Monthly Archives: June 2010

Art House Beat: Reviews of “The Killer Inside Me” and “Punishment “Park”

The Killer Inside Me (Varsity, July 2-8)

Jim Thompson never had much luck in the movies.  The couple of pictures he wrote for Kubrick in the fifties got him nothing but six episodes of television over   six years.  Seven years later, Sam Peckinpah made a popular movie out of a   screenplay  that gutted  his  novel, “The Getaway.”  Nine years later, the  French turned “Pop. 1280” into “Coup de Torchon,” and it wasn’t half bad, in part because they cast an ugly guy in the lead. Nine years after that, “After Dark My Sweet” was turned into neon rubbish by  noir wannabe James Foley, who cast pretty boy Jason Patric in  role that was more suited to Rondo Hatton. The next year, another neon noir was culled from  “The Grifters.”   Finally, Michael Winterbottom has come along to make things right.

The first obvious difference between Winterbottom’s Lou Ford, played by Casey Afflect, and   Stacy Keach’s  homicidal lawman  in Burt Kennedy’s  1976 version. is that Keach dispatched his female victims with a single punch, whereas Winterbottom shows us that it takes quite a few brutal jabs to break a persons face, and more than that to kill somebody.  The murders in this new version are almost impossible to watch, as Winterbottom carries on with something Hitchcock started in “Torn Curtain,” to show how difficult, and how ugly,  is the act of bare-fisted murder.

If Casey Afflect  is a pretty boy,  he is a psychotic  pretty boy  in the  Vic Morrow tradition, which makes him just about perfect for “The Killer Inside Me.”   Winterbottom has found a playable modern context for this once-renegade figure of American sleaze literature.  He is no longer the unthinkable spectre of death, but an incarnation of the contemporary American dream, the man who feels no moral discomfort at murder as a means of self-improvement, the dispassionate American to whom a phrase like “collateral damage”  have no more meaning than   “downsizing,” “outsourcing,” or  “early retirement.” 

While the art direction owes something to the covers of Thompson’s pulp novels of the  1950’s, the moral atmosphere  is contemporary,   In the 1950’s,  Americans still reacted with horror at the idea of murder. Books such as “The Killer Inside Me” were more a psychic  eruption of   guilt complexes accrued during the second world war than literal tales of things that were possible within the scope of practical human experience. In the 60’s. Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”  chilled the bones of the American reader, who could barely accept that   human beings  could commit such acts. Now, however, we live in an age where   life has been devalued, where murder is a daily occurrence, and not just the acts of psychotic animals or master criminals, but of ordinary people, school kids even. For Thomspon, Lou Ford was a case, his compulsion to murder a sickness.  Winterbottom sees him as the manifestation of a more general type, a step down the ladder of humanity to a more primitive sensibility, one which has become increasingly common in today’s world.   As we watch this adaptation of a book written sixty years ago, it becomes chillingly apparent that “The Killer Inside Me” has become the killer inside us.

Thompson   wrote furiously, his writing as erratic as the moods of an alcoholic.  Some days he was a genius,  others just a hung-over slob.  His novels are characterized by wild highs and lows, events that won’t fit conveniently into  neatly conceived plots, passages  of literary fire  followed by indifferent greys.   Winterbottom makes no attempt to even things out.  That would be like shooting lithium into Thompson’s prose. If something doesn’t make sense, then it doesn’t make sense.  The ending Burt Kennedy gave his version of “The Killer Inside Me” resembled that of any conventional ABC movie of the week.   Winterbottom’s climax is closer to Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.” It is comprehensible only when seen from inside the inferno from which it springs.


Punishment Park (NWFF, July 2-8)

In 1999, Koushum Takami wrote “Battle Royale,” a novel in which a random class of high school kids are  selected to exterminate each other in a government-sponsored game to  control the growing youth problem.  Kinji Fukasaku turned it into a popular movie a year later, and a sequel finished by his son was completed in 2004. I don’t know if there was any particular event in Japanese history that provoked Takami to write the book, or even if there exists the sort of government hatred of  kids that plagued the US in the 1960’s.  Two major historical events inspired “Punishment Park,” a film directed by Peter Watkins nearly thirty years before “Battle Royale,” the trial of the Chicago Seven and the murder of four Kent State students by members of the national guard. In Watkins’ fictional documentary,  (I can’t bring myself to use the current tern ‘mockumentary’ as it implies a levity toward the subject) several young people are convicted of sedition and given a choice of serving prison sentences or spending a few days in “Punishment Park,” where they must outrun armed police fifty miles through the desert to win their pardons.  Needless to say, they don’t have a nickel’s chance of surviving the game. 

There are two primary strands running through  the picture, the trial and the punishment, and Watkins cuts between them from start to finish, without much sense of dynamics.  If the design is somewhat tedious,   the content  of the film is riveting. Most of the non-actors are free to either vent their political views or play a  character with the opposing perspective.  The performers are more vital than  those in more conventional pictures of this period that deal with youthful dissent.    The directness, the honesty, and the passion of the participants make “Punishment Park” a peerless document of the  war against kids that was waged by the Nixon administration during the Vietnam  war.  Where “Battle Royale” postulated a futuristic dystopia in an imaginary Japan, “Watkins’ film reminds us of a dystopian era in our own recent history. As so much of that history has been reduced to Ray Manzarek’s tales of taking acid in the desert with Jim Morrison, half a million people on a nude mudslide in Woodstock, and the noxious lie that the  idealistic efforts for an alternative society within Nixon’s military-industrial complex had failed (when in fact such efforts laid the groundwork for  much of what is good in today’s America), “Punishment Park” provides a blunt   reminder of how grievous can be the obstacles  to  social transformation.

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Looking from Seattle when your homeland is on fire

 (This story was first published in Crosscut on June 24 and is used with permission.)

Seattle’s Thai-American community looked with sadness at the turmoil, the damage to their country, and the news coverage. Says a retired Seattle librarian, “Everyone is glad it’s over, but at the same time we know it’s not over.”


When news of the political unrest in Thailand hit the national airwaves this spring, the Seattle-Puget Sound Thai-American community reacted with dismay. Watching daily reports of rioting and arson attacks in Bangkok was especially difficult for Su Vathanaprida, a retired Seattle librarian.

“My reaction to the turmoil was sadness,” she said. “Thailand is a democratic country. People have a right to demonstrate peacefully, but they do not have the right to block businesses from operating or ordinary people who want to go on with their daily lives.”

Vathanaprida added, “Those who committed these acts should be punished. Everyone is glad it’s over, but at the same time we know that it’s not over yet.”

When Thai troops fired tear gas and bullets at protesters, turning downtown Bangkok into a battlefield, Thai-Americans in the region reacted viscerally to images of government troops and grenade-wielding militants. The scenes of armored vehicles, arson attacks, and televised images of violent confrontations between Thai military and Red Shirt protesters sent shockwaves throughout the Thai-American community.

“We were all surprised by the extent of the violence,” said Gaviphat Lekutai, an AT&T engineer. “We were even more surprised that Thaksin Shinawatra (the former Prime Minister) would do anything to put himself before the country and destroy it, the king’s reputation, and people.“

With tensions escalating each day, many local Thais stared in disbelief as pictures of burning buildings, mounting casualties and brazen-faced demonstrators reached a flash point. For many in the Thai community, the ensuing violence could be attributed to Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless coup four years ago.

Peter Tangpiankij, president of the Thai Association, was particularly critical of the demonstrators. “The Red Shirt protesters’ ultimate goal is to return Thaksin the power to reclaim their share of vested interests that they so enjoyed during his regime,” he said. ““Personally, there were times I hoped that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would send in uniformed officers to disperse and crack down the Red Shirt agitators.”

For the most part, the 82-year-old Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, steered clear of any personal involvement in the unfolding crisis. Sympathy for the aging, and widely revered monarch, was an ever-present concern for the Thai-American community, many of whom expressed revulsion at the crisis that the pro-Thaksin demonstrators had fomented.

“I feel sad for the king because he’s devoted his life to helping the poor,” said Vhantip Bhokayasupatt, a Seattle businesswoman. “The people who caused this are corrupt and greedy, and want power.”

Other Thai-Americans in Seattle and around the state echoed her sentiments. Patriya Tansuhaj, a Washington State University professor of marketing who was in Chiang Mai with a group of 20 study abroad WSU students when the crisis erupted, had a first-hand perspective on the political tensions.

“As a Thai-American, I felt the turmoil became lengthened and escalated because of heavy funding by Thaksin Sinawatra,” she said. “We were not surprised because we have seen how much violence he (Thaksin) used to win his power back. We were surprised at how long it took the government to finally end it.

But then, it’s a Buddhist country, so using force to harm people should be the last option.”

The violence in Bangkok evoked similarly strong reactions elsewhere in the United States, although there were divisions. “The Thai community in the Houston area where we live is sharply divided into two camps, the pro-Red Shirt, Thaksin supporters, and the pro-government Yellow Shirts,” said David Rubin, a former Corps volunteer in Thailand.

“Many Thais living in the United States are from the north and northeast regions of Thailand and remain fervent supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin and the Red Shirts,” Rubin said. “The Yellow Shirt community is strong in the U.S., however, because many of their Thais are from the Bangkok area, or are in the type of upwardly mobile Thai professions who are supportive of the current government.”

Darryl Johnson, former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, is currently on the faculty at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. “I think Thais in our area were deeply saddened and surprised by the violence, and were strongly opposed to Thaksin,” Johnson said. “I think it’s fair to say that they do not expect any real rapprochement between the Abhisit (Vejjajiva) government and Thaksin.”

Many Thai-Americans in the Seattle area are especially concerned about the damage the political crisis has caused to Thailand’s international image, which has suffered enormously. The country’s economy and multi-billion-dollar tourism industry have taken a major hit.

An additional source of frustration was the reporting of the violence in Bangkok by the Western media. For the most part, local Thais said that media coverage of the events in Bangkok was accurate, but were disdainful of stories by CNN reporters, which the Thai community viewed as overly sympathetic to the Red Shirts.

Bhokayasupatt was particularly distraught: “CNN only interviewed the Red Shirts, and not the soldiers. They spread these images around the world and only created more misunderstanding about Thai people and Thailand.”

WSU’s Tansuhaj concurs. “We felt that the international media sensationalized the situation too much, especially CNN, which received many complaints by educated Thais, their regular viewers,” Tansuhaj said. “Many boycotted CNN because of its very biased and inaccurate reporting, especially by its chief Bangkok correspondent, Dan Rivers.”

Most overseas Thais have not publicly criticized the British-educated prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, whom they believe handled the crisis adroitly. “Most Thais in our community were sympathetic to Abhisit and supported his restraint, but were sharply critical of the Red Shirts,” said Ambassador Johnson.

Tangpiankij said, “Abhisit has tried to deal with the situation with openness, immense patience, and compassion. He has exercised restraint to the utmost beyond the international norm of practice.”

What the future holds for Thailand, however, remains uncertain. “The chasm dividing the country is quite wide,” said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. “The chasm will continue and likely widen. The best hope is that the conflict moves off the streets and stays in the courts and parliament.”

Thais in the local Seattle community are similarly nervous about the prospects for a rapprochement between the government and pro-Thaksin supporters. The fault lines in Thailand’s political landscape remain unsettled.

Yet some, like Su Vathanaprida, are hopeful. “In order to reach out to the pro-Thaksin supporters, the government must try to understand their concerns and beliefs. Many are legitimate, like the gaps in jobs and prosperity between city and rural areas. All these can only be achieved if Thaksin and his supporters are really concerned about the future of the country,” she said.

“I sometimes wish that Thaksin could be like Bill Gates — a philanthropist, donating his money to the needy.”

Collin Tong, Seattle PostGlobe news curator and contributor, is a Seattle freelance journalist and former Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.


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Governor in D.C. to pitch Congress for more funds

Governor Gregoire is holding a press conference with several other governors today in Washington D.C. to ask Congress to provide states with additional Medicaid funds (FMAP).

Along with about 30 other states, Washington assumed an additional $480 million in FMAP funds to help balance the budget this year. This is more than the $253 million ending fund balance meaning if the funds aren’t approved the state’s ending fund balance would be negative by more than $200 million.

For the third time last week the U.S. Senate rejected a bill with the FMAP funds. Last month the House removed the FMAP funds from the bill sent to the Senate. 

On the eve of the Governor’s D.C. visit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared to raise a white flag on efforts to approve the FMAP funds for states. Last night he authored a new version of the bill with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus that does not include the FMAP funds

This means that if the new bill moves, the FMAP funds will need to be included in a different or standalone bill. One possibility is a bill introduced by Senator Scott Brown. According to Brown’s press release last night

“While my bill pays for additional FMAP assistance for one more year, this phase-down provides states an opportunity to get their fiscal houses in order – but also makes it clear that they can no longer pass the buck to the federal government, which has budgetary problems of its own.”

This morning Governor Gregoire held a conference call with reporters to discuss her effort. Gregoire said she plans to tell Congress that although the state has every expectation that there will not be enhanced federal dollars in the next biennium, the state needs them for the current budget.

If Congress doesn’t act by its August recess, Gregoire says she will either call a special session or issue across the board cuts to balance the budget. She hasn’t decided which option to use yet. To replace the entire $480 million in assumed FMAP funds would require across the board cuts of approximately 7.5%. To simply bring the state’s balance sheet to zero would be cuts of around 4% but this would leave no reserves.

While a special session would provide more flexibility, the Governor says she has no desire to bring lawmakers back to Olympia for another 30 day special session. This option would only be used if lawmakers pledge to get in and out of Olympia within 24 hours.

With even Reid now sponsoring language without the FMAP funds, it would be prudent for states to proceed as if the additional FMAP funds aren’t coming at all.

The longer they wait to face the inevitable the deeper the necessary cuts will have to be.

Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. He serves on the Executive Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News. Mercier also serves on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and was an adviser to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee.

Graffiti study finds surprises: Guess what proportion of Seattle tags are from gangs?

Following a three-month survey on graffiti in Seattle, the city auditor’s office has offered up nine recommendations—and some pretty interesting stats—about dealing with paint and sticker-based vandalism in Seattle.

At the request of councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess—who’s a big fan of Broken Window Theory—the auditor’s office surveyed 900 Seattle residents, businesses and organizations about their feelings on graffiti, and conducted a one-day survey of graffiti in four busy spots.

According to the not-year-released survey, obtained by (because that’s how we roll), the auditor’s office found “556 instances of graffiti” in a one-day count, only five of which were apparent gang tags. The Auditor’s office also claims they “did not find any instances of what could be called artistic tagging (“street art”),” but I find that hard to believe. (more)


more at

Paying it forward:!3{2}New Bookstore Offers Free Books to Community

Kent, WA – June 28, 2010 –  There’s a new bookstore in town, hoping to win busy hearts back to books and independent bookstores.


In a radical shift back to basics, online bookseller, Once Sold Tales, is opening its’ doors to the public and rewarding readers with free books.   


During grand opening week, July 5 – 10, from 10am to 9pm, Once Sold Tales is encouraging the community to come and browse over 55,000 books for their free book – any book.  A permanent “free book offer” is extended to children aged 12 and under who visit the store.


Once Sold Tales is no stranger to giving back to the community.  For over 6 years, the independently-owned online bookseller has been partnering with more than 150 public libraries, Friends of the Library groups, non-profit organizations and even other booksellers throughout Washington and Oregon to sell their surplus and ex-library books online.  These books, otherwise slated for recycling, now have a second opportunity to benefit local communities and readers, while generating much needed funds for libraries and non-profits.


“The online book market is detached from “community” and seldom is the emerging reader or overworked individual or family struggling to make ends meet factored into the equation,” says co-owner, Carrie Jenott.  “What we need is something affordable, abundant and local.”


“Libraries have been on the forefront with accessible books and programming, but they need help.  Our new bookstore outlet will get more and a wider variety books into our communities and encourage readership by making them available to everyone at an affordable price, and subsequent sales will also benefit our library & charity partners.  Everybody wins.”


Books at Once Sold Tales’ outlet store will be priced at just $1 per pound – wholesale rates that favor higher quantities of lightweight children’s books.  The average weight of a book is approximately 1 lb.  Kiosks in the store provide access to the rest of their 400,000 titles in their online inventory  – available for take out. The bookstore outlet is located at 22442 72

nd Ave. S. in Kent – a front office attached to one of Once Sold Tales’ warehouses.


Books re-entering society through Once Sold Tales may eventually find themselves “loaned” out to friends, offered up for free on park benches, traded or sold to other bookstores, or donated to Friends of the Library groups.  And every time they change hands, they touch a life and help raise up new generations of readers. 


“Bookstores and readers – we need each other, sure,” says Jenott.  “Isn’t that what “community” is all about?”




About Once Sold Tales:


Once Sold Tales is an online used bookstore with it’s own online storefront at and is a 3

rd party seller with other major online book retailers.  Once Sold Tales partners with public and private libraries, colleges, universities and other educational institutions, Friends of the Library groups, other booksellers, charities and non-profits to create fundraising streams through online sales of ex-library, donated and surplus books and media.  Once Sold Tales has an expanded service area from Aberdeen to Spokane, and from Blaine to Salem, OR.  With almost 400,000 titles and 4 warehouses in Kent and Auburn, WA, Once Sold Tales is one of the largest used booksellers in the Pacific Northwest.  Once Sold Tales has also given away tens of thousands of books to encourage literacy.


Recent developments include consignment programs for individuals, recycling / repurposing services for schools, unique point-of-sale websites for partner organizations, and now a walk-in bookstore outlet.


Owners:  Eric & Carrie Jenott


Founded:  2004


Headquarters:  Kent, WA


Locations:  Kent, WA & Auburn, WA


Employees:  25


Major Products/Services:  Used and new books and media, consignment online sales services, book and media recycling and repurposing, web marketing, online book marketplace analysis, e-commerce software development.




Carrie Jenott

Director of Development

Once Sold Tales

22442 72

nd Ave. S.                          

Kent, WA 98032                              

Phone: 206-280-6312                     

Bookstore Phone:  253-833-1911



Seattle Times story by Danny Westneat: Bookstore embraces, bucks web

Community health centers offer hope for better funding of Indian health

This past weekend the Coeur d’Alene Tribe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Benewah Medical Center in Plummer, Idaho. “In 1987,” the BMC Web site reports, “the Coeur d’Alene Tribe began to search for ways to improve the health care services at their small Indian Health Service satellite clinic. It was located at the Tribal Headquarters, several miles from the City of Plummer, Idaho. Many tribal members were dissatisfied with 15 years of fragmented care delivered in a semi-condemned building and with poor continuity of care.”

Indeed, the complaints about the IHS facility and its operation were similar to those heard across Indian Country.

And, like many tribes, the Coeur d’Alene proceeded to create its own health care network. But this was a broader vision, one that went beyond just replacing and recreating IHS; there was also a sense of something new.

Prevention was made a priority and a wellness center complimented patient care. There also was recognition of the gap in rural health care services. As Benewah Medical Center describes it: “None of the ambulatory care facilities in the four surrounding counties of the Northern Idaho town were providing services to the medically underserved on a sliding fee basis.”

So a tribal community health center was created – launching two decades of innovation.

Fast forward to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new health care reform law. Between now and 2015 the law significantly expands resources – funding – for community health centers (described in the law as Community Health Clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs in federal jargon, and Rural Health Clinics. There are technical differences in these definitions. Basically the details relate to how various medical services are paid for by the federal government.

But my view is that tribally managed health networks now have a significant financial advantage over IHS-run facilities. There are more pots of money to tap, ranging from the IHS contract under the Self-Determination Act to money from the Health Resources and Services Administration, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Funding for community health centers started growing under President George W. Bush who doubled the spending in 2008 to $2.8 billion. Since then President Barack Obama has added money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for community health centers as well as an additional $12.5 billion for expansion of these efforts over the next five years as part of health care reform.

“With an eye toward meeting the primary care needs of an estimated 32 million newly insured Americans, the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act underwrites the CHCs and enables them to serve nearly 20 million new patients while adding an estimated 15,000 providers to their staffs by 2015,” write Drs. Eli Y. Adashi, H. Jack Geiger and Michael D. Fine in the May 11 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine. “The new CHCs have arrived.”

The law identifies community health centers as a priority. There are new resources for the expansion, construction, or renovation of clinics and to hire more medical providers. Nationwide, some 19 million people now use services at community clinics and the goal is to double that number (or about ten percent of the U.S. population).

And, this time around, Indian Country is included, if tribes and urban organizations choose to participate.

Community health centers generally operate by charging patients on a sliding scale and have historically served the uninsured population. In Indian Country this takes on a different twist because for eligible American Indian and Alaska Native patients, the Indian Health Service still picks up the cost as the payer of last resort (non-eligible patients would still be billed based on what they can pay).

The significance of all this is that the community health center model represents an improved funding stream for the Indian health system. Currently a little more than half of the total Indian Health Service budget funds tribal or urban Indian facilities; a decade from now I could see that number at 90 percent or even higher. But IHS would only be a portion of the funding story: Money would also come from insurance companies or the new insurance exchange; on top of that there would be Medicaid and Medicare; perhaps add in a foundation grant or two; and, finally, the funding would be completed by appropriations designated for community health centers. The total might not be full funding of the Indian health system, but it will be a lot closer to that goal.

There are those that will argue that Indian Health Service should be fully funded, as is. But one can also make the case that this new opportunity – tapping money from a number of revenue sources – is recognition of tribal sovereignty, too. And a promise fulfilled.

Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and writes from Fort Hall, Idaho. Comment at

Special report: Can homelessness end in 5 years? Here’s how the numbers stack up

Part two of a special report (see part 1 here) 

 Service providers interviewed by the PostGlobe about the King County 10-year Plan To End Homelessness seemed enthusiastic about the new services available for the homeless because of the plan, and about the cooperation between service providers and government.  However, few predicted that homelessness could be ended in King County by 2014. And none of them could think of a homeless program that would be able to close for lack of demand.

 Shelters are still turning away people who need a place to stay, and none of those interviewed has seen a decline in the proportion of people of color who are experiencing homelessness, an outcome that the plan predicted by 2010. (See “Status Update” sidebar below.)

 So far, a combination of federal, state and local funds have built or committed nearly half (4,111) of the planned 9,500 units of permanent housing for the formerly homeless, according to Bill Block (pictured at left), project director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County.

 Block said he still believes that homelessness can be ended by 2014, but it depends on additional federal funding.

 A challenge in gauging progress of the effort to end homelessness is that it’s easy for government leaders to talk about what government is doing. But ending homelessness is about a change on the street and at the doors of emergency shelters, and there is not much data that can show a dramatically changing picture of homelessness in King County, if there is one.

 The Homeless Management Information System proscribed by the plan is not complete. Its databases can provide information on 12,963 homeless people for 2008, and that dataset only has information from 68 percent of the agencies that serve the homeless in King County. The information system was required by HUD as a condition of getting federal funds, and the plan to end homelessness envisioned that it’d be complete this year. The system is supposed to show if the county’s services are making progress in reducing the numbers of people who become homeless – and the length of time they stay homeless.

  So far, it’s only able to provide a partial snapshot, not a story of progress in the efforts, making it difficult to say how much the homeless population is benefiting from the new style of services.

 Another snapshot of the homeless situation is the One-Night Count of the homeless conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness each year. The coalition’s volunteers found a 5 percent reduction in the number of apparently homeless people outdoors, from 2,827 in 2009 to 2,675 in 2010. Block said this was a sign of progress in a recession when other cities are seeing an increase in street homelessness.

Graphic of 2010 Count Stats by Area

Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, said that he’s been encouraged by all of the new housing that’s been built since the 10-year plan was adopted, but he does not have much hope that 2014 will have any improvement that can be called “ending homelessness.”

 Demand for space at the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s shelters, which serve 300 people a day, has remained high. He said that in 2009, the program ran at 98 percent occupancy, often turning away people who needed shelter. The main problem, he said, is that the 10-year plan can’t control the things that lead people to become homeless.

 “The Department of Corrections understands that they shouldn’t release a guy when he doesn’t have a place to live, but legally, when his term is up, he’s got to be let go,” said Hobson, pictured at left. He does not expect that the DESC will be able to end any programs, adding, “9,500 units of housing is not enough, but I thought it was better than nothing. I thought it might reduce the number of people on the street, but as years have gone by, and we do our point-in-time study, basically it’s the same.”

 Despite the continuing high demand for emergency shelter, there are a few bright spots in the overall picture of homelessness that show some effect.

 One is the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s permanent housing building at 1811 Eastlake, which serves 75 chronically homeless severely alcoholic people. At 1811 Eastlake, residents are allowed to drink alcohol in private. Staff members of the DESC recruited residents by seeking out homeless alcoholics who regularly turned up at Harborview Hospital’s Emergency Room. The idea was that if the residents had a roof over their heads, they would reduce their alcohol use without the restriction of house rules, and they would not end up at the hospital, in a detoxification center, a sobering center, or in another homeless shelter as often.

 Hobson said that 1811 Eastlake costs about $1 million a year to run, with funding coming from federal, state and local governments. It’s an intensively staffed site, with the King County division of mental health and treatment providing certified chemical dependency personnel.

 A group of University of Washington researchers studied the records of the residents at 1811 Eastlake (pictured at left) and found that before they moved in, they were using $4,066 in public services per person per month. Their burden on the system fell to $1,492 per person per month after they were living at 1811 Eastlake. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009.

 Hobson said that the success and the publicity caused by 1811 Eastlake has made it the subject of so many inquiries from representatives of government and law enforcement agencies from other parts of the country, he’s had to put limits the number of delegations that he allows to come visit.

 He also said that he has to caution people not to talk about 1811 Eastlake as saving the system money, as it’s tempting to think that the new style of services is going to be cheaper.

 “Until Harborview can lay off a physician, it’s not a real cost savings. It’s a preservation of a resource,” Hobson said. “The next cardiac (patient) at Harborview is not going to have to compete with 75 drunks for service.”

 One other bright spot in the homelessness picture is that there seems to be a decline in the number of homeless single women seeking shelter. Al Poole, of the city’s Human Services Department, said that in the winters, the city will open additional severe weather shelters when conditions are especially cold or rainy. The nights when the severe weather shelters are open are a good gauge of the overall size of the homeless population because that’s when those who are most resistant to shelters will want to come indoors.

 Two years ago, the severe-weather shelter that the city opened at Third and Yesler for single women was full, with 40 women. Last winter, the severe-weather shelter had only 18 women.

 Poole said that he does not expect to see any emergency shelters’ programs shut down before 2014.

 “One of the fallacies of the 10-year-plan was that it was written when the economy wasn’t robust, but it was OK. It’s kind of like when I bought my first house, the real estate agent told me my income was only going to go up,” said Poole, pictured at left.

 The recent national debate over health-care legislation gave Poole some perspective about the overall public willingness to solve a problem such as homelessness.

 “I don’t think everybody in America is wedded to the idea that everybody is entitled to a place to stay, just as people don’t think that everybody has a right to health care,” Poole said. American individualism has made it harder to sell the need for these kinds of services, he said. “‘Lifting yourself by your own bootstraps,’ is something that didn’t happen, but it’s still how people think.”

 One of Poole’s colleagues, senior planner Andréa Akita, also at the Human Services Department, said that even though it doesn’t look like homelessness can be ended soon in King County, writing a plan with such a high goal was still a good thing. “If we hadn’t had a bold statement, a bold goal, we wouldn’t have done as much as we have.”




The King County 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, written by a committee of government, law-enforcement, non-profit and business leaders of King County, sets out several goals that they believe the county can achieve by 2014. It was adopted by the Metropolitan King County Council in 2005. It sets out a number of results that people will be able to see by certain points in the plan. Below are those markers, plus our status update for 2010: 

By the end of 2010: 

  • The number of individuals and families who experience homelessness will be significantly reduced.

Status: Shelter managers report high demand for both family and individual shelter beds. The Seattle Housing Authority has a waiting list of 11,000 people looking for public housing.

  • Programs that focus on the long-term homeless will show a decrease in client numbers.

Status: Homeless service providers, while encouraged by the number of new units of housing becoming available, haven’t seen a decrease in client numbers.

  • A decline in the number of people living on the streets without shelter will be seen in some areas of the county.

Status: The annual one-night count of the homeless conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness recorded a 5 percent drop from 2009 to 2010 in the numbers of apparently homeless people on the streets.

  • Data collection processes will be in place, including the Safe Harbors Homeless Information System, and we will use these data to mark progress towards our goals.

Status: The Safe Harbors Homeless Information System in 2008 had 68 percent of homeless service agencies in the county providing data, which provides a partial portrait of the population of the homeless. But little data about how long people stay homeless is available. Also, homelessness data for 2009 is not available.

  • The disproportionate number of homeless persons from communities of color will be significantly reduced.

Status: All service providers interviewed for this story said that the proportion of people of color experiencing homelessness has not changed. 

By the end of 2013: 

  • Our infrastructure will be built up such that the public could expect to see a notable decline in street homelessness.
  • Shelter stays will begin to shorten for all populations, and some shelters will close or reconfigure their programs. 

By the end of 2014: 

  • Homelessness will be virtually ended.
  • People who enter into homelessness will have immediate access to housing with appropriate supports.
  • Downsized outreach and emergency services will continue to aid individuals and families who become homeless, but stays in this system will be short.
  • There will be no need for tent cities or encampments.




The plan to end homelessness relies on building places to live – so where are they? The recession has made it more difficult to build low-income housing recently because investors used to like to go into a partnership with low-income housing developers during flush times and get tax credits for doing it.

“Now, people don’t have as much income to shelter, so they’re not pursuing those tax credits as much,” said Virginia Felton, spokeswoman for the Seattle Housing Authority. 

Strike No. 2: The legislature has reduced its allocations to Washington state Housing Trust Fund, a major source of capital funding for low-income housing. The state legislature slashed money designated to the fund from $200 million in the 2007-2009 budget to just $130 million in the current budget, said Sean Harrington, Resource Allocation Program Assistant for the Housing Trust Fund.

On the other hand, the $145 million Seattle Housing Levy passed last November is a source of capital funds for low-income housing – in it, $104 million was designated for rental production and preservation, most of which will go to low-income housing for those earning less than 30 percent of median income.  

And here’s where some other money for the homeless comes from:

– In King County, $29.3 million has been spent since 2005 on housing for the formerly homeless, funding 979 units of housing, according to Dan Riebli, Manager of the Asset Management Team at the Housing Trust Fund.  

-In operating expenses, City of Seattle spent a total of $35.2 million on homeless services in 2009, with $25.2 million going to intervention services – shelters and transitional housing. The other $10 million was spent on prevention services and on permanent housing. Altogether, the city has spent $136 million on homeless services since the plan was completed in 2005. 

-The King County government spent $2 million on emergency shelters, $4.7 million on transitional housing and $17.3 million on vouchers and operating support in 2009. Cheryl Markham, program manager at the King County Housing and Community Development Program, said that county funding had remained steady for shelter and transitional programs, and that the county is looking to expand funding for permanent housing. For both the city and county, the operating funds used on homelessness came from a combination of local tax revenue and federal funds.



 Reporter Eric Ruthford’s story was underwritten by your donations via, while photojournalist Mike Kane‘s photos of Dara Kommovongsa and her family are made possible by your donations to Seattlepostglobe. All other photos are from the web sites of the officials and organizations depicted.

  Eric sought answers to these questions regarding the 10-year plan to end homelessness in King County: Now that the time period is half-way through, what benefits are evident so far? Will the new way of addressing homelessness — by providing permanent housing instead of overnight shelter — actually end homelessness, as planned? Having written for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other newspapers and worked as a homeless shelter’s financial director, he is uniquely suited to explore this topic.

 Mike Kane is an award-winning freelance photographer specializing in documentary, editorial and outdoors photography and photojournalism. Until its closure in 2009, he was a staff photographer at the Seattle P-I and before that a Hearst Fellow at three newspapers.


Is solving or preventing homelessness cheaper than treating it?

Homeless shelters aren’t cheap… and the alternative?

What will it look like when homelessness is ended? Tell us what you’d expect

A tale of two cities: Detroit and Seattle

Check out this Forbes interactive map Where Americans Are Moving (built with 2008 IRS data).

Red indicates outgoing migration, black, incoming migration.

Here’s Detroit:



Now here’s Seattle: (more)


more at Flip the Media

How to un-sign an initiative

There’s been quite a hubbub in Washington around initiative signatures, so it only seemed right to throw a little extra twist onto the story: apparently, you can remove your name from petitions you’ve already signed.

Let me just say that again: you can sign a petition, and then the next week contact Sam Reed, our Secretary of State, and have your name removed from that very same petition.

So why does that matter? Simple: up to 10 initiatives may make it onto the November ballot, and a handful of campaigns are already popping up to try and keep those initiatives off. (more)


more at Washington Bus blog (a.k.a. Hella Bus blog)

Film Review: “Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl” is Main Event on July’s Midnight Calendar

Fans of “The Twilight Saga” can catch a double feature of the first two installments at the Metro on Tuesday, June 29th, then hop over to the Neptune for a special midnight showing of the new episode, “Eclipse.” But for those who find this vampire-werewolf-human love triangle too sexless and bloodless, the Grand Illusion offers a heady substitute for the next two weekends July 2.3.9.&10) at 11pm.

“Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl”, from the makers of “Robo-Geisha,” “Tokyo Gore Police,” and “Machine Girl,”  reverses the genders and debunks the romanticism of “The Twilight Saga.”  Set in a high school that holds annual wrist-cutting rallies, has a Clark Kentish vice principle who is actually the successor to Doctor Frankenstein, and employs teachers who stalk the female students, this is as far away from Forks, Washington as you can get.

On Valentines Day. transfer student Monami gives hunky Jyugon a small chocolate filled with her blood that sends him into a psychedelic heavy-metal flip-out after biting into it.  Lolita girl Keiko, who has professed her love to Jyugon three months earlier and would have given him chocolates had they not been confiscated by her teacher, suffers a mounting jealousy that climaxes with her fall from a high place after lunging at her vampire rival. Her father, the mild mannered vice principal / kabuki-robed scientist,  having found the secret to reanimation through mixing his own blood with vampire blood, brings her back to life (in a wildly different form) and the combat between the monsters begins.

Directors Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu have delivered a kinetic live-action cartoon  set to a bouncy J-pop score.  Aside from a few surprising shock images, the comic gore is mostly CGI globules floating and popping in space. The picture’s main draw is Yukie Kawamua’s  vampire girl, with that thousand year old wisdom beaming from the face of a cute  schoolgirl.  Eri Otoguro is bratty and bossy as her opponent, and Takumi Saito is suitably passive as the love  prize.

The picture offers a look at a kind of Japanese gang we don’t hear much about, the ganguro clubs, the members of which wear  black make-up and pretend to be African American.  There is also a lot of silly fun, such as a scene in which the over-sexed school nurse chases an elusive drop of vampire blood across the floor.   Although “Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl” is of a lower caliber than the transcendently trashy “Robo-Geisha,” it will neither  disappoint fans of the genre nor leave unblemished those encountering such a movie for the first time.

Later this month, ( July 17. 17. 23. 24, also at 11pm) the   Grand Illusion will be showing  Brion Rockwell’s “Where The Air Is Cool And Dark, ” a 1997 film shot in the Olympic Rain Forest and featuring a soundtrack by    legendary Seattle band The Walkabouts. This  is the movie that put the town of Forks on the cinematic  map.


The Midnight movie schedule this month for the Egyptian Theatre is:

Jul 2 & 3:   “The City of Lost Children”

Jul 9 & 10: Jane Fonda  as “Barbarella”

Sat, Jul 17 only: “All About Evil”  with Peaches Christ In Person!

Jul 23 & 24:  The alternative Bob Dylan universe “I’m Not There”

Jul 30 & 31: Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”

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