With the backdrop of an unsanctioned homeless encampment at Third Avenue and Broad Street on Tuesday afternoon, state Sen. Mark Miloscia said, “Seattle, frankly, needs adult supervision.”
He was referencing the city’s efforts in addressing the current homelessness crisis, as he unveiled the basic tenets of a 10-point plan he’ll introduce in the legislature before the end of the year.
The bill from the Federal Way republican calls for banning camping on all sidewalks, right of ways, school grounds and highway overpasses, along with unauthorized RV camping, by July 1 of next year. His legislation would also pre-empt local governments from setting their own guidelines on encampments, and block them from authorizing drug injection sites. Municipalities that fail to enforce the measures would be at risk of losing funding from the state.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in the legislature in getting results,” he said. “They’re tired of this ineffectiveness continuing, it is getting embarrassing.”
The proposal comes on the heels of encampment legislation drafted by the ACLU and Columbia Legal Services which would require the city to provide 30-days notice, along with an alternate site or housing, prior to a sweep.
Miloscia, also currently running for state auditor, had strong words for the proposal, calling it “mindboggling,” and “not pragmatic, not compassionate, and not competent,” saying it would give homeless people the right to camp anywhere in the city, and allow unsafe tent cities and heroin safe zones to become permanent institutions.
“Where are we now?” he said. “By all accounts — as we can almost feel in the air the cold and rain approaching — this emergency problem now 11 months old is getting worse, not better. In government, action or inaction, the infamous Seattle process has been slow and frankly incompetent for dealing with this emergency.”
He also referred to All Home, formerly the Committee to End Homelessness as “all talk” since the state of emergency declaration.
“Their strategic plan is still a flashy PR document, and all their recent reports, it’s nothing new,” he said. “Nothing that no competent observer or homeless advocate haven’t heard time and time again. It’s time to stop the reports, and the fake plans, and come up with stuff that we’re going to implement this week and this month and get real results. By real results, people’s lives are being saved, their getting served, and homelessness goes down.”
Miloscia’s plan also calls for identifying all homeless citizens, and giving them a plan to move into housing with a priority on homeless youth and the chronically homeless. Cities would also be required to document their efforts, with “performance results” mandated and required.
Among those backing Miloscia’s efforts on Tuesday was the Neighborhood Safety Alliance, and Cindy Pierce of Magnolia.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” she said. “It has everything to do with being a human being. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you come from, we need to start seeing results, and we need to hold people accountable for the bad decisions they’ve made on the city level.”
Pierce also had praise for Miloscia’s emphasis on neighborhood input.
“We attend council meetings when we can, but most of our members work during the day, and their voices are not heard,” she said. “They’re only heard via email and it’s hard for the everyday working person to get actively involved on certain levels.”
Miloscia, who spoke at an NSA meeting in April, said neighborhood groups and residents must be involved in solving these problems.
“You can address homelessness, and you can keep the neighborhoods safe and healthy,” he told the Queen Anne & Magnolia News. “They’re not mutually incompatible, they both can be done. It’s with competent leadership and management that it happens. We don’t have that.”
But not everyone on hand believed that Miloscia’s plan, if enacted, would actually serve as a solution.
On the other side of the podium stood Alison Eisinger and Rachael Myers. The duo serves as the executive directors of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, respectively.
“It is really, really important in this state, as in any other state, for local government to have maximum flexibility in being able to determine what works within their communities,” Eisinger said. “Proposing legislation that prohibits local governments from taking actions that they feel are helpful, productive, and fiscally prudent for their citizens, and voters, and taxpayers is, to me, a non-starter.”
Banning camping and restricting city efforts, Eisinger said, “are not, in my opinion, intelligent ways to make public policy that is truly progressive and effective and uses local resources and state resources and federal resources to actually get at the root issues.”
Myers said the focus during the next legislative session will be on increasing the state’s investment in affordable housing through the housing trust fund, and preventing real estate transaction fees from sunsetting.
She also hopes to see legislation that would prevent landlords from refusing to accept forms of payment like federal Section 8 vouchers.
“There’s a lot of people experiencing homeless who actually have a subsidy and have resources that they could use to help pay their rent, but they can’t find a landlord to rent to them,” she said.
While Miloscia said he’s introducing his bill in his capacity as a state senator, if elected as state auditor he said he would conduct “audit after audit” in the same way the federal government did to Western State Hospital.
“We need to find out which programs are working and not working,” Miloscia said.
However, the one-time democrat has little hope that his proposal will gain traction on the other side of the aisle.
“Of course not,” he said. “… Many of them are influenced by and think that the Seattle City Council is on the right track.”
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