Dear Mayor Durkan: Defund the police

Since our mayor, Jenny Durkan, marched with Black Lives Matter yesterday here in Seattle, but still shows no sign of meeting the organizers demands, I wrote her again.

Dear Mayor Durkan,

Yesterday you marched with Black Lives Matter through my neighborhood, silently, in support of them. However you have not committed to what they are asking for. Instead, you offer that you’ll find around $100 million to go to community support – housing, jobs, mental health – for black and indigenous and other communities of color. But you aren’t committing to removing the use of police and defunding them and that will undermine the good from any new investment (assuming you can even find that much money during a budget crisis).

Even if you waved a magic wand tomorrow and all police officers became scrupulously unbiased, always obeyed the laws themselves and never lied or misled, we would still be harming black and indigenous and other non-white people disproportionately. That is because we use the police – armed officers – for problems they are not suited for. As a specific example, people in the Seattle area that are homeless or unstably housed are disproportionately black and indigenous. Many police calls are related to the discomfort of the housed in seeing homeless people near them. The city even intentionally uses police during official removals of homeless encampments. Each one of those calls is a chance of force being used which will by necessity fall more on black and indigenous people because they are a greater share of the population being policed this way. Even if the police do not use force, the best case for most of these calls is to make a person move a long after fearing that worse could happen to them. Often we arrest people without homes for minor “crimes” against property like entering empty buildings or littering or doing drugs the housed do quietly in the privacy of their homes. Again, this will disproportionately harm black and indigenous people here in Seattle, no matter how professional and well-trained the police are.

Armed police are the wrong way to handle social problems related to homelessness. They are the wrong way to handle nearly all problems they are asked to handle. Every time we send an armed cop trained to use violence into a situation – and the vast majority of the time there is no active violent crime in progress – there is a non-zero chance of death or brutalization. In the best case scenarios, people are made to feel unwelcome in their own city and typically will not have any of their needs met, be it housing, drug counseling, food, mental or physical health, etc.

We spend over $400 million a year on policing and $100 million spent in other ways will not offset the harm the police do by their very presence. The only way to remove the harm of sending armed people trained to arrest people is to not have armed people trained to arrest people.

Marching with Black Lives Matter means very little if you are unwilling to truly consider their demands which start with “Defund the police”. 

What defund the police means

I’ve not been great at writing much about anything lately, except to write to elected officials. So here’s what I wrote to the city council this morning about this issue. Our over-policing harms everyone but because of the way society operates and the reality of racism, overpolicing harms black people and anyone perceived as too different more.

Good morning councilpersons (and staff)!

I can’t call this morning and at this point I assume you’re just tallying!

Anyway defund the police sounds scary but what it really means is to take out of the hands of the police (and justice system and jails & prison) problems that don’t make sense for armed people to work on.

As an example, in January 2019, 6+ cop cars showed up to the Living Computer Museum. I work near by and saw the swarm of cops and wondered what could possibly be so dangerous there.

It turns out it was … a sleeping man who had broken in to find warmth. He was no danger and his “crime” was incredibly minor. We permit corporations and businesses to get away with far worse every single day. Nonetheless he was booked into jail and presumably charged with a crime. I doubt it helped him improve his life — and it could have gone a lot worse than it did. What if he had, when sleepy, moved in a way that any of the cops present had felt was threatening? He could be dead.

Cops are not social workers and are not the best choice for the vast majority of problems we use them as the primary presence of authority and social “leadership”, from homelessness, mental health crises, to drug abuse, to traffic enforcement and even gang activity.

So I stand with the demands of the protesters that we at least start with:

– Removing 50% of SPD’s budget. I believe an examination of what person hours are used on are overwhelmingly devoted to social problems that do not required armed agents of the state to address effectively.
– Redirect that money to community solutions like housing, health care access, trauma services and so on.
– Finally, the folks protesting must not be punished for their protesting.

Thank you,
Rachael Ludwick
Beacon Hill

Thanks for reading and write or call your city council (if in the United States) to ask them to reduce the scope of police work and bring more accountability. If you need a fairly quick read The End of Policing by Alex Vitale is a thorough but fairly short book. It’s a free ebook right now. You can get a quick taste in this NPR interview or this podcast episode.

How to share text art (and images) more accessibly (on twitter, mostly)

The “tl;dr” (“too long; didn’t read”): if you just want to know how to make text art accessible, just scroll down to the heading “How to make text art accessible”. If you want to know how to check for image descriptions on twitter, scroll down to heading “How to use image descriptions on Twitter”. But if you want to understand why this matters to me, read on!

I haven’t posted (here) a lot of the details but a few months ago I finally had to learn to really use the screen reader (VoiceOver) on my phone (iPhone). That’s because my vision, which has since been partly corrected with surgery in one eye, had gotten so bad that I couldn’t really read anything on my phone reliably, even when zoomed a lot. I’d been previously using it more for comfort and convenience to read, for example, a long article.

I also spend a lot of time on twitter and while I had previously learned that it was painful how often images of largely textual or graphical data get shared that I just couldn’t read, thus missing part of the point someone might be making, I hadn’t had to deal with the incredibly annoyance of text art with a screen reader. A recent text art meme you may have seen:

Screenshot of text art showing
A recent example of text art. Source:

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Saturday Lazy Fancy Breakfast: pumpkin spice waffles!

Menus locally are full of squash and pumpkin themed recipes. The fancy coffee seasonal drinks are often pumpkin spice themed. For some reason this made me decide to make fancy waffles this morning for family breakfast. Specifically “squash spice waffles topped with coconut cream and candied spiced pistachios” since that’s what worked out with what is on hand.

A plate with two waffles with toppings, some veggie sausage and scrambled eggs and hot sauce
The waffles with a side of veggie sausage and some scrambled eggs and hot sauce

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Just say “HELL NO!” to paleo swamp gas

A few weeks ago I attempted chiles rellenos for the first time. If you’ve never had them, they are roasted and skinned peppers (often poblanos) that are de-seeded, then stuffed with something, often cheese in the United States, then battered and fried, and served with a savory-spicy tomato broth/sauce. Mine didn’t come out that pretty but it was an experience and they were delicious! I used the recipe from a Diana Kennedy book.

One thing that had always held me back was how to roast peppers. It’s not something I bother to do often and most books recommend an open flame which we don’t really have at home since we have an electric stove – and most of my adult life I’ve only had electric stoves. We got a decent crop of poblanos this year in the garden so I had to try them as they are a family favorite. So I looked up alternate ways and a broiler works really well: you put them on a sheet pan (no oil!) under the broiler until blistered, then turn over and let the other side blister. Note that part about a sheet pan – you can do a fairly large number all at once! See my lovely peppers:

A bowl of roasted and skinned poblanos and small sweet red and yellow peppers
A bowl . roasted and skinned poblanos along with some small yellow and red sweet peppers (also roasted and skinned)

What does this have to do with “paleo swamp gas”? Seattle City Council-member Mike O’Brien has proposed to ban natural gas installation in new housing and commercial development (see summary from SCC Insight). “But what about my charred peppers [eggplants, etc]?” was one of the immediate refrains.

Continue reading “Just say “HELL NO!” to paleo swamp gas”