Seattle City Council members get earful at town hall over homeless camps, employee tax

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council held a town hall in north Seattle Wednesday night to discuss the proposed employee tax on big businesses that would provide funding to help ease the city's homeless crisis.

But local residents were in no mood for a quiet chat.

Before the meeting, just outside the Trinity United Methodist Church, homeowners set up a fake homeless encampment, complete with tents and plastic bottles filled with yellow liquid to resemble urine.

There were even signs that read “Impeach O’Brien” -- referring to City Council member Mike O'Brien, who represents this area of north Seattle.

“It’s hard, you know, I’m a politician and I’m tough and strong, but I’m also a human being and my family lives in this community," O'Brien said of the signs. "I'm sympathetic to their frustration and I do see it every day (but) we have over 400 unsanctioned tent encampments. We don’t move encampments based on which communities can be the loudest."

Homeowners say they’re frustrated that unsanctioned homeless encampments are moving into their neighborhoods. And they want the message delivered loud and clear.

“We are hoping that tonight there will be enough of us with a voice, big enough, numbers enough, to get some attention,” says Gretchen Taylor with the Neighborhood Safety Alliance of Seattle.

The crowd inside the church was divided. Some demanding “open mic”, instead of being forced to text their questions in for a moderator. Others simply shouted, “We love Mike”.

The council members and task force eventually decided to allow public comment, which only highlighted the divide in the room as some voiced their concern over the proposed employee tax while others expressed their support.