City Hall

PubliCola TV: City Attorney Pete Holmes

By Erica C. Barnett July 7, 2010


Videotaping and video editing by PubliCola news intern Bryce McKay.

PubliCola sat down with city attorney Pete Holmes at his office yesterday to ask him about several major issues he's grappled with during his first six months in office.

First, we wanted to know why Holmes has decided to de-prioritize the offense of driving with a suspended license in the third degree; typically, offenders are guilty of little more than failing to pay traffic fines. Holmes has said he wants to reduce the number of DWLS-3 prosecutions by 90 percent this year.

Second, we asked Holmes to talk about why he filed a complaint against state attorney general Rob McKenna seeking to force McKenna to withdraw his complaint against the federal health-care reform bill. During his campaign, Holmes said he wanted to represent "the people of Seattle," not city government; but in this case, he's accusing McKenna of failing to represent the views of government officials, not the people of the state of Washington. Weren't those two views contradictory?

Third, we asked him what he thought of Mayor Mike McGinn's nominee for police chief, John Diaz. Holmes has been critical of Diaz in the past, blaming "a void in leadership at the top" of the police department for two recent high-profile incidents of police use of force. He suggested that the mayor choose a new chief from outside the department.

One thing we didn't get to in the video was Holmes' rationale for deprioritizing marijuana prosecutions. Here's what he had to say: "We've been quietly going forward trying to identify how we can save money," Holmes said. One way of saving money, Holmes said, is not prosecuting low-level, standalone pot possession cases.

"The citizens of Seattle had spoken [with the passage of I-75, which made pot possession the city's lowest law-enforcement priority, in 2004]. At the same time, there was a dangerous backlog in domestic violence cases we were not moving forward on. To me, it was a matter of good government: Drop the [cases] the public has said they don't want you to focus on and focus on the ones they do."
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