Thursday, September 25, 2008
Nickelsville Talking Point
You gotta hand it to the Nickels people. They know how to stay on message. Every time Greg opens his mouth on Nickelsville, he says something like, "I respect their right to make a political statement," or "It's obvious it's a political demonstration." Karen Zaugg Black, his spokesperson, is in the PI tonight saying, "We certainly recognize that this is a political demonstration." Here she is again in the Times: "What I heard the mayor say today was that people have political demonstrations to make a point about an issue, and I respect that."
These people should spend more time talking to the people in the camp. Homeless campers don't give a crap about politics. What they want is a safe place to stay, and a supportive community where they have a voice.
Is that political? I think it's pretty much what we all want
Erik Lacitis, the Mayor's boy at the Times, went all meta on the Mayor's message, and interviewed three consultants who agreed that the "public relations stunt" was poorly timed, since the crashing economy would focus people's attention on their own pain. As Cathy Allen put it, "The people you know who are hurting are far more important than the people you don't know who are hurting."
I think the consultants are wrong on this one. The media, except for Lacitis and one dishonest op-ed by his newspaper, has been extraordinarily sympathetic. The encampment has continued to expose the lie that homeless people in Seattle are taken care of, and the Mayor will look like the shit that he is when he bulldozes the camp.
The convergence of an economy on the skids and a tent city full of people who are experiencing hard times, I think, makes us a little more likely to consider homelessness through the lens of our own economic vulnerability. In other words, I think the timing makes people more sympathetic, not less.
Lacitis also took pains to cover the Mayor's other talking points: Seattle does more to help the homeless than anyone, and anyone who wants shelter can get it.
This is, of course, a lie. John Iwasaki's PI article mentions that 12 men and 12 women were turned away from Nightwatch the night Nickelsville went up. That means the shelters were full enough that 24 people who were trying to get in could not. This is the case more often than not, which is why lots of people stop trying to get into shelter and sleep out instead.
This is hardly a big secret to anyone who deals with homelessness and doesn't, figuratively speaking, have his lips around the Mayor's dick.
Nickelsville is visible evidence that city policy on homelessness — which entails holding the line against new shelter while punishing those who are left to sleep outside for trying to survive — fails miserably when it comes to meeting the need that exists. The Mayor's dismissal of the tent city as a "political statement" is itself a politically calculated evasion.
Tim Ceis came by the camp tonight to say that clearances would begin between six and seven am in the morning. Someone else will have to be there for me. I'll be taking my kids to school.