KOMO News special: The fight for the soul of Seattle

Nearly two years ago KOMO News in Seattle produced a special titled “Seattle is dying” which spent an hour looking at the problems of drug-abuse and homelessness and the impact they were having on the city. That special was a big hit. It was shown on television in the city and since March of 2019 it has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube.

Naturally, the special was controversial and a number of people came forward to argue that Seattle was not dying and that the special was misguided. But think about some of what has happened since then. Crime is up with the murder rate higher than it has been in at least 10 years. This summer an armed group of protesters set up an autonomous zone in the city, driving police out of one of their precincts. The City Council and the Mayor applauded this, at least until 5 people were shot in the area. Dozens of police officers resigned or retired. A number of officers were seriously injured in battles with protesters. The City Council pushed to defund the police and when Police Chief Carmen Best disagreed, the Council cut her salary. Best resigned and Mayor Durkan announced she wouldn’t be seeking another term soon after.

In short, things have gotten much worse since Seattle is Dying. So reporter Eric Johnson and KOMO News have produced a sequel of sorts titled “The Fight for the Soul of Seattle.”

One of the things Johnson said after the release of the first special in 2019 was that he wanted to remain as neutral as possible. He didn’t want the special to be seen as political. I said at the time that this was a mistake because it was obvious that political ideology was driving most of the problems he was talking about. That lesson seems to have sunk in. This new special doesn’t shy away from blaming the Mayor, the City Council, the City Attorney and others for what has gone wrong. The special doesn’t get into party affiliation but it’s clear the people being criticized share a progressive view of social justice.

Johnson argues that what happened at CHOP, an anti-police revolution that quickly devolves into violence and chaos, is an analogy for what his happening to the entire city. He labels it “a sloppy revolution without a blueprint.”

The special devotes time to telling the story of Judge McKenna, who stood up to City Attorney Pete Holmes and refused to release a homeless man who’d assaulted someone and been convicted 72 previous times. For refusing to go along with the catch and release police Judge McKenna was targeted and smeared with a bogus claim that he’d concocted the whole thing as a stunt. Like Chief Best and Mayor Durkan, he wound up retiring early. “It doesn’t take a scientist to see that the experiment is rapidly failing,” McKenna said. He added, “I think the overriding goal is to impose social justice rather than criminal justice.”

There’s a lot more in this special. The story of Travis Berge aka Travel Tron is both horrifying and heartbreaking. There’s another Oscar waiting for Matthew McConaughey for telling his life story. It really does make you wonder how anyone thinks the status quo in Seattle, allowing the drug-addicted homeless to pass through the system without consequences, is a good idea.

Here’s the full special. It’s 90 minutes long so you’ll need to set aside some time for this but it’s worth it.