This Week in Politics

Top 10 Stories: Safe Injection Sites, Police Accountability, and Seattle Hockey

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Anne Dennon December 7, 2018

A long line of commuters at the University of Washington light rail station.

Image: Owen Prout

1. Washington Supreme Court blocked Initiative 27, which would have let voters decide whether to allow public funding of safe injection sites in King County, The Seattle Times reported. The state decision upheld King County Superior Court's October ruling that putting public health funding to a vote infringed on King County Council's authority. 

The Initiative 27 campaign, which had collected the requisite 47,443 signatures, originally wanted the measure to be on the February 2018 ballot.

2. U.S. District judge James Robart ordered city officials to explain re-hiring a police officer who punched a handcuffed woman. An internal disciplinary review reinstated the offending officer (fired in 2016). 

Robart's ruling seems to side with the Community Police Commission leaders who had criticized the new police union contract for rolling back on reforms, which included allowing closed-door disciplinary decisions. In a statement, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan said both she and SPD chief Carmen Best opposed the officer's reinstatement.

3. While Durkan is popular with Seattleites, an unreleased August poll found that Seattle City Council isn't, MyNorthwest reported. An unnamed entity commissioned the poll from the Seattle branch of opinion research firm EMC Research.

The 400-person poll of likely voters showed a 48 percent disapproval rating for the council. Over half of the polled also held a strongly pessimistic view of the council's fiscal responsibility, a 10 percent dip from six months prior.  

4. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) decided against banning pot-infused candies but will restrict appearance and packaging, The Stranger reported.

The WSLCB announced its intention to ban pot candies two months ago. Amid industry confusion and money loss, trade groups opposed the ban. Now, WSLCB intends to roll back the ban in favor of instituting regulations for candy shape and color as well as labeling. Producers will have a full year to comply. 

5. SDOT released its annual traffic report and the data showed Seattle's commuting habits in 2017 made moderate progress, KUOW reported. 

In 2017, compared to the previous year, car crashes were slightly down (2 percent), transit ridership continued to inch up, and a consistent proportion of people opted to walk to work. On the other hand, over half of Seattle's commuters drove to work alone and bicycling commuters fell from 3.5 percent to 2.8 percent. 

6. WSDOT held two initial open houses to help prepare the public for the upcoming viaduct closure, KNKX reported. Viaduct replacement program administrators are eager to spread awareness and give commuting advice for what will be the longest ever Puget Sound traffic closure. While the demolition and construction will take months, the plan is to have the majority of work on the waterfront accomplished before summer.

7. Seattle City Council passed the new Office of the Employee Ombud out of committee. If approved in next week's full vote, the office will respond to workplace harassment issues for city employees. Job postings for the position of office director appeared this week, and two full-time Employee Ombud assistant positions are also accounted for in the city's 2019-2020 budget.

8. The National Hockey League board of governors unanimously approved expanding the league to Seattle. The private funders of the project, the Oak View Group, will immediately begin reconstruction of the KeyArena to prepare for Seattle hockey's debut in the 2021-2022 season.

After the 2008 loss of the Supersonics, and subsequent years of planning to lure another NBA team to the city, mayor Durkan said the NHL decision marked "an awesome day" for "one of North America’s great sports towns."

9. State legislators announced they will introduce a bill to amend some details of Initiative 940, the police use of deadly force measure voters approved in November. The revisions include making the “good faith” standard more objective and allowing officers not to perform CPR if it's unsafe or ineffective.

They do not change the essential purpose of the initiative, which is to remove using proof of "malice" as a defense in alleged misuse of deadly force.

10. City officials filed a motion to dismiss 208 outstanding warrants, Seattle Weekly reported. All of the bench warrants included in the filing are at least five years old and deal with low-level charges such as prostitution or driving with a suspended license.

Outstanding warrants typically arise from failing to appear in court. Many of the defendants in these cases are homeless and lack a permanent address, where they would have received notices to appear in court.