After months of staying neutral, Mayor Mike McGinn told reporters late this morning that he now opposes the aggressive solicitation bill that the council will vote on next Monday. The council has been widely expected to pass the measure by a wide margin, but McGinn seems to believe that support is crumbling. Asked how the city could enforce the measure, McGinn said, "That assumes it is going to pass. I think we will see what the council does on Monday."
"At this point, I do not support the legislation," McGinn said. "I have been listening carefully on this issue for some time, taking opportunity for council members to make their case, and listening to concerns raised by others."
A six-vote majority of the council would be veto-proof. Asked if he would veto the measure if the council only gives it five votes, McGinn said, "Yes, I would."
McGinn is in good company. This week, opposition to the bill has grown louder. Opponents now include four district Democratic organizations, the federation of all the city's community councils, the city-appointed human rights commission, State Senator Joe McDermott (D-34), State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), King County Council Member Larry Gossett, City Council Member Nick Licata, former city council member and superior court judge Jim Street, the ACLU of Washington, Seattle NAACP, and the Church Council of Greater Seattle.
"Everyone who comes downtown should feel safe and that’s why we recently announced we would implement more foot patrols," said McGinn, asked why he would veto the measure. But, he said, "We already have a law against aggressive panhandling and adding this new tool, which would be a citation for aggressive panhandling—both of those laws require somebody there to enforce them, so the key is having someone present to enforce the rules, not the rules in place.
"Also I have concerns there is the potential for abuse," McGinn said. "The positives don’t seem that great and we have other laws for public safety." He noted that the Seattle Human Rights Commission voted to oppose the measure and he had taken the commission's report into account. "A lot of people have spoken up to say it is scapegoating the poor, not going to help. On balance I don’t think it is the right path forward."
For details on the problems of the bill—based on faulty data and raising problems with due process—read our feature story in this week's paper.