Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s proposed legislation, which would dismiss some misdemeanor charges for people with addiction, mental-health problems or in poverty, reminds this old New Yorker of a famous story that is told about New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia [“Reject Seattle’s absurd misdemeanor proposal,” Oct. 30, Opinion].
While presiding over a session of night court in 1935, a defendant came before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. Her defense was that she needed the bread to feed her family. LaGuardia fined the defendant, saying no one is above the law, and then fined everyone else in the courtroom for living in a society where a person had to steal to feed her family. He paid her fine himself.
LaGuardia understood that we are all accountable. Whether someone is a drug addict or a millionaire — or both — we all bear responsibility to treat one another as we would wish to be treated.
Ellen J. Koretz, Seattle