County Council Floats Ballot Alternative to Allow Pilot Supervised Consumption Sites

If passed, the alternative will go on the February ballot opposite a proposal to ban CHELs in King County.

A majority of the King County Council is supporting an ordinance which, if passed, would give county voters the option of saying yes to supervised consumption sites.

Earlier this year, opponents of safe-consumption sites collected enough signatures to put I-27 onto the February ballot. If passed by voters, it would ban Community Health Engagement Locations (CHELs), sites where people who use drugs can do so under medical supervision and with counselors standing by. A heroin/opioid task force recommended CHELs last year as one piece of a larger public health response to the current opioid abuse epidemic. There is a widespread consensus among public health experts that supervised drug consumption spaces save lives and taxpayer money. However, supporters of I-27 insist CHELs would actually compound the problems they have been shown to mitigate, such as public drug use, litter, and overdose fatalities.

Under the plan unveiled by county councilmembers Wednesday, the option of banning CHELs will still appear on the ballot; but alongside it will be an option to affirmatively allow pilot CHELs. From a Council press release: “If passed by voters, [the Council’s alternative] would authorize a three year pilot project during which a maximum of two CHELs could be operated in King County in hotspots of concentrated substance use and related overdoes. If this proposed alternative ordinance were adopted by the Council on Monday, it along with I-27 would be on the ballot, giving the voters a choice between I-27 and the Council’s alternative ordinance.”

The ordinance is sponsored by Jeanne Kohl-Welles, along with fellow councilmembers Joe McDermott and cosponsors Claudia Balducci, Rod Dembowski, and Larry Gossett—all Democrats, though the Council is formally nonpartisan. Republicans Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn are not cosponsors, nor is Democrat Dave Upthegrove.

“Without an alternative on the ballot, the questions is, should CHEL sites be banned?” said McDermott via phone on Tuesday. As I-27 is written, he said, “The public doesn’t have a right to say they affirmatively support CHEL sites, to address what is truly a public health crisis…Placing this and an alternative on the ballot will really be the start of a broader conversation about opiate and heroin addiction in our community, and what are the best responses to address public safety and public health and keep people alive until they’re ready to seek treatment.” McDermott said he doesn’t want to speak for the four councilmembers who didn’t sponsor the alternative, but is hopeful they will come on board before a vote next week. “Five sponsors doesn’t mean I don’t pass it with nine votes on Monday,” he said.

I-27 is currently the subject of a lawsuit which claims that it illegally exceeds the scope of a ballot measure’s authority by impinging on the authority of county public health experts. That lawsuit could end in the termination of I-27, which could render Council’s alternative moot.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Sound Publishing file photo
King County Approves Gun Warning Sign Requirement

Warning signs must be posted in all King County gun stores and firing ranges.

Rhino riggers protest outside of the Jay-Z and Beyonce show outside of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field on Oct. 4, 2018. Photo courtesy of IATSE
The Backstage Blues: Riggers Complain of Unfair Labor Practices

Theatrical stage employees come for the music and stay for the thrill. But at what price?

The Seattle City Council voted in favor of the police union’s contract. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
City Council Approves Controversial Police Contract

Despite strong opposition, the majority of councilmembers ratified the agreement.

Rat City Roller Girls Ready to Rumble in 15th Season

New jammers and blockers make debut Nov. 17 at Debutante Brawl

Seattle police car. Photo by Dmitri Fedortchenko, Flickr Creative Commons.
Community Groups and Seattle Police Chief Weigh in On Police Contract

Seven of nine councilmembers will need to pass the agreement to ratify it. What will they decide?

Citizens gather for an interfaith candlelight vigil Nov. 1 at the Snohomish County Courthouse to honor the 11 victims of an attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Photo courtesy of The Herald.
Issaquah Company Hosts Gab, Social Media Favorite of the Far-Right

Website was pulled by GoDaddy after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

The team that advocated for I-1631 at downtown Seattle’s Arctic Club on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Washington Rejects Carbon Fee

Campaign organizers say they will continue pushing for a cleaner future.

The race for Washington’s 8th Congressional District is between Kim Schrier (D) and Dino Rossi (R). File photo
Schrier Leads Rossi in Hotly-Contested 8th Congressional District

Candidates compete for seat vacated by Republican Dave Reichert

Most Read