Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Padden’s subscribers September 28, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
In recent years, a glaring example of how our state’s crime problem has worsened is the rise in homicides in Seattle and King County.
On Monday, a story published by The Seattle Times shows the homicide problem in Washington’s largest city is especially bad this year. This section is especially noteworthy:
There have been 114 homicides committed in King County as of Friday, when two men were killed in separate Seattle incidents, according to a Seattle Times database. That’s five deaths shy of the 119 homicides investigated in both 2021 and 2022.
This year’s tally has exceeded the county’s 113 homicides in 2020 — a figure that was up from 73 the year before.
Exactly half of this year’s killings have occurred in Seattle, which has totaled 57 homicides, including Friday’s Belltown and Columbia City killings, according to The Times’ database, which is compiled with preliminary information from police, prosecutors and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Seattle police investigated 33 homicides in 2019, 53 in 2020, 41 in 2021 and 54 in 2022, according to The Times’ data. With more than three months left in the year, it’s conceivable the city could break its 1994 record of 69 homicides in a single year.
“It’s a concerning trend,” Dan Clark, a King County chief criminal deputy prosecutor, said of 2023’s homicide count. “We all had anticipated that as we were coming out of the pandemic, some of these disturbing numbers would drop and we haven’t seen that so far.”
As in recent years, this year’s homicides span the gamut of gang-related shootings, domestic-violence killings, violence in homeless encampments, road rage, drug- and prostitution-related killings, and homicides resulting from drug use or mental health crises.
The high – and likely record-breaking – number of homicides in our state’s most populous county is cause for concern. While there are several likely causes for the high number of King County homicides, a few that immediately come to mind are: 1) the decline in the number of police officers in Seattle and other King County communities, which makes it harder to maintain law and order in these communities; 2) the relaxing of state law by Democratic majorities in the Legislature that limited law-enforcement officers’ ability to pursue suspects; and 3) the Legislature weakened state drug-possession laws a couple of years ago, which resulted in such a notable increase in drug-overdose deaths that Washington now leads the U.S. in both drug-overdose deaths and the percentage increase in drug-overdose deaths.
The weakening of Washington’s drug-possession law in 2021 probably has been a factor in crimes in our state. The Democrat-controlled Legislature this year passed a law increasing the penalty for drug possession from a misdemeanor to what is functionally a hybrid of a misdemeanor and a gross misdemeanor. But many opponents of this new law, myself included, believe it needed to provide tougher punishment so drug offenders would be more willing to undergo treatment to avoid more jail time. People need to be held accountable when they break laws. When lawbreakers are in jail or prison, they aren’t hurting society.
If you have questions about how to participate in state government this year or thoughts to share on anything in this e-newsletter, please give me a call or send me an email.
Thank you, as always, for the honor of serving as your state senator!
Senator Mike Padden
Litter becomes greater problem in WA
Washington has become a national leader in several unwanted categories over the years, from ranking first in the U.S. for drug-overdose deaths to currently having the third-highest gasoline prices in America after briefly having the most expensive gas in the country. Our state also has the lowest number of law-enforcement officers per capita of all states (plus the District of Columbia), a key factor why Washington has experienced a steady and disturbing rise in crime.
We can add litter to this dubious list for Washington.
The (Tacoma) News Tribune last week reported our state has ranked above the national average with litter on roadways and public areas, according to a recent study.
Here are interesting snippets from The News Tribune story:
- The national average is 5,714 pieces of litter per mile according to a 2020 nationwide study. Washington state clocked in at 8,112 pieces per mile according to the statewide litter study commissioned in 2022 by the Washington State Department of Ecology that was released Monday, although the agency said they are unsure why there is significantly more litter in the state compared to others.
- The Department of Ecology estimated that nearly 38 million pounds of litter accumulates every year on roads and in public areas throughout the state. That averages out to about 5 pounds of litter per resident in Washington.
- Cigarette butts, food wrappers, snack bags, glass bottles and construction debris were named as some of the most common items found on the roadside, according to the study.
- More than 300 traffic crashes and 30 injuries were caused by debris from unsecured loads, the Department of Ecology said. Five deaths were attributed to debris from unsecured loads.
This problem has not escaped the Legislature’s notice. In 2021, legislators and the governor approved a bipartisan bill introduced by one of my Republican colleagues, 31st District Sen. Phil Fortunato, that enhances litter control in Washington. This law prioritizes litter control along the state’s highways and requires the state Department of Ecology to contract with the Department of Transportation to schedule litter-prevention messaging and coordinate litter-emphasis patrols with the Washington State Patrol.
There has been evidence of this new anti-litter law in action, as a litter crew was spotted next to I-5 in the Tacoma area last week, and an electronic sign south of Olympia last week asked motorists and passengers to not litter.
However, the Legislature should fully implement Sen. Fortunato’s original anti-litter bill from 2021. The House had removed an important part from the original version of that measure that required the Department of Ecology to prioritize funding litter control along state highways when distributing funds to state agencies for litter control programs. The original bill should have been passed by the Legislature two years ago instead of the altered version that became law.
State flag flies over Capitol for new State Bar Association president
Ferry County resident Hunter Abell recently was chosen as the 2023-24 president of the Washington State Bar Association, which typically focuses on law and justice issues before the Legislature. At the request of a mutual friend, I contacted Secretary of State Steve Hobbs’ office in Olympia and arranged to have a Washington state flag flown over the state Capitol two weeks ago. The photo above shows that flag, as well as the certificate from Secretary Hobbs (my former Senate colleague) to Hunter that marks the occasion.
Speaking at Oaks Academy ceremony
On September 15, I had the honor of speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new $14.8 million building at The Oaks Classical Christian Academy in Spokane Valley. It was a good event that was well attended. More than 360 students attend the academy, which has a tremendous academic record and has a number of graduates who have attended some of the finest higher education institutions in the country.
Attending judicial meeting in Tumwater
Late last week, I traveled to Tumwater for the Interbranch Advisory Committee meeting at the state Supreme Court’s temporary chambers. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Steve Gonzalez provided a judicial branch update, and I joined one of my colleagues, Sen. Jamie Pedersen of Seattle, in providing a legislative update.
If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. During the interim we are conducting business from our district office in Spokane Valley. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (509) 921-2460
Email address: Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov
PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Padden’s Olympia office at (360) 786-7606.
To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton, the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.