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Judge removes the ‘Compassion Seattle” charter amendment Initiative to end homelessness

Tents are pitched in a grassy lot along Dexter Avenue in Seattle in January 2021. The Space Needle and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are seen in the background. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

A state judge removed the “Compassion Seattle” measure from the November ballot on Friday, saying the proposal to change the way the city deals with its homeless population exceeds what the initiative process can legally do.

Catherine Shaffer, King County Superior Court judge stated in an afternoon ruling the proposal to amend the charter of the city is inconsistent with state law. Although voters may appreciate mandates to the City Council for more housing construction and the clearing of tent encampments from the streets, these specific requirements are not the purpose of the charter amendments.

Shaffer stated that you can’t alter a city charter in order to make it conflict with the state laws. As a voter, I like the charter amendment. It cannot be accepted as a court judge.

The measure’s supporters, who claimed there was no opportunity for appeal, criticised the reasoning of the judge.

A spokesperson for backers of the initiative said, “While Judge Shaffer stated that she would vote for Charter Amendment 29”

This ruling means that the only way for the public to alter the current city approach to homelessness, is to make changes at city hall.

Already on the November ballot, the initiative “Compassion Seattle” required the city’s provision of 2000 units of permanent or emergency housing in a year. It also requested that the city ensure the safety of parks and playgrounds by removing encampments from sidewalks, streets, and other public spaces if housing and services have been provided.

According to supporters of the measure, it is doing well in polls and has 70% support.

Opponents of the measure include the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. They argued that it criminalized homelessness, and exceeded charter amendments’ intended scope by bypassing City Council. This allowed them to set specific policies that they should control.

The ACLU and Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, as well as the Transit Riders Union were the ones who sued to remove the measure from the November ballot.

The decision of Judge Shaffer can be appealed.

Story of development, more to follow…

Publited at Fri 27 August 2021 23.48:49 +0000

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