The candidates to serve District 3 on the Seattle City Council are divided on their support for the legislation passed last week that will open the way for a Seattle Police Department crackdown on public drug use on the city’s streets while doing more to emphasize diversion and treatment. One would have sided with current D3 rep Kshama Sawant in unsuccessfully opposing the bill, the other says her personal experience and family loss would make it impossible for her not to vote yes on the legislation.
“I lost my brother-in-law to fentanyl. He used to be on 3rd and Pike,” Joy Hollingsworth tells CHS as she called last week’s vote “a much needed step in the right direction to help manage the fentanyl crisis that is ravaging our community.”
“Unfortunately he was murdered, shot in the head point blank range,” Hollingsworth said. “Compassion has many forms. It’s sometimes soft and sweet, and other times it’s accountability and action.”
Hollingsworth’s opponent Alex Hudson says, like Sawant, she would have opposed the legislation. But unlike the socialist firebrand who criticized Democratic leaders and championed police abolition in her vote against the bill, Hudson offered sober legislative reality in her reasons for the hypothetical “no” vote.
“The current version of the bill has some positive stated intentions of diversion, but it’s an empty promise,” Hudson said.
“There has been no established process to divert, and no resources have been allocated to create treatment to divert people to.”
The newly passed law will incorporate elements of statewide changes allowing the city attorney to prosecute a wider spectrum of drug cases while adding new policies about arrests, plus tying funding for treatment and services to the legislation by shuffling $27 million in budgeted spending toward enhanced treatment facilities, new addiction services, and improved overdose response for first responders including $7 million this year in capital investments in facilities to provide services such as post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, health hub services, long-term care management, and drop-in support. Critics like Hudson point out that the plan includes no new spending and is likely inadequate to support true balance to the law and order component it opens up.
CHS reported here on the 6-3 vote approving the bill that fell as expected with District 2 representative Tammy Morales, and current District 3 leader Sawant joined by citywide councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in opposing the bill.
Hollingsworth, who has spoke up for equity in the city’s legal cannabis trade and is part of her family’s marijuana growing business, is entangled in a race for the D3 seat with former First Hill Improvement Association and Transportation Choices Coalition leader Hudson. Hollingsworth has spoken in favor of more efforts to arrest and prosecute public drug use while also calling for additional treatment resources. “Using deadly chemical drugs in the open air is illegal and we need to apply the law to ensure people are getting treatment. It’s unhealthy and dangerous,” she told CHS this summer. While Hudson opposes the crackdown without adequate treatment and diversion programs, she has said she does not support the so-called defunding of police but would like to see more efforts to connect the force to the communities it serves. “I hear overwhelmingly from residents that they want to see the return of community-based policing and ‘beat cops,’ officers who are deeply embedded in neighborhoods, out walking around in communities, getting to know residents and workers, and who can help mediate conflicts, address issues before they boil over, and be a resource for all,” Hudson said. “Ideally, this will foster supportive relationships between the police and the community and contribute to the important work of rebuilding trust in our police while improving public safety.”
The candidates’ full statements on the recently passed drug use enforcement and treatment bill are below.
I would have voted YES on the bill. Our City Council took a much needed step in the right direction to help manage the fentanyl crisis that is ravaging our community.
I lost my brother-in-law to fentanyl. He used to be on 3rd and Pike. Unfortunately he was murdered, shot in the head point blank range. Compassion has many forms. It’s sometimes soft and sweet, and other times it’s accountability and action.
Most people suffering on our streets using fentanyl are mentality incapable and emotionally controlled by this poison they are putting in their bodies. People have lost lives and they have been disconnected from their families.
People have to get treatment. We have to make suboxone and methadone so easy for people to access to help them transition off fentanyl. We have to stop normalizing people suffering on our streets. The compassionate approach is to ensure that people get treatment, have open access to mental health services, we protect the service providers who are doing the work, and we also protect our neighborhoods from the damaging aftermaths and activity that surrounds people using fentanyl, thats a public safety concern.
I am not able to support this legislation as written and passed. The current version of the bill has some positive stated intentions of diversion, but it’s an empty promise. There has been no established process to divert, and no resources have been allocated to create treatment to divert people to. So, I worry this bill in its current form is not going to help anyone or make any noticeable improvement to the misery and disorder on our streets. I look forward to seeing a budget that invests in support and medical treatment at the scale of the problem, which is costing hundreds of people their lives and making our city not able to reach our full potential.
Mayor Bruce Harrell has signed the legislation and it will go into effect next month. Meanwhile, ballots for the November General Election will be mailed the week of October 18th.