Proponents of an initiative to ban safe injection sites in King County fought hard to get it on the ballot. Now, the person who spearheaded the effort is saying the county is not meeting its responsibility to defend it.
Joshua Freed, a Bothell council member, says King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is refusing to defend Initiative 27 while it faces a lawsuit.
“It’s infuriating to think that we worked for six months, raising funds, thousands of volunteers out there, 69,850 signatures, people expecting for their voice to be heard, and the very people they elected to represent them are not listening,” Freed told Todd Herman.
“They won’t let their own prosecuting attorney stand in defense of the people,” he said.
Freed’s group, Safe King County, submitted petition signatures to election officials in August. The I-27 signatures were verified shortly after that. It is slated for the February 2018 ballot.
Currently, two safe injection sites are proposed — one in Seattle and another in the greater King County area.
But another group — Protect Public Health — has since filed a lawsuit over the initiative. It argues that public health issues do not fall under the authority of the initiative system, therefore, I-27 should not be on the ballot.
“They are saying that the people who signed (the I-27 initiative) are uneducated and uninformed, and it’s really elected officials that know what’s best for us when it comes to a public health issue,” Freed said. “They don’t think a public health issue should be discussed through the initiative process, yet marijuana was legalized through it, abortion in 1970 was legalized through it, gun rights have been violated through the initiative process as well.”
Freed said that once an initiative is approved by elections officials, it must go on the ballot according to the county charter; not even the county council can stop it. He argues that this means the county must legally defend the initiative and is calling on Satterberg to do just that.
“I submit a ballot title and language, an ordinance basically, to King County,” Freed said. “That goes to the clerk, all the way to the elections office, all the way to Dan Satterberg’s office. Dan approved the ballot title for Initiative 27, sent it to the elections department, they approved the ballot title and the form in which we put it on. We went out and gathered the petition signatures, got it validated through the elections department. He’s been a part of it from the very beginning.”
But Freed said that King County officials told him that they won’t be involved in the lawsuit.
“I just called the prosecutor’s office just to say, ‘OK, checking in. Who are the attorneys who are going to be defending it,'” Freed said. “And they said, ‘We have been told by our bosses, both the King County elections department, and the King County Council, and executive staff, that they are supposed to stand down and watch from the sidelines.”
A hearing for the I-27 lawsuit is scheduled for Oct. 13.
It’s not the first time Freed has accused King County officials of working against I-27. In July, Safe King County accused officials of using taxpayer dollars to pay for Facebook ads opposing the initiative.