Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kate Elston: Fair Reporter or Tool of the Elite?

I interrupt my vacation week of postings of no consequence to comment on today's story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Begging the Question: How is the Money You Give Panhandlers Actually Spent. As slam dunk set-ups go, I've seen worse, but this is one of those articles that make me want to tell the next reporter I talk to that I'm recording the conversation.

"To give or not?," reads the intro in today's on-line edition. "Downtown advocates urge Seattleites to pass beggars by while others bristle at a compassion-less 'war on poor.'"

The "war on poor" quote is mine. I also have a B section Page 1 pull quote where I say, "There's this thought that because people are poor they need to be under a judgmental microscope. They should be able to spend the money however they want."

This sets me up, of course, as the idiot liberal who supports the local crack trade through my undiscerning largess. The question was, does Real Change control how our vendors spend their money? Not the more complicated, "Should people be concerned about what panhandlers will do with the money you give them?"

Reporter Kate Elston, who seemed honorable enough, may not see the difference, but I do.

She does, however, quote me accurately when I say that the self-esteem people find in selling Real Change often leads to positive lifestyle changes. I thank her for that.

The "war on the poor quote" was out of context as well.

I described the DSA's anti-panhandling campaign as part of a pattern, wherein cities in general are becoming these dense enclaves of concentrated wealth as suburbanites go urban and bring their precious comfort zones along with them. This is the context of both the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness's obsession with chronic homelessness (read visible urban poor), and the heightened policing and criminalization of visible poverty that we're seeing everywhere.

All of this, apparently, didn't fit Elway's advocates versus critics of panhandling frame, so she choose instead to make me look like some sort of a reactive nut case by employing the "war on poor" quote without all that bothersome context.

I do find it interesting though, that nowhere in the article is DSA's often-made assertion that panhandling is up by 38 percent this year alone, despite the efforts of their panhandling education campaign. This omission makes them come off as the reasonable ones.

As I've said before, I was neutral on the campaign itself. It's the DSA's recent "drive the bastards into the sea" escalation that pisses me off.

Where they're heading with this was obvious earlier this year, when they landed an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Downtown Seattle Association will push for restrictions of panhandling similar to Tacoma's, which are some of the strongest in the nation.

The evidence of this comes in paragraphs 14-15.
Other cities have taken more extreme measures. This year Tacoma made it a misdemeanor to panhandle in certain places — near ATMs, bus stops, building entrances, and other public areas. The city also outlaws panhandling before sunrise and after sunset.

Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr said people have a constitutional right to beg on city streets. Buit establishing time place and manner restrictions — as Tacoma did — is a way to protect free speech while combating undesirable behaviors."
This is how the DSA works. Keep it in the media. Beat a steady drumbeat of horror stories, half-truths, and pseudo-concern for the poor, and when the timing is right, push for repressive measures against those who have nothing. Punish the poor right out of the downtown so that we don't have to see them anymore.

New York's Giuliani showed us the way, and all those who would like to disappear the poor need only follow his example. It's a predictable formula, and we don't have to guess about anyone's intentions. The writing is on the wall and it's in the P-I.


Trevor said...

She may have quoted you out of context, but I don't think the "war on the poor" comment made you look crazy.

Paul.Rice said...

"Put a little baggie together for a panhandler," he said. "Fill it with food, hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrush. But don't put money in it."

Fuck you very much, Bill VanderMeer. How about I put a little baggie together for you, see how that makes you feel.

That being said, I do like the part about Josh Folk's coffee time with T.Y.

Bill said...

I am also on vacation, in the neighborhood of la-la land where 90,000 homeless hardly phase the locals. Panhandling abounds,and of course itis warm enough at night to sleep anywhere. I did visit PATH (www.epath.org), an effort to do one-stop homeless care. Of course, they only scratch the iceberg, but I was impressed by their PATHmall at the entrance where the first available service is a free shower (private rooms) available to anyone coming in. Health, personal care, case mgrs., jobs, homeless court, and more,... it's an effort anyway. Born out of the faith community, who started it and then disappeared,... now one PATH program is seeking to re-energize the faith communities. Stars abound, Hollywood-style, like Annette Bening, Tyne Daly, others. Big money operation. Trouble is, LA needs about 900 such centers, if this is the model. Of course, it won't solely serve as the model. But it beat going to tourist traps,... see ya'll after Labor Day

Anonymous said...

I too am concerned with the DSA's attitude towards our downtown. I am also concerned in other related articles and letters to the editor that discusses the invasion of the homeless in Belltown (who are the newcomers?) I choose to keep my focus on congratulating efforts such as Josh and T.Y. (doesn't he deserve a full name? To cross barriers and get to know each one on a neighborly basis.

Anonymous said...

If T.Y. is THE T.Y. who gracefully handles a pan in historic/histrionic Pioneer Square, his name is T.Y. and that is what he calls his handsome black self. He could give lessons in pan handling. He gives lessons to everone who passes by, whether they give $ or not,in being nice everyday.