The Hellhole – week of 9/18

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Can't make no demands

About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish!

Another week in Seattle; another bumper crop of news about developers, neoliberal politicians, and the police treating the citizens of our fair city as one big grifting opportunity. We finally got some rain, though, so that’s a plus! We also discuss the real costs of commodified healthcare, and show you some examples of what it looks like when the American legal system is functioning to protect people, not profits. We hope to bring you ten more examples just like it next week, but we’re not holding our breath. Welcome to the Hellhole.

Devil in the Details

  • News broke on Wednesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of some officers of the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Police Officers Guild and others colluding to fix prices and practices under threat of retaliation in the shadowy administration of off-duty security and traffic direction detail work. We wish SPD killings of Seattle citizens, where the burden of malice is on the deceased, raised officious eyebrows like the strong-arming of business interests.

NWDC Gets What’s Coming

  • The Northwest Immigrant Detention Center in Tacoma got slapped with a lawsuit from none other than Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday. The lawsuit stems from the fact that Florida-based GEO Group, which owns the center, pays detainees just $1 a day for performing all non-security work at the facility.

“A multi-billion dollar corporation is trying to get away with paying its workers $1 per day,” Ferguson said at a press conference announcing the suit. “That shouldn’t happen in America, and I will not tolerate it happening in Washington.”

The privately-run institution in Tacoma houses up to 1,575 inmates facing deportation, and detainees wait for months, or sometimes years, as their cases are considered. The center is notorious for its poor living conditions, and has been the site of numerous hunger strikes, including one in 2014 where 1,200 detainees protested bad food, medical neglect and never-ending court hearings. The center generates nearly $57 million annually, according to GEO estimates.

Don’t worry– Durkan has a plan!

  • Jenny Durkan recently released a doc (creepily, it refers to Jenny in the third-person the whole time) outlining her plan to fix Seattle’s housing crisis. Her plan leans heavily on creating a voucher program that subsidizes rents for low-income individuals and families. While that might sound nice on paper, the Seattle housing crisis isn’t going to be solved by another means-tested bureaucratic solution— especially one that involves making tenants sign forms in triplicate to get the opportunity to hand city money directly to landlords (up to $60 million dollars, total). Even better– the program will be “phased in over the next several years”, so you can expect things to maybe get marginally better… eventually. Exciting!

Despite the fact that this won’t work, it also… won’t work for a different reason. Why would a landlord stop raising the rent when low-income people are more equipped to pay it? If anything, this program lets landlords raise the rent by thousands a year without ever losing their tenants– after all, if they were forced to be rent-burdened before, they can force them to be rent-burdened again, on the city’s dime.

Don’t bother reading the rest of the doc– her only other ideas are building tiny homes (we’re already doing that) and asking developers nicely to have affordable housing in their buildings (it literally uses the word “encourage”), topped with a multi-paragraph explanation of how we could fund her plan that’s longer than any of the individual proposals. Neoliberalism, everybody!

Here’s an idea– use that $60 million to build housing, tax the ultra-rich in our city a little more to pay for it, and start solving the problem permanently. If Durkan believes that “housing is a human right,” like her press release says, she should start acting like it.

Who the American Health Care System Hurts

  • An attempted robbery, ending in a fatality when the homeowner shot the burglar to death, got the reporting it deserved recently when Charles Mudede added the last chapter to the story— the one that most news outlets fail to report. It’s heart-breaking, and showcases the way the American health care system drives those who can’t afford expensive treatments for themselves and those they love to dangerous ends. Would you break the law and risk your life to keep a loved one alive? If we decide to start treating healthcare as a human right, no one would ever have to.

RIP RED APPLE-CD

  • Last year, Paul Allen’s Vulcan purchased the Promenade 23 shopping center at 23rd and Jackson, home to the Central District’s beloved Red Apple grocery store, an institution that catered to African American tastes and engaged the community by putting on a yearly children’s backpack drive. The Shelf Life website curates tales of a black community’s residents displaced and its culture decimated by the kind of economic colonialism represented by Vulcan’s planned mixed use construction. Should anyone begin to question Vulcan’s civic values, the Evergrey reports that the company offered the store’s owner space in the completed building…for $10 million.

Who did have the money to move into the neighborhood? The anti-union, Portland-based New Seasons, whose workplace safety record and funding of transphobic political efforts is particularly grotesque.

(Ph)uck Big Pharma

  • The city of Everett is waging a lawsuit against the maker of OxyContin, a drug that has likely played a significant role in ravaging communities all over the country and taken countless lives. Attorneys for the city allege that Purdue Pharma “knew its painkillers were being diverted into the black market, causing what the city describes as an epidemic of drug abuse,” according to the Everett Herald. The drugmaker — which is owned by a Connecticut family that made Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families after pulling in $14 billion — says it’s impossible to trace Everett’s drug crisis back to the them alone. If that’s the case, then representatives for the company might be inclined to talk to the people profiled in this July 2016 Los Angeles Times special investigation, who suffered and died from OxyContin addiction. The L.A. Times states “illicit OxyContin devastated the entire Everett region,” and that “at the height of the drug’s popularity, it was a factor in more than half of the crimes in Snohomish County.” According to the Everett Herald, the lawsuit doesn’t specify a specific dollar amount, but instead “claims the city has spent and will need to continue to spend significant tax dollars addressing addiction in the community.” Purdue has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Foxconned

  • This summer, Wisconsin taxpayers were robbed of $2.85 billion in public money by Foxconn in exchange for the questionable charity of just 13,000 jobs. Along with this deal, Governor Scott Walker signed into law provisions that would stymie any legal challenges to the notorious multinational corporation’s environmental practices. Could this be the next strategy for Boeing or Amazon, who’ll seek to protect themselves from justice via the court after extorting enormous public wealth?

Class enemy of the week: The 45th Legislative District candidates

A debate between Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra and Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund Monday evening in Redmond was particularly illuminating. Englund outright said she didn’t believe the state’s demonstrably regressive tax is… regressive. “I respectfully disagree that we have a regressive tax system in this state,” said Englund.

That Washington’s tax system is among the most regressive in the country is not an opinion; it is a fact that has been reported, explained and demonstrated over and over and over again. Some may recall that a lil’ coalition led by the Transit Riders Union in Seattle tried — and succeeded — in making the system more fair by organizing Seattleites and pressuring the City Council to pass an income tax in Seattle this past spring. As long as politicians like Jinyoung continue to deny and ignore the systemic causes that keep people poor and continue to funnel wealth to an elite class, the greater the need for a truly united working class to step up and push back. It’s also worth noting that Democrat Dhingra — in sweet, sweet Democrat fashion — is in favor of “capital gains tax and polluter tax, and closing tax loopholes,” but also opposes a state income tax. To them we say: Get it together, or get out of our way.

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