opportunity, not to be missed. Seven seats on the Seattle City Council will be elected this fall. With five incumbents not running for reelection, there will be a large turnover in our rule-making body. Each of the council candidates must explain what they can do to help solve the problem.
So far, most candidates are robotically saying that we need "more" this and "more" that. We do. However, voters must keep asking: How much more and how will we get it? Another question that we need to ask is: What will success look like?
Seattle is not dying, whatever KOMO's Johnson wants us to believe. Seattle is innovative and humane and progressive enough to figure this out. This is yet another time that we can be in the forefront of solutions, as we have been in the past. Seattle is frustrated over the scene in the streets but we live in a city that is ready and capable to address these issues.
Actually the special commitment center on McZneil Island is separate from the now closed prison so the closed prison space is available.
I'm a native of Colorado and we are now ruled by a bunch of liberal morons like the ones that have created the mess in your city.
IF there are no consequences for bad or destructive behavior
THEN the behavior will continue!
That means you have to forcibly stop the behavior and insist on civil behavior, and the rule of law. The minute you have no law you don't have a civil society that will work.
But then liberals don't believe in the rule of law, or moral behavior. Your article is the typical liberal stance, you just need more time and another bail of money...ridiculous.
Well....the rest of us are getting sick of your bleeding heart liberal nonsense...and are SO frustrated we make take control by force.
Sadly...it has gotten that bad, but liberalism is a disease that needs to be purged from this country.