Opponents of safe-injection sites in King County say they will submit more than enough signatures to place their proposed ban on the November ballot.
Opponents of safe-injection sites in King County say they will submit more than enough signatures Monday to place an initiative banning the sites on the ballot.
Two sites that would allow the use of heroin and other drugs have been recommended by local officials including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Initiative 27 would ban public consumption of heroin and all federal Schedule I drugs except marijuana. (Public consumption of marijuana is already banned in Washington.)
The proposed initiative requires signatures from 47,443 valid county voters to qualify for the ballot.
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Backers of the initiative say they will turn in nearly 70,000 signatures to the King County Clerk on Monday.
When it might appear on the ballot is an open question. I-27 leaders prefer the November ballot, before a site opens. “We believe voters should have a say before we do that,” said Keith Schipper, a spokesman for the initiative.
But the Metropolitan King County Council could put the issue on the February ballot. “Our main concern with that is they shouldn’t open any sites while this big question lingers,” Schipper said.
To get I-27 on the Nov. 7 ballot, the council must direct elections officials to do so by 4:30 p.m. Aug. 1, according to a spokeswoman for the King County Elections.
The initiative campaign used paid gatherers to collect most of its signatures, Schipper said. A new political-action committee (PAC), Impaction, has raised $154,466 in contributions and spent most of that on the signature drive, he said.
I-27’s chief sponsor, Joshua Freed, a Bothell City Council member, has given the most — $40,000 — to Impaction. Other top donors include Ken Fisher and Clyde Holland. The two Southwest Washington businessmen and major GOP donors gave $25,000.
Schipper, former communications director for the Republican State Party, said I-27 is not a partisan effort.
A task force created by Murray and Constantine last year recommended creation of two safe-injection sites — one in Seattle and one in another area of King County. Murray and Constantine endorsed the panel’s recommendations.
Similar to a facility in Vancouver, B.C., Insite, that’s operated since 2003, the King County sites would be the first in the U.S. They aim to reduce fatal overdoses and get users out of public alleys and into sites supervised by medical personnel who will encourage treatment options.
In King County, overdose deaths tied to heroin nearly tripled from 49 in 2009 to 132 in 2015.
Task-force members such as Caleb Banta-Green, a public-health professor at the University of Washington, have said that safe-injection sites save lives. And, he said, people are going to use drugs, and citizens don’t want them using in public places.
Users, who bring their own drugs, go to Insite for clean needles and to inject in booths that are mirrored so nurses and support staff can see. Nurses do not inject anyone.
Naloxone is regularly used to revive people and prevent deaths. It has reversed nearly 5,000 overdoses without a death, proponents say.
Freed has filed a campaign-violation complaint with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, alleging that county officials improperly used public time and resources to oppose I-27.
At issue is a letter-to-editor in the Redmond Reporter by members of the city-county Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force, including two county health officials. The letter responded to an opinion piece in the Redmond Reporter by David Carson. A Redmond City Council member, Carson opposed safe-injection sites in his opinion piece.
But the letter to the editor never mentioned I-27 or an election, calling into question whether it was illegal. Instead it focused on the reasons for task-force recommendation and purported inaccuracies in Carson’s piece. Schipper alleged the letter was illegal because it responded to an election argument.
The law does not bar all election commentary by public officials. A 28-page guideline by the state campaign watchdog agency allows for public employees to campaign on their own time. It also allows them to “distribute an objective and fair presentation” of facts about an election matter on public time. The complaint also alleges that the county improperly paid for a Facebook ad directing readers to the letter to the editor. A county official said the ad cost $2.38.