I started my writing career in 1998. Newspapers and magazines are my primary focus, and I have also written for nonprofits and produced my own marketing content. From 2007 to 2014, my independent business was my only job, and I worked as a contractor. I reduced freelance activity in 2014, taking fewer projects and completing coursework in science and medical terminology with a goal of returning to full-time work. In 2019, I returned to newspapers as a temp and continue to write.
Not all work-samples are posted.
Brighter days ahead: Expectant couple moving in soon to new HopeWorks site
Chris Sands and Madi Christofferson (center, wearing pink) look at a unit like theirs inside the HopeWorks Station II mixed-use center in Everett on Monday, Oct. 28. The couple is landing on their feet with a new apartment they anticipate they’ll move into in December.
EVERETT — Christopher Fitch Sands Jr. is not due to arrive until Dec. 23, but when he does his home awaits.
“I’m excited for a door that locks,” said Madi Christofferson as she sat with fiancee, Chris Sands, at her side.
The two will marry Aug. 28, and will soon be tenants at HopeWorks Station II, the new center at 3331 Broadway. The units there are co-located with three operational businesses where residents can do internships, developing new skills and contacts.
A tour gave the expectant couple a feel for what their new home will be like. As a construction tradesman, Sands’ eye was drawn to the building’s sustainability elements. It has 532 solar panels, 87 bicycle stalls, a community recycling program, and has LEED Gold Certification showing a feather-light carbon footprint.
They look forward to their new space, and look back on serious challenges as Hopeworks in Everett prepares to take them in.
The 64-unit space has onsite job training resources with internships. Sands has his sights set on work as a climber, topping trees from heights that would cause some to wince.
“I’m kind of at home in those types of professions,” he said, recalling work as a commercial fisherman, one of the most dangerous professions.
Sands’ last job demanded six 10-hour days a week in construction. He was a fill-in for two companies, whenever they needed help. That impermanent status was part of a six-year struggle to stay off methamphetamines, in a stretch of time that included lapses. His recent work paid the bills. Then, Madi got sick.
“I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which means my body doesn’t process HCG hormones that pregnancy produces,” Christofferson said.
At one point, her doctors were ready to implant a port in her arm, because she couldn’t eat. She was in the hospital twice a week. At first, he said his employers were understanding as he rushed off to be by her side. Eventually, they had to let him go. His recent job loss led to the couple falling behind on rent.
Sands looks calm when talking of his job loss, his risky work, and a motorcycle crash at 90 miles per hour that he walked away from with only a scuff on his helmet and two road-rash scrapes. But when talking of how sick she was, his face looks strained.
“It’s just hard because there’s nothing I can do,” he said, remembering the past eight months.
Whenever she looks a little nervous, his hand finds hers. They are engaged, but he already calls her his wife. Christopher Junior, the baby boy they look forward to meeting in about a month, is thriving.
HopeWorks aims to keep the momentum of those plans flowing by reducing the checklist of worries: Sands has lived in clean and sober housing before, where the ousting time-frame is swift. He said some places give 20 minutes to vacate, and his last eviction from clean and sober housing came with 20 days notice, after a disagreement on when his laundry could be done.
He looks forward to knowing she is safe while he’s away. Christofferson is planning on eventually returning to school to be a K-3 teacher. She started toward the goal before, but “the baby kind of pushed things back a little bit.”
She said she will pick up education plans again, but “there’s no deadline this time. Just kind of when I’m ready.”
“It’ll happen,” Sands said, “I push her to do things.”
His family drives his career plans. As a climber, he can “be home as much as possible with the kids, and for the most part when you’re doing that work it’s 8 to 2, and it’s really good money — a couple hundred bucks a day.”
The couple met in Narcotics Anonymous, a program that provides an anchor for both of them. He has spent six years working his sobriety; she is approaching the one year mark. Both are comfortable sharing widely, about their path to recovery.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m in Narcotics Anonymous,” Sands said.
She and Sands both understand what it’s like to have an internal threat. He said he just keeps “trying to be a better me than I was yesterday.”
Asked if they are glad to have a safe place to stay, his thoughts are for her.
“I have a checkered past,” he said calmly. “So, as far as the safety for myself, that doesn’t give me a thought. Now, for her, it’s extremely important.”
For more information about the HopeWorks program, go to hopewrks.org. HopeWorks is an affiliate of Housing Hope, which draws on the holistic concept to providing both housing with housing-related support services such as life-skills training, childcare, case management, and employment services. Housing Hope also offers homeownership opportunities for low-income individuals of Snohomish County and Camano Island.
Find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting by calling 425-609-6170 or go to www.everettna.org
For substance abuse help, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or go to samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
Animal sanctuary trying to overcome water shortage
MONROE — With the sound of papery swish, his head plunged into a feast of alfalfa and hay.
A full water bin sat to the side of 2,900-pound Blue, who munched contentedly. His barn, shared with eight other cattle, draws about 50 gallons of water daily. It usually auto-fills into insulated bins that draw from wells on the 85-acre Pasado’s Safe Haven site in Monroe. Lately, though, it is filled manually, several times a day.
“We’re kind of in a pickle,” sanctuary director Stephanie Perciful said. “There’s no record of where all of our water wells are. We don’t know if we have a leak or if our well is producing.”
The wells at Pasado’s Safe Haven started underperforming in July and now set off low-water-level alarms multiple times daily. The added work to delivering water doesn’t seem to impact the 200 to 250 on-site animals, but is “taking away from productivity” for the agency, Perciful said.
Pasado’s houses abused, abandoned, hoarded and neglected livestock and domestic animals that are taken from homes due to illegal treatment. The nonprofit does not publicly release its location, due to its role in housing animals that are evidence in court cases. The agency also sends an investigator to crime scenes, assisting law enforcement when animal cruelty is suspected.
Right now, Pasado’s resources are diverted to deal with a well problem that will cost approximately $500,000 to resolve, in a process that will connect them to the city water system as early as spring, but possibly in the summertime.
Water has been trucked in, first from Water Buffalo in Bonney Lake, near Puyallup, and now from Kenmar in Mount Vernon. Water activities to deal with the well problem are costing $2,500 per month, with that cost encompassing water being trucked in, port-a-potties, having animal-related laundry washed off-site, needing to purchase disposable items to avoid water use for dishes, and other tasks.
Other changes the sanctuary is taking are costing money, such as using reusable kitty litter boxes replaced with disposables. Comfort levels are challenged as well, with caregivers going without running water overnight, as the wells are shut down to refill. Pasado’s 39-strong human team uses portable toilets and hand sanitizer to reduce water use during the day.
The advice from an inspection was to “find the leak,” Perciful said, but Pasado’s cannot even guarantee where the wells are. Their system was built gradually, over the 25-plus years the agency has been in operation. Records do not exist for all the volunteer-constructed wells and piping onsite, she said. Surrounding residents have also had trouble with water resources, she said, suggesting that a plan to restore a well-system may be too expensive and lead to a dead end. So the choice was to seek a city water connection.
The daily need for the full sanctuary is estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 gallons a day, said Wendy Ogunsemore, Pasado’s communications director. Pressure washing is scheduled regularly in all onsite pens; animals sometimes need bathing, after being trapped in unsanitary conditions; and the animals receive veterinary care onsite, including spaying and dental work. Pigs needs a mud bath to keep from getting sunburned, and birds need ponds to cool off and bathe. Domestic animals from hoarding experiences are not litter trained or potty trained, and many need veterinary care, so laundry duties are plentiful.
Multiple barns are connected with dirt roads, traveled with a four-wheel drive or a Kubota utility vehicle.
The animals do not seem to notice a problem.
Poppy is a wiry haired, mix-breed Guinea hog with a content expression and an affinity for pumpkins and berries. She races to the gate of her pen, then roots and nuzzles the front of a running shoe as guests enter. Offering a welcoming gaze upward as if to say, “look how shiny my black hair is,” she moves in a half-circle and curiously nibbles to find out how socks taste.
“I’m the snack lady,” Perciful says, explaining the sanctuary-wide fame she has.
Perciful said the nonprofit agency houses dogs, cats, pigs, goats, donkeys, sheep, turkeys, ducks, chickens and alpacas. The animals are rehabilitated with medical care and socialized, and can stay indefinitely, or may be adopted as pets or members of hobby farms. As an official sanctuary, adoption rules are set by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Adopted pets “cannot be used for food, and no milked cows. They’d have to breed them and take their baby away,” Perciful said.
Many of the abused and neglected animals taken into Pasado’s were from homes where domestic violence took place, Perciful said. Hoarders are a second category found in their investigations. Ogunsemore said animal-hoarding is its own mental-health ailment, and once animals are taken away, the suspect will shift to another type of animal unless they receive care.
Pasado’s helps ease dark memories of animals taken from cruelty cases, by providing veterinary care, proper nutrition and adoptions.
Ziggy is a longtime resident. He is a turkey, with two close friends who visit him for his personality and back massage talents. Volunteer Sabrina Bonaparte lies face-down on the ground for Ziggy as he walks with clubbed, inward facing feet on her upper back, “I get several back massages a day,” she said.
“One of his favorite things is when I play music for him,” Brandon Blake said of Ziggy. He and wife, Sabrina, have been volunteering at Pasado’s for more than two years. “It’s changed our lives.”
Pasado’s has already begun the process of connecting to the Highland Water system, which will cost about $500,000 estimated to connect its 85-acre site to city water. The process is expected to be complete in the spring or summer. To donate, call 360-793-9393. The agency’s website to make a donation is www.pasadosafehaven.org/ways-give/
Students gain skills in afterschool program
Addi Dormaier, 7, considers next steps for her drawing of the movie character Bolt.
SNOHOMISH — A student saunters in the door to a portable classroom at Seattle Hill Elementary and lets his backpack tumble, then his coat follows, landing in a lump on the floor.
His eyes pan a table filled with multiple colors and pages in white, black, and brightly colored mediums next to stacks of paper, each with outlines of cartoon characters. Multi-colored construction paper is in a stack in front of a whiteboard with the cartoon images he can draw.
“Any idea what you’re working on today?” asks Lori Meyer, after school program teacher and substitute at Snohomish schools.
“No,” he says, panning the table with a glance.
Some students have their project already planned before they walk into Art Wizards, an after school program at Seattle Hill Elementary. It is a fine-art drawing program offered through a private business, all over the Puget Sound.
Nearby after school programs are in Snohomish, Everett and Mukilteo.
Meyer said art education is important because “it’s an outlet for kids to be creative and feel good about (their project).” In addition to a sense of accomplishment, she said artistic actions contribute to math-skills and spatial reasoning: logical thinking is enhanced with both. Meyer has a master’s in business and is working toward a master’s in art with the goal of continuing her 18 years of art-teaching, as a career-path instead of an outlet. Preparation for the class is focused on taking the mystery out of drawing, with step by step guides for beginners and more detailed projects for advanced artists. Some of the students have five years of drawing experience. The tables are arranged so options are progressive: easy projects first, harder ones moving down one table. The easy projects have the steps spelled out and defined in visual stages, and require less detail. Harder projects communicate less, and ask more of the artist.
Meyer watches students filter in. Some are still deciding which character they will draw today and with what tools: pencils to outline, and markers to darken and set that outline before adding color with a smudgable medium such as pastel or chalk. Mediums include plain white paper; gray and colored pencils, markers, watercolors, and pastels. The pastels look like oblong, straight-edged crayons. They are boldly bright handheld chunks that colorize the page and the artists’ digits. The effect can be messy, but the crowd of about a dozen is wearing enough color that any mishaps are likely to blend in.
First-grader Addi Dormaier, 7, drops her glittering pink backpack to the floor. The green accents on her tennis shoes swish quickly as she moves through the room, eyeing the table of project-options. She has blue-framed glasses adorned with stars on the handles. She snaps a page into her hand then finds a space at the window, sitting on top of a desk so she can reach to place the page on the window.
Then she pulls the pencil across the page in mentally pre-arranged curves to draw the movie character, Bolt. The light through the window makes it “easier to see because of the brightness,” she explained.
In minutes, fourth-grader Autumn Gipe, 9, saw the method as valuable, and took a seat next to Dormaier atop a desk near the window. Gipe spent much of the hour drawing Bolt. For about five years, Gipe has worked to develop her drawing skills. She likes the more detailed drawings, and said her artistic activity started at home.
“My Mom was really good at drawing, and when I was 4, I was watching, like, videos on how to draw,“ she said.
Gipe got through the early frustration of her craft with ample practice and the videos online that show project steps. She said early on, she was focused on just one drawing that felt too hard to do well. Each time she did it, she was frustrated with the process and unhappy with the result, but she kept trying.
“Every day I kept drawing that same picture,” she said, then she progressed, drawing other pictures. “I like to challenge myself.”
The level of challenge is a choice in Art Wizards. The focus is on putting kids in a place where they will persevere, but also know they have a guide and an insight on what steps to take.
Eligh Sloan, 12, is a tall, friendly sixth grader and is already an art hobbyist. “This one I came across a few weeks ago. When I was a kid, I used to like 101 Dalmations.” Asked when he was a kid, he said it was at the age of 3. “I draw whenever I’m bored,” he said.
For his dalmation drawing, he said he outlined it “lightly in pencil,” then went over that with a black marker. He found a new technique as he created, turning the pup upside-down to pen the largest dalmation-spot on its back, and completing the shading-stage. In doing that project, “I learned how to see cartoons from a different perspective,” and he practiced attention to detail.
Other students chose their art-subjects for varying reasons.
Alexa Perry, 8, a third grader, started drawing when she was about 3. She likes Bolt, so the choice was a quick one, and the detailed elements of the drawing were a benefit as well. “I like to challenge myself,” she said.
Alexa’s sister Aurelia Perry, 11, is in sixth grade. She picked an easier drawing for just that reason. “I just followed the steps, here,” she said, pointing to the back of the page.
Lucy Choyke, 11, sixth grader, speaks while clapping her hands to punctuate the words she says. “My Mom put me in it. I got ‘permission,’”she said, holding her fingers up for air-quotes. She said she enjoys the class, which flows with a pre-set structure with ample opportunity for artistic liberation, through decision-making. Students choose the drawing subject, the difficulty level, and the method for creating the project: mediums to where they sit in the room.
To find a voice
Near the end of the hour, any student who has completed their drawing can have free-time to draw something unassigned and of their choosing. The class wraps up with an “art walk,” where kids present what they have created, and develop public speaking skills.
Students line up facing the front of the room and prepare to talk about their work. Owen Choyke, 8, is in third grade. He drew “Evil Wall E.” Wall E is a robot in a children’s movie, and his name stands for “Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth Class.” In the story, he was left on a littered Earth, and spends his days cleaning it. During Choyke’s presentation, Meyer asked for an analysis of the drawing: “How do you know he’s evil?” and Choyke answered “his eyes are red.”
The Art Wizard program was developed by doctorate Ilene Adler, an education psychologist as well as a sculptor and professional artist, according to the company’s website. When children see a scene, Adler writes, they see color, texture, and get some other impression. As the thought-process carries on, then they take in the rest of what they see. The red eyes were a hint of that impression. Super heros always have a nemesis, and there is a reason the viewer knows why: red eyes and the abrupt color scheme of red and black.
Students continued to present, guided by Meyer. “One at a time,” she said, telling another student, “that’s beautiful. I feel like this is one of the best you’ve ever done.”
On another picture, she helped students translate the visual communication created in the drawings, asking questions about details such
as the position of irises on the eyes of a cartoon. “Can you see how his eyes are looking over there?”
One student drew a llama wearing a suit, and when asked to talk about her drawing, she explained, “It’s a business llama.”
At the end of the class, some students collected their backpacks and readied to exit.
Some were still working as Meyer reminded artists to sign their drawings. Dormaier sat, star-adorned glasses just inches from her page, eyes fixed on her still in-process Bolt drawing. She pressed the tip of a Crayola marker into the drawing for an added stippling effect, amidst the drawing’s multi-colored background.
While Meyer can speak to the educational benefits drawing can offer, she has moments in the class where she lets them operate with little input: “I want them to find their passion.”
Murder suspect nabbed in California
SNOHOMISH — Bail is set at $2 million for the suspect accused of killing Brandt Stewart, 34, who was found dead just before Christmas.
Jeremy Tod Staeheli of Lynnwood was charged with murder in the second degree, for the shooting that occurred off a logging road about 12 miles from Stevens Pass.
Stewart’s mom, Elizabeth Carmichael, told investigators she rarely saw her son. He struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life, and was recently staying in a shed at the Snohomish Church of Nazarene. Stewart leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter.
Staeheli confessed to shooting Stewart in the forehead with a 9 millimeter handgun, court documents say. A backpack his mother recently bought for him was taken, as was his wallet. Stewart had a vial in his chest pocket that appeared to contain several grams of methamphetamine. A glass pipe and a small torch-type lighter were found in the snow, near his body, court documents say.
Staeheli has a record of misdemeanor crimes.
Pending in Snohomish County are two assault charges. He is not permitted to have a gun, which factored into the bail amount, as did his flight from Washington to Red Bluff, California.
Detectives were led to Staeheli with information from his Snohomish associates. Stewart was seen the morning of Dec. 22, getting into a red Ford Mustang with Staeheli in the driver’s seat. Surveillance video showed a license plate number connecting the vehicle to Staeheli. One week prior, the red Mustang was seen near the shed, where Stewart was staying.
Staeheli told detectives he knew Stewart and would sometimes bring him food. The two also smoked meth together. On or around Dec. 23, they were driving around, court documents say, and stopped on the logging road. Both got out of the vehicle to relieve themselves. Staheli said he turned to see a knife in Stewart’s hand and shot in self defense, court documents state.
Stewart was found with both hands in his pockets. He had a pocket knife in one of those pockets.
A single spent shell casing for a 9 millimeter handgun was found near the body. Detectives say the same gun was with Staeheli when he was arrested in Red Bluff, California, tucked into his waist band. He was arrested without incident in Red Bluff, two feet from the red Mustang. He confessed to shooting Stewart, sharing details only the shooter would know such as where the bullet hit, court documents say.
Snohomish isn’t taking Pilchuck River water, but it’s there if needed
SNOHOMISH — The Pilchuck River is no longer the source of water for some city residents, but if the city needs those rights in the future, they are protected in a trust agreement through the state Department of Ecology.
“Think of it as a bank account where you might put money into a trust account and it is safe, a lock-box, if you will,” said attorney Adam Gravley of Van Ness Feldman LLP in a recent City Council meeting.
The agreement devised for the city provides flexibility in how to access rights again, protecting the city from the “use it or lose it” personality of water laws, now that the city is leaving the resource unused.
The city’s water supplies are through the city of Everett, said Steve Schuller, the city’s administrator and utilities manager.
Everett gets its water from Spada Lake, a resource that provides water to 65,000 people, which includes 75 percent of the businesses and residents in the county, its website says. Spada Lake is located east of Sultan.
Banking protects the city from losing water rights after five years without use. A state law passed in the 1990s says water banking can make water supplies available during times of drought to improve streamflows and preserve in-stream values during critical periods that contribute to the health of fish populations. It also reduces the cost of obtaining water, if emergency needs occur in the future, the law states.
About two-thirds of Snohomish County was deemed “abnormally dry” as is 62 percent of the state of Washington as a whole. That measurement is as of Jan. 7, and is taken every Tuesday and posted on drought.gov.
The preservation of water rights is a proactive move in case of scarcity.
“You don’t know what climate change will do” to water resources, said Karen Guzak, who served as mayor for much of the water-supply process, and recently retired from 12 years of city service as a councilmember.
The agreement with Ecology is a long-term cooperative framework to secure the city’s water rights for in-stream flows for 50 years. It places in trust the city’s max historic volume of 2,113 acre-feet, Gravley explained. An acre-foot is the unit used to measure water.
“Imagine an acre of land where the water is a foot deep,” he said. That is approximately 1 million gallons. The city’s water right is protecting more than 5 cubic feet per second of flow, Gravley said.
The city has been devising a plan to deal with the aging of their water treatment system and 14 miles of pipeline from the treatment plant since 2009, when Schuller first presented a report to the council. The replacement option can be dusted off in the future, if needed.
A resolution passed in the summer of 2016 directed city staff to pursue three key points: To move residents to the Everett water supply; decommission the city’s water treatment system on the Pilchuck River; and preserve and protect the historical water right, which is based on average use.
Protection of water rights required negotiating a water banking agreement with Ecology, Gravley said.
Without the change, the city would have been vulnerable to loss of water rights.
The change to Everett water also led to a zero percent increase in water rates through 2022.
The trust marks the end of a long water-planning era. The state, tribes, local agencies, fisherman and environmental groups were “all very excited that the Pilchuck River now has additional flows since we stopped operation of the water treatment plant on the upper Pilchuck,” Schuller said. “Low flow in the summer on the lower Pilchuck was a well-known concern.”
The trust agreement is “a win-win for people and fish,” Gravley said.
EVERETT — The Providence Medical Group recently opened an outpatient behavioral health clinic and its founders have a dream: that the stigma of mental health care will someday be gone.
“For me it’s the absolute elimination of stigma” of mental health illnesses and care, said Laura Knapp, a licensed social worker for Providence. One in five people will struggle with mental health in their lifetime, she said, and that number “is probably underreported.”
Knapp facilitates a program co-located with emergency room care at Providence, for adults 18 and over who need behavioral health intervention. The new Behavioral Health Urgent Care is located in the Providence Medical Office Building, 1330 Rockefeller Ave., Ste. 140. It is accepting walk-in behavioral health patients Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointment is necessary.
The department helps navigate resources for patients with ongoing mental ailments such as anxiety and depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, as well as situational mental health problems such as new divorces or a personal crises, Knapp said.
Patients may be screened for depression, connected to long-term resources, prescribed medications, referred to other help and assisted with the navigation of resources.
“We screen for depression at every visit,” she said, and the treatment is not always medication.
Studies show that exercise is an effective element in caring for depression and anxiety. Knapp said she envisions a day when there is a therapist at the gym.
Resetting the narrative to equalize mental and physical healthcare as normal is a goal, as is increasing access to care, Knapp said. Challenges to care can include language barriers, lack of insurance and illiteracy. The department helps with those issues.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, she said, some people could not access help, because of lack of insurance. Now, people with low incomes can obtain insurance through the ACA, but there can be a gap for those with higher incomes. She said the clinic offers payment plans and financial counseling to assure that everyone has access to care.
“What I love about urgent care is we’ll see anybody,” she said.
The clinic is made up of a multidisciplinary team including psychiatric nurse practitioners, a social worker, a substance use disorder professional, a peer counselor, and a patient care specialist who manages the front desk. That mix of providers, including the front desk, is essential, Knapp said.
“It’s important to me that every interaction come from a trauma-informed perspective,” she said, noting that the culture “feels very calm.”
Patients can access psychiatric consultation, medication, and learn of community partnerships and services.
As part of the mission for Providence, the clinic is committed to “increasing access to behavioral health care while eliminating the stigma surrounding this disease.”
Knapp hopes for early intervention in depression, before a person gets to the point of suicidal actions. She said antidepressants are not always the go-to treatment. Some patients are better served with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, or other treatments that address thought patterns leading to and triggered by depression.
“We talk about behavioral health activation,” she said. CBT is one of the evidence-based practices that can help lift and regulate moods. Most people, she said, “believe all of our thoughts are accurate,” but depressive thoughts are dark. CBT can help shed light on the thoughts that are not accurate, and may lead to emotional pain.
She said depression tends to make people lose interest in doing the things that they love to do, which can deplete moods as well.
According to a recently completed healthy youth survey, there is a high rate of serious depression among youth that is worsening, she said, making the focus of the clinic timely. Even with the clinic so new, and in its second week, Knapp is hopeful that the availability of drop-in behavioral health care sends a message that will be heard by other care providers.
“My hope is that this is something that can be replicated,” she said.
For more information, call the clinic at 425-261-4210.
City tackles squatter issue, with new city ordinance
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The issue of “nuisance” calls to law enforcement was addressed in two different cities last week.
In Snohomish, a new ordinance requires a property to have utility services and allows the city to take action if utilities are shut off for more than 14 days. The law allows the city to post a “Do Not Occupy” sign and board up windows at abandoned buildings that no longer have utility services.
The law mentions properties that are in foreclosure and often abandoned. In a phone interview last week, Mayor John Kartak said it is not targeted at any one group or demographic, such as homeless people.
“This is not targeted at any particular demographic,” he said, adding “it is a public health and safety issue.” He was referring to buildings with water service shut down, which have non-functioning toilets and sinks.
Kartak celebrated passage of the new law on social media. “This gives the city of Snohomish and our police department a tool that is much more efficient and timely than what is otherwise available, for solving some of the problems in town that threaten the health and well-being of both the individual and the community,” He wrote.
As government leaders often do, he is tasked with walking the line as an advocate for both the sheltered and unsheltered.
Kartak has been a high-profile advocate for low-income people, but regularly comments that he doesn’t support enabling homelessness. He meets regularly with Spruce Up Snohomish, a nonprofit founded by nurturer and watchdog Shayn Bancroft. Liaising with Bancroft keeps Kartak in touch with what the city’s outdoor residents are experiencing.
Bancroft connects through clean ups and his own welfare-check protocols: he talks to homeless people daily, while removing spent hypodermic needles and refuse from around the city.
The city’s new law creates a tool to address calls made by the public, offering the city THE ability to board up doors and windows when a facility is a health and safety hazard, Kartak said.
The law says the city can vacate residents until water and sewer service is restored. If residents violate a “Do Not Occupy” order, they can be charged with a misdemeanor, and failure to secure a residence can result in a civil infraction.
In Monroe, a nuisance building is soon to be demolished, in a move that addresses squatting.
“I’m pleased to announce that demolition of the buildings at the southwest corner of Fryelands Blvd and U.S. 2 began this week. The owner plans to remove the existing structures in anticipation of future development. This is a big step to revitalize this site and a benefit for the entire area,” Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas wrote on social media last week.
Ben Swanson, community development director for Monroe, said the soon-to-be-leveled building was drawing squatters, but at that site the bigger problem was repeat trespassers and vandals. It was used as a makeshift park by teens, and known to officials to be a regular site for fires and graffiti.
“The Mayor, Fire Marshal and Police Chief all pushed to have the building secured or demolished,” Swanson said.
Eastside Masonry Products owns the land, and is redeveloping the site for future use, Swanson said. The owner is in the process of getting permits for a new structure. Its prior use was manufacturing cinder-block type products, Swanson said.
Demolishing the building will take several weeks, and will eventually provide the opportunity for new jobs, Swanson said.
Meth, heroin and cocaine suspects will face prosecution in 2020
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Two grams of meth, heroin or cocaine will lead to more than a night in jail, as soon as the 2-gram rule is lifted, in early 2020.
Since February of 2018, the “2-gram rule” has given a pass to suspects caught with two grams or less of meth, heroin and cocaine. The rule came before current Prosecutor, Adam Cornell. His predecessor, Mark Roe, created the rule as a way to focus resources on violent crime.
Since the rule went into place, simple possession of these illicit drugs has only resulted in a night in jail. In at least one jurisdiction, suspects were not even booked. With approval of funding at the county level, Cornell said, he is ready to lift the 2-gram rule and resume prosecution, for simple possession.
“We will go back to prosecuting those cases but doing it in a thoughtful, compassionate way,” Cornell said. “We’re still working on nailing down the eligibility criteria.”
Alternative sentencing programs already in process at the county already have eligibility criteria. He said the option for alternative sentencing gives 2-gram suspects a chance to wipe the slate clean, if they complete their court-ordered program, and avoid the collateral damage that comes from a criminal conviction. Prior criminal history can be an eligibility factor for both housing and jobs.
The compassionate way to prosecute is already set up. The county has alternative sentencing set up in the form of specialized courts that deal with mental health and drug abuse, a therapeutic alternative to prosecution (TAP program, and a Diversion Center. The new county funding will staff Cornell’s department, getting it ready to assess 2-gram violators and match them with the type of sentencing that may help.
The rule itself was not intended to blow off crime. Cornell agreed with its intent: It was set in motion to focus resources in the prosecutor’s office on violent crimes. The county is already set up to offer alternative sentencing in the form of a TAP program, mental health and drug courts, Felony Diversion and pre-charging diversion. Once eligibility is determined and pre-charging diversion occurs, the anticipation is 70 to 80 cases in 2020, Cornell’s statement said, even though approximately 150 to 160 were likely in possession of two grams or less in 2019. The lesser impact is due to eligibility requirements and the net that comes from pre-charging diversion, his report to the council said.
Somers’ office said they had no reason to contradict Cornell’s predictions on additional simple possession cases, once the rule lifted. But his office is still concerned about cost.
With Cornell predicting “75 to 80 suspects will be prosecuted, that will be a significant increase in work for public defenders, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the jail, law enforcement, the courts,”said Kent Patton, communications director for Executive Somers.
But the prosecutor’s office says funding is already dedicated to the problem of simple possession suspects.
Shelly Yale, supervisor for Cornell’s Prosecution Crossroads Unit, wrote in the report to the council that the “2-gram or less folks” are already caught up in the criminal justice system and resources are already directed at them, due to misdemeanor level lawbreaking. Misdemeanor crimes such as theft can impact quality of life for residents, she said. The alternative sentencing options provide the guidance of an advocate to help navigate services, combined with the “external motivation of a pending criminal charge,” she said.
Reasons vary on why people do not seek help without that push and pull. But that lawbreaking is an opportune moment to push people toward positive change. She says the result is preventative.
“For many, it is just a matter of time before they commit a more serious crime that will be charged,” Yale said.
Sometime in early to mid January, Cornell will make a formal announcement to local law enforcement, prior to the official lift in the 2-gram rule.
Cornell’s fact-sheet for the county council anticipates about half of those offered alternative sentencing will “accept the invitation.” He has said in the past that these programs are hard work: sobriety and mental health programs require a commitment.
He announced prior to the council’s consideration of the 2020 budget that he would keep the 2-gram rule in place until staff-funding for his office was secured, to make room for alternative sentencing.
Somers did not include funding for Cornell’s request in his budget proposal, but the county council did. Instead, he proposed a study that would test the impacts of a staffing increase in the prosecutor’s office, prior to implementing it. Results of the study will not be ready until after its parameters are set in 2020, Patton said.
“Executive Somers supports the Prosecutor changing the policy, but if more staff are provided it should be done with a view to impacts across the criminal justice system,” he said.
Cornell said some people will still “end up being prosecuted in a traditional way” in possession cases. Some due to being ineligible. Eligibility criteria may end up excluding suspects with a history of violent offenses, but the specifics to eligibility for alternative sentencing is “to be determined,” he said.
One of the alternative sentencing programs is TAP: more than half of those who completed the TAP program were convicted for possession of methamphetamine. “One year after completing TAP, 92.6 percent of the participants remained crime-free,” Cornell’s fact sheet says.
The anticipated cost for the funding request, by Cornell, was $302,000 to $429,000. The specific amount approved was unavailable by press time for the Tribune.
Prior to passage of the budget, Somers predicted increased court cost that were not yet determined in the plan. The county was already spending 75 percent of Somers’ proposed budget on law and justice agencies, and Somers said staff-funding prior to the lift of the 2-gram rule would further burden criminal prosecutors.
Somers’ intent was to measure that impact first through a study submitted to the council with his pre-Thanksgiving budget proposal. The study was funded in the recently-approved 2020 budget, and its parameters won’t be set until that year begins, said Patton.
The council opted to edit that part of Somers’ budget.
The rule-lift means in 2020, at a time that is to-be-announced, suspects will be booked and referred to the prosecutor’s office. Cornell said an official announcement on the end of the 2-gram rule comes out in January.
Patton said once the rule if officially lifted, “it will be up to the Sheriff and other local law enforcement leaders to determine who will help enforce the policy.”
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