March 19, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 12

Director's Corner

Everyone is just carrying out someone else’s orders

By Timothy Harris / Executive Director

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It’s a little crazy making. We’ve had four decades of rising inequality, and the results are clear to see. In King County this year alone, the one-night unsheltered count grew by 14 percent. The Snohomish County unsheltered number rose by 12 percent.

And yet, we are rarely able to say why. It’s as if all this misery was some sort of meteorological phenomenon. It’s like we’ve suffered a long-running drought, and all we can think to do is hope for rain, pour whatever water we find on the ground and celebrate when something occasionally grows.

We have built the world’s most sophisticated bucket brigade. We congratulate ourselves on the number of people involved. We carefully measure the gallons of water delivered and prioritize the thirstiest and recently dehydrated.

We scratch our heads, look at the sky and never ask why some of us have more water than we could use in a hundred lifetimes. That, for some reason, seems impolite.

There’s a scene in John Ford’s 1940 film “The Grapes of Wrath” where the tenant farming system has collapsed and a family is evicted from the land to wander the unforgiving earth.

Who’s to blame? Muley asks. It’s not the land company, he’s told.  It’s not the bank. Everyone is just carrying out someone else’s orders.

Muley asks, “Well then, who do we shoot?”

John Steinbeck has Muley say, “Got a fellah crazy. There wasn’t nobody you could lay for. Lot of the folks just got tired out lookin’ for sumepin’ to be mad at, but not me.  I’m mad at all of it.”

When Port Orchard Republican Sen. Jan Angel gaveled the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee to a sudden close without hearing a bill to extend the fee that provides more than 62 percent of state funding for Washington’s homeless programs, the Seattle Times called her action a “blunder.”

A blunder is a serious mistake caused by ignorance or confusion. As in, “Oops, forgot to fund homeless services!” This was not that.

Angel is a former realtor, carrying water for her industry and for Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat, who reportedly asked her to table the legislation.

This would be the same Rodney Tom that was censured last year by his own party for “gross disloyalty” and “perfidious behavior” when he defected to the Republican side during budget negotiations.

After several 11th-hour attempts to rescue homeless funding failed along party lines, a compromise was reached that redirects 45 percent of funds directly to landlords in the form of housing vouchers (see story on page 4). 

In a year when the numbers of homeless students in the Washington state school system have increased to more than 30,000 — a 47 percent increase since 2008 — Republicans in the statehouse have delivered a juicy legislative earmark to a special interest at the expense of homeless programs across the state.

There is no drought for Angel’s friends in the real estate industry. According to, the average list price for Seattle housing rose 22 percent in the past three months. 

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that this document recording fee has been extended another four years, and the damage done this year can perhaps be reversed. 

During those final hours in Olympia, when push came to shove, I’d have made the same deal.

But at the same time, I’m with Muley. I’m mad at all of it. 

I’m thinking we’re right to be angry, that someone, somewhere, has responsibility, and that they’ve shown their faces here for all to see.



Your a communist too?

larry matteoni | submitted on 03/22/2014, 8:14am

Stupid question! You work in the media.

larry matteoni | submitted on 03/22/2014, 8:49am

here's a thought, give your job to a homeless person for a few years.

larry matteoni | submitted on 03/22/2014, 8:52am

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