Matt Driscoll

Was Driscoll too tough on landlords? Is he an anarchist? TNT columnist responds to his hate mail

Did News Tribune columnist Driscoll give short shrift to landlords? One reader thinks so

In the August edition of "You rip, I respond," News Tribune columnist Matt Driscoll is scolded by a reader for his "myopic view" of landlord-tenant laws.
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In the August edition of "You rip, I respond," News Tribune columnist Matt Driscoll is scolded by a reader for his "myopic view" of landlord-tenant laws.

Another fake title for your column. This is an example of good intentions implemented by ignorant lawmakers. ... Your myopic view of how business works is just another example of your anarchist views. Maybe you should take some business courses and you’d understand there are two sides to every story. Until then you are FAKE! — Mark

Hello, Mark.

Anarchism allegations aside, let’s cut straight to the chase.

Last week I wrote about how landlords and property management companies across the state were reacting to a new law that extends the amount of time a tenant has before facing eviction for failure to pay rent.

Previously, when a pay-or-vacate order was issued, tenants had three days to respond. Under the new law, they now have 14.

That’s an improvement, because we know evictions are a key contributor to homelessness. The intent of the new law — and a host of others passed in Olympia last session — is to reduce evictions and homelessness.

The state’s new pay-or-vacate law took effect in July.

So what happened on Aug. 2?

Landlords and property management companies around the state aggressively issued pay-or-vacate orders to tenants who hadn’t punctually paid rent on the first — including at the former Tiki Apartments here in Tacoma.

Was that lawful? Yes.

Was that awesome? No.

In fact, it’s a reaction many were afraid we’d see.

“Technically, it doesn’t violate the law, but it certainly violated the spirit of the law and violated the goals we had discussed during many, many hours of discussions and negotiations,” state Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, told The News Tribune.

So here’s the root of what’s happening:

Mark is right to suggest there are two sides to this story. In fact, in this case, there are likely even more than two. Many of the state’s previous landlord-tenant laws had been on the books for roughly 40 years, and they largely gave landlords and property management companies most of the power.

Now, with these new laws, that pendulum is being realigned. Adding additional tenant protections, by definition, takes power away from landlords.

I get why that’s causing concern, especially among smaller landlords. It’s a re-balancing act, and there’s no doubt that extending the amount of time a tenant has before facing eviction for failure to pay rent creates an additional burden for landlords to contend with.

But let’s not act like this law — or the others passed in Olympia last session — have completely swung the pendulum in the tenant’s direction.

The big silver ball is just closer to the middle now, which is an improvement, even if it will take some getting used to.

If you want to vape, do it at home just as you would smoke at home. We don’t allow drinking or smoking pot in public places and we shouldn’t allow vaping either. It sure is annoying to have to walk through the recently exhaled cloud of vapor. This happened to me once leaving a restaurant — which was particularly unpleasant. — Don

Hi, Don.

First, that doesn’t just sound unpleasant, it sounds absolutely harrowing. I’m sincerely sorry it happened to you — especially after a nice meal. That’s the worst!

Don, of course, was responding to my recent column on a proposal to ban vaping and drones from Tacoma’s parks. I’m all for such a ban, with tongue firmly planted in cheek (a nuance predictably missed by many).

Personally, vaping and drones annoy me. I think they’re both incredibly dumb, and there’s little question that my individual annoyance would be soothed if I encountered fewer amateur drone pilots and e-cigarette smokers when trying to enjoy our public spaces.

Still, there’s a big brother element to this that seems worth poking a little fun at. Potential public health concerns aside (which definitely exist when it comes to vaping), ridding Tacoma of all the degenerate activities “respectable” people frown on might seem like a good idea, until they come for the degenerate activity you enjoy.

But that’s a column for another day.

Until then, I also move for a ban on hacky sack and drum circles. Can’t stand either of them.

Blaming a California real estate company for this guy’s problem is absurd. I mean really, how many bagels does anyone eat a week? Are they really any better than Safeway, Thriftway, Metro Market? This sounds sounds like another of your anarchist digs at the profit motive. — Mark

Hello again, Mark. Always good hearing from you.

Bold move defending the California real estate company in this case, even if you’re not a big Cascade Bagel guy.

I mean, on the one hand you have a beloved small business, now stuck in an otherwise deserted strip mall full of plywood-covered windows and cracked concrete, operating with leaks in its roof and without heating and cooling (among other things).

On the other hand, you’ve got an unresponsive out-of-town building owner whose responsibility it is to fix these things.

Tough call. Really is. Glad you’re here to stick up for the little guy.

Also, since you asked, I had at least two bagels last week. Both came from Cascade Bagel, and they were great.

I don’t know how that compares to average bagel consumption, or whether all of this makes me an anarchist.

I particularly enjoyed the comment from your column that identified Olympia as “...home to a never-ending reserve of good intentions and unforeseen consequences.” As a Native Washingtonian I have to agree, and have noted many recent examples of the very thing you identified. — Roger

Hi Roger. Thanks for the note.

Admittedly, it’s fun and easy to beat up on lawmakers in Olympia. I do it all the time. In the divisive world we live in, ridiculing politicians seems to be one of the few things that consistently (and predictably) brings people together.

Why? Simple. They often deserve it.

That said, sometimes lawmakers also deserve just a little bit of slack. They’re human, after all, and crafting policy isn’t an exact science.

In the instance you reference, I was writing about lawmakers’ attempts to provide money for cities and counties to build and maintain affordable housing. You know what? That’s a good thing, without question. Our electeds were trying — and hopefully succeeding, at least in the long run — to address a critical statewide need.

In the process, of course, they produced confusing legislation that plenty of cities and counties — including Tacoma and Pierce — struggled to understand and take advantage of (at least initially). It’s not the first time such a thing has happened, and it surely won’t be the last. There’s blame to go around.

At the end of the day, I’m all for pointing out governmental mistakes, blunders and deficiencies. It’s part of the job, and also one of the only ways progress will continue to be made.

For a politician, accepting such criticism also comes with the job.

Still, I also think it’s important to remember that governing isn’t always easy and there are humans involved. When we flog, we’re often flogging folks who really were trying to make things better.

Thank you for writing a less controversial subject than immigration policy. You’re ideas make me want to cancel my subscription but then I realize you’re only a small minority with crazy ideas. Please keep up the good work! -- Mark

Hi, Mark. Long time no talk …

For some reason you forgot to mention my ties to anarchism.

Weird.

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