In this installment of our interview with City Attorney Tom Carr and challenger Pete Holmes, the Stranger Election Control Board talks about Carr’s prosecution of bar and nightlife employees:

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We would like to hear you talk a little philosophically about your longstanding differences with the Stranger. We disagree about a lot of things. I would like you to tell us where you think we disagree.

CARR: Uh, where we disagree. I mean, you endorsed me the last time we had a contested election, so we don’t have that longstanding a disagreement.

On pot? On nightlife? You don’t think we have any differences?

CARR: No, I don’t think so. I mean it’s the communications. My biggest fault is that I don’t have a communications person, I have an assistant who’s got a master’s in public administration, but no public background. So we don’t try to spin things.

So you’re trying to say that you agree with us about pot and agree with us about Operation Sobering Thought?

CARR: No, the, um, you asked about nightlife and pot, right? So nightlife, my view is that we need a good, solid nightlife here, in Seattle, that it benefits the community. And that one of the ways we do that is by dealing with the crime problems associated with nightlife. We’ve had a number of killings in clubs, in and around clubs. And if you look at the clubs we’ve closed, it’s been basically because there was a murder there, or a very serious assault. That’s what I do, in trying to tone down the violence and the disturbances in order to make it better. That’s the goal of the city. And I get portrayed as the heavy a lot, and I take that, it goes to my answer about not having anybody to spin, I don’t do that.

Carr on Operation Sobering Thought's "success" and Holmes arguing that Carr is "trying to insist that this was a success when it was not" after the jump.

And why did you do Operation Sobering Thought, and, maybe, what you would do differently if you were doing it again?

CARR: Ok, so why we did it. There were a series of large callouts for the police in Pioneer Square and North Downtown, where we would call out either the entire precinct or in a few instances all of the police officers who were available in the city at bar close. Because there were crowds of a couple thousand people, and some associated violence. So we were expending a great deal of police resources. And we went to the bars—many of the bars, several of the bars—we had particular resistance in Pioneer Square, and said, look, we gotta deal with this. And the response we got was ‘once it’s outside the bar, it’s not our problem, it’s your problem.’ So the police force was essentially acting as private security for a lot of the bars that were irresponsible. And notice I use the word “bars” and “irresponsible.” I use those carefully. Because the vast majority of nightclubs and music venues never cause a problem. And they don’t—because they don’t do what these folks were doing.

So what were the irresponsible bars doing?

CARR: So the irresponsible bars served too much, get some people—you overserve, you serve minors, and sometimes you allow weapons in. And when you close, the problem’s out in the street. So the police came to me and said, “Maybe we should do something about this, we need to reduce this issue, because it’s costing.” And, you know, there are times when if you dial 911 in the city on a Saturday night between 2:15 and 2:30, you wouldn’t be able to get a police officer, because they were all there. There were several times when they called out every officer in the city to deal with Pioneer Square. So it’s a problem, but it’s a problem not many people were seeing. So, we designed an operation to sort of test those theories. That is, were they letting kids in, were they letting weapons in, and were they overserving. So the first place they went to, and I don’t remember the name, and I should, identified, saw the bad IDs, and turned the girls away. But they said, one of the bouncers told the officers where to go, where they could get in. And so they went to the next place … and they got in. So the bouncers knew where they would let minors in, even though that place was good and they didn’t. And that’s the way that they followed the operation. So we were expecting maybe half of the clubs to let minors in, and 14 out of 15 did. Which was startling to me.

And they were fake IDs?

CARR: There was—Tim, you know, again, there was one that was expired and one that was for another person. I think that’s right. I think that’s what it was. But they did this over a couple of nights, so there may have been different situations.

So it wasn’t a situation where someone was like, “I don’t have an ID,” or they have an ID but they’re young, they’re underage?

CARR: I think they did test an underage one.

One of the things that people don’t understand about Operation Sobering Thought, is if it was such a problem, and they were doing all these horrible things, why were there zero convictions for more than 20 people?

CARR: Well, there were 27, and 17 pled, agreed to plea agreements. And the reason that there were zero convictions is because most of them had no criminal history. And when someone has no criminal history in my office, we generally offer them an opportunity to maintain that status, so we give them a disposition that allows them to get away without a criminal history. … Only two cases went to trial. One of them there was a not guilty, the other one, the judge found—there was a witness who hadn’t been apprised of his constitutional rights, and the judge declared a mistrial, there was a dispute over who should have advised them, then another judge found double jeopardy attached and the case was dismissed.

So, fantastic success?

CARR: Uh, the success that I measured was things calmed down. People started checking IDs, people are still checking IDs at places where I go, more carefully than they were then. That’s what we were going for. You asked what we would do differently. I know no one believes me, but I did not know—again, we’ll get back to my poor memory—I did not know about the nightlife legislation. We had worked on it a year before, and sent it to the council, and it had been out of my office and off my radar for some time. And I wasn’t honestly paying attention to it. So when I called—I remember distinctly calling Regina LeBell to tell her about this operation we had conducted, because I didn’t talk to the mayor’s office at all about this. And she said ‘what about the nightlife legislation, it’s coming up?’ And so, if I had something to do differently, we would have completely disassociated from them, because that undermined the good work that we did. Because people, justifiably, were skeptical about this. And, this is one where I can use my sometimes lapses in memory as a defense.

So you knew about it, you just forgot about it?

CARR: Well, we drafted the legislation, so obviously we worked on it. But remember, it went on for a long time, and it transformed from various things. It started out as—I think it started out—Jordan Royer started out like four years before as a regulatory business license for everybody. And then it got reformed into a nightclub license and an endorsement and, yeah, sometimes things go on for a long time in the council and you lose track, and if someone’s not asking for my help or advice, I’m not involved.

But you ended up undermining your own effort, or an effort you had been a part of to regulate the clubs that you were trying to regulate through a stick approach.

CARR: Absolutely.

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Pete, can we get your perspective on Operation Sobering Thought?

HOLMES: Sure. You know, Tom, I know what it’s like to go into a hostile room on this campaign trail, and I’m not saying there’s any more here than I have encountered anywhere else. But I think the resistance has been—Operation Sobering Thought is a great example. You know, I don’t come to this election with every answer for how we’re going to solve Seattle’s problems. They’re complex. No one lawyer can have all the expertise you’re going to need for this office, ranging from muni-bond work to code enforcement to criminal to civil—no one lawyer can have it all. … But I think my biggest criticism about Sobering Thought is trying to insist that this was a success when it was not. There—even Derek Smith admitted that even going after the jail sentences that you went after for these arrestees was excessive. And we knew—I’ll accept your explanation that you didn’t know about the legislation, but literally a week before, this was coming before city council to do this. And I know from the mayor’s office that—I know you have previously said things like the nightlife community stopped talking to you. Well, Tom, you stopped talking to the nightlife community.

Part one (on the stolen can of tuna Carr called an "urban myth") is here, part two (on other the times Carr hasn't told the truth) is here, and part three (on Holmes's qualifications for the job) is here.