Judge strikes Compassion Seattle homeless amendment from Seattle ballot

Aug 27, 2021, 5:11 AM | Updated: Aug 28, 2021, 8:13 am

homeless, homelessness plan...

(KIRO Radio, Aaron Granillo)

(KIRO Radio, Aaron Granillo)

A King County judge has struck Compassion Seattle’s proposed charter amendment from the November ballot.

ACLU asks judge to invalidate ‘Compassion Seattle’ initiative

King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer said Friday that she and other voters might like what the measure’s proponents are trying to do, but it exceeds what can be accomplished through a local charter amendment.

Shaffer said it would conflict with state law and usurp the Seattle City Council’s power.

Compassion Seattle, which is made up of several business groups and some homeless advocacy groups that say they have a better plan, wanted voters to finally get a say.

But the ACLU, the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness, and the Transit Riders Union – which previously tried but failed to block Charter Amendment 29 by challenging the ballot title – argue this is nothing more than an effort to step up homeless encampment sweeps. In their latest legal challenge, they point to three main issues as reasons to keep CA29 from the ballot, but as SCC Insight’s Kevin Schofield first reported, the arguments are weak.

The first argument is that it violates state law recently updated by the Legislature requiring a statewide comprehensive response to homelessness, claiming lawmakers gave exclusive legislative authority to map out the city’s homeless response plan – but nowhere in that law does it specifically grant that exclusivity.

Second, they argue it interferes with the interlocal agreement the city has with the county for the Regional Homeless Authority and its decision making power. But that argument is questionable, as the charter amendment specifically makes allowances and expresses support for the city-county agreement – which incidentally does not grant sole authority to the RHA on homeless investments or decisions.

Finally, they argue the charter amendment is beyond the scope of the initiative process because it changes zoning laws, pointing to a clause in the initiative that would require the waiver of certain zoning regulations to expedite affordable housing projects.

Large donations to ‘Compassion Seattle’ dwarf all other races

There is also room for Compassion Seattle to fight back against that argument because it’s debatable where that clause is considered a zoning law or simply city policy. But even it loses there, the initiative accounts for the possibility with language saying zoning laws should be changed to the full extent state law allows – that basically means that particular section is negated if it’s not allowed, but the rest of the initiative can live on.

The groups did raise other issues that could get more traction with a judge, initially signaling their intent to fight the lawsuit shortly after it was announced.

Last week we learned that the same small group of activists who challenged Charter Amendment 29’s ballot title have filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, attempting to block the people’s right to vote on how to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

Their cynical and desperate claims are meant to confuse the public and increase the costs to our campaign to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis through a humane, effective and accountable plan. Our opponents’ efforts are designed to maintain the status quo, which will mean more tents in Seattle parks and more suffering in our community.

Enough is enough.

We intend to respond aggressively to this baseless litigation and are committed to making sure voters get to vote on Charter Amendment 29 in November.

Reaction to the ruling

Compassion Seattle released the following statement after Judge Shaffer’s ruling:

“While we are gratified that Judge Shaffer said that she would have voted for Charter Amendment 29 if given that option, we strongly disagree with her ruling today denying Seattle voters the opportunity to have their voices heard on the number one issue facing our city. This ruling means the only way the public can change the city’s current approach to homelessness is to change who is in charge at city hall. An appeal of the judge’s ruling would not happen in time for the election. However, we urge the public not to give up the fight. We can still make our voices heard in the elections for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney. In each race, the difference between the candidates is defined by who supports what the Charter Amendment was attempting to accomplish and who does not.”

“We’re grateful this ruling will prevent a misleading and illegal use of local ballot initiative powers,” Katie Wilson of the Transit Riders Union said in a news release. “It’s important that voters fully understand what they are being asked to weigh in on, and CA 29 makes promises it can’t keep.”

“Judge Shaffer’s ruling affirms well-established limits to the local initiative process and recognizes the importance of the proper functioning of our democratic systems,” Breanne Schuster, ACLU of Washington staff attorney, said in a news release. “We are pleased that CA 29 will not stand as an impediment to solutions that meaningfully address our housing crisis and do not punish people for trying to meet their basic life-sustaining needs like shelter, sleep, and food.”

“Every person in Seattle is concerned about homelessness. Today’s ruling ensures all of us can focus on real solutions to help people get home and address homelessness in a coordinated, inclusive, and effective way,” Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, said in a news release. “We need and deserve community-wide solutions that address the systemic causes of homelessness: solutions that work for people now and that last.”

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

MyNorthwest and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Local News

gas stovetops...

Heather Bosch

WA Rep. maintains fervent push to keep gas stovetops unregulated

U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse introduced a bill on Monday to block the new Department of Energy conservation standards for gas stovetops.

1 day ago

missing girl Cle Elum river...

KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Missing 10-year-old girl found alive near Cle Elum River

A 10-year-old girl who was missing near the Cle Elum River for nearly 30 hours was found alive Monday afternoon.

1 day ago

Caleb Heimlich...

Bill Kaczaraba

WA State Republican chair Caleb Heimlich stepping down

The chair of the Washington state Republican party, Caleb Heimlich, is stepping down effective August 12th.

1 day ago

Garfield High...

Frank Sumrall

Garfield HS the focus of school safety precautions following nearby violence

Garfield High School and Nova High School both had its students return on campus in person Monday after locking down the campus last week.

1 day ago

Burien encampment moved park...

Sam Campbell

Burien encampment moved again, now located at city park

A homeless encampment in downtown Burien is being cleared after a struggle between the city, county, and residents who want it gone.

1 day ago

Great Seattle Fire...

Ted Buehner

Could ‘Great Seattle Fire’ happen again with current warm streak?

Tuesday, June 6 marks the date of the tragic 1889 Great Seattle Fire that burned 25 blocks of downtown waterfront Seattle.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Judge strikes Compassion Seattle homeless amendment from Seattle ballot