O’Brien also asked whether the 2100 people living outside in tents (another 900 live in vehicles) will all have places to be — whether the city has done the math to ensure that after prohibiting camping in parks, sidewalks and school property, they have confirmed that there will be enough space.CM O'Brien on park lands:
For the problematic ones, such as one on a playfield, he said that the city needed to move quickly to remove them, but for the rest there would still be robust notice, outreach, and storage of belongings.
O’Brien gave a little speech about his perspective on park lands. He has heard Burgess and others assert that park lands are held in the public trust for an intended purpose and they should stay true to that purpose. But O’Brien challenged that notion, since the city has no land held in public trust to help the homeless. He believes that homeless people have both a human right and a constitutional right to sleep somewhere, and for him that is in direct conflict with holding lands in public trust for restricted purposes.On the two bills (O'Brien's and Bagshaw's):
The heart of the matter is really the philosophical difference in approach between the two bills: O’Brien’s version attempts to ensure that there is enough space for 3000 unsheltered people to be somewhere they aren’t harassed, and Bagshaw’s is much more aggressive about quickly establishing other sanctioned locations as a justification for much tighter restrictions on where unsanctioned encampments are tolerated. That contrast was never addressed. We know that Sawant supports O’Brien’s version, and Burgess supports Bagshaw’s. But there was no opportunity for any of the other Council members to meaningfully wade into that discussion, let alone inform the public as to where they stand.On why we need parks and how that runs into the issue of homeless people:
Council member O’Brien keeps asking a key question that no one is willing to answer: how much space do we need for 2100 homeless people living unsheltered in our city? No one wants them camping outside, but that is our city’s reality today and it will not change overnight. Putting restrictions on the places where they can camp doesn’t reduce the number of people sleeping outside. And if the restrictions are so tight that the remaining space isn’t enough for 2100 people, then all we’ve done is guarantee that people will be in problematic places. Someone in city government needs to sit down, draw the maps, and do the math.
There is a flip side to O’Brien’s argument: in a sense, this debate has become a referendum on what our parks are for. One public commenter this morning contended that the parks are important for everyone’s sanity when 650,000 people live together in an urban environment.In my mind, I just question people living outside when at least half the year, it's damp. Are there no empty warehouses the City could lease? No space at Magnuson? I'd like to think this has been considered and discussed but I haven't seen that discussion published.
Many others made similar points, pointing to other aspects of how the parks fit into our urban life. There are preschools sited in city parks; there are community centers. There is plenty of wildlife that needs to be protected and conserved. All of these are genuine concerns; city parks fulfill an important and multi-faceted role in our urban environment. Still, none of that is an answer to O’Brien’s fundamental question: where do we find space for the 2100 people who are living unsheltered in our city tonight?
I do think it important to send in more e-mails to the City Council and the Mayor, no matter where you stand.
Mayor Edward Murray email@example.com
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Tim Burgess email@example.com
Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Bruce Harrell email@example.com
Councilmember Lisa Herbold firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Rob Johnson email@example.com
Councilmember Debora Juarez firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Mike O’Brien email@example.com
Councilmember Kshama Sawant firstname.lastname@example.org