Greetings District 2! This is your friendly neighborhood King County Councilmember, Girmay Zahilay.
Earlier this week, the Director of King County Public Health shared with our council the following updates:
COVID-19 transmission rates fell from a high of 644 cases per day in August to 334 cases per day in November. We are headed in the right direction, but this is still considered high community transmission.
The highest rates are among 25–34-year-old residents.
Upcoming holiday gatherings can lead to another spike if we’re not careful. Please, please be safe during this holiday season.
As a reminder, vaccine verification or proof of negative COVID test is required for all patrons and customers 12-years of age and older prior to entry to most public events and establishments in King County. For more information, please visit this link here. You can always find your nearest vaccination site at our King County Public Health website or Washington State’s COVID Vaccine Finder. Please remember the vaccine is free and no appointments are necessary.
Booster shots are also available and recommended. For more information as well as frequently asked questions, please visit the Washington State Department of Health website.
Redistricting South Seattle Call to Action
The Washington State Redistricting Commission has proposed in their new Congressional maps moving South Seattle and the Chinatown-International District out of the majority-minority 9th Congressional District and into the 7th. This is a mistake in my opinion. South Seattle should remain in the same Congressional District as areas with similar needs, interests, and demographics like Skyway, Tukwila, and Renton. Moving South Seattle into the 7th Congressional District, on the other hand, could dilute the collective voting power of communities of color who live there.
Redistricting determines our representation at every level of government. The final maps are due on November 15th. This is an important opportunity to make your voice heard on a potential change that could impact so many outcomes in our South Seattle neighborhoods. Please email the Washington State Redistricting Commission at email@example.com asking them to keep South Seattle in the 9th Congressional District.
Here is template language from Redistricting Justice for Washington that you can copy and paste for your email.
Skyway Annexation Event
In my opinion, areas like Skyway, which aren’t apart of any city, must be absorbed into a neighboring city like Renton or Seattle. Without annexation, the chronic divestment and economic struggles that this community faces will only worsen with time. But I also know that there is a long history of attempts at annexation which have disappointed local residents. Furthermore, the process of annexation can be extremely complicated and confusing. That’s why I’m hosting a Skyway Annexation town hall. This is simply an informational event to help our community understand the process and also allow you to give feedback and direction to me. The event will take place November 18th at 6pm.
We will be joined by King County experts on annexation and special guest, Renton City Councilmember Ed Prince!
Week Without Driving
Earlier this month, I participated in the first-ever “Week Without Driving,” organized by the advocacy group Disability Rights Washington to understand the real-world impact of policy decisions around public transit and mobility.
My first weekend of #WeekWithoutDriving I was in Seattle. The rest of the week, I was in New York City. The difference between the 2 cities for non-drivers couldn’t be starker. In New York, I was able to get anywhere using transit and, fascinatingly, it was usually faster and more convenient than driving. I’m excited to help build out King County’s public transit system to make it as frequent and accessible as possible!
Contract Equity Motion
When discussing the harsh economic conditions in our state, we often and correctly point to our regressive tax code as a persistent cause of inequity. But in addition to our taxes, we also need to give more attention to I-200 and the ban on race and/or gender conscious affirmative action.
I-200 and its implementing Executive Order 98-01 have had devastating impacts on women & communities of color, especially Black Washingtonians. In the 2 decades since taking effect, these laws have funneled billions of dollars out of these groups and slashed many educational opportunities.
Some have estimated that, prior to I-200, state agencies and higher education institutions spent around 10% of their contracting and procurement dollars with certified minority and woman-owned businesses. In the I-200 and 98-01 world, that rate has plummeted to an average of 3%.
This steep decline in economic opportunity at the state level is also felt locally. Earlier this year, the King County Auditor’s Office released a report entitled “Contracting Inequities Persist in Race-Neutral Environment.” Review the sad findings here.
These inequities are why I introduced a motion that seeks to restore race and gender conscious practices in Washington and King County. This motion, Motion 2021-0391, asks Governor Jay Inslee to rescind Executive Order 98-01, the order implementing I-200 at the state level, and it also holds up a mirror to our own King County government, and documents our commitment to advancing contracting equity in King County.
The King County Council should:
Reestablish a minority and women business enterprises office in the county
Set measurable countywide goals for spending w/ WMBE contractors
Advance the recommendations in the county auditor report
Support King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Order Pro-Equity Contracting
You can find the full language on pg. 323 here. I-200 took away many of our tools for advancing racial and economic justice. Our region’s economy has boomed since this law took effect, but not everyone has felt this prosperity. I’m proud to say that Motion 2021-0391 was passed unanimously by our King County Council 9-0, documenting King County’s commitment to taking several steps to promote contract equity and continuing our work to make sure everyone in King County can thrive.
Alternative Crisis Response Systems
On November 2 at the Law and Justice committee, our staff prepared a report that I requested on Alternative Models to Traditional Policing. The presentation gave us great examples from around the country of unarmed crisis responders that can guide us as we design a more holistic system of public safety.
1. CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) in Eugene, Oregon - provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7. Each team consists of a medic (either a nurse or EMT) & a crisis worker (who has at least several years of experience in the mental health field). More info:
2. PAD (The Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative) in Atlanta, Georgia - reduces arrest and incarceration of people experiencing extreme poverty, substance use, or mental health concerns, and increase the accessibility of supportive services in Atlanta. More info: https://www.atlantapad.org/
3. Denver Public Health runs the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program, which deploys Emergency Response Teams to engage individuals experiencing crises related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. More info here.
4. The Driving Equality Bill in Philadelphia deprioritizes certain traffic violations as "secondary violations", which don't meet the criteria for a lawful traffic stop. More info here:
5. BART launched a pilot ambassador program in February of 2020 to increase the presence of unarmed personnel on trains to address customers’ concerns about safety and security. The teams are equipped with de-escalation and anti-bias training. More info:
These are just a few examples we’ve seen around the country. Implementing these kinds of programs at a county-level versus a city-level presents its own challenges and opportunities, but it’s clear that we need to act with urgency to create a system that keeps everyone safe through quickly responsive and trained professionals. Stay tuned!