Tag Archives: King County

King County defends safe injection sites as a “public health service”

druge injection

I understand there is an opioid epidemic in the U.S. right now. I would rather see taxes used for a rehabilitation facility than for an injection site. Yet I’m sure it’s much harder to get an addict into rehab than it is to allow them to shoot up.

From MyNorthwest.com: King County (Washington state) health officials took to Facebook to address mounting concerns over planned safe injection sites.

Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin and Brad Findgood, who previously co-chaired the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force, were on hand during the live event hosted by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“These are locations that are public health services, that provide a safe space for people who are already using drugs in public spaces,” Duchin said. “… allow them to come indoors, under the supervision of a healthcare worker, use their drugs and have an overdose reversed if they should suffer from an overdose …”

“Certainly, we don’t believe someone should be pushed out onto the street after they are given clean injection equipment … and told to go inject in an alleyway, or in a restroom of a coffee shop, unattended, where you could die alone when we could save a life,” he continued.

But anxiety over the actual safety of safe injection sites has grown in King County. A Bothell councilmember even started a petition to ban them. It’s those concerns that Duchin and Finegood attempted to address.

Do safe injection sites encourage drug use?

The closest facility to Seattle is in Vancouver B.C. But the safe injection system has been used in Europe for some time, Finegood said. Therefore, there is evidence and studies available to help gauge their effects.

Duchin argued that the facilities don’t increase drug use, rather, they divert current drug use and directly engage users and more efficiently address the problem.

Duchin points out that there were similar concerns surrounding needle exchanges. Now, he says exchanges are a “safe and effective intervention to save lives and prevent disease.”

“I think we are going to see the same thing with these supervised consumption facilities in the United States. We’re just a little bit behind the curve,” he said. “Giving people a safe place to inject who are already injecting in unsafe ways, doesn’t in any way invite more drug use,” he added.

Where will the facilities be located?

What is known is that one facility is planned for Seattle and another for greater King County. But no exact locations have been decided.

“We have no interest in siting these in a community that doesn’t have these problems,” Finegood said. “The idea behind a supervised consumption space is: Where are the problems already happening? Where are people overdosing outside? Where are needles being discarded outside? Where are people dying from heroin use?”

“We have a lot of that information … people are already using publicly. We know that,” he said. “I came across somebody overdosing last week on my walk to the bus. A colleague walked into a Starbucks a couple weeks ago and somebody was overdosing in the bathroom. These things are happening already. This is just an intervention that says, You do not need to use alone. You do not need to be stigmatized, or have prejudice, or discrimination because of your illness. Come indoors, talk to a healthcare worker, and we can help.”

Duchin said there is no timeline for when the safe injection sites will open. He said officials would have liked to have them up and running “yesterday.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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City jobs grow out of Seattle homelessness crisis

government solve all problems

In April 2016, I told you how the embattled Seattle Mayor Ed Murray decided to tackle the severe homelessness crisis in Seattle. He hired a “homelessness czar” to “lead and align efforts across City departments, provide oversight and evaluation of data and outcomes, provide strategic guidance on developing policy and protocols, and lead external engagement and communication strategies.”

And, as many could have predicted, the homelessness czar (and the high salary) is not enough to solve the problem. What to do? Hire more people!

From MyNorthwest.com: Two new jobs have been created to tackle the Seattle homelessness crisis. This adds to other positions directly related to homelessness the city created within the last year.

The new positions bring the total number of new homeless-related jobs to six that the city has hired for since August. The two positions currently advertised for will potentially pay more than $100,000 each.

    • Homelessness czar: $137,500 annually
    • Homeless encampment trash/litter program administrator: up to $46.80 / hour
    • Two homeless encampment field operations advisers (x2): up to $42 / hour
    • Executive for encampment response: Between $119,997.36 and $140,000.41 annually
    • Homeless communications director: Between $91,872 and $125,843.76 annually

Adding all that up – at the high end of estimated annual pay – it comes to $537,908.17 in new salaries.

Before Seattle and King County declared a state of emergency over the homeless crisis in 2015, the city spent about $40 million on the issue; the county spent $36 million. After the state of emergency was declared, Seattle put up $5 million more, and the county threw in $2 million more.

Job descriptions

“Executive overseeing the homeless encampment response program” pays between $119,997.36 and $140,000.41. The role of the executive will be to lead cleanup programs for homeless encampments on public property while finding housing for people living in those camps. The purpose will be to move people living in tents into “indoor housing alternatives.”

Communications director will be dedicated solely to the homeless response program. This position pays between $91,872 and $125,843.76 annually. They will handle all internal and external communications around encampment issues. They will work with everyone from the mayor to the council, the police department and more to create messaging around homelessness.

And let’s not forget, in August 2016, the city hired George Scarola to be Seattle’s homelessness czar. Scarola is charged with leading the city’s homeless response efforts, organizing multiple departments and providing oversight and strategic guidance.

Seattle began hiring again in March 2017, this time to solve the homelessness issue. One position was for an administrator for a homeless encampment trash/litter cleanup program. The position is paid up to $46.80 an hour and was listed as temporary. The city also advertised to hire two field positions that would coordinate cleanup of encampments. They are paid up to $42 an hour.

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Homosexual Seattle mayor Ed Murray, accused of sex abuse, reportedly won’t seek re-election

Ed Murray with husband Michael Shiosaki

As Dr. Eowyn reported back in April, Seattle mayor Ed Murray was accused of sexually molesting three teenage boys. This includes having sexually molested a 15-year-old boy in the 1980s. At the time, Murray would have been in his early 30s. From her blog post:

“Lewis Kamb and Jim Brunner report for Seattle Times that on April 6, 2017, a 46-year-old man with the initials D.H., a resident of Kent, Washington, filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, claiming that Ed Murray had “raped and molested him” over several years, beginning in 1986 when the man was a 15-year-old crack-cocaine addicted high-school dropout. Murray gave the teen payments of $10 to $20.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, D. H. said, “I have been dealing with this for over 30 years,” and that he’s now coming forward as part of a “healing process” after years of “the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt, the humiliation that I put myself through and that he [Murray] put me through.”

Then, in early May, a fourth person accused Murray of sex abuse.  From King5:

A fourth accuser came forward claiming Seattle Mayor Ed Murray paid him for sex when he was a teenager.

In court documents filed Tuesday, Maurice Jones, 44, claimed he was introduced to Murray by Delvonn Heckard who also claimed he was abused as a teen by Murray. Heckard is the only person suing the mayor at this point. The declaration submitted to the court by Jones is in support of Heckard’s lawsuit.

Jones claimed in a written statement that Murray was known for patronizing child prostitutes at the time when Jones was a teen. Jones claimed he had also been in Murray’s Capitol Hill apartment at the same time Heckard has claimed abuse in the 1980s.”

Now the mayor is apparently ready to announce he will not seek re-election. And, his supporters are setting up a legal defense fund for him, anticipating that his defense of these allegations will cost him $1 million.

Sounds like the good mayor has got himself some serious legal issues.

From MyNorthwest.com: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will officially announce Tuesday that he will not seek re-election, sources tell KIRO Radio.

Murray currently faces allegations that decades ago he sexually abused four minors. He has vehemently denied the claims, but had not yet filed to seek a second term with the deadline to submit the paperwork one week away. Publicly, his campaign staff has said the one-term mayor is going to run. But privately, Murray and others have been gauging the erosion of the mayor’s popularity before deciding to make another bid. Sources tell KIRO Radio, however, that the mayor plans to formally announce that he will not seek re-election.

According to the latest report from Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, Murray has more than $372,000 in campaign contributions. He has been fundraising since late 2016.

Murray’s expected announcement likely will trigger a slew of potential candidates stepping into the fray.  Former Mayor Mike McGinn has already announced, as has urban planner Cary Moon and activist and poet Nikita Oliver. Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan likely will announce her candidacy within days and Seattle Democratic Sen. Bob Hasagawa has also expressed an interest, among other candidates.

Four men have accused Murray of sexually abusing them as minors. The latest, Maurice Jones claimed he was introduced to Murray by Delvonn Heckard, who has said he was abused by the mayor in the 1980s. Murray has said he has no idea who Delvonn Heckard is and maintains that the man’s name “is not familiar” to him.

As of May, an independent trust has been created to raise money for Murray’s legal defense, The Seattle Times reports. To make sure the fund will not run afoul of regulations, the Pacifica Law Group sent a letter to the city’s ethics and elections commission stating their intent.

We represent the Ed Murray Legal Defense Fund, an independent trust being created to help defray the legal expenses that the Mayor of Seattle, Edward B. Murray, must incur to defend himself in an ongoing civil lawsuit … the mayor, a lifelong public servant, does not have the personal resources needed to fund his own legal defense.

Heckard, 46, is described as an openly gay man with no real political inclinations, which contrasts with the mayor’s claims that the allegations are a part of a right-wing conspiracy because the mayor pushed the LGBTQ civil rights bill.

Jeff Simpson, another one of Murray’s accusers, has stressed that he is not asking for anything other than for the mayor to admit what he did. Murray told KIRO 7 that he was Simpson’s “legal guardian for just under two years.”

Simpson is one of two Portland men who have accused Mayor Murray of sexual abuse while they were minors in the 1980s.

Murray became the mayor of Seattle in January 2014 after 18 years as state legislator representing the 43rd Legislative District. He was the prime sponsor of the state’s marriage equality bill. As mayor, he signed an executive order raising the minimum wage of City employees to $15 an hour.  Most recently, Murray proposed a soda tax and city income tax.

Murray lives in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood with his partner of 24 years, Michael Shiosaki.

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King County cops teaming up to fight rise in gun violence

stoopid

In August 2015, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to establish a tax on gun and ammunition sales in the city, and to require gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms to police. At the time, council president Tim Burgess said this: “Gun violence is a public-health crisis in our city and our nation. City government can and must pursue innovative gun-safety measures that save lives and save money.”

It’s been two years since that gun tax was adopted. And it’s working about as well as you would expect…

From MyNorthwest.com: In his 4 ½ years as King County sheriff, John Urquhart cannot recall a time or an issue that brought together nearly every high-ranking law enforcement official in the Puget Sound region. Until Wednesday, when the region’s recent rise in gun violence put local and federal law enforcement in one room.

Most recently, there were six shootings in two days in the Seattle region. The issue is so severe that Urquhart was blunt while speaking with KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don.

“Young people with guns, that’s exactly what it is … my message to parents is if you think your kids are out there with guns – and I think most parents know – you better put a stop to it, even if you have to call us,” Urquhart said. “Because if you don’t, they are going to get killed. Either we are going to kill them – which is what happened in Seattle two weeks ago – or other people out there, other kids with guns are going to kill them. That’s how serious this is. We don’t want to kill them, we don’t want your kid to get killed. Do something about it.”

The meeting on Wednesday brought together the Washington State Patrol, Seattle Police Department, ATF, DEA, FBI, the DOC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office — each discussing how they have noticed the rise in gun violence.

“There has been an uptick in some gang activity,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole told KIRO 7. “…We had the death of an innocent 16-year-old girl here, just around the corner. We had an elderly couple in the middle of the night that were subject to gunfire. It has to stop. The community is not going to tolerate it, and the police department is not going to tolerate it.”

Urquhart wouldn’t say exactly what tactics are going to be used moving forward, but he did provide some insight. “They are real simple: Boots on the ground,” he said. “We’re are going to go out there and if you have got guns, if you are shooting people, if you are doing drive-bys, we are going to find you and we are going to arrest you, and we are going to work together to find out who is doing this.”

King County gun violence

In just the first four months of 2017, the King County Sheriff’s Office has already logged a considerable number of firearm-related incidents in unincorporated parts of the county. The sheriff did not have the numbers from previous years on hand, but did say that they are “way up.”

  • 14 homicides
  • 40 shootings (people struck by gunfire, but survived)
  • 100 drive-by shootings
  • A total of 120 shots fired were reported to 911 in cities that the sheriff covers (Des Moines, Kent, etc.)

The numbers do not reflect Seattle’s statistics. Seattle shots fired in a 12-month period starting in April:

  • 2013: 73 reports
  • 2014: 76 reports
  • 2015: 113 reports
  • 2016: 103 reports
  • 2017: 119 reports

“The only common denominator is all the guns,” Urquhart said. “Individuals, groups of people, some gangs involved, but not 100 percent. It would be a mistake to say that this is a gang problem, because that is not exactly what this is in every situation.”

“This could be as simple as somebody disrespecting somebody else’s mother or somebody else’s girlfriend … There’s no one situation that applies to all this violence except that everybody has guns and they are shooting people,” he said. “They are shooting innocent people and they are shooting up houses.”

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Seattle, King County councils approve $1.3 million in legal aid for immigrants

lorena gonzalez

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher: Proposed using your tax payer dollars to defend illegal aliens

Suck it, taxpayers. Your hard-earned money is going to defend illegal aliens whether you approve or not.

From Seattle Times: The Seattle City Council on Monday voted to create a $1 million legal-defense fund for immigrants illegal aliens whom the federal government attempts to deport. And the Metropolitan King County Council approved $750,000 for immigrant and refugee programs, including $300,000 for the defense of people in immigration court.

The city and county will distribute the money to nonprofit organizations such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to do the legal work.

City and county leaders have said local immigrant families need the help because of President Donald Trump’s plan to step up deportations.

Immigration-court cases are civil proceedings because living in the country illegally is a civil violation rather than a criminal one. Unlike in criminal cases, people who can’t afford to hire an attorney for immigration court aren’t guaranteed a public defender.

More than one-third of people with immigration-court cases in Seattle and more than 90 percent of those with cases in Tacoma lack legal representation, according to Councilmember M. Lorena González, who proposed the city fund with Councilmember Tim Burgess.

People convicted of crimes wouldn’t be excluded from getting support through the city’s fund in their unrelated immigration-court cases, according to Gonzalez and Burgess. Burgess said Monday that everyone should be afforded due process, including people facing potential deportation.

The city’s fund is separate from $250,000 Seattle is spending to help immigrants and refugees navigate life under Trump, with a focus on children in the city’s public schools.

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Latest firearm legislation in Washington state focuses on protecting victims

drew hansen]

Brainchild of this bill, Drew Hansen

Victims in Seattle of serious crimes wait for more than an hour for police assistance. Also, Seattle neighborhoods hire their own security because police are a rare sighting in their areas. Color me skeptical that the police (at least in the larger cities) are well equipped and staffed to notify a domestic violence survivor in a timely manner.

From MyNorthwest.com: In 2014, Washington State voters approved universal background checks for gun buyers. But what happens to felons, domestic abusers and others who fail those background checks and illegally try to buy a gun? Not much, as it turns out. However, there’s an effort in Olympia to change that.

The idea behind House Bill 1501 began with a conversation between State Representative Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) and another lawmaker last year.

“If a criminal tries to buy a firearm from a gun store and fails a background check, does law enforcement get notified? Do domestic violence survivors get notified if criminals are ineligible because of a restraining order? Do cops on the street get notified?” Hansen asked. “The answers to those questions are no, no, and no. Our bill makes the answers to those questions yes, yes, and yes.”

The bill adds teeth to the universal background check law. “We had over 3,000 failed background checks in Washington state last year,” Hansen said. “About half of which were failed because the purchaser was a criminal or fugitive … That is a lot of dangerous people trying to buy firearms.”

“If you walk into a gun store and you know you’re ineligible and you try to buy a firearm anyway and get caught and turned down, there should be an investigation, an arrest, and, in appropriate cases, prison time.”

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg agrees. When voters passed universal background check law, there was an implied understanding that there would be consequences for someone who fails a background check, he said.

Hansen says one of the key parts of the legislation is making sure victims, especially domestic violence survivors, are notified when their abuser is trying to arm themselves.

Lying on an application is a felony, and under federal law punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Right now, however, there really isn’t much follow up happening. The legislation would target domestic abusers, felons, people who have been involuntary committed, and people with warrants.

It would also require failed background checks to be reported to local law enforcement. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs would also maintain a statewide system to handle the notifications for domestic-violence survivors.

State grants would help local police agencies pay for the needed follow-up. Prosecutors and local law-enforcement agencies, including the Seattle Police Department, support the legislation. Hansen says they worked closely with the National Rifle Association to ensure Second Amendment rights were protected.

Hansen says it passed out of the House with overwhelming bipartisan support — so he’s hopeful they’ll get this one on the books this session.

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Seattle continues to fight homelessness with more high-paying government jobs

 

Ed Murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

Last April I told you about Seattle’s serious homelessness problem. From my post:

In 2016, the King County region saw an increase of 19% of our unsheltered population, the majority of those people residing in Seattle. In November of 2015, Mayor Murray declared a State of Emergency on Homelessness to bring light to this crisis and seek greater support from our state and federal partners. Mayor Murray has increased spending on homelessness intervention and prevention and the City of Seattle is now spending a record high of nearly $50 million dollars to address this crisis.”

How did the city respond to this emergency? They hired a “Director of Homelessness.” This was “to ensure that the City’s increased efforts are well coordinated and driving toward the greatest outcomes for those in need, the new Director of Homelessness will be tasked with executing the Mayor’s priorities on this issue.” The pay rate when this position was advertised? Between $97,279.92 and $160,483.68.

In August 2016, the city hired George Scarola to fill this position, who makes $137,500 per year.

Apparently just one high-paid city worker is not enough to help the homeless. Now comes this: Seattle hiring to clean up after the homeless.

From MyNorthwest.com: Seattle is putting its money where its mouth is in its latest effort to staff the homeless crisis. The city seeks to fill three positions, all targeted at cleaning up garbage along Seattle streets and around encampments.

“All three positions will support the city’s efforts to mitigate impacts of unsanctioned encampments,” said Julie Moore with the City of Seattle.

The first position will supervise pilot programs that address homeless litter in neighborhoods affected by encampments. Two other jobs will organize the cleanup efforts around encampments. All are already funded under the 2017-18 budget and pay between $37-46.80 and hour (that translates to $76,960/year – $97,344 [not including benefits]).

Seattle Public Utilities started two pilot programs in 2016 to address the issue of litter and trash related to the homeless crisis — the litter abatement pilot, and the encampment trash pilot. The Homeless Encampment Trash/Litter Abatement Pilot Program Administrator will oversee both programs. The position pays up to $46.80 an hour.

The homeless litter program focuses on street sweeping, washing sidewalks, and picking up trash in general. “The encampment trash pilot program provides scheduled solid waste pick-up services to five unsanctioned homeless encampments and on-call trash pick-up service, as needed,” Moore said. “This service is separate of collection of trash following a scheduled encampment cleanup.”

The program focused on the International District and Little Saigon when it was enacted last year. Four new neighborhoods will be added in 2017. It is unknown which four neighborhoods those will be.

Two Field Operations Supervisor positions were created in 2016 and have been filled temporarily. The city is seeking to fill them permanently for up to $42 an hour ($87,360/year). “They provide additional capacity to increase the city’s response to unsanctioned encampments…” Moore said, noting the supervisors will work with the city’s Navigation Team.

According to the job post:

The Field Operations Advisors will be responsible for coordinating cleanup efforts, directing on-site operations, overseeing assigned City employees and contract laborers, ensuring compliance with legal and environmental standards and regulations including outreach to offer alternative safe shelter, overseeing proper collection and storage protocols, collecting data, and liaising with other city departments, outside agencies, property owners, law enforcement, contractors and the public to ensure collaborative and efficient operations at assigned encampment sites.

All three jobs had an application deadline of March 14. It is unknown how soon the city plans on filling the positions.

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