Bellingham City Council to vote on banning open drug use as part of mayor’s focus on downtown safety

The Bellingham City Council could vote Monday to ban open drug use and unwanted behavior downtown.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood has proposed a law that would make drug use in public a misdemeanor, and people could be arrested for it.
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Fleetwood says the proposal is part of his multi-year focus on downtown safety.
“We remain committed to making progress toward helping everyone affected by downtown public health and safety concerns,” Fleetwood said. “Everyone who works, lives and enjoys our downtown deserves clean, welcoming experiences. We also want to connect people who have substance abuse, behavioral health and other needs with services and treatments to help them. We are working to achieve these goals and continue to realize our vision for a safe, healthy downtown.”
The city council is set to consider the proposal during its Monday meeting.
Fleetwood and Bellingham Municipal Court Judge Debra Lev are also working on new ways to handle low-level, non-violent misdemeanor cases.
For those arrested and charged under the proposed drug use ordinance, Bellingham police would transport them directly to the municipal court and Lev would extend court sessions to immediately hear their cases.
Lev and Fleetwood would also establish a “Community Court” within the municipal court — a “specialty therapeutic court that uses combined strategies of holding participants accountable while connecting them to social services to help address behavioral health and addiction issues,” according to the city.
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