The Local Republican Art of Baseless Accusation
Echoes of the media manipulation and doubt-seeding of the Liar-in-Chief
Given the news-absorbing public’s attention span (and presumed thirst for the sensational) the actual verification of accusations is far less important politically than making the accusation and getting it out in the news. This is the way impressions are made, impressions that stick with voters, real people who have lives and lack the time and persistence to follow up and fact check.
What follows is an excerpt from an article written by Emry Dinman that appeared in the Spokesman May 30, 2023, before Camp Hope closed early on June 9th. The article was entitled “Camp Hope will close by June 30 as leaders project blame for duration of camp”. Mr. Dinman, as a good reporter should, not only records the accusation but includes pushback from the accused party. [the Bold is mine]:
“But [the agreed upon June 30th closure of Camp Hope] is better than the initial proposed closure at the end of this year,” she [City of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward] said. “I always say you get more through compromise than you do drawing a line in the sand.”
Woodward added that Camp Hope has been a “disaster” to those living there and the surrounding community, placing the blame for creating the camp squarely at the feet of Julie Garcia, founder of Jewels Helping Hands, which helped lead protests in 2021 that led to the creation of the encampment. Woodward added that she believes Garcia intentionally kept the camp open so she could continue receiving state funds for its management.
“Julie will see the end of her contract, which is $1.6 million [none of which, BTW, came from the City of Spokane], paid fully to her [no, it was paid to the non-profit, Jewels Helping Hands], by the end of June,” Woodward said. “She had no desire to close the encampment any time sooner than that.”
[Jeffry] Finer [attorney representing JHH against Spokane City and County lawsuits] wrote that the $1.6 million contract covered all services provided by Jewels Helping Hands and its staff, and that Garcia received a $40,000 salary.
Woodward, who clearly feels threatened by Julie Garcia’s activism, commitment, and success, is quick to accuse, with no basis, in an apparent effort to demonize. Just ten days after Woodward’s unfounded and gratuitous speculation of malfeasance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that:
She [Woodward] learned of the camp’s early closure [three weeks early, on June 9th] [only] from reporters seeking comment, and initially scheduled a press conference inside the camp.
She [Woodward] then changed her plans and told reporters she would be waiting outside a nearby restaurant to answer questions.
Even more impressive in the baseless, but newsworthy, accusation department, then Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was awarded this headline in the Spokesman on October 21, 2022: “Knezovich asks state to audit ‘financing,’ ‘communication’ regarding Camp Hope”. The article, by Garrett Cabeza, leads off with:
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich wants an audit of the financing and communication related to Camp Hope.
In a letter to the Washington state Auditor’s Office, Knezovich named two homeless service providers, Jewels Helping Hands and the Guardians Foundation, along with state agencies playing a role at Camp Hope.
In a letter last month to the Washington Department of Transportation, Knezovich said he planned to contact the FBI “with respect to possible public corruption, the misuse of public funds, and the circumstances surrounding the formation of this camp. It appears the formation of this camp was merely an effort to ‘pass the buck’ to the citizens of our County and the City of Spokane,” Knezovich wrote in the letter.
Garcia called Knezovich’s request of an audit “absolutely ridiculous,” and said she is unsure what the sheriff is trying to accomplish.
And then there is current City of Spokane Valley City Council Member (CM) Rod Higgins. In a Facebook video interview (start at 3:40) conducted by Brian Noble, “Executive Pastor” of the Valley Assembly of God Church and current chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party, CM Higgins engages in this astounding flight of projection:
The homeless issue is one that probably is not going to be immediately solved—for one reason—it has become a big business. It has become profitable to some people. And if you don’t believe that take a look at what was known as Camp Hope. $25 million dollars went there. $25 million dollars seems to have gone with no visible positive effect. Now that may be an overstatement. Maybe somebody gained from it. I have a suspicion who did, the people who originated Camp Hope did… and I won’t use names right here.
Even a tiny bit of fact checking by Higgins would have revealed the vacuity of the lie to which he sneeringly gives voice (See P.S.)—but the smear takes flight, and, undoubtedly, those inclined to trust that Higgins has inside knowledge as a public official will accept it as fact.
The sad thing about these Republican officials is that each is in a position in government with ready access to data and information that contradicts their dark insinuations. One must presume that they either have not taken the time to gather the actual data—a stark failing for a public official holding a position of trust—or they choose to ignore the available data and hurl unfounded accusations in the pursuit of political power.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. For reference, the dispersement of the 24.5M dollars that came from Washington State’s Right of Way (ROW) funding to Spokane is detailed below. Note the 2M went to Woodward’s congregate warehouse, i.e. the Trent Shelter (TRAC). Of the funds administered by Empire Health Foundation, 1.6M was subcontracted to the non-profit Jewels Helping Hands (JHH). JHH used the money to hire people and provide basic services to the residents of Camp Hope, services that the Woodward administration withheld (e.g. water, toilets, a tent for emergency shelter). Nine point two million went to acquisition and renovation of the Catholic Charities Catalyst facility—a long term investment. Higgins’ ignorant accusations (or are they outright lies made knowingly for political gain?) are total bunk worthy of your outspoken, conspiracy-minded, Trumpist uncle at Thanksgiving, not a city official who should know better.