City Carr Wreck
posted by November 6 at 10:53 AMon
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.