Small business, community leaders cut out of work group on Seattle drug crisis
July 6, 2023
On June 6th, the Seattle City Council narrowly voted down (by a 5-4 vote) a measure which would have given Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison the authority to prosecute those who violate the state’s drug possession and public use laws.
Seattle is unique since cities across Washington state, with a wide spectrum of political leanings, have quickly passed similar ordinances to combat the growing drug crisis. Cities have taken these actions following the state legislature passing a drug possession law during a special session in May. Given the dramatic impact illegal drugs are having in King County, is not surprising that other cities in the county have quickly passed these prosecutorial measures (Bellevue unanimously passed its ordinances earlier this week). Currently King County projects to have 1,321 overdose deaths in 2023. This is a heartbreaking 260% increase in the number of overdose deaths in just three years.
In the week after the Seattle City Council’s rejected a drug possession law, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell responded to the public outcry by announcing the formation of a 24-member work group to make recommendations on how to update “the Seattle Municipal Code to align with recently passed state law.” The city council will still need to pass any recommendations the work group suggests.
While the formation of the mayor’s new work group brought some hope to Seattle residents frustrated by the council’s actions, the group’s membership has raised serious concerns regarding the extremely narrow perspective of the collective participants.
Nearly all of 24 members work for the City of Seattle. The couple members who don’t receive city paychecks are involved in organizations which have very close ties to Seattle’s current elected leaders.
Many of the people the mayor selected for his work group are those who supported the existing drug policies which led to the current drug crisis. Among these group members is Lisa Daugaard, who has a long history of using both her legal and activist skills to promote dangerous anti-police and reckless drug policies (such as taxpayer financed “safe spaces” where addicts are equipped to use illegal drugs).
While there is no doubt that some of these people have worthwhile thoughts on Seattle’s drug crisis (such as City Attorney Davison and Councilmember Sara Nelson), there are many other noteworthy people and groups with differing perspectives the mayor left out. These include:
- Community organizations such as We Heart Seattle who witness every day the impact of drugs in the city, especially on those who are homeless.
- Small business owners who became crime victims due to those addicted to drugs robbing their establishments to fund their habits.
- Parents who have experienced the devastation of losing a child due to drug overdose.
- Neighborhood groups who have seen their parks and schools become unsafe due to used-drug needles and harmful actions of drug users.
- Those in recovery from their drug addiction, like Ginny Burton, who understands what is needed to help addicts.
- Seattle business leaders who must overcome open drug use on downtown streets as they attempt to convince employers to return to their office.
- Private drug treatment experts to provide guidance on effective methods to end addiction.
- Tourism advocates who can articulate how Seattle’s open drug use is impacting the region’s economy as Seattle’s national drug-friendly reputation is scaring off potential visitors.
The truth of the matter is we don’t need this working group. The solution here already exists and is right in front of us – just adopt what a bipartisan majority of state lawmakers supported a few weeks ago. The Seattle City Council just needs to adopt it.
Seattle’s drug crisis is destroying the lives of thousands of people, causing many to become homeless, and resulting in higher crime rates. We don’t need to waste time with a committee that will likely reinforce the same bad policies that have gotten us into this mess. Just enact the state law and start helping people. Contact Mayor Harrell today and tell him, “Don’t waste time with a committee – adopt the bipartisan drug law now.”