Housing advocates strike out
A King County Council committee voted 5 to 4 to give $135 million to the Mariners for upkeep of Safeco Field in a contentious Sept. 5 vote. The matter will go up for a final vote on Sept. 17.
The figure, first floated during the meeting, represented a $45 million reduction from King County Executive Dow Constantine’s initial $180 million proposal. Under the compromise, a total of $661 million will be allocated to affordable housing, an increase from the initial offering of $496 million. Still, it disappointed housing advocates who had hoped to put the lion’s share of the money toward affordable housing production.
Two other votes — one to give only $25 million to the Mariners and another to put the entire matter to an advisory vote on the February 2019 ballot — went down 4 to 5.
The influx of public funds from the lodging tax is expected to be enough to ensure that the Mariners will enter into a new 25-year lease with the Public Facilities District, which handled lease negotiations for the ballpark. Although the inclusion of that money wasn’t included in the agreed-upon terms, the team had made it clear that the lease was contingent on the public funds.
Come get your Boise
Homeless rights advocates had cause to celebrate after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of six homeless plaintiffs who sued the city in 2009 over a law that banned people from sleeping in public spaces.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the 9th circuit panel found that the law violated the plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, even though the city modified its law in 2014 to say that it would suspend prosecutions if shelters were full. That was in part because people could still be turned away from shelters for reasons other than capacity.
The judges found that people experiencing homelessness could not be criminalized for “conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless — namely sitting, lying or sleeping in the streets” unless the city provided “adequate” shelter.
The decision does note, however, that it would not apply to people who do have access to shelter, either because they can pay for it or because they could “realistically” get it for free.
Still, proponents believe it is a major decision in the ongoing battle against the criminalization of homelessness.
“The outcome of the Court’s decision will ripple across the country. Cities will have to address real solutions to the complex issues faced by homeless individuals and families rather than just create more barriers and fill more jails with persons who only needed a place to sleep for the night,” said Howard Belodoff of Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. in a release.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Check out the full Sept. 12 - Sept. 18 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.