As a result, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will have the sole authority to prosecute drug-related crimes. Before the vote, King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion urged council members and Mayor Bruce Harrell to pass this ordinance because the city attorney and police need the ability to enforce these drug laws.
The bill was sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen to "codify" the law and was backed by Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison.
The legislation would have given Davison’s office the power to prosecute these cases, advocate for drug treatment, or both. It would have also made the knowing possession and public use of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor, following the lead of the Democratic-controlled Washington State Legislature, which was gaveled into a special session to pass the legislation earlier this year.
Though detractors of the bill claimed it did not address treatment for offenders, Davison wrote in a June 5 letter to City Council, "The principal goal of this legislation is to get people using drugs into treatment programs. I pledge to work with diversion and treatment providers, along with the Seattle Police Department and Mayor’s Office, to ensure a robust continuum of options meant to balance individual health needs with the health and safety of the Seattle public."
Leftist Council Member Andrew Lewis, who previously advocated for defunding the police and posed for a photo with his fellow council members marching with Antifa against the city’s police department during the George Floyd riots of 2020, was the swing vote in voting down the legislation.
He joined Socialist Alternative Council Member Kshama Sawant, Council Member Tammy Morales, Antifa-supporting and defund the police advocate Council Member Teresa Mosqueda and defund the police advocate and Council Member Lisa Herbold in voting “no.”
Lewis was reportedly a “yes” vote earlier in the day, but sources told The Post Millennial that he was influenced by far-left activists.
After the bill failed, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion issued a statement saying, "There is an incorrect notion that misdemeanor drug possession or public use cases falling within Seattle city limits can simply be referred to King County to handle as contracted services.
"State law may technically allow for a municipality to enter into a contract for prosecution services, but the contract would need to be negotiated and agreed upon. The PAO does not have the funding or the staff necessary to take on a new body of misdemeanor cases… To me, it does not make sense to have Seattle’s misdemeanor work split between the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and PAO. This approach would be cumbersome, impractical, and cause significant confusion. There also is the question of whether Seattle Police have jurisdiction to investigate these types of crimes without a Seattle ordinance mirroring state law."
The Downtown Seattle Association, which had endorsed Lewis for his candidacy, said the drug crisis in the city is "worsening by the day," adding in a written statement, "At a critical time for the recovery of downtown, the use of dangerous drugs in our public spaces is a significant contributing factor to residents, employees, families and visitors feeling unsafe exploring our city or returning to the office. In fact, in a poll we commissioned late last month, the full results of which will be released later this week, a full 77% of voters agreed with the statement ‘Seattle’s hands-off approach to people using illegal drugs in public is contributing to rampant street crime and is making it much harder for downtown to recover,’ 63% of those strongly agreed."
Squalor in Seattle has gotten so bad from drug use and homelessness that the association is one of several organizations partnering with the Seattle Mariners to host a community clean-up event to get “key areas” of the city “ready for the national stage” in anticipation of the upcoming MLB All-Star Week in the city July 7-11.
In April, King County passed the 2020 annual total of drug overdoses, only 6 months into 2023, according to data from Seattle-King County Public Health. In January, the King County medical examiner was running out of places to store the dead bodies due to the amount of fentanyl overdoses.
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