In an exclusive interview, I asked Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, “Do you still stand by that letter?”
Her response was unequivocal: “I absolutely do.”
The letter in question is the one she sent to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) last week, in which she alleges that agency, in conjunction with a local nonprofit service provider, is moving “a large number” of the unsheltered population from outside Everett into her city’s motels.
Calling it “an unacceptable burden for our city to bear,” Franklin says the agency never consulted with her.
In response, WSDOT, along with the Washington State Department of Commerce and the Washington State Patrol, sent a letter demanding “a public retraction of those statements and an apology.”
The agencies claim the mayor attempted to shame them and called the accusations “patently false and offensive.” They assert that there was coordination with the county and city, and that only three homeless people living within Everett have been placed into housing this year.
Mayor Franklin is doubling down. “I sent a response to Roger [WSDOT Secretary Millar] and his team this afternoon.”
“So you stand by everything you’ve said in the letter?” I asked. “Absolutely” was her response.
“Do you have proof WSDOT is moving homeless people into motels in Everett?”
“I do know they have moved homeless people into Everett and I’ve asked them to please stop until we have another conversation about the service plan, and the safety plan we have in place for those individuals to ensure their safety as well as our public safety.”
“Do you plan on sending an apology or retracting your letter?”
I noted that, “they’re accusing you of essentially lying,” to which she responded, “There’s nothing that’s not true in my letter.”
Meanwhile the controversy never came up as an agenda item during Wednesday night’s council meeting.
But this is what some council members had to say about the back and forth:
“She’s proven to be a good leader and careful about most of these things so I don’t intend to jump to any assumptions,” said Everett council member Ben Zarlingo.
Council Member Brenda Stonecipher said, “I’m not going to comment. I don’t know enough about it.”
Likewise, Council Member Paula Rhyne: “Not tonight thank you.”
“I’m not going to tell the mayor what to do,” said Everett Council Member Mary Fosse.
I asked Mayor Fraklin, “What do you make of WSDOT’s response? They were extremely aggressive towards you.”
“I think you know it’s a complicated issue. We all care about housing those that are unsheltered and suffering from severe mental illness and addiction. But there’s a way we need to do that collaboratively.”
Mayor Franklin says she’s planning on meeting with WSDOT leaders later this month to sort it all out.