Driving while poor: No longer a risk?
A bill in the state Legislature could reduce the penalties for the misdemeanor Washingtonians are most often charged with: Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree (or DWLS3). Tens of thousands of people are charged with it each year, the South Seattle Emerald reported. Usually, people are charged for not paying their ticket when they are first cited, which data shows disproportionately impacts drivers who are African American or low-income. Eventually, people can accumulate fines, and if they can’t afford them, their licenses are automatically suspended.
In a lawsuit in October last year, the ACLU of Washington alleged that the license suspensions violate the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The bill would remove the automatic suspensions and allow payment plans for the fines. It has 14 co-sponsors in the state senate.
Mercer Island: No unhoused people
On Feb. 16, the Mercer Island City Council passed an ordinance forbidding people from living outdoors or in their cars on the island. Under the law, which goes into effect March 1, police can move people living outdoors from the island to a shelter on the Eastside or to jail if they are deemed ineligible to stay in shelter, PubliCola pointed out.
The legislation was targeted at 10 specific homeless people living on the island outdoors or in their cars, according to Mercer Island Police Sergeant Mike Seifer, PubliCola reported.
Mercer Island’s new law may be vulnerable to a legal challenge, PubliCola noted. A federal ruling, Martin v. Boise, set a precedent that cities cannot ban people from living outside unless there’s “adequate” and “available” shelter nearby. The meaning of both terms is debatable, and an ACLU of Washington lawyer told Publicola that it would be difficult for any such law in Washington to comply with the ruling because more people live outdoors than there is available shelter.
Mariners CEO resigns after racist comments revealed
Kevin Mather, the CEO and president of the Seattle Mariners, stepped down effective immediately Feb. 22 after video surfaced of racially incendiary comments he made speaking to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary club on Feb. 5.
When Mather was asked an open-ended question about player Julio Rodríguez during the event, he said: “Julio Rodríguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is loud. His English is not tremendous,” according to a transcript published by The Seattle Times.
He also called player Hisashi Iwakuma’s English “terrible,” and complained about having to pay for an interpreter.
Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton is the interim CEO. He called Mather’s comments “inappropriate.”
“There is no excuse for what was said,” Stanton said in a statement. “We must be, and do, better.”
Read more of the Feb. 24 - Mar. 2, 2021 issue.