Socialism, even democratic socialism, is quite different from progressivism

Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist. So does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, defeating incumbent Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in a major upset victory.

The odd thing is: are they really democratic socialists? Do they even know what democratic socialism is?

There is evidence that they aren’t and don’t.

Noam Chomsky and Cornel West say that Sanders is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist.   They call him a New Dealer. See Bernie Sanders is NEITHER a Socialist nor a Democratic Socialist and What does Sanders mean by ‘democratic socialism’?.

(Chomsky points out that Dwight Eisenhower — who said that anyone who questioned the New Deal doesn’t belong in the political system — would be called a raging leftist in the current extreme political climate.)

Professor Frances Fox Piven, the honorary chairperson of the official Democratic Socialists of America coalition, says Sanders “does not quite meet the definition of the term,” calling him a New Deal Democrat. Source: What does Sanders mean by ‘democratic socialism’?.

Marian Tupy, of the libertarian Cato Institute, writes in The Atlantic: “Bernie Sanders is not a socialist, but a social democrat.”
Bernie Is Not a Socialist and America Is Not Capitalist: Scandinavia is, by one measure, a freer market than the United States. Tupy writes:

Considering the negative connotations of “socialism” in America, it is a bit of a puzzle why Sanders insists on using that word. It would be much less contentious and more correct if he gave his worldview its proper name: not “democratic socialism,” which implies socialism brought about through a vote, but social democracy.

I wholeheartedly agree.

A New Yorker article on Ocasio-Cortez suggests that she calls herself a democratic socialist not because of any deep ideological commitment. Her self-appellation has “less to do with theory or ideology than with the simple fact that she kept seeing members at rallies for every cause she cares about, from the Hurricane Maria rescue effort to Black Lives Matter. She defines her politics as a struggle for ‘social, economic, and racial dignity.'”

That doesn’t sound like socialism to me.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, distorted with embossing via gimp

According to Wikipedia:

Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production[1] with an emphasis on self-management and/or democratic management of economic institutions within market socialism or decentralized and participatory planned economy.[2] Democratic socialists hold that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity; and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realization of a socialist society. Democratic socialism can be supportive of either revolutionary or reformist politics as a means to establish socialism.[3]

So, democratic socialism is still a form of socialism. Adherents want social ownership of the means of production.  Such ideology is out of the mainstream in America, and adherents are susceptible to criticism and ridicule.

This NPR article paints a mostly radical (i.e., accurate) picture of democratic socialism: What You Need To Know About The Democratic Socialists Of America.

This webpage What is Democratic Socialism Q & A by the (Young) Democratic Socialists of America has clear explanations of what they believe.

Most progressives are social democrats: they are not completely opposed to private wealth and corporations. They just want private wealth to be adequately taxed, regulated, and counter-balanced by a robust social safety net, for the sake of the common good.   Think FDR, Robert Kennedy, and Dennis Kucinich, not Eugene Debs.   Think the mixed Nordic model, not democratic socialism.

Social democracy is apparently the goal of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, and, I’m sure it’s the goal of most of the millions of followers of Sanders.

Words matter.

Some supporters of democratic socialism describe it in a way that makes it seem compatible with private ownership and capitalism. For example, I saw this meme image on facebook:

Description of Democratic Socialism that makes it look compatible with capitalism

From what have gathered, the description in the image above is inaccurate. The image describes social democracy.  Democratic socialism is opposed to private ownership.

I have no problem with people who are really socialists calling themselves socialists. I do have a problem with sloppy language that can harm the Left.

For heaven’s sake, and for the sake of the progressive movement, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez should call themselves what they are: social democrats!

 

Comments

comments

Fake news about “global cooling”

Right wing websites have been promoting fake, or at least deceptive, news about alleged global cooling.

The explanation is that 2016 was the hottest year on record. As the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies reports (https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20180118/):

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2017 ranked as the second warmest since 1880, according to an analysis by NASA.

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. That is second only to global temperatures in 2016.

So, the fact that things have cooled off a bit from the record highs of 2016 doesn’t mean there’s a significant trend of global cooling.  The temperatures since then are still unusually high.

Global Warming Trend from NASAGlobal Warming Trend
This map shows Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980, according to an analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio) Source: NASA.

Comments

comments

Adam Smith Town Hall of July 8, 2018

U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, 9th CD, Washington) spoke for two hours today to constituents on Mercer Island.

During most of the two hours Smith bashed Trump, in response to constituents’ questions. The audience seemed supportive of that. There were no conservatives offering a forceful alternative view.

Smith said that as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he was able to view some of the evidence about Russian meddling in the election. Smith said: yes, the Trump campaign colluded with Russians (Manafort, etc), and, yes, Trump tried to squash the investigations, obstructing justice. But he says that it will be very hard to get 67 senators to agree to impeachment. And with Trump appointing Supreme Court justices, we can’t expect the Supreme Court to come to the rescue.

Smith spoke eloquently of Trump’s danger to America.

Smith said that he speaks often with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is one of the few remaining voices of sanity and realism left in the White House. Every morning Mattis asks his driver if he’s been fired yet. If not, he goes to work.

In the video below Smith criticizes Trump for phoning Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on passing a constitutional amendment that stripped his opposition of basic rights.  “All around the world you see this creeping towards authoritarianism in our foreign policy.” We are backing away from international treaties and cooperation.  Some people say we should laugh at some of Trump’s more ridiculous pronouncements (such that we people should stand up straight when Trump talks). Smith sarcastically responded:  “You know fascism just never stops being funny.”

Smith said Americans want lower taxes, a balanced budget, and no cuts to spending.  (Impossible!) The Republicans’ simple, oft-repeated message is:  government and taxes are bad.  Since they can’t directly cut government spending, they just keep cutting taxes and raising the deficits. When no money is left, they will demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare (even though we have pre-paid for these programs out of our paychecks). Smith has sponsored bills to raise the cap on Social Security, so that the rich pay their fair share and so that Social Security can remain solvent for the long term.

If you want to see life without government, said Smith, go to Honduras, where there are no taxes and no functioning government. There is lots of crime, little education, and little productive economic activity.

Smith called for reversal of the Bush and Trump/Ryan tax cuts.

Smith spent a long time criticizing Trump’s racist immigration policies.  He said that crime rates among immigrants are lower than among U.S. citizens, and economic studies show that they help the economy.  Trump’s racist and divisive rhetoric is based on lies.    Yes, we need secure borders. No, we needn’t treat all immigrants like criminals, especially ones who have lived here for most of their lives.

Immigration from the south has mostly come to a halt — another reason Trump’s anti-immigration policies are amiss.

One rude constituent, who was reading the Financial Times while Smith was speaking, blamed inequality on over-population. He claimed that he could prove mathematically that inequality arises when there is over-population — which is why immigration is bad.  That theory was so outlandish that nobody seemed to take it seriously.

Smith spoke a lot about our overly permissive gun laws.  Republicans think that more guns would make us safer.  It’s simply not true. He told several stories of guns being used to kill people in families, And  he told of a certain politician who came to a town hall and placed his gun on the table to make a point (“See. I can defend myself.”) Smith pointed out that someone in the audience could have quickly drawn a gun and shot the politician dead before he’d have been able to grab the gun.   The Second Amendment mentions “well-regulated militia.”   We don’t allow individuals to own nuclear weapons, tanks, or machine guns. Nor should they be able to own rapid-fire, high capacity weapons.

Smith said that many gun-rights advocates say that citizens need weapons to defend themselves against the government.  I laughed out loud.  Smith said, “Don’t laugh.”  There are people who really believe that, despite the fact that the U.S. Army would easily destroy any individuals.

Smith said that the GOP health care plan can be summarized in two words:  stop Obamacare.  Trump is dismantling Obamacare by allowing insurance companies to stop covering pre-existing conditions.     Smith says we need universal health care, whether based on single-payer (like Medicare) or on some other system. Every other major industrial nation in the world has been able to do this, at lower cost than us.

Several times Smith said that to reverse inequality a first step is to get guaranteed health care for all.

Smith criticized the private prison industry, which are guaranteed occupants and which encourage detention.

A woman made an impassioned speech asking Smith to support a House bill in defense of Palestinians children allegedly being mistreated by Israel. During the speech, another woman held up  a banner and turned around, and another person videotaped.  Smith listened politely and said this is the first time he’d heard of the bill and he would ask some others and consider it.

When it was my turn to ask a question, I started by saying I agree with most everything Smith said, and I thanked him for becoming more progressive over the years. (Smith is now a member of the Progressive Caucus. I would like to imagine that I was instrumental in his joining the caucus.  At a fund-raiser for Smith in Bellevue a couple of years ago, he gave a speech in which he mentioned the word “progressive” several times. When it was time for questions, I shot up my hand and said, “You kept saying ‘progressive.’ Will you join the Progressive Caucus?”)  But, I said, I support his progressive opponent, Sarah Smith, on one issue:  he should have voted against the obscenely expensive defense bill, which will cost the U.S. between $610 billion and $719 billion (depending on how you measure it). I said that the U.S. has troops in 150 countries and military bases in 70  countries.  We spend more than the next 20 or 30 countries combined. The military sucks up over half of the discretionary budget. There’s too much secrecy, and it’s a major cause of deficits. I mentioned Eisenhower’s phrase “military-industrial complex.”

Smith defended his vote for the budget by saying that he needs to be bipartisan. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Thanks to that  position, he was able to insert some progressive measures in the bill (on LGBT rights and on the risks of climate change, about which the military is cognizant).  He said that the GOP has enough votes to pass a budget without Dems’ help, but the Republicans realize they might not always be in the majority, and it’s best to work together when they can.

Smith also said that the Defense Department will finally be audited, though he joked that he’ll believe it when he sees it.

“If I were chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the defense bill would be a lot more progressive.”

He said that he thinks the defense budget was $50 billion too high.

[Another attendee says that what Smith said was that if were Chair the defense budget would be 50 billion less. That’s not my recollection, but the message is almost the same.]

Someone asked Smith which of his opponents he’d run against in November: his anti-war opponent from the left, Sarah Smith, or his Republican challenger? Adam Smith said that he really doesn’t care; he’s confident enough that he’s the better candidate.

But I sense that he’d prefer the Republican, and that he is more scared of the rising tide of anti-war progressivism and socialism than by the Republicans. After the town hall, as we walked out, Smith looked pretty tired. Can’t blame him.

Adam Smith won the endorsement of a huge number of Democratic organizations and lefty advocacy groups.  Sarah Smith, who is young and inexperienced, has gotten the endorsement of very few groups.

At one point in the town hall, Smith said that when he was knocking on doors as a campaigner, he got more flack (criticism) from angry progressive than from angry conservatives. Progressives can be dogmatic ideologues, he implied. They were dissatisfied with the partial accomplishments of Obama (ACA, regulation of Wall Street, saving the economy, LGBT rights) and were angry about unmet hopes.

A Democrat will beat Trump in 2020 only if the left can unite, he said.

Each time the Democrats had gotten control of Congress, in 2010 and once before in the 1990s, the Democrats blew their chances by becoming a circular firing squad, and the Republicans roared back stronger than before.   Smith called for pragmatism, saying politics is a numbers game.  Often politicians need to compromise on their principles to remain in power.

Comments

comments

Don’t call regressives conservatives

My pet peeve of the moment:
I keep hearing progressives (including Amy Goodman today) refer to right-wing extremists as “conservatives.” Please people! There is nothing conservative about these far-right extremists who are working to destroy US public norms & institutions. It’s like calling anti-choice people “pro-life.” They are no such thing. Words matter! Do not accept the language of our adversaries! #ConservativeMyAss #wordsmatter

Comments

comments

Socialist Linchpin Moody’s Investors Service Blasts Amazon’s Influence on Seattle

by Matthew Caruchet

Karl Marx-inspired credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service issued a report this month saying that Amazon’s bullying tactics over Seattle’s newly-passed employee hours tax show it has too much influence over our city.

The tax would require businesses with more than $20 million in annual revenue to pay about $275 per full-time employee, per year.

Amazon, which boasted $1.9 billion in profits in the last three months of 2017, balked at having to pay $20 million per year to deal with the homelessness crisis caused in part by the displacement of low-income Seattle residents from the influx of highly paid workers coming to the city.

Amazon's profits and Jeff Bezos' profligacy

Amazon has been able to “materially influence the outcome of the [head tax] debate by withholding or threatening to withhold employment or other economic expansion,” Moody’s said, warning about the behemoth’s penchant for exercising “outsized influence in some local government policy decisions.”

We also saw this statewide with Amazon’s opposition to updating Washington’s equal pay for women law, even though Microsoft and other tech companies worked to improve the bill.

Moody’s analysts called the employee hours tax on large Seattle employers “a credit positive for the city,” adding that it won’t affect job growth.

(In all seriousness, Moody’s is a stalwart capitalist institution. In fact, researchers at Boston College found in 2017 that Moody’s desires to “cater to its corporate clients,” as did researchers at Penn State and the University of Georgia in 2017 and Emory University in 2014. If anything, Moody’s is harder on local governments than it is on corporations.)

Originally published at Economic Opportunity Institute

Comments

comments

Resolution in Opposition to Rodney Tom’s candidacy for State Senate

Note: the 5th, 41st, 45th and 48th LD Democrats have passed versions of this resolution.

Resolution in Opposition to Rodney Tom’s candidacy for State Senate

WHEREAS in 2012 then State Senator Rodney Tom began caucusing with the Republicans and formed, with Republicans, the so-called Majority Coalition Caucus — despite having been elected as a Democrat;

WHEREAS Tom’s action did great damage to Democratic priorities, as evidenced by the fact that in February of 2013 he was censured by the state Democratic Party for “gross disloyalty” and “perfidious behavior”;

WHEREAS Tom was harshly denounced by the 5th, 43d and the 48d LD Democratic organizations, as well as by the Pierce County Democrats;

WHEREAS Tom is running this year as a self-proclaimed Democrat for the 48th LD State Senate position, despite having failed to even seek endorsement of the Democrats and despite his earlier betrayals;

WHEREAS Various Democratic organizations, including the 48th LD Democrats, have endorsed Democratic Senator Patty Kuderer for re-election;

WHEREAS The Democrats have a one seat majority in the state Senate;

WHEREAS A victory by Tom would put at risk the recent legislative successes by the Democrats in Olympia and would empower Republicans;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the 41st LD Democrats declare our vehement opposition to the candidacy of Rodney Tom and our deep regret that he is calling himself a Democrat.

(Resolution by Donald. A. Smith, June 13, 2018)

Documentation:

https://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/02/04/gross-disloyalty-democrats-censure-tom-sheldon/
https://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/01/16/democrats-further-repudiate-sen-rodney-tom-d-traitor
https://web.archive.org/web/20130126031314/http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/01/15/2436252/pierce-county-democrats-back-senators.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Tom

Rodney Tom is a Democrat in Name Only: he was censured by the Democratic Party for caucusing with the Republicans but is running again as a Democrat


Note: this is the version of the resolution passed by the 48th LD Democrats:

 

Resolution: Rodney Tom is not a Democrat

WHEREAS in 2012 then State Senator Rodney Tom began caucusing with the Republicans despite being a declared Democrat;

WHEREAS Tom’s action did great damage to Democratic priorities, to the extent he was censured by the state Democratic Party in February 2013 for “gross disloyalty” and “perfidious behavior” and denounced by the 5th, 43rd, and the 48th LD Democratic organizations, as well as by the Pierce County Democrats;

WHEREAS despite this past behavior, Tom is running this year as a self-proclaimed Democrat for the 48th LD State Senate position;

WHEREAS Tom has made no contact with, nor is he a member of the 48th Legislative District or County Democratic Party;

WHEREAS Tom has declared his refusal to caucus with Democrats should he win the Senate seat, thus imperiling the one seat Democratic majority in the state Senate;

WHEREAS a victory by Tom would put at risk recent bipartisan legislative successes in Olympia and would likely create another four years of gridlock;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the 48th LD Democrats, declare our vehement opposition to Rodney Tom again calling himself a Democrat.

Adopted by the 48th Legislative District Democrats this 20th day of June, 2018.

Comments

comments

Tim Steyer, impeachment, and saving America

I went to a Town Hall meeting in Seattle last night to hear hedge fund billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer call for support in his project to impeach Donald Trump.

Steyer briefly sketched the case for impeachment. Almost the entire meeting was taken up by his responding to questions from the audience, which packed an old, deteriorating warehouse in the Sodo district of South Seattle.

There was plenty of free food. Outside the hall, there was a Trump supporter holding a “Trump 2020” sign.

Steyer admitted that unless the Democrats take back the House in November, the chances of impeachment are very slim.  But even most Democrats seem uninterested in pursuing impeachment against Trump — the only Washington State U.S. House member to support Al Green’s impeachment resolution was Pramila Jayapal. Many Democrats think impeachment efforts are likely to backfire, as they apparently did for Republicans when they tried to impeach Bill Clinton.   Likewise, Patty Murray and Jay Inslee asked members of the Washington State legislature to stop their efforts to impeach George W. Bush.

Steyer said that impeachment will happen only if the American people rise up and demand an end to the dangerous presidency of Donald Trump.

Steyer Impeachment Town Hall, Seattle, June 12, 2018

But 42% of Americans apparently support Trump, whose approval rating has been increasing.  The Republicans tax plan pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, largely into the pockets of rich people and corporations who will fund propaganda to convince the public to support the GOP and Trump. If Trump manages to make peace with North Korea, no matter at what price, GOP prospects will be brighter.

It is difficult to be optimistic about the near or medium term future of America.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing health care, the environment, voting rights, fair elections, campaign finance, immigration, and other issues.  Several people asked Steyer whether he plans to run for President in 2020. He refused to say Yes or No and said, instead, that we need to concentrate on the midterm elections.

Steyer is smart and (but) mild-mannered.

After the speech I got to speak to Steyer and to shake his hand. I asked him if he can enlist the support of any other billionaires willing to help save America and the world.  He smiled warmly, said that he’s trying and that he can sure use the help.  He continued chatting with other people.

We were all asked to show our IDs on entry. There were photographers taking everyone’s photo.  My friend and I presumed this was for security purposes.

My friend lives in Medina, where Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other super-wealthy people reside. My friend has billionaire neighbors.

Perhaps activists should hold signs near Medina calling on — begging — rich people there to help save the world.

As Ralph Nader said in his book, Only the Super-Rich can Save Us!  After all, they can’t take it with them.

Meanwhile, it may be wise to concentrate on local races.

Comments

comments

Bellevue City Council hearing on the proposed homeless shelter

[Edited and extended on June 15, 2018]

On Monday, June 11, I went to the Bellevue City Council hearing about the proposed Eastgate homeless shelter. About seventy people had signed up to speak (three minutes each).

The first pair of speakers were Betsy Hummer and Stephanie Walter from the East Bellevue Community Council. They reported the EBCC was opposed to safe injection sites, wanted light industrial areas  as potential shelter zones, and wanted a 1,000 foot buffer zone around any low-barrier shelter, so that no schools or churches could nearby — a similar rule applies for marijuana retail shops. These changes would make it difficult or impossible to locate the low-barrier men’s shelter in Eastgate.

During the next two hours, several dozen people from religious organizations spoke in favor of opening the shelter in Eastgate: Christian clergy, rabbis and representatives of the Bellevue Muslim community. They all made a strong moral case that it’s our obligation to help the poor and the down-and-out. It’s our obligation not to give into fear. It’s our obligation not to treat poverty as a crime.

Many of these faith communities had hosted homeless people in their churches, synagogues and mosques.

The supporters of the shelter spoke, in particular, against the proposal to require a 1000 foot buffer zone around shelters. Supporters of the shelter said that such a barrier would make it almost impossible to locate a shelter in Bellevue.  Supporters also spoke against proposals to limit shelter clients to those who have no outstanding warrants. Many warrants are expired, incorrect, or minor. Besides, having such people sleeping in parks, wooded areas, or on the streets doesn’t make us safer.

Many Bellevue residents are strongly opposed to locating the shelter in Eastgate — the location is near a Park and Ride and a community health center, and not far from Bellevue College and some condos —  out of fear that it will bring crime and lower property values. The shelter will be low-barrier — meaning homeless men will be admitted regardless of criminal records or drug use — and opponents of the Eastgate location fear increased crime.

Yet a Guardian study finds that crime does not increase around homeless villages in Seattle or Portland. If any thing, it decreases slightly.

Some opponents of the shelter had put up signs “Shelter Yes, Eastgate No” around Bellevue. Such signs suggest that opposition is based on NIMBYism. They prefer that the shelter be located in light industrial areas or the Spring district.

On nextdoor.com there is a lot of heated discussion about the shelter; almost everyone who participates is opposed to the shelter. Opponents were critical of the organized dominance of the hearing by the faith community.  Some opponents appealed to the separation of church and state.

Opponents of the shelter also allege that there was favoritism towards Congregations for the Homeless and that plans for the shelter were done behind closed doors and with insufficient notification of neighbors.

Stephanie Walter of the Lake Hills community in Bellevue gave permission to share her letter in opposition to the Eastgate shelter:

Dear Members of the Faith Community,

I am one of your members…or at least I think I am. I have faith – that is the criteria, correct? I do have to say that I was surprised, scratch that, I was stunned last Monday night at the Bellevue City Council meeting. There was a concerted effort by people stating they were speaking as part of the faith community to delay the voices of their neighbors at the public hearing for Land Use Code for Homeless Shelters. A public hearing is intended to include voices from all sides of an issue. This group of individuals came early and lined up to sign up one after the other to speak as a block, in succession and without deviation. They all had much the same things to say as if it had come from a set of talking points. There were things said that were inconsistent with facts as I know them from my Planning Commission experience. They spoke for almost two hours saying the same things – over and over and over again. Bellevue residents who had studied the Land Use Codes of other Cities as well as researching the best practices of shelter providers waited patiently for their opportunity to speak. At about 8:10 pm, they finally began speaking. Facts, figures, data, compassion, and an eagerness to work well with others were all part of their message. They were regular yet extraordinary citizens of Bellevue who spent their own time and sometimes treasure to help the City create the best shelter situation possible. For all the parties impacted – homeless and housed alike. The hearing went until well after 10 pm. Many people had to leave due to the late hour.

In our Country we benefit from representational government. No matter how just the cause, every side of an issue deserves to be heard. Manipulation of this process creates long term harm.

Here are a couple of examples of inaccuracies:

  • A 1,000 foot buffer would prevent siting of a shelter. Marijuana stores have a 1,000 foot buffer and they have been sited.
  • Child care can coexist next to a homeless shelter. Not in the case of low barrier shelters where no IDs and backgrounds are checked.
  • Rotating shelters’ success is evidence that the permanent shelter will be successful. The permanent shelter will not house individuals in the same condition as the rotating shelter. Men will progress from the permanent shelter to the rotating shelter if they make progress gaining life skills.
  • Bellevue neighbors who want strong Land Use Codes to govern shelters do not want a shelter. This is simply not true. They want a shelter that will be safe both inside and out.

There is much work to be done. There are people who have exhibited their willingness to work together with their neighbors and the Council on a reasonable and rational shelter or shelters. Drowning out their voices is fracturing neighborhoods and I fear it is also fracturing the communities of faith.


Likewise, Tuli Davenport gave permission to share her letter to the Bellevue City Council:

My letter to council is long but it includes a recap of claims made and couple of requests.

Dear Mayor, Deputy Mayor, councilmembers, city manager,

The turn out for the Shelter LUCA public hearing was impressive. Clearly, the recent outreach efforts by the city and CFH faith network around King County was successful.

CM Robertson thank you for staying the entire length and listening to all the public comments even though you were not well. CM Stokes, if I ever make it to my 90s, I hope that I am blessed with your stamina. Thanks to all of you and to staff for all the work and effort that has gone into creating a thoughtful shelter LUCA that will play a small but an important role in addressing the homeless crisis created by years of Seattle’s failed policies.

I would like to recap and rebut a few inconsistencies presented by the special interest non-profit faith communities (who spoke continuously for the first 2 hours!) and also highlight one valid point that they made.

Claim 1: Criminal background-checks is criminalization of homeless

For many years now, CFH Year Round shelter at the rotating churches have performed criminal background checks. The faith community churches have had this rule to protect their property and members. However, it is strange that they are asking shelters near neighborhoods to follow a different set of rules where warrant and background checks are not allowed.

Kan Qui, one of the Bellevue residents who testified, drew laughter from the audience when he said: “Jesus doesn’t ask you to sacrifice other people’s neighborhoods”. Faith community members should first practice what they preach and remove criminal background checks from their year-round shelter before asking others to do it. However, that is very unlikely to happen. A background check is NOT criminalization of homeless.


Claim 2: Warrant checks means denial of entry and denial of funding

A few members from the faith communities claimed that performing warrant checks will mean denial of entry at the shelter and denial of funding. This is misinformation and they are confusing it with their own rules at the year-round shelter where any individuals without ID or past sex offenses are denied entry into their shelter. They don’t welcome the world even if they preach it.

At a low barrier shelter, individuals facing homelessness can enter without an ID. If they fail criminal background check (that shows criminal/sex offense history) they still get to stay at the low barrier shelter. These checks help alert the surrounding neighborhoods in case there are any high-level sex offenders at the shelter. These checks do NOT mean denial of entry.


Claim 3: CMs Church affiliation and race implications of warrant checks

Many faith community leaders appealed to your emotions saying that Bellevue welcomes the world and stated several scriptures. One faith community leader, vaguely alluded to conversations with CM Zahn and CM Lee at their Aldersgate church, suggesting race related implications due to warrant checks.

There are many good reasons for supporting separation of church and state and I trust that all CMs will ignore such manipulative tactics and do the right thing for people who elected you.


Claim 4: Code of Conduct must not be required in shelter LUCA

This was a surprising request from several faith community leaders. I believe that most if not all religious books have a code of conduct for its followers. In fact, current CFH year-round shelter and low barrier shelter have a code of conduct. They are advocating for lower safety measures for the communities than they have for their churches. Fortunately, David Bowling and Steve Roberts did not echo their sentiment. Please keep the Code of Conduct requirements in the shelter LUCA.


Claim 5: All shelters are safe and buffers are not needed

Many faith community leaders, cited the men’s shelter right next to the preschool and how safe the members felt about leaving their children there. They argued that buffers are not needed because the homeless men are human. They again obscured the fact that the rotating church shelter is not a “low barrier shelter” and that they require IDs, and no past sex offenses and requirements to work with case managers.

Some of the community members emoted that we should open our hearts and welcome everyone in the shelter and that it is sad to see the winter/emergency shelter close and see the men return to the streets. The year-round church shelter had the opportunity to take in the men from low barrier shelter for years and they have never changed their intake policy because NOT all men at the low barrier shelters are “safe”. In this case, their actions speak louder than their testimony.

DM Robinson, CM Zahn, CM Lee and CM Nieuwenhuis, you were all asked by One Bellevue “Would you Avoid Emergency Homeless Shelters near residential and school areas?” You all answered Yes. (http://onebellevue.us/scorecard). Sensible buffers must be a requirement.


Claim 6: Sophia Way next to a school has had no concerns and buffers are not needed

One lady testified that Sophia Way shelter was next to a preschool and there were no safety concerns there. I agree with her and this ties in with my previous email about setting buffer requirements based on intake criteria. A low barrier men’s shelter must have at least 1000′ buffer zone, however, women, family shelters could have smaller or possibly no buffers.

CM Robertson brought this exact point up at the end of the public hearing. Mayor Chelminiak, it might have been late, but you seem to cut her comment off after asking the council to state if anything was missing in terms of direction to the staff. I strongly urge you to consider the buffer requirements based on the shelters intake criteria (ID, gender, age, warrants, etc.).


Claim 7: Bravern residents had no impact from Lincoln Center low barrier shelter

One person testified that residents at Bravern apartments – the new luxury secured building on the other side of the highway I-405 – had no idea there was a low barrier shelter across the highway and had no negative impact. This may be true, but it is not comparable. The proposed Eastgate location has older unsecured townhomes and condos that are 250ft away unlike the Bravern. There are letters sent to council from Wilburton community and other neighborhoods and auto row businesses about crimes in the area. Please disregard misinformation of zero impact or crime increase from low barrier shelters.


Claim 8: Faith communities deserve 1-2 seats on the Neighborhood committee

Ms. Studders says that faith communities deserve 1-2 seats on the neighborhood committee because they are experts in the field. The goal of the committee is to execute the Good Neighborhood Agreement and it should be a conversation between the operator (who are the real experts) and the surrounding neighborhood residents and businesses. Faith community leaders that are not within the radius and possibly from Kirkland, Issaquah or Seattle have no business in that conversation. I would also like to remind you that in the LUCA survey results, people ranked “faith community involvement” the lowest. Please listen to the local residents and not special interest non-profit groups who should have no business in influencing legislative decisions.


Claim 9: Rotating year-round shelters will discontinue after the new permanent low barrier shelter is built

It always surprising to see CFH bring in homeless individuals to testify on their behalf. Will they bite the hand that feeds and shelters them? This practice should be deservedly frowned upon and CFH should face a harsh penalty if they forced him to testify.

The homeless individual from the CFH year-round shelter, said that he had trouble remembering the dates and where he was because they moved every month between host churches. I sympathize with him, but I hope someone from CFH will tell him that the shelter LUCA will not address his issue with rotating locations. Even after the low barrier permanent shelter is built, I am told that the rotating medium barrier church shelter program will continue its operation and this individual will not be sheltered at the brand new building. If you recall, David Bowling mentioned how an individual from their low barrier shelter moved to the year around church shelter and then toward permanent housing.


Claim 10: Wilburton TOD, the most important TOD in the world, is unworthy of a shelter
A member of the Wilburton TOD CAC, testified that a shelter in the precious Wilburton TOD commercial district will deter the vision created by the CAC. We should all thank Wren for his great work on the CAC and disregard the folks who also worked hard on the Eastgate and other TODs. If you have read this far, I hope you sense my sarcasm. No TOD should trump another TOD or neighborhoods due to a personal relationships or campaign donations. The LUCA must be fair and not give a special exclusion to Wilburton, Spring District or any TODs.


Request 1: Review possible code of ethics violation. An appearance of a conflict of interest

Mike Katterman, a Board member of CFH and was also a staff on Planning department for a long time. Though he was never on a project directly related to the CFH shelter he was assigned to affordable housing TAG where he invited his friends from CFH and Imagine Housing. A while back I had mentioned to the council that there was an appearance of a conflict of interest because CFH was getting a lot of special “gifts” and that there was a CFH Board member on staff. A permanent shelter for men on free public land and a nice new free building with nice new free office space may make sense, but giving it all to CFH to operate without an RFP from other operators did not. I never received a response to this but I later heard that Mike had left CoB and joined another city.

At the hearing, Mike testified, as a Board member of CFH, AGAINST buffers and other safety measures in the draft LUCA along with his other CFH Board member friends. It was evident to me, that he wants an easy path and fewer requirements for his organization that is already benefiting substantially from the special treatment.

Today I learned from Stephanie Walter, current EBCC vice chair and former Planning Commission (PC) chair, that Mike Katterman acted as staff liaison to the PC while they were working on the Eastgate TOD. This was during the same time parallel discussions were going on between CFH and staff about using Eastgate KC parcel as the ONLY site for the CFH low barrier men’s shelter. Why did Mike withhold the homeless shelter details from PC at that time? Why was staff attempting to set up the shelter code under “transient housing” as ACUP when PC specifically asked for CUP? I am not sure if Mike withheld the shelter information under someone’s direction or other reasons, but it is a mystery that PC was purposely kept in the dark. In fact, that time was the perfect opportunity for PC and public involvement and collaboration. When the public asked the council to include the LUC experts from PC in the shelter LUCA, we were told that PC was too busy now with other priorities. Did Mike or some other staffers feel that PC or public involvement would hinder the process back then? Mike/CFH has everything to gain from the shelter LUCA because there is no RFP or competition from other operators for a low barrier men’s shelter. Who decided that there would be no Request for Proposal for the free public land?

I am not making accusations because I don’t have all the information. I struggle to understand how Katterman could objectively and fairly act in the official capacity as an agent of both CFH and City of Bellevue concurrently while being involved in city discussions that attempted to enable favorable land use codes, and allocated public funds and assets to CFH and none of its competitors. It is rare for any city to give away public land to a specific private organization without a bidding process and this is why it doesn’t pass the smell test.

I hope that these questions can be answered in an open and honest way at the local government level. I ask the council to find answers and let the public know as soon as possible. It is your job to ensure no laws or ethics codes are being violated and that the public’s goodwill and assets are not being distributed in a corrupt manner. Public trust is crucial to an effective government.


Request 2: Prioritize Bellevue residents at a public hearing before those from other cities

Ms. Karen Studders did a commendable job and took great pride in organizing the tea party at city hall for the special interest non-profit faith communities from Bellevue and other cities who were able to sign up as a block for the first 2 hours of the hearing. Sadly this attempted to delay the voice of some of the local Bellevue residents and perhaps even caused some of them to leave due to the time of the night. I hope you will find a way to prioritize Bellevue residents to speak first before those from outside the city. Residents from other cities must not be allowed to play games to tire or drown out the local voices. It continues to amaze me how boldly non-profits use their resources and network to influence legislative matters and endanger their non-profit status with IRS.

Thank you for reading.

Best regards,
Tuli Davenport
Bellevue citizen

Comments

comments