A lawsuit was filed to block an initiative that would ban safe drug-injection sites in King County, arguing public-health decisions should be left to the experts. Here's what opponents and proponents have to say.
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Should Seattle and King County voters have the right to block proposed government-sanctioned sites that would allow people addicted to heroin and other drugs to shoot up in relative safety?
On Episode 51 of The Overcast, The Seattle Times weekly politics podcast, reporters Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman question supporters and opponents on the controversial plan to open two safe-injection facilities in King County.
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Joining the podcast is Knoll Lowney, a Seattle attorney who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of safe-injection-site backers, seeking to invalidate Initiative 27, a measure aimed at the February ballot, which would prohibit King County from opening any of the sites.
Lowney filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court this week, arguing public-health decisions are immune from such local initiative challenges.
Public-health decisions should be — and are under the law — left to experts, not subject to the whims of uninformed public opinion, argues Lowney. Otherwise, what’s to prevent other uniformed decisions, he says —such as anti-vaxxers seeking to block mandatory vaccination laws.
For a counterpoint, we’re joined by Bothell City Councilman Joshua Freed, who is chairman of the I-27 campaign.
Freed says it’s arrogant and offensive that backers of safe-injection sites want to shut the public out of the debate. He says it’s insulting to argue voters are not smart enough to have a say on whether King County should open the first such safe-injection sites in the U.S.
Freed also recounts his own harrowing experience visiting a similar facility in Vancouver, B.C., arguing Seattle and its suburbs should not follow the Canadian example.
There’s a lot more on the law, as well as the efficacy of such sites — so listen up. This debate could be a precursor to what’s bound to be an emotional election fight early next year — if I-27 survives Lowney’s legal challenge.
As part of an ongoing partnership, this episode was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 KNKX under the production guidance of KNKX’s Simone Alicea.