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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