Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Stranger: My Dad With A Nose Ring?


Today The Stranger ran their article on the filing of Initiative 100, Jailbreak: Activists fight jail, but do they stand a chance? As you might tell from the headline, it was a little disappointing. Reporter Jonah Spangenthal-Lee did some of the earliest and most critical reporting on Seattle's proposed new jail, so I had high hopes for something decent. Instead, his article focused on the siting controversy, and gave a mere paragraph to the issues of race and class disparity the initiative addresses.

Even more disappointing was the Strangeresque note of dismissive superiority on which the article ended:
The fate of I-100 remains to be seen. In 2002, Harris pushed an initiative to increase funding for homeless shelters to $400 million a year; that initiative was ultimately shelved when the group cut a deal with the city to increase shelter funding. So far, Harris says, organizers have collected "several hundred signatures." That's a long way from the 25,000 they'll need if they want to make a vote on the jail a reality.
In the first place, he's sloppy wrong. $400 million is ten times the current annual city spending for homelessness and housing combined. Don't they have editors there? The initiative goal was to add 400 shelter beds. We gained the required signatures and qualified for the ballot on a budget of around $15,000. The deal with the city council added 200 shelter beds and ensured that the Seattle Housing Levy would focus on those at below 30% of median income. And this at a time when the bottom had fallen out of the General Fund and human services were very much on the defensive. We cut a deal from a position of power and poor people won. A little fucking respect, please.

Moreover, the fact that only "a few hundred signatures" have been collected mere days after the City Clerk's approval of a ballot title is hardly evidence of impending failure. More than 300 fired up people attended last week's panel discussion on this issue, and our campaign launch event is still more than two weeks away, on Thursday, February 19th, 7:30-9 am at Town Hall. Had Spangenthal-Lee wanted to be helpful, he might have mentioned this. If this is what progressive activists can expect from the boys at Seattle's premiere alt-newspaper, it's a damn good thing Real Change's circulation keeps growing.

Their photographer Kelly, on the other hand, totally rocked. When I whipped out my three-foot industrial bakers whisk, she was way into it, but took the straight shot just before leaving in case the art director wasn't so fun-loving. The whisk got vetoed, but at least one of them made the website.

The Stranger
, and I say this as a friend, ought to loosen up, have more fun, check their facts, and get behind something that matters. They're starting to remind me of my dad.

19 comments:

Trevor said...

There's more than one factual error in the description of I-71. Not only did it demand that the city fund 400 shelter beds (not $400 million). But we ran that initiative in 2001, not 2002! It "was shelved", if that's the right term, after we gained ballot access-- 28000 signatures, 19k of which were validated-- with an intensive, 2 month campaign on a shoestring budget.

Jonah was wrong to invoke that campaign as if it signaled a mixed record. The I-100 campaign has begun with more time to gather signatures, more campaign experience, a larger RC staff, and a much larger show of force than anything I-71 had.

The fact that he didn't mention the massive show of interest in I-100 and show of support on display at Seattle U isn't surprising. In all likelihood, the Stranger didn't even send an intern to cover that meeting. The fact that they didn't even mention it, though, is poor reporting. And they failed to even note the upcoming campaign kickoff for the initiative!

Hopefully at some point they can see that this is not a simple NIMBY issue.

Trevor said...

As an aside, a few years ago when I was a freelancer I pitched a story to the Seattle Weekly about King County's use of a jail in Yakima to save money, and how rural counties in Washington were profiting from the War on Drugs in cities through the growth of the prison industry. When the Weekly rejected the story outright, I pitched the Stranger. They didn't want it as a feature, as I had imagined, but as a news piece. And they said I'd have to reframe the issue around Jim Compton (then chair of the City Council's committee on policing). I chose to not write the story at all, since I was more interested in writing about people than policy, and the discussion of race and class would be buried with that approach.

Gurldoggie said...

Tim,
Do you have any good photos of the forum? Anything you'd care to share? We're running a more fiery article in Housing Washington and no one from our crew remembered to take pics. Thanks.

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