Yesterday, supporters of an initiative to ban safe consumption sites in King County reported turning in 70,000 signatures—nearly 22,600 more than they need to qualify for the November ballot*.
The group's announcement comes after the political action committee funding the effort, Impaction (LOL), spent $111,577 on paid signature gatherers, according to state public disclosure records.
Safe consumption sites would provide a place for people to use illegal drugs like heroin under the supervision of medical staff on hand to prevent fatal overdoses. Clients would bring their own drugs to the sites, which would be modeled in part off sites in Vancouver, B.C. and would also offer connections to treatment services. A city/county task force has recommended opening two sites in King County, including one inside the City of Seattle. The city and county have not yet determined where the sites will be located.
So, who's funding the effort to oppose the sites recommended by drug use and healthcare experts?
A controversial Bothell City Council member, a handful of investors and developers, and Seattle's favorite anti-tax/anti-transit/anti-government octogenarian.
Joshua Freed is the top donor to the PAC at $40,000. Freed, a former mayor and current city council member in Bothell, has faced controversy over his role as a developer in that city.
Kenneth Fisher and Clyde Holland have donated $25,000 each. Fisher is CEO of Fisher Investments in Camas; Holland owns the Vancouver, Washington, development company Holland Partner Group. The investor/developer pair has recently become a driving force in backing Republicans in local races. As the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner reported during last year's election, they've also backed anti-tax initiative peddler Tim Eyman. Fisher supported an effort to unseat Barbara Madsen, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. (Right wingers accuse the court of becoming too liberal.)
Faye Garneau, well-known for helping fund campaigns against city levies and for backing Seattle's switch to district elections, is the fourth biggest donor at $10,000. (Suzie Burke, a Fremont developer who along with Garneau opposed Seattle's last transportation levy, has also kicked in $1,000.) George Rowley, the owner of Issaquah real estate company Rowley Properties, also donated $10,000. Individuals mostly from Seattle and Bellevue donated the rest.
Impaction has spent the bulk of its money to pay signature gatherers. The group hired Keith Schipper, former communications director for the state Republican Party, to manage the campaign. Seattle Police Officer and State Representative Morgan Irwin and State Senator Mark Miloscia are also prominent supporters of banning safe consumption sites. Miloscia, who represents Federal Way, has made a hobby in recent years out of chastising Seattle over its strategies to address homelessness. If Impaction's initiative makes the ballot, Republicans like Freed, Irwin, and Miloscia—usually wholly irrelevant in Seattle's political decisions—could be poised to stop one of the city's most cutting edge efforts yet.
*While the group may have plenty of signatures, they're pressed for time to make it on the November ballot. The county will have to verify their signatures and the county council must vote by August 1—that's Tuesday, just five business days from today—to send it to the November ballot. Otherwise, the measure could end up on a later election, possibly in February. That would put it before a lower turnout electorate.