Conservative Group With Ties to Assistant City Attorney Launches Pro-Davison Effort; Mayor’s Office Said He Didn’t OK Police Hiring Bill, Contradicting Council Member

1. Change Washington, a “strategic communications organization” launched by a right-wing nonprofit called Project 42 in 2019, has repeatedly provided a platform for the tough-on-crime views of now-assistant city attorney Scott Lindsay (including this evocatively titled promotional piece, “Ann Davison’s Plan to Eliminate Repeat Offenders“). On Wednesday, it issued an explicit call to action on Davison’s (and Lindsay’s) behalf.

“Ann Davison Needs Your Help!” screams the headline above an blog post imploring readers to contact Davison and King County Department of Public Defense director Anita Khandelwal to support banning so-called “high utilizers” of the criminal justice system from Seattle Community Court. The link for Davison is her generic city email address; the link for Khandelwal goes to a listing for her direct phone line, effectively encouraging Davison’s supporters to harass a county employee with no control over Seattle’s community court.

“[T]he Seattle Community Court has already failed regarding these criminals, because if the program was working as intended those serial offenders wouldn’t exist, and Davison’s initiative wouldn’t be necessary,” the blog post says. (All bolds in original).

This isn’t the first time Change Washington has encouraged people to flood officials’ emails and phone lines to support an agenda directly promoted by Deputy City Attorney Lindsay. Dann Mead Smith, who heads up Project 42, credited a post Lindsay wrote on Change Washington’s website with “stopping the proposal to do away with misdemeanor crimes in Seattle by activating its list of 35,000 subscribers and flooding the council with emails and comments.”

As we reported last week, Davison’s office sent a letter to all seven Seattle Municipal Court judges asking them to overrule the community court judge, Damon Shadid, who has been negotiating with Davison’s office over her demand to exclude people from community court who meet her “high utilizers” criteria. Community court is the municipal court’s therapeutic, less-punitive option for people accused of certain low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors.

Davison’s high-utilizers list (like similar lists Lindsay has made over the years, including the “high impact offenders” list that was the basis of KOMO News’ “Seattle Is Dying” video) is made up largely of people who are homeless and those who’ve been through court-ordered evaluations to determine their competency to stand trial. Or, as Change Washington puts it, people who are “not interested in living honest lives like the rest of us even when offered a helping hand to accomplish it.”

Change Washington headlines and stories about Ann Davison and her agenda

This isn’t the first time Change Washington has encouraged people to flood public officials’ emails and phone lines to support an agenda directly promoted by Lindsay. Dann Mead Smith, the former head of the libertarian Washington Policy Center who now heads up Project 42, credited a post Lindsay wrote on Change Washington’s website with “stopping the proposal to do away with misdemeanor crimes in Seattle by activating its list of 35,000 subscribers and flooding the council with emails and comments.” (That proposal would have allowed defendants to say they committed a crime, such as shoplifting, to meet a basic human need as part of their defense; it would not have “legalized” any crimes.) Project 42’s latest corporate filing indicates the group had revenues of more than $500,000 last year.

Change Washington’s post on community court lists all seven municipal court judges’ names along with a warning: “We won’t forget their names when they’re up for reelection. The time of judges flying under the radar with regards to criminal coddling and degrading the City’s public safety is coming to an end.”

It’s possible that conservative groups will recruit challengers for municipal court judges—the entire court is up for reelection, and has a history of liberal-conservative swings—but historically, most Seattle Municipal Court elections go uncontested and largely unnoticed amid higher-profile campaigns in Congressional election years.

2. Earlier this week, Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson said both Mayor Bruce Harrell and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell had given her the “thumbs up” to propose a bill that would lift restrictions on $4.5 million of the Seattle Police Department’s 2022 budget, allowing SPD to spend the full amount, or any portion of it, on financial incentives to recruit new officers. Because we hadn’t heard anything about either Harrell explicitly supporting Nelson’s contentious proposal, we reached out to the mayor’s office to hear their version of the story.

According to a Harrell spokesman, Jamie Housen, both Harrells’ conversations with Nelson about hiring incentives took place “before this ordinance was even contemplated. Councilmember Nelson informed the mayor of her plan to sponsor a resolution in support of staffing bonuses, generally. The mayor let her know she was welcome to put it forward and that doing so would not create an issue with the Mayor’s Office,” Housen said.

“Similarly, when Councilmember Nelson asked to discuss police recruiting with Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell, the Senior Deputy Mayor encouraged her to explore potential solutions to SPD staffing challenges from the legislative level, which might include incentive pay or relocation costs as potential options.”

Herbold, who chairs the public safety committee, has proposed releasing $650,000 of the restricted money to pay for relocation expenses for officers moving to Seattle from out of town and to hire a professional recruiter for SPD.

4 thoughts on “Conservative Group With Ties to Assistant City Attorney Launches Pro-Davison Effort; Mayor’s Office Said He Didn’t OK Police Hiring Bill, Contradicting Council Member”

  1. One doesn’t have to be a “conservative” to support holding repeat offenders accountable for their crimes. Allowing them to continue free to commit more and more crimes is demonstrably not working to encourage them to find another way to support themselves.

    1. So what if our current way of “holding people accountable for their crimes” (e.g., putting them in prison) makes them MORE likely to commit crimes, not LESS likely? You know, if a worker is not working fast enough, and we hold them accountable by chopping off their hand, they are of course going to (ironically) work slower. Our “accountability” measure had the opposite effect than what we want (getting work done faster). This is also true of prison especially for people who are chronically homeless, mentally ill, etc. The outcome we want is not “person has spent time in prison” but “person does not commit more crimes.” And yet study after study shows that imprisonment, and fines, etc. actually makes precarious people’s positions MORE precarious – they come out of prison more impoverished, less employed, less sheltered, less connected to stable community, more hopeless, etc. than they were before they went in, and these are all conditions that dispose people to crimes of desperation and apathy. So we have a means of “holding people accountable” that produces the opposite effect of what we want, that is the equivalent of chopping off workers’ hands to make them work faster. That is what diversion courts are meant to do, and what for some reason the “Seattle is Dying” people cannot seem to acknowledge.

      1. You set up a straw man that has nothing to do with what I wrote, then set about to destroy it. I hope that you enjoyed that. Perhaps you missed the part of my post about what we’re doing “demonstrably not working” for some of these folks? If you’d like to be prey for them, please be my guest. Perhaps you can take in a few since you seem to feel strongly about it. I agree diversion may work for some, but the issue in the article is about those for whom it is NOT working. What’s your plan for them? I personally would like them off the street and I don’t much care where they go as long as they are not free to prey on others.

    2. So, sp88ky, one might wonder if you support forcing taxpayers to house people in jail–no small expense–in order to allow giant retailers like Target to maintain their nearly-completely-unsecured self-service retail operations.

      Have you done any cost-benefit analysis on this? Have you considered having these targets of theft–these high utilizers of the criminal justice system–to foot the cost of securing their goods before we instead obligate the public pay to house people in jail? Have you considered which of these options might have a more positive effect on the general population, and which are more likely to benefit giant corporations who are most definitely not paying their fair share?

      I’m not into victim-blaming in nearly any circumstance, but Target is kind of asking for it, just laying everything out in front of an open door, from which one may step out into some pretty extreme wealth inequality, and expecting that even people living in destitute circumstances will voluntarily pay before walking out.

      Even Sandeep, a seemingly-successful political consultant and Erica’s counterpart on the Seattle Nice podcast, publicly admits that he has considered not paying money he owes if he’s not forced to do so and/or if people around him don’t pay.

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