Drug Criminalization Bill Could Hang on One Vote; Dones May Get Consultant Contract After Leaving Homelessness Agency

1. As of last week, the Seattle City Council seemed likely to vote at least 5-4 in favor of legislation, proposed by City Attorney Ann Davison and sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen, to criminalize simple drug possession and public use at the city level. The state legislature, responding to a state supreme court decision overturning the state’s previous felony law, made drug use and possession a gross misdemeanor earlier this year; the local proposal would incorporate parts of that law into the city’s municipal code.

However, after Davison abruptly withdrew the city from Seattle’s community court—a therapeutic court that accepts people accused of most misdemeanors without requiring them to plead guilty of a crime—council members who were leaning toward a “yes” vote have reportedly been reconsidering their positions. If Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Kshama Sawant, and Lisa Herbold all vote “no,” all it will take is one more council member—either Andrew Lewis or Dan Strauss, both up for reelection this year—to doom the bill.

Lewis declined to comment on Monday, and Strauss did not respond to a text message last week. However, Strauss proposed an amendment on Monday that would add a “whereas” clause the bill pointing out that the state law mentions diversion, treatment, and services as alternatives to booking and prosecution, suggesting that he may believe the new law meaningfully encourages these alternatives.

If Strauss supports the bill, the decision would come down to Lewis. Although Lewis told the Seattle Times he supports prosecuting people for public drug use, that was before Davison withdrew the city from community court. In light of that decision, Lewis may want to avoid handing more authority to a separately elected official who has demonstrated she will act unilaterally to penalize low-level crimes. During Monday’s council briefing, Lewis criticized Davison’s decision, saying it was “concerning that the decision to pull out and disrupt that program has been made without a well-thought–out plan on what replaces it.”

The criminalization bill skipped past the usual committee hearing, so tomorrow’s 2 pm full council meeting will be the first time the council discusses the legislation publicly, and the first and last opportunity for the public to address the council directly before the vote.

2. Former King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones, who announced their resignation last month, will reportedly receive a public contract to work on an unspecified project for the agency for up to three months after their last day on June 16. Sources close to Dones and the agency were tight-lipped about the details, but the deal is said to be a kind of payment in lieu of severance because Dones decided to resign rather than forcing the agency to fire them, which was starting to look more and more likely in the weeks leading up to Dones’ resignation.

Dones has been a divisive figure, winning praise for their big-picture vision and efforts to include people with direct experience in decisions that impact them directly, along with criticism for neglecting ground-level details, like building relationships with existing service providers and paying contractors on time.

It’s unclear exactly where the money for Dones’ potential contract would come from, and whether it would require them to be physically present at KCRHA headquarters at the same time that an interim director, Helen Howell, is working to establish a new course for the agency. A representative for King County declined to comment on the details of the potential contract, and a representative for Harrell did not respond to an email, a phone call, or a text message seeking comment.

5 thoughts on “Drug Criminalization Bill Could Hang on One Vote; Dones May Get Consultant Contract After Leaving Homelessness Agency”

  1. Well, now Andrew Lewis has sealed his fate as a one-term City Councilmember. He was already at the bottom of polling of the three incumbents running for reelection, but his vote to allow unfettered drug use on the streets of his own district will do him in. Maybe he can use his law degree defending other criminals after he’s tossed.

  2. Dones made what? 250K a year? The crazy thing is there are hundreds of unfilled jobs working with the homeless in Seattle (check the LIHI jobs board) that pay under $25 an hour.

    It’s all part of the Homeless Industrial Complex. Golden parachutes for those at the top, jack shit for the workers on the bottom. And yet most of the suckers, I mean workers, at homeless nonprofits don’t see the big picture. No matter how much money is pumped into the system, outreach workers and shelter staff will never get much of it. And the Homeless? Even less.

  3. That makes sense in Seattle, hire a person who cannot function within the KCRH mess, then give him a consultation job, but will not disclose what brilliance this man will bring to ??????

  4. It is not a good look for the RHA to be giving Dones a contract for work which might be necessary but which no one would want Dones to perform. I wonder if this organization will ever be able to scrape the shame from its public face.

  5. Unbelieveable on both! It’s quite the spectacle watching our elected Council members twist themselves trying to make us think they have heard our very clearly articulated wish that all the bad behaviors around drugs must reap consequences and be accountable to us when these Council members want to allow this festering hell they’ve allowed to develop to continue to fester. And Dones getting a contract as a back door settlement of some kind? Really??? He accomplished little more than padding his own bank account and was potentially about to be fired, so we should give him some $? It’s a world beyond madness.

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