I’ve seen lots of revelations in the news lately. I don’t mean anything world-ending necessarily, at least not at first glance. Just news containing small eye-openers, making one wonder what does it mean, where does it lead? Like those Panama Papers.
I have no idea what the Panama Papers say. The most interesting thing about the leaks is that Americans aren’t involved much, and the explanation most often given for that is Americans don’t need Panama; we’ve always had the Caymans. The Panama Papers are just the record of the rest of the world copying us. It’s not the end of the world; it’s just another sign that we are all becoming one giant Rupert Murdoch investment.
Another area of revelations concerns affordable housing. The Seattle City Council has been looking at the current state of the housing market in the city and has found out how bad it is.
So they’re talking about what they can do to fix it. How do you prevent gentrification from leading to a net loss of affordable housing?
I think I know the answer: What you have to do is take power away from the rich investors to control the housing. To do this at the city level only requires seceding from the United States, prevailing in any civil war that ensues and everyone getting used to eating shoe leather and crab grass until the aliens arrive and rescue us.
The problem is, it’s a percentages game. So much big money pours in to gentrify this much of the city, and meanwhile this little bit of money the city scrapes up over here is supposed to counteract the effects of that big money, and it never does because the city is poor compared to the investors.
The city itself is poor. It’s not just that 30 percent of the population can’t find decent affordable housing because they are too poor.
It’s also that the city is correspondingly too poor to improve the situation. They can’t make it better; they can only make it less worse.
In another non-apocalyptic revelation, we have learned that a “geotechnical expert” working for the state has been warning the state to expect more problems with the viaduct replacement tunneling, such as the sinkhole we got a few months ago. This is eye-opening, because no one knew the state had experts on the job until now. Things are looking up.
I’ve been saving the best revelations for last. The best are contained in The Stranger Slog’s interview of Columbia Legal Services attorney Yurij Rudensky about how the city implements its homeless sweeps.
Now, we’ve been talking about sweeps of homeless encampments pretty fervently during three Seattle mayorships, and we’ve guessed already they aren’t stopping. In fact, we all just got used to the fact that there are more encampment sweeps now than ever. So no surprise there.
Also, there is no surprise in the fact that the city’s own rules requiring that valuables be identified and stored are not really followed. We personally know homeless people who have had valuables lost for good.
What surprises, mildly, is the degree. The way the operations are conducted virtually ensures that valuables will not be identified and stored, in spite of the city’s stated intention to see to it.
It’s just brilliant. The city contracts out the work of the sweeps to the Department of Corrections, which can do the work cheap because they use prison labor, who are either not paid or paid next to nothing.
They aren’t bound by the city’s rules. They probably even have a disincentive to tag items for storage: If they do, the job takes longer to complete.
The description Rudensky gives of the procedure makes it clear that no city employee could imagine that the sweeps could satisfy the intent of the guidelines, unless they were high.
Perhaps the solution all around is for those employees to share the hallucinogens they’ve been scarfing down, and share widely.