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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carr Wreck

posted by on November 6 at 10:53 AM

Tom Carr, our city attorney, is up for re-election next year. So how is Carr priming the electorate as our local budgets are in freefall? By protesting ways to save money and defending expensive programs that don’t work.

In a letter to the editor on Tuesday—which I didn’t see until today—Carr chastises the PI for reconsidering how we spend our criminal justice funds. An editorial on Monday had calmly suggested that we “rethink the enforcement of drug laws” to handle a huge city and county revenue shortfall. We wrote about the impacts on drug cases at the county here. The PI asked, “What if resources could be shifted from the prosecution of low-level drug crimes into recovery programs?” That strategy, of course, has been proven to save money and be more effective. But Carr shot off this testy missive:

Decriminalization, a word that you do not use in your Monday editorial, but which you seem to be advocating, has not worked anywhere that it has been tried. European countries that have gone down this road are reconsidering their policies because of an increase in both drug addiction and drug-related crime. A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement and treatment is the answer. This is the approach that we take and it has worked well. Discarding a working model for an unproven one because of budget concerns would be the worst kind of foolishness. …

Decriminalization is the functional equivalent of giving up. We have proven answers to the drug problem that we employ. It is disappointing the P-I failed to recognize these efforts.

Is Carr seriously saying we shouldn’t provide more treatment? That our drug policy, as it stands, is working? Really? And Carr is just wrong when he says decriminalization can’t be part of a functional drug policy. In September, the Beckley Foundation in the UK released a report (.pdf) on cannabis policies that concludes, “Measures to reduce penalties or to decriminalize possession and use have been adopted in numerous jurisdictions without an upsurge in use.” A ton of studies show decriminalization works. And in the Netherlands, where they focus on treatment and avoid incarceration for drug possession, use of drugs is far below the US.

Meanwhile in King County, law enforcement agencies reported 1,650 arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession last year. Carr would rather we lock up those people—and spend time whining about it—even though the city just sent a press release titled “Mayor Working to Identify Additional Reductions to Balance Budget.”

Hey, Greg Nickels, here’s a way to balance your budget: Slash Tom Carr’s funds for low-level drug offenders (such as paraphernalia and pot), put more money into drug treatment, and use the net saving for other city programs. And hey, everyone else, let’s recruit a new candidate for city attorney who doesn’t waste his time writing backward letters to the editor.

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Carr is a huge disappointment. Both he and Nickels promised alternatives to Mark Sidran, but sometimes it seems like the alternatives they developed are just as bad, if not worse.

Posted by Trevor | November 6, 2008 11:02 AM

Carr has to go. Any insider at Council or the Mayor's staff will tell you how awful he is. We just need someone decent to run. There's a lot of young attorneys out there who could easily defeat him.

Posted by TBF | November 6, 2008 11:21 AM

We elected Tom Carr because of the monorail.

He either learns that it's a new century, and a new America, one that doesn't waste tax dollars on stupid things, or he leaves.

Gracefully - or otherwise.

The choice is his - but it is a CHOICE - and it will have CONSEQUENCES.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 6, 2008 11:44 AM

Not everyone is going to start getting stoned and high just because they can. Some people do not like being high or stoned... just like some folks do not like being drunk. Maybe Carr is one who is not able to understand, people can, just like drinking, people can get high in a "responsible to society" sort of a way.

Decriminalization (more people should use that word, IMHO, and quit muddying the waters by giving folks like Carr ammo) for possession and usage would be done through responsible regulation. It is not criminal to have a beer or whiskey, nor is it criminal to drink a beer or whiskey. It is criminal if the possession or consumption is prohibited IN THAT TIME AND PLACE. Say, in a city park (vs. a bar) or while driving a moving vehicle (vs. not driving).

Thanks to the reinforcement of society as well as individual experience, folks learn that sometimes, even when a person could be non-criminally drunk, that being drunk at that time is not correct, or at least the responsible state of mind to be in. Some actions are best done with a clear mind and not drunk. Same with being stoned.

Carr needs to grow as an individual and learn that decriminalization of weed will also be with regulation and education. Folks who know how much weed to use, just like folks who know how much whiskey to drink, will create rules and establish learnings to educate those with less experience.

I say this to Carr, me and 3500 other people, not too mention those who were there in spirit, were not in the middle of pike and broadway cheering on CHANGE as an excuse to tie up traffic. We were cheering because we did not feel we had been lied too when told change will happen. We voted for change, and decriminalization of weed is a change some of us will support... not because we want to see losers who can't handle their drink and smoke go to an early grave, but because jailing someone, taking away their liberty, is not the right thing for America to be doing anymore.

Posted by Phenics | November 6, 2008 12:33 PM

Tom Carr may or may not be seriously saying that we should spend less on treatment, but I am. I'm saying that drug treatment is the exact same scam as drug prohibition in a pseudo-compassionate disguise.

Jeffrey Schaler, in his book "Addiction is a Choice" is also saying this. If you want to fight prohibition, you have to fight the idea that drugs can reprogram you and turn you into someone else. You have to take free will seriously. If you're not willing to do that, you're part of the problem.

Posted by Luke Baggins | November 6, 2008 12:41 PM

@ 5) It's an appealing theory--that people will snap themselves out drug addiction using the force of free will--but the millions of cigarette smokers in the country who can't quit prove that addiction isn't just a simple trick of mind over matter. Particularly for people who get stuck in the criminal rut to pay for their addiction, treatment programs, peer support, and tapering use is the best recovery. It's proven by science and stuff. It may just be treatment helping them leverage their mind over matter, but it works, so it's ridiculous to suggest we should eliminate funding and expect everyone to pull them up from their bootstraps. And how do we pay for treatment? Stop locking up low-level drug offenders and use the savings for better recovery programs, better education, or, in the case of occasional drug users who don't have a problem with their use, let 'em go.

Posted by Dominic Holden | November 6, 2008 12:56 PM

Any numbers on exactly how much the County and City spend specifically on anti-drug shit? I wonder how it compares to the expected shortfalls...

Posted by Giffy | November 6, 2008 1:05 PM

The idea that our moral agency isn't an illusion is appealing to some. On the other hand, the idea that you aren't responsible for self destructive choices you've made, they were made for you by chemicals in your blood, that idea is appealing to others. That's the thing people are hooked on.

But the point is, I'm with you in wanting to recruit a city attorney with better priorities. Any thoughts on how we do that?

Posted by Luke Baggins | November 6, 2008 1:35 PM

@8 - first, we kill the lawyers ...

oh, wait, no, only lawyers for this job.

ok, in that case, start talking to any lawyers you know - and ask them who should run - and why.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 6, 2008 1:37 PM

"European countries that have gone down this road are reconsidering their policies because of an increase in both drug addiction and drug-related crime"

Is Carr talking completely out his ass here or what? What evidence is there at all that any European countries that have decriminalized drug possession are 'reconsidering their policies'. Blantant bald-faced lies are a signature of all cheerleaders of the drug war. That said the City Attorney is a prosecutor, prosecutors as a breed are cretins, a necessary evil with the emphasis on the evil. In other words probably futile to hope to replace him with someone more sensible.

Posted by Rhizome | November 6, 2008 1:42 PM

Oh and one more thing. A few months back, I was in the Lava Lounge and I let out some words about what a tool I think Carr is. I was with a group of criminal defense lawyers and wanna guess what they all did? They fucking defended the fucker and his fucked-up anti-night-life bullshit. No shit this actually happened in front of witnesses! Fuckin defense lawyers!

Anyway, people who know something about how we find Carr's replacement are the ones I would like to hear from.

Posted by Luke Baggins | November 6, 2008 1:44 PM

Much as we may dislike Tom Carr, Tim Ceis is currently positioning someone worse to take his job.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 6, 2008 2:21 PM

Umm no. I lived in the Netherlands for a while and from the press coverage there I don't think the issue behind the policy discussions is greater addiction. Mostly the problem stems from the legalization not being complete - the production and distribution is still technically illegal, so coffee shops (legal marijuana sales points) have to deal with a distribution network run by organized crime. THIS is what has caused the several related drive by shootings. They could also improve the organized crime situation quite a bit by getting rid of the weird, totally opaque system of real estate transfer they have that makes it a perfect vehicle for money laundering. (the government actually keeps no record of who owns what property or how much it sells for, so there's a lot of transfer of property among crime groups - instead the whole thing's done through this tight, corrupt union of notaries who claim attorney-client privilege when the government tries to get this information.)

While I was there they did crack down on hallucinogenic mushroom sales because one seventeen year old French girl got high, fell off a canal bridge, and drowned.

Posted by gember | November 6, 2008 2:31 PM

Norm Maleng and Dan Satterburg are both prosecutors who have pledged support for the state's policy of de-prioritizing drug enforcement. And that's family valuin, King County for fuck's sake! If the county can elect a decent prosecutor than fudge-packin, satan worshippin Seattle certainly can.

We just have to find the right person and convince that individual to run.

Posted by Luke Baggins | November 6, 2008 3:45 PM

A lot of good paying government jobs bite the dust with decriminalisation.

Posted by Vince | November 6, 2008 3:55 PM

Every dollar the govt. spends is taken from taxpayers. Every person the government employs is talent removed from the market. When the government cuts a useless job from its budget, that's one more person putting whatever skills they have on the market. That's a good thing for the economy. That's a fact that needs to be pushed when state budget cutting is on the menu, and we're fucked if it's not on the State and Federal menu in the near future.

Posted by Luke Baggins | November 6, 2008 8:07 PM

Tom Carr's office is out of control. He should NOT be reelected. I urge The Stranger to investigate complaints made against the city attorneys, which have been raised with their supervisors as well as with the bar. Carr's attorneys are abusive to defense lawyers, act unethically, and use intimidation to try and get things to go their way. Carr backs these people without asking them any questions, and himself uses his nasty temper to try and scare away critics who insist on a minimal professional standard. As we know, a fish rots from the head down. The Stranger should look into Thom Carr and his out-of-control office.

Posted by Randy | November 7, 2008 5:18 AM

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