Comment: Public’s safety requires new investments for efforts

Fighting fentanyl and other addictions now require more funding through an increase to the sales tax.

By Dave Somers, Susanna Johnson, Jason Cummings and Strom Peterson / For The Herald

The fentanyl crisis is a challenge unlike anything we have seen in recent history.

Both urban and rural areas across Snohomish County have experienced an increase in crime and blight; overdoses are killing too many people; and homelessness continues to impact our residents and businesses. We hear daily from people who are frustrated by the visible impacts of the crisis, and they are telling us we need to pursue holistic solutions that blend accountability and supportive services to help people get healthy.

In collaboration with partners in law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service providers, public health, human services, and community members, we have developed a proposal that incorporates the best available data and proven interventions to fund solutions that will improve accountability for those who break our laws and provide needed services to help restore lives.

Our goal is to reduce the impacts of crime and blight on our community, enhance lifesaving services, and continue to build a healthier and safer community for all. To do this, we are asking for public support of a Public Safety Sales Tax.

By supporting the Public Safety Sales Tax, you will provide critical resources to help ensure we can:

• Bolster our criminal justice system by hiring more law enforcement officers, adding more prosecuting attorneys, and increasing court capacity to ensure we are able to hold people accountable and give them options to turn their lives around.

• Establish a Secure Withdrawal Management Stabilization (SWMS) Facility (i.e., secure detox) in Snohomish County. Currently, there are only 77 SWMS beds in the entire state of Washington. Our closest beds are in King County, and those are often full or not easily accessible to people who desperately need them.

• Establish a second community resource center, much like the Carnegie Resource Center in Everett, which has proven to be a valuable tool in getting people help at a one-stop referral setting.

• Implement programs that reduce the visible impacts of the drug epidemic, such as graffiti removal, a program to remove derelict vehicles and RVs that are often used to facilitate drug transactions, as well as mitigation of prostitution and other illegal activities. By reducing blight, we are addressing the nuisance crimes that have made parts of the county less vibrant and safe.

• Help us retain and grow core public safety programs such as domestic violence services, the Drug Task Force, and the Office of Neighborhoods.

• Support programs that improve the ability of our EMS providers to respond to the complex needs of people suffering from drug addiction and mental health crises and help to alleviate the demands on our hospital emergency rooms.

• Support community programs with proven track records of interrupting youth violence and helping at-risk young people stay in school.

Please join us in supporting the Public Safety Sales Tax. A bipartisan coalition of fourteen Mayors of Snohomish County Cities and Towns have written a letter to the County Council asking them to put the levy on the November ballot.

For about $3.88 per resident each month, we can help fund a system that holds people accountable, saves lives, and creates capacity to get people healthy; while increasing the vibrancy, health, and safety of our communities. In our opinion, now is the time for the public to have its say in securing a safer, more supportive future.

Dave Somers is Snohomish County executive; Susanna Johnson is Snohomish County sheriff; Jason Cummings is Snohomish County prosecuting attorney; Strom Peterson is a member of the Snohomish County Council.

Correction: The original commentary misstated the estimated increase to the sales tax that invividuals in Snohomish County would pay. The correct estimate is $3.88 each month.

Public hearing

The Snohomish County Council has scheduled a public hearing on an ordinance to submit a ballot measure to voters for an increase of two-tenths of 1 percent to the sales tax in Snohomish County for public safety, health and criminal justice efforts. The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, in the Jackson Board Room, eighth floor, Drewel Building, or attend remotely at zoom.us/j/94846850772.

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