Mayor Mike McGinn and some advocates for women today called on Sen. Ed Murray to stop airing an ad that questions McGinn’s decision to eliminate the city’s Division of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention in 2011 and its director, Terri Kimball.
McGinn called the ad “highly misleading and deceptive” and said he protected funding for domestic-violence services, even while supporting a reorganization of the Human Services Department by then-Director Dannette Smith that included folding the domestic-violence division into another.
“We were breaking down silos between how we deliver services. That was my charge to her,” McGinn said. The mayor said the ad shows that “Senator Murray does have an honesty problem.”
The ad is paid for by an independent PAC called People for a New Seattle Mayor, and the Murray campaign is not allowed to coordinate the spending or strategy of an independent PAC. But Murray strategist Sandeep Kaushik said McGinn “made a terrible decision to eliminate the Office of Domestic Violence and [Sexual Assault] Prevention and eliminate the director position. It was widely criticized at the time and rightfully so.”
The ad shows Terri Kimball, the former director of the Division of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention, saying McGinn didn’t make domestic violence a priority. The ad says “Mayor Mike McGinn eliminated the city’s Office of Domestic Violence. Now domestic-violence aggravated assaults are up 60 percent.”
Dr. Supata Basu, a domestic violence and human trafficking policy expert, said that what the data show are that more people are reporting the crime. “We don’t have the data to say domestic violence has increased in Seattle.” She added that she wouldn’t be standing with McGinn at the news conference if he didn’t support domestic violence services for women “from all races and classes.”
Some of the advocates appeared to be reading from scripts. One stumbled over the wording and at one point mispronounced the mayor’s name.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office said the state changed the definition of domestic-violence Assault 2 degree in 2007 to include strangulation. Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the office, said the number of domestic-violence aggravated assaults started to climb the following year and has continued to increase.
In addition to eliminating the stand-alone domestic-violence office in 2011, McGinn also proposed eliminating two of seven domestic-violence advocates in the police department. The Seattle City Council restored those positions.