Last week's rally outside City Hall was planned as a victory lap for Initiative 100. Instead, the grassroots activists behind the city measure announced they had failed to gather the 18,000 signatures needed to put I-100 on the ballot, depriving Seattleites of a chance to vote this year on whether the city should build a proposed new $226 million jail.
The measure, which is supported by Real Change, did garner 13,000 signatures -- a strong sign, supporters at the event said, of the resistance the mayor of Seattle and his partners in the county's North/East Cities association can expect as they continue work on siting the jail. But El Centro de la Raza founder Roberto Maestas called it a victory that jail opponents had gotten King County to extend the use of its jail facilities to the cities for three years, from 2012 to 2015, delaying plans for a new jail and giving activists time to organize. "We're going to give them the biggest headache," Maestas said. "We ain't going to let them get away with it."
In four years as a Superior Court judge, former City Councilmember Jim Street said, over half of the cases he saw were $20 buy-bust cases -- a low-level, nonviolent crime with a two-year minimum sentence that's helped put too many Americans behind bars, at too high a cost. Taxpayers pay a lot more for incarceration, others said, than they do for treatment or other types of alternatives that reduce jail use in the long run.
"When we invest in alternatives to incarceration, we not only reduce costs [but] recidivism," said King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, a candidate for county executive. "We end the revolving door [and] we get lives back on track... [Spending] $200 million [on] new jail cells that we may not need for decades makes no sense, not when there are better, cheaper and safer alternatives."
A separate "Districts Now" city charter amendment also failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, says Pat Murakami with Action Seattle, the measure's sponsor. The amendment sought to change Seattle's system of nine "at-large" seats on the City Council -- elected officials who represent no one in particular -- to a mix of four at-large seats and five district-specific ones.