Seattle’s latest attempt to tax its way out of its severe homeless problem failed when Amazon and Starbucks pushed back against the city’s “head tax.”  We’ve chronicled other efforts Seattle has made to generate revenue.

Whatever they are doing to address the city’s homeless problem is not working as evidenced by the scathing letter sent by the convention planning team for the 2019 American Pharmacists Association convention.

They have apparently already booked their convention but their advance planning team felt so unsafe just walking out of the hotel that they are requesting security.

KIRO7 reports:

KIRO-7 obtained a scathing letter sent to Seattle convention leaders saying the organizers of a large national convention felt unsafe during a recent visit, because of aggressive behavior and drug use from people they encountered on downtown streets.

The letter asked the leaders of Visit Seattle for extra security for their convention, after they said 14 members of their advanced planning team were accosted by people on the streets, saw open drug use, and witnessed people urinating and even defecating near the convention center or the team’s hotel, during a planning visit in April.

The letter stated, “Seattle has been among our top picks as a convention destination, and unfortunately, due to our city experiences, we may need to remove Seattle from future consideration.”

American Pharmacists Association had booked a convention to bring 6,300 pharmacists and their families from around the country to the Washington State Convention Center in March of 2019. The organization told Visit Seattle their convention could bring $8.5 million into the local economy next year.

The letter does not paint a pretty picture.  At all.  The convention planning team were witness to homeless people defecating and urinating on the street, drug users openly getting high and passed out, and homeless people accosting the visitors demanding cash.

KIRO7 continues:

The letter began by saying, “Based on my recent visit, I believe that the problem has gotten out of control.”

The letter described what convention planners saw between their hotel and the Convention Center:
“Two men urinating on the street.
“One man who defecated on himself.
“We witnessed three young addicts sitting outside of a major establishment smoking from a pipe, and one was passed out.
“One man aggressively pursued a member of my team down the street, demanding cash.
“We lost count of the number of people walking around talking to themselves.
“The smell of urine and marijuana near the WSCC and along the routes of our hotels to the center.”

Seattle’s tourism industry is huge, including it being a prime destination for conventions.  However, David Blandford with Visit Seattle is concerned that public safety issues will soon change all that.

KIRO7 continues:

“We want convention attendees to feel safe and welcome in Seattle,” said David Blandford with Visit Seattle, who said currently the convention and tourism business in Seattle is thriving, pumping billions into the local economy.

“Business is great for sure,” Blandford said. “But business may not always be great, because the time frame we’re working on is not just 2018. We’re working as far out as 15 to 20 years in advance.

“We’re concerned that if the (public safety) problems were to become worse, more prolific, that could affect our business. Conventions could either cancel or threaten not to come back again.”

Seattle recently experienced an economic boom, and with it, rents increased while lower-paying job wages remained stagnant.

The Weekly Standard reported in April:

The inexorable rise in Seattle’s homeless population has coincided, seemingly paradoxically, with an extraordinary economic boom in this city.

. . . .  With great prosperity have come great rent increases, however. As of February, the average monthly tab for a one-bedroom apartment within a 10-mile radius of central Seattle is above $2,100, according to Rent Jungle, which monitors real estate trends. The growth rate in rents has been among the nation’s highest for years.

A fascinating study commissioned by Zillow Research adds further ballast to what might seem at first like simpleminded Marxian analysis: higher rents, more homelessness. “The relationship between rising rents and increased homelessness is particularly strong in four metros currently experiencing a crisis in homelessness—Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle,” authors Chris Glynn and Melissa Allison found.

. . . . Elizabeth Bowen, a professor at the University of Buffalo School of Social Work and a leading authority on homelessness, agrees with Zillow’s analysis and adds a second component: It’s not just rising rents; it’s also the question of wage growth. Bowen tells me that in cities like Seattle, “housing costs are far outpacing wage [rises].” Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, concurs. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets,” he said in a press release last year.

The article also discusses the role of Social Security for disabled people, drug use, and a range of other factors that contribute to Seattle’s homeless problem.

Well-meaning politicians and officials have tried to help by creating legal homeless encampments and passing out free syringes, and the like.  (In Denver, the city council decriminalized public defecation and urination.)  However, as noted by the Weekly Standard, Seattle “shows what happens when social support organizations and local governments decide not to try to end homelessness, but rather attempt sympathetically to ‘contain’ it.”

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