City Attorney Will Speed Up Case Filings, 21 Homeless Men Died in January Cold, Democrats Propose Sales Tax Holiday

1. Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced Monday that her office will begin deciding whether to file charges in misdemeanor cases within five business days of receiving a referral from law enforcement. In a statement, Davison said the move is necessary to prevent her office’s current 5,000-case backlog from growing.

“The best way to interrupt crime happening on the streets today is by quickly and efficiently moving on the cases referred to us by the Seattle Police Department,” Davison said. The strategy began as a recommendation from Brian Moran, who previously worked for three state attorneys general and as the US Attorney for Western Washington. Moran joined the City Attorney’s Office last month, in part to advise Davison on how to manage the backlog of criminal cases.

Speedier filing decisions could create some logistical challenge further downstream in Seattle’s criminal legal system. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited the Seattle Municipal Court’s capacity to hold hearings, and each misdemeanor case may require multiple hearings. The court has the capacity to hold two trials a week, and in recent months, it has averaged only one trial per week.

Meanwhile, King County jails are facing a staffing shortage, exacerbated by a recent outbreak of COVID-19 among staff and inmates, that has prompted the union representing King County’s corrections officers to raise the alarm about unsafe and inhumane living and working conditions for inmates and staff. While misdemeanor defendants make up a small portion of those incarcerated in King County jails, an uptick in the number of misdemeanor charges filed by the City Attorney’s Office could also increase the number of people held in jail while awaiting a hearing on their misdemeanor charges.

2. Last week, records released by the Seattle Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that 21 men experiencing homelessness died outside or in public in January 2022, the largest number since the previous high of 30 in December 2020.

Women In Black distributed a list of the people who died unsheltered during January last week.

Of the 21, four died of confirmed hypothermia, and another died from carbon monoxide poisoning in his car, a cause of death that indicates he was trying to stay warm. All five of these deaths occurred the week after Seattle and King County closed their severe weather shelters closed their severe weather shelters on the morning of January 3. During the week after the winter shelters closed, overnight lows in Seattle ranged from 32 to 38 degrees.

Twelve of the 21 men died of confirmed overdoses, according to the medical examiner.

3. To ease the burden Washington’s regressive sales tax puts on low-income and working-class people, House Democrats proposed a bill that would create a “sales tax holiday” during Labor Day weekend this year.

If passed, shoppers would be exempt from paying sales taxes when they purchase school supplies, clothes, over-the-counter drugs, computers and similar electronics, and other qualified products under $1000 during the three-day holiday.

Rep. Dave Paul (D-10, Whidbey Island) sponsored the bill. He told the House Finance Committee at a public hearing that back-to-school shopping “makes September a very lean month” for “working and needy families” and a sales-tax holiday is a way to reduce the negative financial impacts.

However, the bill has drawn criticism from lefty tax reform groups like the Economic Opportunity Institute. “This bill doesn’t deliver the scale of economic support that we need,” EOI spokeswoman Carolyn Brotherton said. “It also doesn’t get closer, at all, to holistic tax reform,” one of the Democrats’ major priorities during the 2021 session.

Currently, 17 states have one or more sales-tax holidays. Brotherton argues that sales tax holidays don’t result in greater long-term financial stability for people or help them afford goods they need. Instead, they result in local businesses raising prices on goods to make extra profit during the holiday, much like how big-box stores will raise product prices prior to Black Friday to trick consumers into thinking they’re getting good deals.

The legislation does seem like a good deal for Washington’s small business, many of which struggled to stay in-business during the pandemic; however the exemptions in the bill apply to all retailers, not just local, small ones. This means people wouldn’t pay sales taxes when they buy from Amazon or big box retailers like Staples and Target, which disincentivizes people from shopping smaller, independent businesses.

Rather than creating short-term sales-tax holidays, Brotherton wants the state to end its reliance on the sales tax, which she said is both regressive and shrinks as the state grows. Instead, she said the legislature should pass bills like the wealth tax from last year’s session, which was reintroduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year.

—Paul Kiefer, Erica C. Barnett, Leo Brine

8 thoughts on “City Attorney Will Speed Up Case Filings, 21 Homeless Men Died in January Cold, Democrats Propose Sales Tax Holiday”

  1. AJoy: Please keep giving away more and more free stuff to the addicted homeless. It will make the problem worse every year, Seattle will get what it deserves, and I will be here to laugh at all the stupidity and remind you of your dismal failures. The truth does not care what I think or what any documentary says. The proof will be in the ever-increasing numbers of homeless. You will be so proud of your contribution. You had better get your excuses ready. What will it be? Are they climate refugees? Was it all caused by Amazon? Trump? Reagan? I’ve really got you pegged don’t I. While you are at it let’s get some free druggie safe-injection centers, because everyone knows that making it easier for the homeless to pump themselves full of fentanyl and meth will reduce the number of homeless addicts. Now that’s real Progressive logic in action.

    1. We’ve already gone over this, Steve. We’re not giving away more to the homeless, a minority of whom are drug addicts (speaking of the truth). We’re giving away less, 96th out of the 100 largest cities in the US. Yet despite that the problem is getting worse every year. And a lot of what is being given to the homeless isn’t being given by Seattle or agencies that operate solely within the city. So there is nothing one can do about them at the local level. The fact of the matter is that how little we give is one of the primary causes of the issue. People like you, who will demonize the people in need all the while standing in the way of them getting the services necessary to get better, are the ones making the problem worse. All the while impugning those in need by calling them all addicts. It is downright Dickensian, in point of fact.

      But we do agree that you will be laughing, even as you ensure the problem is there to laugh at.

  2. Your title strongly suggests that all the men died of hypothermia. Upon further reading, we find that more than half died from overdoses. That seems to confirm that most homeless are addicts, which many Progressives deny, including those on this forum. On the other hand, it is sometimes difficult to determine who is homeless and who is not. Apparently Seattle or Erica now has some type of magical method. In the landmark case of Martin v. Boise, Mr. Martin had a place to stay in Post Falls, just not in Boise. So was he even homeless? The Ninth Circuit Judge (Marsha Berzon) just invented her own Progressive reasoning on that. In school, I lived in the attic of a building on campus. Was I homeless? NO. I just wanted to save more money for school. This is called having a plan. You also pulled the Progressive magic trick of “dying while unsheltered” vs. “dying from being unsheltered”. Perhaps you thought your readers would not notice that word trick. Your point would be proven if homelessness caused the deaths. Instead, your rant proves nothing except that overdosing, carbon monoxide, and bad planning can kill you. We already know that. Say something useful.

    1. That 12 of 21 homeless people who died in a month did so from drug overdoses doesn’t even remotely imply that most of the homeless are drug addicts. With thousands of people living on the street, 21 is a horribly low sample size. One month is a horribly short sighted length of study, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that drug use comes with a higher risk of death. This isn’t even correlation implying causation. This is just more internal disingenuousness on your part.

      1. Watch “Seattle is Dying” and get yourself educated about the link between drug addiction and homelessness in Seattle.

      2. Seattle is Dying? Seriously? Most of the ‘data’ in that hit piece has long since been disproven and discredited. This wasn’t Eric Johnson’s first or last anti-homeless screed either. But it was the most egregious in terms of lying, at one point portraying a sober housed individual with sciatica as a homeless drug abuser.

        I didn’t think you had any more credibility to lose. But that recommendation proves just how wrong I was.

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