The city of Seattle has been a friendly place for the homeless for quite a while now, thanks to its compassionate, enabling city government. That policy has yielded predictable results, and many city residents have damn well had enough. Excerpt:
For the past five years, like many of its West Coast counterparts, Seattle has endured a steady expansion of homelessness, addiction, mental illness, crime, and street disorder. But the activist class—a political and cultural elite comprising leaders in government, nonprofits, philanthropy, and media—has enforced a strict taboo on declaring the obvious: something is terribly wrong in the Emerald City.
Last month, veteran Seattle reporter Eric Johnson of KOMO violated that taboo with a shocking, hour-long documentary called Seattle is Dying, which revealed how the city has allowed a small subset of the homeless population—drug-addicted and mentally-ill criminals—to wreak havoc. Johnson’s portrait is backed up by evidence from King County homelessness data, by city attorney candidate Scott Lindsay’s “prolific offender” report on 100 homeless individuals responsible for more than 3,500 criminal cases, and by my own reporting on the homelessness crisis.
In the past two weeks, Seattle Is Dying has garnered 38,000 shares on Facebook and nearly 2 million views on YouTube. The report has clearly resonated with anxious, fearful, and increasingly angry Seattle residents. Exhausted by a decade of rising disorder and property crime—now two-and-a-half times higher than Los Angeles’s and four times higher than New York City’s—Seattle voters may have reached the point of “compassion fatigue.” According to the Seattle Times, 53 percent of Seattle voters now support a “zero-tolerance policy” on homeless encampments; 62 percent believe that the problem is getting worse because the city “wastes money by being inefficient” and “is not accountable for how the money is spent,” and that “too many resources are spent on the wrong approaches to the problem.” The city council insists that new tax revenues are necessary, including a head tax on large employers, but only 7 percent of Seattle voters think that the city is “not spending enough to really solve the problem.” For a famously progressive city, this is a remarkable shift in public opinion.
Seattle isn’t the only Left Coast city headed down this dark path; as I’ve stated previously in these virtual pages, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the formerly great city of San Francisco is suffering from a similar fate, due to similar causes.
I have some fond memories of Seattle. I spent a few weekends up there in the mid-Eighties, during a brief stint for training at Ft. Lewis, WA, down Tacoma way. I remember it then as a clean city, an interesting city, with enough night life to keep a young man interested and enough scenery and culture to keep the daytimes interesting as well. It’s a shame to see that city fall into this kind of disarray.
But it’s a hard fact of economics that what you subsidize you get more of, and Seattle and Frisco have been directly and indirectly subsidizing their indigent populations for a long time now. This combination of acceptance of bums at the expense of the productive, combined with a salubrious climate, has made these Left Coast cities a magnet.
But as this article notes: After dictating homelessness policy for a generation, the activist class is losing the narrative—and this accounts for its increasingly desperate counterattacks. As their support among voters erodes and principled journalists like Johnson break the silence about homelessness, they fall back on branding their concerned neighbors “bigots,” “fascists,” and “white supremacists.” It’s not working the way it used to. In Seattle, a reckoning on homelessness may not be far off.
Is it too late for Seattle to turn this around? They’ll have to change they way they vote, first. For the root cause of this problem, Seattleites must look to their city council – and their state legislature.