“Decriminalization and Abolition are the keys to dismantling the current system that has very effectively targeted BIPOC, the poor, and the disabled – atomizing social problems as individual issues of ‘responsibility’ instead of social failings.”Nicole Thomas-Kennedy
On Tuesday, September 7th, 2022, Seattle Democratic Socialists of America overwhelmingly voted to endorse Seattle City Attorney Candidate, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, a former public defender who took first in the primaries. Thomas-Kennedy beat out the incumbent, establishment Democrat Pete Holmes, with a platform that boldly backs the movement for Black Lives in its pivot away from a punitive carceral system and towards a justice system that takes care of the residents of Seattle who need justice the most and which can bring meaningful community safety to our City. Join us as we make the push in the coming months for this important City race.
THE JOB OF CITY ATTORNEY
The preamble of the City Charter states that “the Law of the City [is] for the purpose of protecting and enhancing the health, safety, environment, and general welfare of the people.” The City Attorney decides which misdemeanor crimes to prosecute (yes, the City Attorney only deals in low-level, non-violent crimes), what Council legislation to support (hello, Defund SPD), and which violators of the City Charter to prosecute (look out wage-thieves and big industrial polluters).
As a public defender, Thomas-Kennedy saw first-hand how Seattle destabilized our BIPOC, disabled, and unhoused neighbors—first arresting, then jailing, prosecuting, and defending them—leaving no one safer, yet wasting millions in taxpayer dollars per annum. Thomas-Kennedy has said that if incarceration worked, the U.S. would be the safest country on the planet. Nicole Thomas-Kennedy understands that It’s time for a change.
NTK WILL DECRIMINALIZE POVERTY
Thomas-Kennedy believes that Decriminalizing Poverty is not just a compassionate change in how we enact justice as a city, it’s the smartest and safest, too, as petty prosecutions “only exacerbate the problem of homelessness.” Jail is the most expensive housing option a city can choose and it’s not a long-term fix, as high recidivism rates make clear. The King County Recidivism Reduction and Reentry Policy Work Team agrees, stating in their most recent report that “The continuum of care for persons leaving jails must include stable and affordable housing.” Jail time does not reduce the potential risk of going back to jail—access to resources like housing does. Further, in a response to SDSA’s endorsement form, Thomas-Kennedy made a pledge to support Seattle’s most marginalized: “low level thefts of necessities: food, warm clothing, toothbrushes — etc. would NOT be prosecuted by my office, at all.”
“In its place I would like to build a structure designed to directly help people navigate the maze of social services. I would ask for the resources of my office that are not used to prosecute poverty to be used for low barrier and affordable housing.” (The City Attorney can both make this budget request and provide the legal justification to the Council.) It is this inherent understanding of how the system actually works and what is needed to actually make it better that leads us to put our faith and support in Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
NTK SUPPORTS TENANTS’ RIGHTS AND WILL WORK TO END THE SWEEPS
Thomas-Kennedy knows what it’s like to be a renter and her platform shows it. She plans to aggressively protect tenants rights against abusive corporate landlords and organize with communities to end the state’s ban on rent control. Further, she supports the rights of people who are out on the street. Whether it’s ensuring the freedoms of on-the-ground mutual aid efforts or ensuring the city provides essential services to our unhoused community members with access to basic human services like trash pick up, mobile bathrooms, and street sinks, NTK is here for it. She also holds as one of her main goals of the office the mission of stopping the inhumane sweeps perpetrated by SPD, a fight which has involved the City Attorney in the past, and a fight which needs a City Attorney who believes that people who live outside have basic civil rights just as much as anyone who is housed.
NTK SUPPORTS WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Thomas-Kennedy was raised from the perspective of organized labor. “I grew up in a Union household (my Dad, a brakeman for the railroad) was the treasurer of the local UTU. As a kid I went to many smoke-filled sandwich shop basement meetings with him.”
The pro-labor ideologies from her youth follow her in her bid for City Attorney. “The approach should always be bottom up. What do workers most need that they are not currently getting? Wage theft needs to be aggressively addressed by the office. I believe stepping into these lawsuits will have a greater overall impact by sending a message to employers that the City will be using its resources to come down on those that steal from workers.”
Nicole Thomas-Kennedy will also bolster workers rights by decriminalizing sex work and providing civil resources to fight wage theft along with other corporate crime that funnels money from the working class to the wealthy.
NTK SUPPORTS THE ENVIRONMENT
“To demonstrate our commitment to a sustainable, green future, Seattle must divest from any banks that fund pipelines, which continue to threaten Indigenous sovereignty. Instead, these assets should be invested in sustainable, growing, and regenerative technologies that fight climate change. I will work with the City to craft policy that achieves these goals, and join the growing number of cities and states divesting from this deadly industry. “
Environmental issues are also affected by the City Attorney’s office. NTK will divest city pensions from fossil fuel corporations and the banks that fund them, and take it a step further by sueing fossil fuel corporations for the lasting and ongoing harm that they perpetrate upon our city.
NTK WILL DEMAND POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
Thomas-Kennedy will use the Office of City Attorney to support the movement for Black Lives’ demands to hold police accountable, whose violence especially harms our BIPOC communities. Thomas-Kennedy has a multi-pronged approach for the behemoth job of holding SPD violence on the community in check:
- Consent Decree: NTK wants to move forward with the Consent Decree, with the goal of ending the lawsuit, as the Consent Decree has been used to block the Defund movement while police violence continues in our City.
- Officer Cover-Ups: NTK wants to end the egregious practice of filing every single available motion defending officer actions to save the City money at the expense of brutalizing its citizens.
- Officer Immunity: NTK will advocate and help craft legally-sound legislation to end qualified immunity.
- Police Contracts: NTK will have a seat at the table when Seattle negotiates the next police contract and she plans to use her office to enforce the values of the City charter.
NTK WILL SUPPORT A PROGRESSIVE COUNCIL AGENDA
The City is run by ordinances; these are the laws that govern Seattle. The Council makes ordinances and the City Attorney is responsible for supporting Council in writing ordinances that are in compliance with the City Charter and defendable from outside litigation. To this end, Thomas-Kennedy has affirmed to support the Council in writing legislation that would stand up to court challenges on the following issues:
- Accessibility laws
- Rent control
- Progressive tax laws such as the head tax on corporations (payroll taxes)
- Municipal broadband
- Drug legalization
- Sanctuary City
- Sexwork decriminalization
A FIGHT FOR THE HUMANITY OF THE CITY:
Thomas-Kennedy now faces off against Republican Anne Davison who in a prior run for City Council, District 5, proposed a policy to intern over 5,000 unhoused Seattlites in three concentrated encampment warehouses. She also planned to make unhoused humans illegal with a citywide streetside-camping ban. Her platform now aims to use the Office to punish our most marginalized neighbors by aggressively prosecuting misdemeanor, nonviolent crimes.
Though racist and ableist legislation of this nature has been attempted elsewhere nationally, it’s been struck down by higher courts. Davison’s attempt demonstrates not just her lack of ethics, but her lack of competence for the job of City Attorney, as well. Davison also insinuated that she would take care of homicide, rape, assault, and more in a misleading mailer sent out during the primaries; these charges are beyond the purview of the Office of City Attorney. The opposition is dangerously incompetent. All this, compared to Thomas-Kennedy’s vision and legal sophistry gained as a trial lawyer, public defender, and community advocate inspires Seattle DSA to not only endorse, but also Get Out the Vote for Nicole Thomas-Kennedy for City Attorney.
We hope you’ll join us.