Edmonds City Council approves ban on public camping

The Edmonds City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to pass a ban on public camping.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night by a 5-2 vote approved an ordinance that bans camping on public property in the city.

It was the fourth time the council had considered the measure, which was drafted by the city attorney and supported by both the City of Edmonds police chief and human services staff. It gives police the power to arrest someone for illegally occupying public property only when two conditions are met: 1) When available overnight shelter exists and 2) when that available shelter has been offered and refused.

Violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail, but a provision notes that the municipal court can order anyone unable to pay to instead perform “community service or work crew in lieu of a monetary penalty.”

The measure stems from two incidents in the last year – one where, after two warnings, officers finally arrested a man for sleeping outside the Edmonds Library. He was cited for trespass, appeared in court, no fines were issued, and the city says that man is now in permanent housing. The other happened in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood last summer, when a woman camped out for several months on a park bench on the Interurban trail.

Voting to approve the ordinance were Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Will Chen, Kristiana Johnson, Vivian Olson and Neil Tibbott. Voting against were Councilmembers Laura Johnson and Susan Paine.

A number of citizens also offered comments on both sides of the issue, as they have in past meetings. Several residents who moved to Edmonds from Seattle shared their experiences regarding negative interactions they had while living near homeless encampments, from being victims of criminal activity to stepping on used needles. Others — including State Rep. Strom Peterson — urged the council to slow down and work to ensure there are appropriate support services and shelter for those who are homeless before passing such a measure.

Peterson, himself a former Edmonds city councilmember who now represents the 21st District, also reiterated a statement made by several ordinance opponents: That the measure “criminalizes homelessness.”

“You are creating a new misdemeanor, which is a crime,” he said. “The problem with creating a new crime is the spiral people can get into when facing the criminal justice system.”

Patricia Taraday of the Lighthouse Law Group, which provides city attorney services under contract, said when first introducing the ordinance that the measure is not about criminalizing homelessness. “The ordinance will not be enforced against homeless individuals when no available shelter is in place for that particular person,” Taraday said. “Homeless individuals will not be arrested for sleeping outside when there is no available shelter.”

Taraday also noted that the courts have limited the authority of police to cite unhoused occupying public property, specifically pointing to the Martin vs. Boise case that stated it’s “cruel and unusual punishment” to cite someone when they are sleeping outside.

The Edmonds ordinance, she said, falls withing the parameters of case law in that the shelter offered can be public or private, provided at no charge to the individual, and the city facilitates the transportation to the shelter space. If the shelter can’t be used “because of sex, familial or marital staus, religious beliefs, disability or shelter’s length of stay restrictions, the space is not considered to be available,” Taraday said.

During their lengthy deliberations on the ordinance over the past several weeks, councilmembers did approve amendments aimed at addressing concerns about the impact of the measure. Among them was an amendment proposed by Paine and approved unanimously that any shelter offered must be located within a 35-mile radius of Edmonds City Hall – to keep people close to local social service resources.

On Tuesday night, Laura Johnson attempted to make an additional amendment — calling on the city to first follow the recommendations of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force to partner with Snohomish County to create a respite program for those who are homeless in South County, similar to one that exists in Everett. That amendment failed on a 2-5 vote.

And Will Chen proposed an amendment to place a one-year sunset date on the ordinance, with the idea it could be renewed based on data that would be collected regarding the measure. That amendment also failed after only Chen voted to support it.

At the end of the meeting, during council comments, both Laura Johnson and Susan Paine expressed their dismay at the council’s decision to pass a public camping ban. “This is a sad day for Edmonds,” Johnson said.

Despite their differences. councilmembers who spoke regarding the issue Tuesday night reiterated their support for working collaboratively with neighboring cities to create a shelter facility. And Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley, who oversees the city’s human services program, confirmed that Edmonds is continuing discussions with Snohomish County on the concept of developing a South County shelter.

Councilmember Tibbott expressed optimism for the next steps in addressing the homelessness issue. “Edmonds is the kind of place that is going to get this right,” he said. “We are going to be a city that does work towards housing and social services that meet the needs of people that fall through safety nets.”

In other business Tuesday night, the council:

Jerry Janacek speaks to the council regarding the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery booklet.

– Received a presentation from Edmonds Memorial Cemetery board member Jerry Janacek regarding the cemetery’s recently published 30-page booklet, “A Place of Tradition: Edmonds Memorial Cemetery and Columbarium.” The booklet was researched and compiled by local historian Betty Gaeng, who writes a Looking Back column for My Edmonds News. The free booklet is available at the Edmonds Historical Museum.

– Held a public hearing on the city’s 2023-2028 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program. The council will discuss the program further at a future meeting.

– Discussed a proposed new chapter to city code to provide a clear and efficient process for permitting special events in Edmonds. The item will come back to the council for additional discussion later.

– Heard a proclamation by Mayor Mike Nelson to recognize National Police Week and to honor the service and sacrifice of those law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

—  By Teresa Wippel


  1. Strom did his best to bring down Edmonds but this time common sense won. Homelessness today is a direct result of the times we live in. 100% of the people that voted, followed, or spoke during this meeting agree that Homelessness is not a crime. But just because everyone believes that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything about it. You have to give authorities the power to do something. That is the first step. Seattle looks like crap because the mantra has been used as an excuse to do nothing but waste tax dollars on facilities that are waiting for people to come there that aren’t forced to go. So creating a solution does no good without enforcement and enforcement has to be authorized first. Now that the law is passed maybe Strom can help with a solution to offer that makes sense.

    1. For a very long time, Rep Peterson has been helping make Edmonds a better city. His expressed opinions last night are sage, there’s more to do. We can argue reasonably about things like problem-solving and the sequence of priorities, and at the end of the day my money is on Rep Peterson’s commitment to our awesome city.

    2. Jim – I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Also, lost in this report is this: “I don’t think the ordinance would radically change the way that police do business,” Rep. Peterson told The Daily Herald before the vote.

  2. Thank you to the council who passed the ordinance. I was present at the council meeting and heard passionate statements of those who had been harmed in our community and elsehere when lawlessness by transients was allowed to run amok. Laura Johnson, Susan Paine and Strom Peterson got this all wrong! Strom voted against the good of the community! I saw on his website he said he cares about the safety and cleanliness of our community. His remarks last night were contrary to his online statement. He focuses largely on representing the “underserved” and his comments last night show us he was willing to “marginalize” (make insignificant) an entire population of 44,000 in Edmonds. The same goes for Laura and Susan. There’s a great saying, “know them by their actions”. Please remember their actions when you consider who is best to serve Edmonds. Again, I’m thankful for the actions by our council to protect and serve our community. We can all breathe a sigh of relief on this issue.

    1. You don’t speak for 44,000 Edmonds’ residents and you certainly don’t speak for me, Cynthia.

      I applaud Councilmembers Paine and Johnson’s efforts to defeat this performative, unenforceable train wreck of an ordinance. And I admire them for withstanding the name-calling and insults they’ve endured in their efforts to represent a dissenting point of view.
      Now let’s see if the City Council and the denizens of the My Edmonds News blog can muster half the outrage over the nearly complete lack of human services in this town and do something about it.

      1. Laura Johnson’s accusation that “5 council members voted to “criminalize the homeless before providing for their shelter” is an absurd statement, untrue. and an insult to her fellow council members and the good and kind folks of Edmonds who will be paying for social workers and temporary housing for people with absolutely no obligation to do so. You can’t find people any better than Edmonds’ people anywhere, yet she and you’ Mr. Lorah choose to trash us with propaganda like falsehoods.

        The same goes for Mr. Peterson, who I’m really much more disappointed in because I think he actually knows better; but chose to tow the party line being in-step with his Party pals, rather than use logic and reason on this one. You need to keep in mind you don’t speak for 44,000 Edmonds residents either, Mr. Lorah. What’s really scary is you and Laura seem to think anyone who drives or walks into Edmonds is an Edmonds “resident.” In her statement she refers to “our homeless residents.” Anyone sleeping or camping in our public spaces automatically being a “resident” seems like a big stretch to me and more than a little naive, putting it as kindly as I know how.

        1. Since you are addressing me Ed, I will respond back. If some in the community don’t have enough discernment that the rest of us have constitutional rights to safety and health on public spaces, I do speak for everyone. Especially those looking through rose-colored glasses. Those who have drank the kool-aid that others rights over the larger community is some how a democracy is false. I’m not willing to ignore parents, children and seniors in the community and their well being. If you and some others dont care about Edmonds being turned over to those who “chose” their lifestyle, there are other communities that will better suit your desires I’m not promoting a political agenda like you are. I’m for the safety and well-being for this city and those who are truly vulnerable; children, parents and seniors and in reality every person who doesn’t want to see defecation and needles in our parks. Therefore Ed, you certainly don’t speak for me either.

          A thank you to Clinton for understanding and your sentiments are mine too!!!

        2. Correction – Laura actually said, “our most vulnerable residents.” Keyword, nevertheless, “residents.” In more fairness I suppose she might have meant “world residents” in general but since she is an Edmond’s City Council Person, I assume she means they are in fact Edmond’s residents. If I’m wrong on this point I apologize. This is why I say she needs to resign and go fight her good fight under the right flag. She would be happier and more relevant in that realm than claiming she is representing all Edmonds’ residents in a fair and unbiased way because she is not. Same goes for Susan Paine I think. They are pushing their personal ideological beliefs which is inappropriate behavior for the role they have been elected to play.

  3. Well said Jim…there are too many examples of failed polices in Seattle and Portland. Being homeless is not a crime, but it is also not a pass to do whatever you want especially at a cost to others.

  4. Good that this ordinance passed. This is a health and safety issue for the individuals that are struggling and for the community as a whole. Five Edmonds council members figured it out, and two others are absolutely clueless partisan sycophants.

  5. Thank you for passing this ordinance. I was a resident directly – very directly – impacted by the issue in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood last summer. The situation became so terrible by the end that my children were afraid to go walk the trail with me or go to the park. Calls to police and emails to the Human Service Department were a multiple time a day occurrence. The situation was three months long. The person was offered shelter, in my understanding, in the first week and refused every single time for the remainder of the time until she became so decompensated from living outside that it became tragic and very dramatic when it finally came to a close. Since that time, there have been other issues around Edmonds, particularly around HWY99 and HWY104, that while not as dramatic as last year, have also resulted in crime, health, and safety issues for the community. This ordinance does not criminalize homelessness. It balances the needs and rights of the unhoused with the needs and rights of the citizens. We should continue to look for other solutions to help solve this region wide problem – the ordinance also does not mean that work should not happen. The implication from those against this measure though that they have this issue under control with current agendas is preposterous. The situation has only spiraled out of control with the status quo. Seattle, Portland, LA are the poster children for the country on what not to do. Thank you again for this process and for letting common sense prevail.

  6. I haven’t seen Susan Paine’s after meeting comment but I have seen Laura Johnson’s and I say it is time for her to resign and move on to work for the Homelessness Coalition or the Democratic Party, that would better serve her talents. Her comments are absurd, untrue and a total misrepresentation of what the ordinance is and isn’t. As to Strom Peterson, I can’t believe his take on this, but his similar trashing of Edmonds citizens and their motives probably makes me inclined to never vote or him for anything again either. (And as an aside, the Dem’s wonder why they are so in trouble nationally – newsflash – this is why).

    Good job to the non-partisan thinking five and keep up the great work. As a concerned Edmonds citizen, I’m thankful to all of you. I don’t think you or most of the rest of us will ever regret this action. I’m all for creation of a well run regional center to address homelessness and the related issues and I now think there is some hope for moving ahead in a positive way with this. I’m also glad Edmonds has the beginnings of a social service program but this really needs to be overseen by a credible watch dog type authority or we will just have people holding down desks for a good government job with benefits. Teresa, we need probing journalism to watch dog these social workers and make sure they are doing positive things to really help the true homeless among us. I’d request a ride with and hang out with these people as a feature article as soon as possible.

    1. I don’t live in edmonds but I need to tell all of the many people this. Live with a homeless person for a few days and see what they have to endure everyday, then maybe you will it…or take a person in your home…you’re not living in their shoes so I would suggest that you stop complaining and you do something about it….edmonds is your home, take care of it….

  7. Thank you to our five sane City Council members who voted for this ordinance. The two who voted against, well…predictable. Strom Peterson weighing in against the ordinance with misinformation and impugning the motives of supporters was a huge disappointment. He and his fellow Democrats like Sen. Marco Liias and Gov. Jay Inslee have been running this state for years. What have they done to solve the homeless issue? Check out the I-5 corridor (owned by the State) for all the garbage pit homeless camps going in and out of Seattle. All they produced were anti-police bills that the Governor signed and then later tried to fix with marginal success. Time to make changes in Olympia.

    1. I strongly agree with Mark Bucklin’s statement, above.
      Well said!

    2. I definitely agree with this. The problem is that the Republicans are worse. Peterson really seems like a smart and reasonable person, but I was distraught that he did not take the time to think through the problems with the recent anti-policing bills.

      The problem is that there is not a reasonable viable alternative. A bunch of GOP still believes in conspiracies, and supporting the Tucker Carlson KKK white supremacist rational. We are so divided, that both sides are not confronting their radical fringes. The Democrats are more moderate than the Republicans right now, so they largely are the only reasonable choice.

      This ordinance is reasonable, and despite the hype will not result in a lot of changes. I would agree with those who say that it is good governance.

  8. Now that the ‘public camping’ ordinance is passed, I hope everyone keeps up the same energy when asked to follow-through on homelessness solutions. It isn’t enough to substitute jail beds for shelter beds. I already see comments being made that pre-suppose that any help for the homeless is a waste of money, or that shelters will be unused (keep in mind there are currently zero shelters in Edmonds), or wishing the problem away. We’re all just one catastrophe away from being homeless ourselves.

  9. Dear City Council – splendid work on approving the ordinance! I cheered when I read about this. My beautiful little city is willing to protect itself.

    1. Thanks to the 5 Council Members who voted to pass the Ordinance last night.

      However Councilmember Laura Johnson’s comments at the close of the meeting was a misrepresentation of the facts.

      Councilmember Laura Johnson made the following representation last night during Council Comments (approx at the 2 hour, 55 minute mark):
      “With respect to tonight, tonight seven (7) of us voted on civil liberties of our most vulnerable residents and five (5) chose to criminalize those experiencing homelessness prior to offering shelter.”

      I was surprised by her statement because I had joined virtually to make comments in support of the Ordinance but then had to step off for a bit so I missed the actual discussion and vote. When I re-joined the meeting later and heard CM Laura Johnson’s closing comments I was very alarmed b/c if true, it would have been a deal- breaker for my support of the Ordinance.
      I was worried and highly concerned.
      In reading the recap of the vote/Ordinance in today’s MEN, I saw that CM Laura Johnson’s comments were not a factual representation of what had been passed.
      In fact, the homeless individual would only be charged if:
      1) there is space available AND
      2) the space is offered AND refused

      CM Laura Johnson has mischaracterized the outcome of last night’s vote, in essence spreading disinformation to the Public during an official Council Meeting. CM Laura Johnson needs to publicly issue a correction/clarification of her statement.
      Lastly, an email was sent by a resident this morning to the entire council and the Mayor calling this out. It’s been at least 12 hours since the email was sent and I have not yet seen a response from CM Laura Johnson.

      On a separate note, I applaud the Mayor’s Proclamation which honors our Police Officers!

      1. If you rely on just one sentence out of my entire comment, I see how you might interpret it.

        However, my comment was in reference to Councilmembers’ actions, not the ordinance. Taking my entire comment, as well as the concerns I expressed during discussions, I stand by what I said. We do not have a shelter in Edmonds, nor do we partner in funding a shelter. I implored the council to work on securing dedicated shelter space before- or at the very least in tandem with- passing this ordinance. Five declined and instead chose to proceed with criminalizing those experiencing homelessness, prior to offering shelter.

        My full closing comment: “With respect to tonight, tonight 7 of us voted on civil liberties of our most vulnerable residents and five chose to criminalize those experiencing homelessness, prior to offering shelter. After we adjourn tonight, we will each return to the shelter of our homes and sleep in a warm bed.”

        “This ordinance leaves many unknowns. I had two questions that I did not get answered because people called to question. We weren’t even willing to put it on and hear tonight about having this go to committee for report backs.”

        “This ordinance does nothing to address the root cause. This ordinance puts us at risk of a civil rights lawsuit. It is a poor image for Edmonds to lead with this. It does not follow the recommendations of our own task force or the experts. It puts additional strain on neighboring cities. And, it creates a false narrative that we are doing something- that we are doing something to help the homeless and we are doing something to help those who are impacted by having homeless individuals around them.”

        “This does not solve anything. This is a sad day for Edmonds.”

        1. City Council has scheduled a three-hour Special Meeting for 10:00 AM this morning to receive parliamentary training. I hope City Council will take the opportunity to discuss Councilmember Laura Johnson’s Council comments, including that “This Ordinance puts us at risk for a civil rights lawsuit.”

          Slide 189 for today’s presentation states:
          Members have a duty • When serving on a public body, members have a duty to uphold the decision of that body, even if they disagree with it.

          Slide 190 for today’s presentation states:
          Disagreement • Members may express their disagreement in public, but may not attempt to UNDERMINE the decision. • They are free to try to persuade their colleagues, during the meeting, to change the decision (within limits).

          Slide 191 for today’s presentation states:
          We all want to be right • It’s human nature to be unhappy when you oppose the decision. • Our current culture places a strong premium on individuality. • I invite you to commit yourself to a bigger principle than your own views.

          Slide 192 for today’s presentation states:
          WHY? After everyone’s voice is heard, including the minority, it is the majority that make the decision.

          Slide 193 for today’s presentation states:
          Lost the vote? Don’t sabotage the council’s action
          We’ve had inquiries recently about elected officials who lost a vote, and then actively worked against the outcome. This amounts to trying to sabotage the council. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. The majority rules.

          The new City Code states the following:

          “The City shall not enforce the provisions of 5.70.030 or 5.70.040 against persons experiencing homelessness if there is no available overnight shelter that can be utilized by that particular person. If available overnight shelter is available, the shelter space must be offered to the person(s) experiencing homelessness, along with other available human services. Only if the shelter space is refused, can the provisions of 5.70.030 and 5.70.040 be enforced against persons experiencing homelessness.”

        2. Doesn’t sound or look any better with all the extra verbiage. You inaccurately characterized the ordinance as criminalizing homelessness, which it does not. You then went out of your way to inject that 5 duly elected Council persons voted to “criminalize those who are experiencing homelessness, prior to offering shelter”. You have slow rolled the discussion, and sensationalized the ordinance for media attention, disparaged anyone who doesn’t agree with you. The question was called because of the slow rolling you were engaged in, and had been for the two prior meetings on the topic.

        3. Thank you CM Laura Johnson for your response to my concerns. Unfortunately, even upon re-rereading your full statement and giving consideration to your position that your comments were taken out of context or have been mis- interpreted by myself and others, I still stand by my original statement: in my opinion you misrepresented the Ordinance that had been passed , while in a public Council Meeting.
          If there is no shelter space available, according to the verbiage of the Ordinance (see Ken Reidy’s 5/20 comments), there would be no punitive action taken, therefore, no criminalization. If I’ve got that wrong please let me know.
          Perhaps you could look at this way to avoid undermining the majority vote of the City Council that you serve on: This is a stop-gap measure that will allow for Edmonds to manage the scale of the issue, allowing us to connect with, support & protect those who are un-housed in Edmonds if they want the help while also protecting the safety and use of Edmonds residents who contribute to the required City Services to keep our shared public spaces safe for all.
          I fully trust that our Chief of Police and the entirety of our Police Department will act with compassion and integrity.

          Complex problems require layers of solutions- there is no one perfect solution and I believe our community has expressed a commitment to a compassionate AND effective approach. We understand that we are not done.
          It’s going to take ingenuity and leadership.
          So rather than undermining and shaming the majority decision which could degrade the public trust in our Government, perhaps you should be championing your “next-steps” ideas.
          I believe that the winning strategy for the City Council to fulfill their commitment to their constituents is not in a fight to win the ideological wars that our country seems to be mired in, but dedicating their time and energy toward finding and implementing viable and sustainable solutions that work- as a governing body, not as separate factions.
          Less divisiveness and more diplomacy, decorum, and vision, please.

        4. Ms. Johnson. I have nothing against you personally. I’m aware that you mean well and addressing homelessness in our society is a big priority for you past and present and I applaud and respect you for that.

          What I don’t appreciate is your purposeful labeling of anyone who disagrees with your approach as anti homeless and anti poor. You and Mr. Peterson went out of your way to label, people like me and the council members you disagreed with as “criminalizing the poor.” Wanting safe and sanitary public places is much different than “criminalizing the poor.” This law is not meant to address root causes. That’s your own idea of how it should be and you are foisting that concept on all your constituents and fellow council persons. Plus your logic on this is not to be understood.

          If our laws apply to everyone equally, then you and I have as much right to go sleep in public places as ‘the poor.’ We should all be allowed to do it, or no one should be allowed to do it. You are assuming that the law of the state having to provide shelter to anyone who says they need it or want it is decided. From what I can tell it is not finally decided until the Supreme Court agrees to hear it.

          As for civil rights lawsuits, in our society anyone can sue anyone over anything so that is just a red herring in my opinion. Lots of law suits are just designed to make a fast buck or two.

          Finally I have an issue with your use of the term, ” our vulnerable residents.” Are ” our vulnerable residents” residents of just Edmonds (whose resident’s interests you are supposedly representing) or are they “vulnerable residents” of the whole country? If so you are saying we are obligated to shelter all the homeless residents in the country? Pretty big ask don’t you think? I’d like to hear you expound on and defend your definition of “our most vulnerable residents.”

  10. Ideally, I think our homeless shelters should be more of a regional thing than an individual city thing. For example, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Woodway and Brier could combine to start a centrally located shelter for use by all South County municipalities. Maybe each town could supply a social worker and a security person. State and local grants should also be a part of this sort of thing. Have some nice tiny home type facilities for the economic and mental health caused problems and more basic tent type facilities for substance abuse problems where people refuse to cooperate. Just make these clean and sanitary and allow the folks to do their own thing in that area, with proper sanitation and disposal of trash.

  11. Nice job by Council. Looks like we have a new conductor on the rhetoric express. I like Strom, but parroting “criminalizing homelessness” is pretty weak. Again, redirection with an ordinance that makes it possible to direct citizens in need of shelter to a combination of services is, as both sides of the policy machines agree, an effective tool and intervention.

    Nothing about this ordinance is criminal. It is compassionate for all citizens and gives the City a way to protect and assist the entire population.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge with societal ills, there obviously are. It doesn’t mean that volunteerism, charity, compassion, or empathy were voted out.

    It means that the City Police, the City Services Group, and local/regional groups have an opportunity to coordinate and conduct outreach that very well can be the catalyst to secure housing, Services, and other needs.

    Thanks again to the Councilmembers who passed the ordinance.

    1. Posting on behalf of Darrol Haug:

      My take is this is Good Government! Lots of public comments and inputs, CMs speaking and writing about the issues, several discussion sessions with council, and finally a vote. So many of the points for and against were on target and from the heart and with a very good understanding of the data. No one was totally right or totally wrong. In the end those we have elected to serve us did so with a 5/2 vote.

      Not all of our issues are going to be 7/0, or even the old block of 4/3. We have some tough problems to solve and if we approach them with the same energy as this one, we can create a more engaged public, council who give great thought to the issues and come up with other important decisions for Edmonds. 5/2 votes are great.

      Sometimes we may not get it right the first time and have to adjust as we learn more. In this case that may well be the case, but that is want Good Government is all about. “Providing emergency vehicle access to the westside of the tracks” is a good example of a do over. More people are going to go to the westside we will be adding a second set of tracks, and the need for emergency access will increase. We should re-engage the public and the elected to sort out some ideas. Sidewalks, street paving, parking, and preserving the look and feel of our DT business core. These won’t be 7/0 decisions. When $ are involved, we never have enough so priorities will have to be sorted out and there is no better way to do that than with the full engagement of our citizens so help decide our spending priorities. We are about to enter the budget cycle. Always fun and seldom 7/0. Let’s get engaged.

  12. In comment above I meant Federal and State grants not local.

    To Jessie Larson above. My late wife and I spent over thirty years trying to help the poor and homeless in both Everett and Edmonds so I know what I’m talking about. Edmonds’ poverty and homeless issue is virtually nothing compared to the Everett area. Parts of that area have been dealing with abject poverty for well over 50 years and our Everett group was so overwhelmed that we had to start our own church food bank as we just didn’t have the manpower to keep taking food and clothing out to and into the the homes of the poor. That was 20+ years ago. Then the big issues were domestic violence, alcohol and pot addiction, and single mothers trying to raise one or more children on poverty wages of $7.00/Hr. or less. I can’t tell you how many times after working hard all day as an auto technician, I lugged bags of food into run down and dirty living spaces while some healthy young man tried to look invisible next to cigarette butts and empty beer cans. I told more than a few to get off their fanny’s and help us bring in the food. I’m not moralizing; I’m just telling you how lots of this poverty works in reality.

    Our business’ are crying out for help now days at over $14.00/Hr. with good benefits (Costco, Amazon, Walmart etc., even McDonalds in some cases). That just does not jibe with the current over abundance of homeless people living in filth in our public spaces. Yet many of these folks won’t accept help when offered to get out of their predicament. Giving people free shelter, food and services, no questions asked, is a fools game we’ve been watching play out for years now in our area. It’s high time for a new approach.

    1. Agree with C Wrights last para. We have got to get theses less fortunate informed about the jobs available and the benefits of working.

  13. I agree with Jim. Thank you Council President Olson and Councilmembers Buckshnis, Tibbot, Kristiana Johnson and Chen for standing firm against pressure from Strom Peterson and others and doing the right thing for our citizens and community and putting everyone’s health and safety first. That is compassion.

  14. “Every park bench in America — everywhere a homeless person sleeps — should have Ronald Reagan’s name on it,” says Peter Dreier, an urban policy analyst and the director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

    1. Very true Ralph. Reagan instigated the idea that all government help plans were automatically doomed to failure simply because they were run by government, but it played great for him politically). Capitalism, charity and community centered treatment run by the private sector would solve all our social problems. No more “Welfare Queens” and tax sucking, job killing do nothing government agencies. He killed off Unionism (to get lower non- inflationary wages), did away with much of the federal and state Aid For Dependent Children program and closed the state run mental health facilities and homes for the disabled as much as possible. Clinton later had some hand in all this too.

      What has actually resulted is the communities want no part of community based treatment centers (NIMBYS) and there are no viable or affordable public resources for housing and treating the mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted, and criminally inclined in our population. Government grants to private agencies and entities end up getting spent mainly for never ending over administration and outright graft in both the private and public sectors. The only real answer will be some sort of public services/private sector (business)/charity based co-operative consortium to assist our ever growing population of folks who just can’t cope for whatever reasons.

      As long as the illegal drug cartels control Mexico and South America with us as their main customer and our legal drug companies control our lawmakers, there will be no shortage of addicts to treat. The extreme segments of both our major political parties will only make our problems worse over time. It’s a big, probably impossible, task unless we depoliticize and drastically change our tactics toward substance abuse.

  15. After reading the ordinance I am having trouble understanding Peterson and L Johnson understanding standing of the ordinance. The welfare of the homeless comes first. Clint your comment’s are so true

  16. I will be voting against all the five councilmembers who voted for this ordinance. It is an embarrassment and likely will prove to be illegal.

    1. Actually, it follows the 9th Corcuit ruling with the conditions. I don’t doubt that the 9th Circuit may say all of the Cities that have exactly the same ordinance are doing something unconstitutional, but so far, similar ordinances have not been challenged.

      Unlike other recent Edmonds legislation (gun safe requirements), it appears the Council actually did some diligence on the legality of this ordinance that will avoid it being overturned.

      Again, both political sides agree that diversion focused ordinances actually help, I don’t get the rub.

      I agree with many statements about the shifting of Federal Funding out of HUD programs and the lack of targeted funding that has caused. At the time that legislation was passed, most public housing stories were not positive stories. There should be directed federal funding for housing programs. There should be State directed funding. There is. It seems that there is an issue on spending it effectively and wisely in a coordinated way.

      The new City Social Services team can spearhead those regional efforts and it appears that they are.

      In the interim, there is an ordinance on the books now that regulates public behavior just like several other ordinances that regulate public behavior. It’s the use of inflammatory rhetoric that obfuscates the issue at hand with catch phrases and dog whistles. The City didn’t criminalize homelessness, they made it a fineable offense to camp on City Property. The City still has an obligation with regards to shelter. Now, they have a way to direct and enforce it.

      The police. Social services, and other agencies in Edmonds now have another tool to direct those in need to services, and if those beds are not available, to let people camp. Seems to be a win/win.

  17. As long as the person claiming to need to use a public space to live in gets to make the total and final decision about whether or not he or she is allowed to do that, our parks and public spaces will slowly look more and more like Seattle and Portland. Has the 9th Circuit decision ever been tested at the Supreme Court level?

    If we truly live in a free society, and that society says everyone gets use of public lands for a living space as they want to, then logically everyone in the society should be allowed to do that. Hence, I should be allowed to park my travel trailer at Yost Park whenever and as long as I want to.

    My point is, there has to be some mechanism to determine actual need and what course should be taken to house people who claim to need public housing. As I said elsewhere here, just giving anyone and everyone charity only based on their say so, is a fools game. As a society, we are pretty good at being fools.

    I was getting pretty close to testing this required to provide shelter nonsense with my trailer at Yost Park, if the ordinance hadn’t passed and I will test it, if our ordinance is declared unconstitutional. It’s time for responsible folks to take charge again in this city and this country.

    1. “At some point, human beings have a right to private property if it means they will die if they aren’t allowed to have it.”

      No, they don’t. If this were true then the term “private property” means nothing. If private property can in extremis be taken then it was never private property but something that could be taken. My home is my home and no one else has any right to it.

  18. Clinton asked if the Ninth Circuit decision (Martin v Boise) had ever been tested at the Supreme Court level. No – the City of Boise asked the Supreme Court to accept review, but SCOTUS denied the cert. petition and declined to hear the case.

    There are cases making their way through the federal court system now that address issues Martin did not expressly address, relative to the constitutionality of ordinances similar to the one passed in Edmonds.

    And the discussions about court challenges to the Edmonds ordinance have begun.

  19. Picking up on Ed Lorah’s comment about bullying:

    I’m also concerned about suggestions here and elsewhere that people who disagree with the ordinance should move, or that we’re misguided, or stupid, or socialists, etc. I’m not interested in debating who’s right about whether the ordinance is appropriate, necessary, or constitutional. But hearing that folks like me should leave Edmonds or never should have moved here – well, I agree with Ed that this is bullying. My family and I heard similar comments during the election, when we supported certain candidates, and back in the day when MEN allowed comments on Facebook, I heard the same there. Thing is, we chose to live here and be part of this community. Do we support council members whom other folks don’t? Yep. Did we vote for candidates who didn’t win in the election? Yep. Do we express our religious faith in a different way than some others here? Yep. Does our family look different than that of some others here? Yep. But please, just focus on the issues and not ad hominem attacks on folks in the community who disagree.

    Thank you, neighbors.

  20. Kim. No one is telling anyone to leave Edmonds. My only point is that if you sincerely believe our city is required to provide food, shelter, mental health and drug counseling to everyone who says they want it, and anyone who says they don’t want it can just live in any public space they choose, you are talking about a socialistic style government which we supposedly don’t have here in the U.S. If we do want that as a majority then we’ve got a whole bunch of laws and tradition to change.

    As I pointed out to Laura Johnson, if you are saying Edmonds must take care of ” our most vulnerable residents” you are begging the question of what “our” means and what “residents” means. You need to learn to read things people say and write with an analytical and open mind not just heap your preconceived notions of what is right and wrong on it. I admire Laura’s desire to help the poor, I just don’t think she is going about it right and labeling anyone who doesn’t agree with her approach as “criminalizing the poor” is bad politics and bad judgement, for lack of a better term.

  21. Clint – there have been folks (not you) suggesting some people leave Edmonds. But we need not debate about that. As far as the substantive disagreement about the ordinance, you’re making some assumptions about the reasons why I believe as I do, and how I approach certain issues. My opposition to the ordinance may be based on different reasons than that of others who oppose it – I don’t know, I haven’t polled everyone. Some of the opposition arguments strike me as naive, others as well-reasoned. As far as an analytical mind, I can tell you that much of my approach to these types of laws is based on almost twenty years of practice as an attorney litigating complex civil cases who is very familiar not only with Martin but with subsequent cases relying upon it. I was counsel of record in the Long case, which addressed related issues. I know not all attorneys agree on Martin and its progeny – the city attorney being one example – but there are colorable legal arguments on both sides. And I can also tell you that my opposition is also influenced by my religious beliefs, which folks don’t need to share – I would never push my faith on anyone else – but I hope will respect.

    Thank you. I appreciate your engagement with issues facing our community even when, as now, I don’t agree. I’m a firm believer in John Stuart Mills’ ‘marketplace of ideas.’

    1. Kim, I have no problem with your legal theories or your religious beliefs, nor am I impressed by them one way or the other. I have a B.A. in Sociology and a A.A. in automotive technology and I’ve been around the block a time two myself. In a supposedly free and equal society, I have a real problem with the idea that municipalities are required to feed and house “the poor”, no questions asked. Peace and I’m glad you are a co-citizen with me in Edmonds.

      1. After 54 comments and some productive discussion, I’m closing this thread. — Teresa

Comments are closed.