Some Seattle residents say they are appalled by Sawant's behavior
SEATTLE -- The debate remains contentious over the city's proposal to tax the biggest companies in Seattle and use the money to help ease the homeless crisis.
Under the proposal, about 600 companies would be taxed $500 per employee, raising $75 million a year.
That money would go to build nearly 1,800 units of affordable housing units over five years to fight homelessness.
At the same time, residents of the Seattle's Green Lake neighborhood became angry over what they said was the city's lax attitude about an unsanctioned homeless camp that they said was a site for drug use, criminals and filthy conditions. Some of them showed up at a recent City Council town hall in the Ballard neighborhood to voice their displeasure.
In an interview with Q13 News on Monday, City Council member Kshama Sawant -- a strong supporter of the employee tax proposal -- said of the Ballard town hall: “I think the media is paying too much attention to the few, very, very loud right-wing NIMBYists (acronym for Not In My Back Yard) who showed up."
Sawant claimed people were throwing around homeless slurs, although Q13 News didn't hear any at the Ballard town hall.
On Tuesday, we sat down with the same people who were critical of the city's perceived lack of action on the homeless camp, which has since been moved.
“I’m a yellow dog Democrat -- I vote Democrat all the way,” Betsy Peto said.
Out of the six people gathered, four went to the town hall -- but all are concerned about the 400 unsanctioned homeless encampments in the city.
“If you don’t agree with these people, you are stupid, you are uneducated,” Seattle resident Jan O’Leary said, alluding to City Council members.
“I am pretty blown away that an adult would behave this way, I find it appalling,” Ari Hoffman said of Sawant.
It's also appalling for Marianne Sato.
“I consider myself a lunatic lefty liberal and, yes, it did offend me,” Sato said of the NIMBYist comment.
But the Seattle residents don’t want to fixate on the name-calling; they just want solutions to a crisis hundreds of millions of dollars have yet to fix.
“Quite frankly, an inept City Council who don’t seem to represent those of us working hard, I’m calling them out on blowing hundreds of millions of dollars,” Seattle resident Erika Nagy said.
“I would like to know where the $65 million that we are currently spending is going. Where is the data ,where have you spent it?" Amber Matthai said.
Matthai works as a data analyst and she says she's tried to crunch the city's spending with no accountability.
“The current policies are harming the people they are claiming to help and harming the neighborhood,” Matthai said.
Matthai knows a lot about homelessness; she says her father lived on the streets and was mentally ill and addicted to drugs.
“I watched your interview with Sawant and she skirted around the issue when you called it out -- she didn’t refer to it as a drug problem,” Matthai said.
They say leaving campers in tents is not compassion. They want more shelters and treatment for mental illness and drugs.
“No one is discussing the crimes that are going on; it’s not part of this proposal. They are not discussing handling the mental illness,” Hoffman said.
Referring to the proposed employee tax, Hoffman, who is a business owner, said, “They are going to drive away more jobs. How many more people are going to be unemployed?"
“I think they are lacking in common sense,” Peto added.
That’s coming from a woman who says she’s voted for every new tax before.
“I’ve been proud to vote for the tax -- not voting for taxes anymore,” Peto said.
Peto said she also voted for Mike O’Brien, the same council member who got an earful from constituents at the Ballard town hall. She’s lost faith in O’Brien and the city.
“What’s going on in Seattle makes no sense to me; things are broken,” Peto said.
Peto said she lived 20 feet from the unauthorized homeless camp in Green Lake for about two months. She says many of the campers were committing crimes, doing drugs, stealing from their homes and defecating on their yards.
Despite repeated complaints to the city, neighbors say they were ignored.
Most of the six do not live in Sawant's district.
But this is not a district problem, it's a citywide and regional issue that's bringing together frustrated citizens from all different backgrounds.
Out of the six at the gathering, we had three retirees, a single mom of two, a data analyst and a business owner.
All of them say until they know exactly how the employee tax money will be used, they won’t support it.
The proposed tax would only be levied on big businesses -- not individuals. And the proposal will come up for a vote by the City Council and not be put before voters.
The City Council may vote on the tax proposal as soon as Monday.