Last week’s council meeting without a resolution regarding the ordinance to hold transients accountable for refusing service for shelter, two councilmembers (subsequent to the meeting) posted unflattering comments on social media about our community and other councilmembers. It is my understanding that our city has both the code of conduct and the code of ethics to rein in such comments.
Both Laura Johnson and Susan Paine lowered standards of the City of Edmonds with their public comments on social media. Here is what they each had to say: Laura Johnson tweeted, “Vestiges of the ugly laws, sundown towns, and Bum Blockade persist in our current quality of Life ordinances. They create second-class citizenship, criminalize poverty and disability, close public spaces, and encourage vigilante justice. The corporate media arouses fear and dehumanizes the poor and disabled, business groups like the Chamber of Commerce demand the state protect their interests, and police overstep the constitutional limits of their power.” Councilmember Paine retweeted (coalition on homelessness): “CM Johnson motions the maximum on a first offense be $25. CM Paine seconds. ‘We are talking about those among us that have the least. If you don’t have housing, what do you have? $25 is extremely punitive as it is’. CM Buckshnis says she won’t support. Odd reasoning.” Councilmember Paine directly stated, “the CP was more concerned about the allotted time rather than talking about the civil rights and liberties of the issue”.
We can now add our State Sen. Marko Liias to the list of representatives who don’t seem to care what will happen to our Snohomish County neighborhoods. Here is what Sen. Liias had to say, retweeted by Laura Johnson, “As much as the headlines seem unrelated, they’re not. How we treat our most marginalized neighbors matters. Treating people like a public safety problem led to tragic outcomes. Let’s instead focus on building systems that help our neighbors in need, not criminalize them.”
Our representatives are asking us to turn a blind eye at what has happened to other communities who allowed encampments. Here is a recent report on violence in an encampment in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood.
The rhetoric being used has no place in our city politics. After we have been witnesses to the ongoing surrounding communities’ havoc that has occurred from allowing “encampments”/illegal loitering of park takeovers, sidewalk blockades, trash strewn, not just in the parks but wherever these takeovers are allowed to happen. All these public spaces have been paid for by the taxpayers. We have a right to stand up for rights and protections of these spaces to make them available for the enjoyment of all citizens. If we don’t protect our parks, streets and neighborhood communities we would be heading for an additional uphill battle that could take years to resolve.
The State of Washington has laws in place that are meant to protect these public spaces for good reasons. Two of our Washington State laws meant to protect us: WAC 6.36.020 does not allow for anyone to loiter on public spaces or parks to engage in drug use, possession of, or the sale of drugs. “Loitering for the purpose of engaging in drug related activity 1) it is unlawful for any person to loiter in or near any thoroughfare, place open to the public or private place in a manner under the circumstances manifesting a purpose to engage in drug-related activity…..”
One additional protection is RCW 9.66.010, which tells us: “A public nuisance is a crime against the order and economy of the state that 1) Shall annoy, injure or endanger the safety, health, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of persons’ or, 3) shall unlawfully interfere with, befoul, obstruct, or tend to obstruct, or render dangerous for passage, a lake…or a public park, square, street, alley highway…or, 4) Shall in any way render a considerable number of persons insecure in life or the use of property; shall be a public nuisance.”
We know, according to the Koné Consulting report on homelessness, the majority are substance addicted. To allow the takeover of our public spaces would be in essence be inviting much more trouble into our community that will cost us dearly far beyond a monetary expense and ends up with residents feeling marginalized. All who live in this community would be aware that we are condoning substance and drug use in our parks, on our waterfront beaches and sidewalks, downtown Edmonds in alleys and sidewalks. Along with substance abuse there will always be a higher crime rate both in the community as well as inside the encampment.
Most of us have witnessed the reports on the takeover of the Ballard Commons where fights broke out, a serious fire was started, and an eventual death occurred. These reports and many others going back to 2020 should be our historical reminders of our duty to protect our community and the duty of our city council to uphold our community standards for safety, livability, workability, and peace of mind. For any councilmember to promote anything other than protection of the community they swore to uphold, would be a serious breach of public trust of their citizens, taxpaying constituents, and would also be considered in my opinion, Dereliction of Duty — which is taking actions contrary to what was agreed upon in their oath of office.