Lynnwood City Council bans use of illegal drugs in public


Using dangerous drugs in public will be illegal in Lynnwood under an ordinance approved Monday by the Lynnwood City Council.

The council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance, which will allow police to arrest individuals using illegal drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine in public. The bill also prohibits disposing of drugs and drug paraphernalia on the ground or in bodies of water. 

Councilmember Josh Binda voted to abstain, stating his concern that the ban could disproportionately affect people of color in the community.

Chief of Police Jim Nelson

Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson first proposed the ordinance at the council’s Feb. 6 work session. A “dangerous drug” is defined as any controlled substance classified in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V and “in public” is defined as anywhere visible to the public, including through windows of residences and vehicles. Any attempt to introduce a dangerous substance into the body is considered usage. 

After arrest, police protocol will “strongly encourage” the officer to refer the person to drug-diversion programs. In the event that the services are declined or not offered, the arrestee will be charged with a misdemeanor.

The council also approved another ordinance, proposed by Nelson, that will add a $25 “traffic safety” fee to all photo-enforced tickets and automatically adjust fines to match the state’s current fine amount. In response to an inquiry by Councilmember George Hurst, Nelson specified that the traffic safety fee’s proceeds will be placed in fund 105 — usually referred to as the criminal justice fund —  and will be used to maintain the police department’s traffic safety division. All councilmembers except Binda, who once again abstained, voted in favor of the ordinance. 

School zone speeding fines were redefined in the ordinance to include four ranges of infraction. 

New photo-enforced school zone speeding fines

Speed over the limit (in MPH) Fine
6-10 $150
11-15 $200
16-20 $250
21+ $300


Previous photo-enforced school zone speeding fines

Speed over the limit (in MPH) Fine
6-15 $124
16+ $250


Hurst asked if the traffic safety fee could also be added to tickets issued by officers. Nelson responded that he would look into it.

Councilmember Shirley Sutton reads a proclamation about Black History Month.

In other business, Councilmember Shirley Sutton read a proclamation celebrating Black History Month. Members of Lynnwood-based Project Girl, a mentoring organization run by Olympia Edwards, spoke about the program’s positive influence on young women of color. (Read more about the organization in our previous story here.)

A mentee talks about the positive impact that Project Girl has made on her life.

“Project Girl has really helped me find my way through life and my identity. It’s really been there with open arms and it’s really been a safe space for me – a person, a part of the LGBT [community] and a person of color,“ one young mentee told the council.

Members of Project Girl and the council pose for a photo

Following this, Council President and military veteran Shannon Sessions read a proclamation that declared Feb. 13, 2023 as Heroes’ Café Day. The announcement urged Lynnwood residents to acknowledge the efforts that Heroes’ Café has made since its inception in 2015. Heroes’ Café has spent the last several years providing outreach, camaraderie and support for area veterans at its weekly meetings.

Gary Walderman, director of Heroes’ Cafe, thanked the council, the new board of directors and many volunteers for their support.

Council President Sessions (left) watches as Heroes’ Café Director Gary Walderman thanks those who allow the organization to do its work

“(On the) first day we thought we’d have, maybe a couple people and we ended up having 125 and its been that number ever since and it’s all because of these folks back here” said Walderman, gesturing to the “fine individuals” behind him .“I thank you,” he said. “Another seven years,”.

Heroes’ Café members and the council pose for a photo

The council also unanimously approved fee increases requested by the Lynnwood Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. Stating that the fees have not increased in over two years, Director Lynn Sordel said the hike was needed to offset inflation, which has added to the cost of supplies and wages. Sordel stated that residents pay about 25% less than non-residents for most services and maintaining a resident discount was a priority when considering the charges. The fee increases, listed here starting on page 3, raises golf prices, park shelter rentals, recreation center passes and other recreational activities. 

The council also approved the start of a process to evaluate other options for the city’s waste management provider. As Lynnwood’s contracts are now managed by the state, Lynnwood has not explored other options for waste management. The city has faced customer service issues and poor hauler performance and has no input on rates or rate structure. In exploring other options, Public Works Department officials hope to fix these issues and give the city more control over its contract.

Councilmember Jim Smith

Councilmember Jim Smith was the only councilmember to vote against the proposal, stating that allowing the city to manage its contract would give the government too much power. The city would have to hire a person to manage relations between the city and the contractor and rates would go up, Smith said. That was a sentiment echoed by public commenter Ted Hikel, who said that recent rate increases in various city utilities were effectively robbing Lynnwood residents.

Public Works Director Bill Franz replied that Lynnwood’s research of neighborhood cities that have already transitioned to managing their own contracts shows that residents’ rates would either go down or stay the same. Councilmember Patrick Decker added that taking the opportunity to manage waste management facilities at the city level instead of keeping the state agreement would give more local control, not less. 

The council also heard that the Acadia Healthcare opioid treatment facility in Lynnwood, which faced a month’s worth of backlash, recently held a community meeting in which press was prohibited. Only three councilmembers attended, so a majority was not present, and it was not considered a “closed meeting.” (A closed meeting in which a majority of councilmembers actively discuss city business is illegal.) To avoid concerns about closed meetings and ensure more of the meeting is publicly accessible, Smith requested that the next community meeting with Acadia – scheduled for Feb. 20 — be considered a special council meeting, which was approved. 

Related to the Acadia matter, Hurst requested the council’s support to direct Lynnwood’s Development and Business Services Department to examine and possibly redefine the definition of an “essential public facility” at a city level, so that Lynnwood can place limitations on opioid treatment facilities in the future. His idea was supported by Councilmembers Smith, Decker and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby. 

The council also approved corrections to the city’s 2023 salary schedule and heard from Mayor Christine Frizzell, who mentioned that she’d met earlier that day with U.S. Representative Rick Larsen. The meeting highlighted funding he’d recently brought to the city for the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center and improvements to the 44th Avenue underpass. 

–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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