Seattle City Council: How to Complicate Downtown Disorder


The Seattle City Council is getting tied up in rhetorical knots when it comes to open drug use along our downtown streets. The council can’t even get five votes (yet) on the simple task of adopting a new state law making open drug use in public a gross misdemeanor, giving this city a chance to make sidewalks safer and to move addicts into some kind of treatment.

The latest tangle of words comes from Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Lisa Herbold who want exceptions that – let’s be clear – will essentially mean no change at all.

Their amendment to a proposed law would mean that officers cannot arrest a person deemed to be a threat only to themselves “absent articulable facts and circumstances warranting such action and SPD policies and/or training will identify what additional articulable facts and circumstances would warrant arrest.” Huh?

Try parsing that in 30 seconds. What frustrates a downtown resident like me is that local government seems to think the best approach to open drug use is to let it continue – no problem – unless in threatens others. In short, the way to handle it is to ignore it. At Publicola, Erika Barnett has a more positive take on the council’s efforts to clarify.

But what does it say about any kind of help for those addicted along our sidewalks? Or about those of us dodging the dealers and the vacant-eyed victims? Or about the image just a few blocks give all of downtown?

I’ll be voting for some new faces come November.

Mike James
Mike James
Mike James was a long-time anchor newscaster at KING TV.


  1. While I appreciate people want safety for all and clean drug free streets am most concerned that we are allowing 4 death a day in King Co to Overdoses. We are sending first responders 115 times a week to reverse overdoses. That number does not include peer to peer overdose reversals or those done by MID or outreach agencies. The number is big. This is about saving the lives of people who cannot on their own ask for help. We need intervention through assertive outreach like We Heart Seattle does and that of the police. Arrest just means stop now! It does not mean incarcerate forever or convict.

  2. You are not alone about voting for new leadership on the Seattle City Council Thankfully, Herbold and Sawant are retiring. Andrew Lewis needs to go.

  3. Nice that a neighbor of your prominence shares our views. Lewis is apparently being paralyzed by his own political ambitions and can’t seem to decide who it is he doesn’t want to upset. It is common knowledge that the ability to arrest provides the leverage necessary for law enforcement to accomplish several important things: identifying dealers, discovering illegal firearms, incentivizing acceptance of treatment, preventing further overdose deaths, and, oh yes! making Seattle’s streets habitable again for the rest of us. Andrew Lewis clearly doesn’t see that.

    • Yes, Andrew Lewis and other who strive for higher political office but are repeatedly failing the public must go.
      Bigger question: How many times is society obligated to reverse overdose and provide recovery treatment? Is there a point where the addict overdoses and is left to cross the rainbow 🌈 bridge?

  4. As a former resident of (and frequent visitor to) Seattle, I would ask the current City Council members to provide “articulable” facts on how what they are now doing can be considered successful in any way for anyone. Seattle used to be such a great city.

  5. Mike is on the money. Some say to don’t have to explain what you do say. In this case, the two Council members ought to explain what they do mean. Appears it was a slow day for the Council or they simple have not been downtown lately.
    Thanks Mike.

  6. I can’t be the only person reading this and thinking, “Mike James would be excellent on the City Council.” I’m just saying.

  7. A related on this same bill was in Amendment 2, which was proposed by Teresa Mosqueda. She was basically trying to add onto the criteria for intervention that it NOT be “just” due to the dangers of second-hand smoke inhalation (fentanyl, meth or other substance.) With the language Mosqueda wanted to incorporate into the bill, no police officer would be able to intervene in a situation in which second-hand smoke alone was the basis. Further proof of imminent danger or harm to self or others would be necessary. Mosqueda cited King County Public Health’s recent “well, most fentanyl is processed first by the inhaler” statements as justification, skipping completely over meth and other even more dangerous second-hand substances.

    At every step, some City Council progressives think that their job is to look out for the welfare of the addicted, even when it comes at the direct expense of the 90%+ of city residents who are not. Luckily, Councilmembers Nelson, Pedersen and even Lewis disagreed with Mosqueda’s stance, and Amendment 2 failed, 3-1-1, with Herbold abstaining.


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