King County should defend I-27, then we should vote it down

Oct 9, 2017, 12:57 PM
safe injection sites, i-27...

On one hand, there’s a plan for two safe injection sites in King County, which will hopefully become a reality. On the other hand, there is an understandable opposition. They got more than enough petition signatures to establish an initiative to ban the sites, all while playing by the rules. Yet, King County doesn’t seem to be playing as fair.

RELATED: Dwindling options for safe injection sites

Initiative 27 aims to ban safe injection sites in King County. I hope it doesn’t succeed; I’m in favor of the injection sites. But it received more than 69,000 signatures and qualifies to be on the ballot. It’s expected to be up for a vote in February, but a lawsuit aims to stop that from happening. The county is refusing to legally defend the initiative. Yet the City of Seattle has jumped into the legal fight.

The city’s attorney’s office confirmed that Seattle is now officially part of the lawsuit against I-27, in order to “thwart a public vote over establishing safe injection sites.” The office argues that it joined the lawsuit to protect its financial and policy interests.

“This request to intervene is necessary to protect the city’s autonomy, and the next logical step in turning away from relying on the criminal justice system to solve public health problems,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes.

So while one government — whose rules I-27 played by — is refusing to defend a legitimate initiative (and give voters a chance to weigh in), another government is ready to knock it down in court.

It’s not the first time King County has acted unfairly when it comes to I-27. The county used taxpayer funds to pay for Facebook ads opposing the initiative. It could be argued that action violates state law.

Why I-27 should be defended

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg heads up the county’s legal department which is refusing to defend I-27. According to former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, a prosecuting attorney is not required to defend any initiative. But it’s probably a good idea if they did.

“I don’t think he is required to defend it, but he has that power,” McKenna said. “When I was attorney general, more than once we defended the rights of ballot measure backers to get their measure on the ballot and persuaded the state Supreme Court that the voters should have their say — legal challenges to the measures could be considered afterwards. And the state Supreme Court unanimously agreed twice to let the voters have their say.”

For the record, McKenna would likely disagree with me about safe injection sites. He has spoken against them in the past.

Basically, the lawsuit against I-27 is an attempt to strike down the rights of King County voters to have their say — 69,000 of them at least. That’s roughly, only, 3.2 percent of the population of King County. I’d still say that it’s a large crowd. You may disagree with them, but they followed the rules and their initiative should be on the ballot. I should have the ability to vote against it.

It’s understandable, King County. The safe injection site plan is yours. It was developed by a group of informed, intelligent people and approved by the county council. I-27 is an attempt to halt all that work, so it would be convenient if it went away via the court. But legally defending I-27 is not acting in opposition to your own plan; it’s defending your residents’ right to take part in their democracy. Voters should be heard — even 3.2 percent of them.

If I-27 is approved by voters, let the lawsuits come. That is the time to bring the matter to court.

“In general, the courts have supported voters having their say before a measure is hauled into court,” McKenna said. “Courts agree with that because they dislike interfering with voters rights to weigh in on an issue. The problem with the courts deciding in advance what the voters get to vote on, and what they don’t, is it looks too much like judicial interference in the political process.”

The county has said that it will not place a safe injection site in cities that do not want them. Cities have already started passing their own bans to prevent the sites from entering their communities.

MyNorthwest Blog

Seattle election...
Nick Bowman

How wealthy strongholds helped deliver Seattle’s 2021 election to moderate candidates

Seattle's moderate candidates prevailed in the 2021 election on the strength of wealthy neighborhoods along its eastern and western coastlines.
4 days ago
Capital gains tax advisory vote, Seattle vote swings...
Nick Bowman

Seattle’s 2021 election establishes large, late swings for progressive candidates as new normal

Massive swings of late votes for Seattle's progressive candidates appear to have become the new normal after 2021's general election.
24 days ago
Amazon Seattle, corporate HQ...
Nick Bowman

Corporate money wins Seattle in new form after sparking ire of voters in 2019

A slate of business-friendly candidates won all but one major Seattle race, with corporate money finding influence in more subtle ways.
25 days ago
Seattle election results...
Nick Bowman

Moderate Seattle candidates carry the night, as progressives face steep climb to close gap

The first round of Seattle and King County election results arrived Tuesday, with moderate and conservative candidates largely carrying the night. 
1 month ago
Seattle City Attorney candidates...
Nick Bowman

Contentious race for Seattle City Attorney winds to a close with decision now put to voters

Tuesday will close out what's been a contentious race between Seattle City Attorney candidates operating at opposite ends of the political spectrum. 
1 month ago
Compassion Seattle...
Nick Bowman

How Compassion Seattle became dividing line between candidates following defeat in court

The debate around homelessness during this election cycle has centered on the now-defunct Compassion Seattle ballot initiative.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
King County should defend I-27, then we should vote it down