Rantz: Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s ‘poverty defense’ will destroy Seattle
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s newest experimental policy, a so-called “poverty defense,” makes her a danger to the public.
It’s not merely her policies that are dangerous and destructive — that is objectively true, this newest idea being chief among them — it’s that she can’t stop herself from pursuing policies that don’t merely chip away at the quality of life in Seattle. It puts businesses on the brink of destruction and our lives literally on the line.
Every day she is in office is another day we are all at risk.
Seattle’s new poverty defense
Herbold is an ideologue experimenting on Seattle with a new policy that would codify Seattle’s lawlessness into its criminal code. If passed, it would offer affirmative defenses for nearly all misdemeanor crimes if they were committed to meet a basic need. It’s referred to as a “poverty defense.”
If you’re poor or homeless, you could effectively get away with stealing from just about anyone or any business in Seattle. Just say you’re poor and needed to steal that bike or car stereo so you can sell it for money to buy food.
Of course, the likelihood is that these crimes are driven by addiction that city leadership won’t treat. So they’ll use the cash to buy drugs or alcohol. But Herbold thought of that: The addict also gets a pass. You merely need to show “symptoms” of addiction and it’s your legal pass.
The crimes covered are more than just shoplifting, vehicle prowls, and buying drugs. With over 100 misdemeanor offenses in Seattle’s criminal code, you can also get a pass for driving under the influence, harassment, trespass, sexual exploitation, unlawful use of weapons, and much more.
Seattle cannot withstand this policy, along with the complimentary King County policy giving a pass to felonies.
It does more than give a free pass to crime
The policy undoubtedly gives a free pass to a laundry list of misdemeanor crimes. And it, of course, would attract even more crime to the area than what we currently are experiencing. But it does so much more than that.
After this idea became public, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes wrote a letter to Seattle City Council. Dishonestly framing the issue around never wanting to send an “impoverished new parent to jail for stealing baby food,” Holmes effectively argues the poverty defense is already the policy of his office. What a weird flex: He’s proud that he doesn’t put prolific offenders in jail.
So why codify the policy? Maybe Herbold fears this city will at some point come to its senses. By changing the criminal code, she’ll leave a lasting impression, making it more difficult for future, reasonable leaders to return us to a path of normalcy. This seems rather nefarious.
What if Herbold were a victim of a crime of basic need?
Herbold once texted then-Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best to report a derelict RV parked in front of her house. She wanted special treatment and even an investigation! But now, she wants to legalize most misdemeanor crimes if they’re committed by the poor or addicted.
But what if Herbold was a constant victim of crimes of basic needs? How would she act? I can’t imagine she’d be so blind to the pain she will cause so many other people.
The Seattle councilmember has little sympathy for businesses constantly victimized by crime. The criminals are homeless, so it doesn’t matter what misery they cause others. To have a job, own a business, or live in a home, makes one privileged and undeserving of basic rights and protection in the city of Seattle.
What would Herbold do?
What if homeless people broke into Herbold’s Seattle home to steal her stuff to meet basic needs?
Would Herbold even call the cops if that happened? She finds these crimes to meet basic needs worthy of affirmative defenses.
It would be simply barbaric to send someone to jail for merely breaking into her home, stealing something she bought at West Elm, then selling it for cash to buy food. Think of all those indigent Seattle mothers committing crimes of basic needs to feed their starving babies!
This bill is another giant experiment from a councilmember already killing Seattle by defunding the police. She’s successfully lobbied to create a city that gives over its parks to the homeless. And under her leadership, businesses are getting taxed more during a pandemic.
Sure, the consequences so far have been tragic: a mass exodus of police officers, a rise in homicides and homelessness, and businesses closing or moving at record rates. But, hey, maybe it’s about short-term pain for long-term gain in her experiment.
Perhaps it’s easier to experiment on a city you don’t live in exclusively. When she can spend time at her North Bend home, or when she’s tucked away in West Seattle, she can feel a little immune to the devastation she brings to a city.
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