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ACLU lawsuit takes down vote on ‘Compassion Seattle’ homelessness initiative — UPDATE: Surprise appeal

Seattle’s November election might still end up a referendum on homelessness but it will not include a vote on “Compassion Seattle” after a King County judge Friday ruled the measure would go beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative process.

Lawyers for the ACLU representing the organization,the Transit Riders Union, and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness sued to remove Compassion Seattle from the ballot, arguing that the vote on Charter Amendment 29 would be “an illegal use of a local ballot initiative and violates state laws that mandate how local governments make and carry out plans for addressing homelessness” that went “beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative powers.”

King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer agreed, striking the initiative from November’s General Election vote.

UPDATE 8/31/2021 12:00 PM: In a surprise announcement, the Compassion Seattle campaign said Tuesday it will, indeed, appeal the ruling:

This morning, Compassion Seattle’s lawyers filed an emergency motion of appeal with the Washington Court of Appeals seeking a stay of last week’s decision to remove Charter Amendment 29 from the November ballot. If granted, voters will have their say on a critically needed measure to address the number one issue facing Seattle — a measure that has majority voter support.

As we said last Friday, we strongly disagree with Judge Catherine Shaffer’s decision to strike Charter Amendment 29, a decision that blocks Seattle voters from being able to voice their opinion about the continuing crisis of homelessness. The Judge’s decision caused an outpouring of support over the weekend from supporters who want us to press on with an appeal. We decided that we must take this action to represent the interests of tens of thousands of voters who signed petitions to put this amendment on the ballot.

The people of Seattle deserve their say on how City Hall should be addressing this worsening crisis, and we will do everything we can to make that happen, whether by fighting for a vote on this Charter Amendment or by holding the candidates for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney accountable for their positions on homelessness.

Original post: The campaign backing the measure said it is too late for an appeal and, instead, urged supporters to focus on the upcoming election.

“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,” a statement from the Compassion Seattle campaign reads.

“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.”

CHS reported on the formation of the initiative in April as business and community groups led by former councilmember and mayor Tim Burgess and the Downtown Seattle Association backed the plan.

If approved, the initiative would have change the city charter through at least 2027 in a five-year burst requiring Seattle to provide 2,000 housing units within one year, ease regulations for creating new housing, and guarantee 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services. It would also have forced the city to crack down on encampments by requiring sweeps and clearances of public spaces once the housing efforts and services are in place.

CHS asked the leading mayoral candidates heading into the August primary if they supported Compassion Seattle. Bruce Harrell said he backed the initiative. “In Compassion Seattle, I’m pleased to see broad agreement between leading human service providers, advocates for the unsheltered, and local business leaders on a path forward,” Harrell told CHS. Lorena González said she opposed the charter amendment because “it is an unfunded mandate that does not identify a sustainable progressive revenue source.” “I oppose cuts to essential city services and support progressive revenue measures to build more housing,” González said.

Ballots for the November 2nd election will begin to be mailed out in mid-September.

 

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Caphiller
Caphiller
1 month ago

Telling that the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness didn’t like an initiative that might have changed the city’s approach to the homelessness. When what we’re doing doesn’t work, just keep doing more of it!

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  Caphiller

The initiative would have done nothing but codified encampment sweeps. Sure there was some warm and fuzzy fluff about building housing, but that was completely unfunded and meant to make people feel better about harassing people who are in desperate need of help. There was also exactly zero provisions for treating mental illness or drug addiction, not any provisions for helping people find stable housing and employment.

Meanwhile, the City and County are actually purchasing and building housing, despite push back from mentally deranged individuals and city governments. It’s not enough, but it’s better than we have been doing.

I’m curious what mental gymnastics people have to do to think this Compassion Seattle garbage actually would do anything, let alone not make things work.

Moving Soon
Moving Soon
1 month ago

Cheating, to sweep the entire city, for the sake of our financial overlords. How compassionate.

Doug Jones
Doug Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Moving Soon

That is not accurate and quite dramatic. The reality is that we’re spending lots of $$$ with minimal results, so no one can really stomach just putting more $$$ without any path to results.

Would you pay to fix your car or your house if someone just said to you, “just keep paying, it will be done someday”? Even big projects, such as this, can have a plan, with milestones and projected results.

Curious, where are moving too that handles this so much better?

m sam
m sam
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug Jones

Nah, without funding this initiative is clearly all about adding sweeps to the city charter. You assume everyone should just trust what you are doing. No. I don’t trust wealthy “patrons” who show up with city charter amendments any farther than I can throw them, particularly when they show up without the money for what they are trying to do. You want to do compassion, your rich ar$e can pay, and no sweeps!

Doug Jones
Doug Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  m sam

You seem to forget or deny that you’re one of those “wealthy patrons” (I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re not typing this from your tent). I explain below the hubris about “unfunded mandate” below. It’s nonsense.

If anyone would actually talk to the people in the tents and find out what we they need, we could house them. Writing checks with no results indefinitely is ridiculous, for everyone involved.

Sorry, “protest as a pastime” is not a real thing and the homeless population are not martyrs for your cause. They’d like to be housed ASAP and we’re only trying to help them.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug Jones

If anyone would actually talk to the people in the tents and find out what we they need, we could house them.

This initiative didn’t fund the additional housing to house the people that were now to be systematically harassed. No surprise since this initiative comes from the same people that spent tons of money to kill the head tax that would have funded constructing and buying houses.

Doug Jones
Doug Jones
1 month ago

The judge is technically correct, of course, but a real shame. Just another few years of no progress on this. The city needed a target, and this would have given us that, and through that process, we would have learned how to do it more efficiently and compassionately.

The claims about “unfunded mandate” are crap – when you move into a new apartment or buy a new car, you eventually stop paying for the old one, right? The existing programs we have in place are under-utilized, which would be easily visible if the respective city agencies and nonprofits would provide that data. Those programs would be streamlined and optimized, and the surplus funds would be directed towards the 2k house mandate. As we all saw real progress, more funds would be quickly freed up and goal would be accomplished.

What’s even more frustrating is that the logic I outlined above is used by the naysayers in their day jobs every day. Budget, scope, milestones, re-evaluation and tweak. It’s almost like people are defying logic just for spite.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug Jones

Just another few years of no progress on this.

The City and County are buying up and building new housing and have been for a few years. The problem is we have a large homeless population and it’s going to take a lot of housing. The City doesn’t need a mandate, it needs funding.

The claims about “unfunded mandate” are crap – when you move into a new apartment or buy a new car, you eventually stop paying for the old one, right? The existing programs we have in place are under-utilized, which would be easily visible if the respective city agencies and nonprofits would provide that data. Those programs would be streamlined and optimized, and the surplus funds would be directed towards the 2k house mandate. As we all saw real progress, more funds would be quickly freed up and goal would be accomplished.

You typed a bunch of words, but you don’t refute the fact that the initiative had zero funding for additional housing NOR the codified sweeps. The initiative would have costed taxpayers more money and made the homeless problem worse.

Ballardite
Ballardite
1 month ago

Vote people – we need new direction on homelessness!

RWK
RWK
1 month ago

The ACLU does good and important work at times, but this is not one of them. They apparently think it’s best to continue our same old, same old approach to homelessness, and that it’s “compassionate” to leave homeless people on the streets, living in squalor.

Now, we can only hope that Bruce Harrell will be elected, that Nikkita Oliver will lose, and that we elect a City Atttorney who believes in enforcing the rule of law. Otherwise, our city will go further down the drain.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  RWK

The ACLU does good and important work at times, but this is not one of them. They apparently think it’s best to continue our same old, same old approach to homelessness, and that it’s “compassionate” to leave homeless people on the streets, living in squalor.

You would be on to something if the initiative funded additional programs and housing. It didn’t, therefore making the initiative nothing more than codifying systematic harassment of the homeless. Nothing helps people out of rock bottom more than your complete and utter contempt, right Bob?

Now, we can only hope that Bruce Harrell will be elected, that Nikkita Oliver will lose, and that we elect a City Atttorney who believes in enforcing the rule of law.

Bruce Harrell thinks that non profits and the private sector will solve the homeless problem. He’s an idiot and so is anyone that thinks he’ll accomplish anything regarding the homeless crisis.

Otherwise, our city will go further down the drain.

Further? Your outlook on reality is extremely bleak. Turn off the right wing news, go outside and enjoy life. You’ll be way better off for it.

Scandinavian
Scandinavian
1 month ago

I asked Lorena Gonzalez years ago how she plans to measure success on addressing the city’s homelessness crisis. She didn’t have an answer then and she doesn’t have one now. If she can’t lead on the most important issue facing this city, she shouldn’t be running for Mayor. it is time for new leadership.