The Election: King County Charter Amendments Matter

All interested church members are invited to a special meeting this Sunday, October 25, at 11:00 a.m. via Zoom to learn more about these amendments.
Siamese cat staring over the King County voters' pamphlet
I will stare at you until you vote.

The King County Charter can be thought of as this county’s “local constitution.” Many of our church members concerned about racial justice and equity are voting for all or most of the seven charter amendments on the ballot this fall. Read more from individual UUC justice leaders below.

  • Amendment No. 1 opens more fully fact-finding inquest hearings about police killings, allowing an attorney representing the deceased person to question what was done and why. 
  • Amendment No. 2 allows King County land to be sold at reduced cost for affordable housing. 
  • Amendment No. 3 makes clear that undocumented residents may receive county services.
  • Amendment No. 4 provides the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) with the authority to subpoena witnesses, documents, and other evidence related to possible officer misconduct. 
  • Amendment No. 5 makes the King County Sheriff an appointed position. Applicants can then be recruited nation-wide. (Currently, candidates for the elected office must be residents of King County.) The County Executive and County Council will be required to consider stakeholder input during the selection, appointment, and confirmation process. 
  • Amendment No. 6 gives the King County Council the authority and responsibility of determining the structure and scope of duties of the King County Sheriff. For example, the Council would be able to task social service agencies and mental health practitioners with responsibility for handling certain situations currently under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff.
  • Amendment No. 7 protects veterans and those known as care givers to loved ones from being discriminated against in hiring or the awarding of contracts.

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Amendment no. 1 – Inquests

From: John Webber, member of UUC’s Racial Justice Team and Not This Time! Seattle

An inquest is a fact-finding hearing investigating a killing by a police officer in the course of official duties. The amendment would expand the scope of inquests to deaths which may have been caused by actions or failures of offer aide by deputies, state or local, commissioned or not, and including jail and detention staff. At present, police and other officers are represented in inquests by attorneys on staff or paid for by the county and families of those killed are not allowed to speak. The amendment would require the county to assign and pay for an attorney to represent the family. The family has the option to decline the representation by an attorney. Combined with other changes ordered by the County Executive, this amendment goes a little way toward opening up the inquest to a more complete and thorough investigation of the death.

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Amendment No. 2 – Disposition of Real Property for Affordable Housing

From: Rich Brooks, chair of the Social Justice Steering Committee and board member of Lake City Partners

Please vote YES for King County Charter Amendment 2, Disposition of Property for Affordable Housing. This amendment would allow the County to sell surplus property at a reduced amount if it is to be used for affordable housing. I serve as a Board member of the Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness, a non-profit providing shelter which UUC has generously supported. This amendment supports the construction of more affordable housing in King County which is greatly needed. Thank you.

From: Ben Pfeiffer, chair of UUC’s Economic Justice Team

King County Charter Amendment #2 has the potential to dramatically expand the county’s availability of housing for low-income people. The amendment could enable organizations such as Lake City Partners Ending Homelessness to purchase more excess county properties to house unsheltered people. The amendment could also enable organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to expand the availability of affordable homes for low-income people by buying more land to hold in trust for low-income people seeking to help build and buy their own homes. 

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Amendment No. 3 – References to Citizens

From: Pam Smith Mentz and Roberta Ray, chairs of UUC’s Immigrant Justice Team

UUC’s Immigrant Justice Team encourages you to support King County Charter Amendment #3. King County services are open to all residents, and the County specifically prohibits discrimination based on immigration status—but the language in the King County Charter has not yet been updated to reflect this. Amendment #3 will change references to “citizenship” in the charter to either “public” or “resident.” This seemingly simple change preserves the rights of everyone in our community to access services they have a right to. Join us in acting on our UU values—vote YES! 

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Amendment No. 5 – Making the King County Sheriff an Appointed Position

From: Sarajane Siegfriedt, member of UUC’s Economic Justice Team and Habitat for Humanity Liaison

The King County Council and most progressive groups have recommended approving all proposed changes to the King County Charter. The most self-interested constituents, the sheriff’s deputies, will put up and fund their own candidate from within their ranks, most likely resulting in no changes to culture or contract. Racial equity requires changes to both. This is why progressives have endorsed an appointed position, subject to a nationwide search, whereas, a candidate for election must live within the jurisdiction. Vote YES.

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Amendment No. 6 – Structure and Duties of the Department of Public Safety

From: Sarajane Siegfriedt member of UUC’s Economic Justice Team and Habitat for Humanity Liaison

As in Seattle, progressives are advocating for demilitarization of policing and transferring some functions to civilian control. Currently, the King County Charter assigns budget and functional control to the sheriff, so these needed changes cannot be made by the Council. Vote YES.

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Amendments no. 2, 4, 5, 6

From: Mike Kasprzak, member of UUC’s Board and Racial Justice Team

We urge you to support five King County Charter Amendments on the November ballot that improve oversight of law enforcement agencies:

  • Charter Amendment No.1 ensures that there will be a public inquest whenever anyone from any state or local law enforcement agency’s actions or decisions contribute to someone’s death – and that when an inquest hearing occurs, the family of the deceased will have legal representation regardless of their financial means.
  • Charter Amendment No. 4 provides the civilian Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) with the authority to subpoena witnesses, documents, and other evidence related to investigations and reviews of law enforcement officers working in King County.
  • Charter Amendment No. 5 makes the King County Sheriff an appointed position, with the County Executive and County Council required to consider stakeholder input during the selection, appointment, and confirmation process.
  • Charter Amendment No. 6 gives the King County Council the authority and responsibility of determining the structure and scope of duties of the King County Sheriff and the Department of Public Safety. For example, the Council would be able to task social service agencies and mental health practitioners with responsibility for handling certain situations currently under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff.

Together, these charter amendments are decent down payments on a process of improving oversight of law enforcement personnel in King County and redefining their responsibilities. They are consistent with our faith’s first principle (The inherent worth and dignity of every person) and second principle (Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations). 

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Amendment No. 7 – Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Family Caregiver, Military or Veteran Status

From: John Webber, member of UUC’s Racial Justice Team

At present, if a job applicant is a veteran or is known to have family care-giving responsibilities, that fact can affect their prospects of being hiring or awarded a county contract. As an employee, such status can adversely affect their treatment as a county employee. This amendment allows forbidding such discrimination.