Homeless measure ‘Compassion Seattle’ struck from November ballot

KING COUNTY, Wash. — The so-called Compassion Seattle proposal was struck from the November ballot by a King County Superior Court judge. The homelessness measure would direct the city to provide 2,000 units of emergency or permanent housing within a year and also require Seattle to ensure parks, playgrounds and sidewalks remain clear of any encampments, according to The Associated Press.

“Compassion Seattle” is a citizen initiative that could have become part of the city’s charter — essentially the city’s constitution.

The initiative would also put 12% of the city’s annual General Fund toward the Human Services Fund to carry out the plan.

However, Judge Catherine Shaffer said the measure’s proponents exceed what can be accomplished through a local charter amendment, as it would conflict with state law and usurp the City Council’s power.

“You can’t amend a city charter to conflict with state law,” Shaffer said. “I like this charter amendment as a voter. But as a judge, it cannot stand.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and the Transit Riders Union had sued to prevent the measure, officially known as Charter Amendment 29, from appearing on the ballot, saying that it goes beyond the scope of local initiative power and violates state law.

Those behind the campaign of “Compassion Seattle” responded after the judge’s ruling Friday, saying:

“While we are gratified that Judge Shaffer said that she would have voted for Charter Amendment 29 if, given that option, we strongly disagree with her ruling today denying Seattle voters the opportunity to have their voices heard on the number one issue facing our city. This ruling means the only way the public can change the city’s current approach to homelessness is to change who is in charge at city hall. An appeal of the judge’s ruling would not happen in time for the election. However, we urge the public not to give up the fight. We can still make our voices heard in the elections for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney. In each race, the difference between the candidates is defined by who supports what the Charter Amendment was attempting to accomplish and who does not.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.