An emergency ordinance was proposed and passed in a split 5-2 vote during the council’s meeting on Jan. 8.
Since it was an emergency moratorium, the ordinance required five yes votes to pass. Councilmembers Ruth Ross and Shirley Sutton cast dissenting votes.
The ordinance was proposed as a new business item by Council President Benjamin Goodwin, who noted that similar moratoriums have been passed in several Snohomish County cities, and have been part of opioid discussions locally and in King County.
He later explained that he did not necessarily think safe injection sites were inherently troublesome, but he wanted the council to get ahead of possible zoning applications and set up a six-month time frame for the council to discuss more permanent regulations in detail.
“The reason that I have gone ahead with this as an emergency is I think a facility of this type has good in our society, but it will only do good when it is part of the complete flow,” Goodwin said. “That would not be allowing people to come in and use, supervised or not, illicit drugs, without somewhere for them to go after that.”
Councilmember Christine Frizzell agreed.
“I’m not about fixing one part of a problem and leaving the rest to chance,” she said. “We need to have those tough decisions, those honest conversations, to do this the right way.”
Ross cast a dissenting vote because she said she does not think safe injection sites should be written off as a possible way to help people in need.
“Every day I read documentation about this crisis. I’m here to tell you that nothing should be off the table until you have resolved this issue. I will not support this. Ever,” she said.
Sutton said she wanted more information about safe injection sites before banning them.
Councilmember Ian Cotton, who spoke at the meeting over the telephone, said he was sympathetic to Ross’s sentiment in the long run, but wants something in place for now.
“I see the wisdom in doing something in a temporary basis, but I’m all for doing our diligence and making sure we’re studying this. This is a complex issue,” he said. “I don’t think we can just moratoria our way out of this crisis, but I do think we need to do something about this.”
As an emergency ordinance, it took effect immediately. However, a public hearing must be held within 60 days in order for it to remain valid for a full six months. On Jan. 8, council scheduled that public hearing for Feb. 26.
–By Natalie Covate