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.


Michaelann Bewsee said...

Hey, claim that "political statement" crap because that's what might give Nickelsville First Amendment rights. But I'm sure you all know that.

Western Mass hasn't had an organized tent city since 2004, but I'll bet nearly as many people are sleeping out as are sheltered.

Every winter heightens the gloom and the urgency but I can't even fully get my mind around what this winter will bring.

Congratulations to Seattle's homeless for taking action when the city won't.

Sally said...

Lacitis' article in today's Seattle Times indicates that most people seemed to be from out of town. I don't know how he came to that conclusion. I watched him while I was there and he didn't seem to be talking to many people -- just walked around making notes with a rather disgusted look on his face. Perhaps he checked with the "consultants" from his previous article. They of course know a lot more about everything than the actual people who were there because they were homeless.

Bill said...

after the Women in Black stood on Wednesday (10/1), Tim Ceis came down from on high to talk to the group. On the periphery were the Mayor's communication lackies. I stood next to highly-paid and nearly inconsequential former TV talk show host Robert Mak, who was holding the Seattle promo material. I put my biz card on top of the stack he was holding and asked if he recalled interviewing me on his TV show. He smiles, said, "yes." I said, "here's a piece of advice. We all know what Seattle does. Stop handing that garbage out. You used to listen to guests on your show. That's what this is all about today. Not promo sheets defending what we all know. It's about listening. Tell the Mayor that, because it's something he hasn't figured out."

Pastor Rick said...

I was told that N'ville wasn't asking the city for anything but the use of the property. No cash, just a place and to be left alone. Anyone know if that's true?