City County Members Push Back On Plan To Outlaw Public Consumption Of Controlled Substances In Everett, Washington

April 20, 2023

Everett Government

At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting in Everett, Washington one of the items on the City Council’s agenda was the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would make it against City of Everett Municipal Code and create a new misdemeanor offense to knowingly use a controlled substance in a public place within the City of Everett.

Here’s a link to the proposed ordinance in the draft form presented to City Council Wednesday night.
City of Everett ordinance prohibiting use of controlled substances in public place within Everett, WA city limits.
The City Council got a briefing on the ordinance back on April 12th and this was the first reading. A public hearing and vote is scheduled for the Everett City Council meeting on May 3rd.

The State Legislature is looking at a bill that would have a similar effect at the State level and if passed would likely pre-empt the local City of Everett ordinance. Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin told the council that other cities including Bellingham and Marysville have passed city ordinances and it would be in Everett’s best interest to do so as she has heard anecdotally that people from other cities are coming to Everett to avoid arrest in those areas.

When pressed by Everett City Councilmember Liz Vogeli for specific examples or data on people coming to Everett from elsewhere, the Mayor said she didn’t have specific examples just anecdotes. As it was the first reading for the ordinance Council President Brenda Stonecipher asked the Mayor to look to see if there was specific information and to provide that at an upcoming meeting.

As far as pushback on the ordinance specifically there was testimony from a resident who lives in the area of a shelter on Lombard who says he fears passage of the ordinance would lead to people trespassing on his property and hiding behind his house to avoid being seen doing drugs in public. He told the Council it may make things worse and didn’t see how it addresses any problem.

Everett City Councilmember Liz Vogeli who represents District 4 in south Everett advocated for development of what she called safe drug consumption sites saying in part,
“I’m just going to put it out there. Since this is an ordinance prohibiting public consumption of controlled substances as we all know already, um, I think maybe part of the solution might be a place for folks to go to consume their controlled substances and how that might be less money than the jail. I don’t know, but we also have a problem with health providers in general at the hospital and social workers and everything’s really big and difficult including this so I’m…I have no motion or anything but I think it probably would behoove us not only to have a day shelter but also safe sites to consume out of the public eye.”

Everett City Councilmember Paula Rhyne questioned whether the Police Department had the capacity to enforce the law as she had been hearing there isn’t enough bandwidth from the Everett Police Department to refer people to treatment. Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman advised officers were dealing with people everyday and currently writing reports and referring people to treatment and would be able to enforce the law as needed whether it came from State or City statute.

Councilmember Rhyne then said she was concerned about what the cost implementation would be for implementing this and where the money would come from to put people in jail under this law. She was advised by the City’s Finance Director that they would consider that line when it came time to work on the next budget. That also applies to her concern expressed over administrative costs.

Councilmember Rhyne next expressed concern over the ability of the the City’s municipal court to offer alternatives to jail such as the treatment courts and if there was capacity to serve the number of people who may be referred and she was advised there is capacity. Councilmember Rhyne also asked about the treatment options in the City right now that folks have access to. She was advised by Julie Willie from the City that treatment options in our city, county and region are quite bleak. There are some Medicated Treatment Option providers such as Ideal Options and they had a meeting last week with another treatment provider interested in operating in Everett.

Director Willie also advised the City is learning about new issues with the way detox is being approached and that people who are opioid users and fentanyl users are actually at a higher risk of death by overdose if taken into traditional detox and then put back onto the street. She says the City has new learning to do and new problems to address. Said Councilmember Rhyne,

“It would be good to learn what the budget impacts would be and if there’s ways that the City can double-down on efforts to prevent people from getting into these positions instead of responding after the fact.”
Councilmember Fosse (who also serves in the State Legislature and was attending the meeting remotely) commented after Councilmember Rhyne.

“I’m just curious with regards to the timing of bringing this forward. It just seems a little foolhardy to bring it forward before we know that there’s likely going to be some changes happening. Is that going to give staff enough ample time before the next council meeting, which is going to be the second reading, to be able to assess over fifty pages of legislation on this issue if that does go through to say whether or not this particular policy needs to be changed or updated or come back with the budget impacts that are being requested?”

Mayor Franklin advised that staff was quite busy reading and keeping up with all of the legislation coming out of Olympia this session and was confident they have enough time to properly study the impacts and if not could push things back a week or two or however long was needed. Councilmember Fosse replied,

“So just with that I’m going to anticipate probably that this won’t be ready by that time. I’m not going to make a motion to push it off or anything but that’s going to be a lot of analysis going into this document and I don’t want to be in the situation where councilmembers are hit with the third reading and are told too late to make any changes.”
Here from the City’s You Tube Channel is the portion of the meeting where the ordinance is discussed so you can listen to all of the relevant remarks from Wednesday night. It runs about 17 minutes.

Again the second reading of the ordinance is set for April 26th and the third and final reading, public hearing and vote is currently scheduled for the meeting on Wednesday May 3rd.


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