Mayor presents team at the “City Council Meeting of the Whole” on Monday March 13 2023
Mayor Fleetwood responding to concerns of citizens in Downtown Bellingham Presented an ordinance to Prohibit the use of Controlled Substances in Public Places
He Presented an ordinance to Prohibit the use of Controlled Substances in Public Places
The March 13th Meeting of the Council of the Whole had a presentation from the Mayor and the initial response of the Council.
Councilman Anderson( a representation of the concerns of some of the council) complained about the process in getting the ordinance to the council and would vote no on the current ordinance, also said we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We have laws that allow the issuance of a pamphlet to users of drugs and the third pamphlet presents a situation for police to take action.(Editor’s note there is no local tracking of how many pamphlet’s are handed to who; its less than a ticket) She and others stated drug use in public places was a national problem. She seems to want to only start the process here today but other projects for the management of criminal action need to be in place first. Councilman Anderson provided no temporary solution to the complaints of downtown merchants at the meeting and was very concerned that the process was not followed for presentation to the council.
A City Attorney testified that the two sentence ordinance was modeled after Marysville’s ordinance and the city attorney there said it has worked well. The City Attorney testified that this only concerned the use of drugs in public; not the actual use of drugs anywhere else.
It seemed the Council was a little confused about this portion of the hearing but they had not had the ordinance in a timely manner to consider it. As far as this observer could see the Council is taking the position that alternate courts and facilities have to be ready before the council will consider enacting this ordinance that basically makes the downtown merchants feel a little more safe while those using drugs get the first step of the help they need by being cited with a misdemeanor for public usage of illegal drugs.
Here is the KGMI 790 Summary of the Story:
BELLINGHAM, Wash. – A proposed ordinance to criminalize public drug use in Bellingham has fallen short.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood introduced the plan at a City Council meeting on Monday, March 12th, which would have made open drug use a misdemeanor.
“The ordinance that we’re recommending to you is something that I think is going to be beneficial on a number of fronts,” said Fleetwood. “We are not suggesting this is a cure-all. This is another tool in the tool kit to address open use.”
However, councilmembers said that not enough resources were available to make the ordinance feasible.
Councilmember Hannah Stone was among those who voted against the ordinance.
“If we don’t have a therapeutic court and other options in place at this time, then further criminalizing or trying to arrest our way out of addiction is just insane,” said Stone.
But some councilmembers were open to the idea of establishing a “community court” before readdressing the ordinance.
The court, also proposed by Mayor Fleetwood, would offer low-level and non-violent offenders social services while also holding them responsible for their actions.