On its surface, there is nothing unusual about Public Safety Adviser Scott Lindsay’s announcement on April 27 to run for the Seattle City Attorney. But the fact that Lindsay is one of Mayor Ed Murray’s top advisers and that the campaign kickoff came within weeks of sexual abuse allegations against the mayor, forces the departure to be viewed through a different lens.
Lindsay made it clear to KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Friday that his decision to “go a different direction” should not be an indication that he is bailing on the mayor.
“Not at all,” Lindsay said. “I’ve been looking at this for a couple of months now and really made the decision to start to execute on it a couple weeks before any of this latest issues with the mayor.”
Lindsay said he informed Murray of his intention to run for City Attorney during dinner following the mayor’s interview with Ron and Don on March 9. The Seattle Times first reported on a lawsuit alleging Murray sexually abused a troubled teen in the 1980s on April 10. Two other men have accused the mayor of sexually abusing them as teens in the 80s. Murray has vigorously denied all of the allegations.
Lindsay, a Seattle attorney, is challenging two-term incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes for the post, and will be leaving his position with the Mayor’s office on May 5 to focus on the campaign. When asked why he was entering the race now, the 39-year-old Lindsay responded that it’s because of concerns with Holmes’ lack of action in addressing the city’s criminal justice system, homelessness, addiction problems.
“It’s really frustrating with how our systems are working and the opportunity that there is in the criminal-justice system to really address some of the underlying root causes of criminal behavior,” he said.
Scott Lindsay on homelessness
Lindsay said he’s been working with the mayor, city council and Seattle Police Department for the past three years on ways to find what is at the heart of low-level crimes, including property crimes and car prowls. The answer, he said, is generally unsheltered people who are struggling with substance use disorders and mental illness.
“These issues are deeply interconnected,” he said. “Certainly not all homeless people are interconnected into our criminal-justice system – the vast majority aren’t — but many who are living in our toughest spots, are interfacing with our criminal justice system. And our criminal justice system is not doing them any good, it’s not getting them out of that situation, it’s not breaking the cycle of addiction that holds people outside and in an addiction scenario, and it’s also not helping the public. Property crime is up, car prowl is up; people are feeling under a lot of strain, a lot of duress in our neighborhoods and we need a change. I think I can bring that.”
Holmes was the chairman of the police citizen oversight body when elected in 2010. He has overseen major changes in the city, such as the legalization of marijuana in the city and $15 minimum wage increase, as well as the city’s settlement with the Department of Justice to create civilian oversight of the Seattle Police Department related to findings of excessive use of force and racial bias.
Holmes told The Seattle Times that he welcomes the competition, calling it a “good thing.”
“I have a lot of good things to talk about — the initiatives I’ve launched, the progress we’ve made in this office moving Seattle’s criminal-justice system forward,” he told The Times. “I have lots more to do and a contested campaign is the best way to explain to voters what you’ve done and what you still want to accomplish.”
Lindsay says the homelessness issue is one such area that Holmes has failed to act on, calling him “invisible” on the subject.
“Words that have not come out of the incumbent’s mouth in eight years are heroin, homelessness or car prowl. Or at least he’s not a leader on any of these issues,” he said.
“We are not changing outcomes and that should be the core of a municipal criminal-justice system, is how do we change outcomes. How do we get somebody who is in that condition and we know will just repeat? If you arrest him, incarcerate him for five days, or 10 days or 30 days, it doesn’t matter. We know they will just re-offend unless we actually get to the root cause. And in order to do that – to treat an addiction – you’ve got to bring somebody indoors. Because you’re not getting somebody off heroin while they’re living outside in a tent and you’ve got to stabilize it, and then you’ve got to deliver the resources to do that. The criminal-justice system is an opportunity to engage with folks and get them that treatment, but it’s gonna take new leadership.”