March 2, 2020
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is my first general e-newsletter to you since taking the oath of office to continue my work for another term serving the constituents of District 4 and all the residents of our county on the King County Council. Yesterday, I sent out information regarding the coronavirus outbreak here in King County and what you can do to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the disease. Check out the first section below for the latest information on coronavirus.
This e-newsletter is meant to provide you with an update on some of the issues I’ve been working on since my last update. As always, I would like to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or comments.
All the best,
I’ve been hearing from many of you over the past few days about your concerns regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus. The Puget Sound region was one of the first areas in the nation with confirmed coronavirus infections and unfortunately there have been six reported deaths in King County as a result of becoming infected with the virus. And as of now, there are 14 confirmed cases in the county.
Over the weekend, I was in Washington, DC attending the 2020 National Association of Counties (NACO) Legislative Conference. Yesterday morning, I attended the Large Urban County Caucus meeting with a briefing on the outbreak presented by CDC Chief Medical Officer Michael Wolfe who stressed staying informed and checking the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/COVID19
Keep in mind, that most cases involving coronavirus are mild, but it is important that we all take steps to reduce the spread of the illness. This is a rapidly developing situation so the best thing you can do right now is stay informed.
Here is the latest from King County Public Health on what you can do to help:
• Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.
• Stay home when sick
• Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including handwashing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website (kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.kingcounty.gov).
Continue reading >>>
March 12th Town Hall cancelled!
At the end of February, I sent out my annual newsletter. Many of you should have already received it or will be receiving it shortly. The mailer includes information regarding a Town Hall meeting on March 12. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, we have decided to cancel this town hall and reschedule it for a date still to be determined. I am sorry for the inconvenience, but I believe it is important for us to take this precautionary step to prevent the spread of the virus.
Metro bus electrification
In February, my legislation to speed up the electrification of King County Metro Transit buses and other county vehicles was unanimously approved by the King County Council.
The plan accelerates conversion of Metro’s bus fleet to zero-emission by five years, setting 2035 as the new target date. It will also accelerate the conversion of other county-owned vehicles to electric and create a robust charging infrastructure at county facilities.
With the passage of this ordinance, we have provided a much needed ‘jump start’ toward our effort to significantly reduce and eliminate carbon emissions from our county’s fleet.
This will not be an easy task. But we are running out of time and the climate crisis is only worsening. It is up to us to lead by showing the rest of the nation and world that we can transition to all-electric by utilizing the best available technology and by setting tough but achievable goals.
As written, this ordinance does not direct Metro to retire buses early. It does set ambitious targets. It will be up to Metro to determine how it achieves those targets. Clearly, meeting these targets will require a significant transformation to the fleet and the supporting infrastructure. And this is needed now because we are facing a crisis. A crisis that is only worsening.
Click here to read more about the approved legislation in an article that appeared in Crosscut.
New low-income fare program
Last month, the King County Council unanimously approved a new income-based fare program I co-sponsored with Councilmember Rod Dembowski that will provide free bus passes for qualifying King County residents (over 50,000 individuals) with incomes at or below 80% of the federal poverty level, or about $21,000 for a family of four.
Unfortunately, for many in our community the cost of transit is a barrier to being able to get or keep a job, get an education and access health care. Too many of our most vulnerable neighbors living on the margins are being impaired by a lack of affordable access to mobility. This program removes the burden of a fare that they cannot afford to help them take a step toward living life to its fullest potential.
I look forward to getting this program up and running and expanding it soon so even more people in need can take advantage of free or subsidized public transit.
You can read more about this new program in an article by the Seattle Times by clicking here.
MLK Award winner – Colleen Echohawk
It was my privilege last week to present Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi with the District Four 2020 MLK Medal of Distinguished Service award - an annual award that recognizes individuals whose work has answered the question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “What are you doing for others?”
It’s very rare to find someone so dedicated to working for the greater good, someone who sees value in all people and is willing to courageously fight for them every day. Colleen is one of those rare examples of someone who truly lives to answer Dr. Martin Luther King’s question ‘What are you doing for others?’ I’m fortunate to have her as a constituent in District 4.
Check out this video to learn more about this amazing person.
Good news for the Ballard P-Patch
The property where the Ballard P-Patch is located could soon be sold for development, which would mean the end of its existence at its current location. In response, the King County Council unanimously approved a motion I sponsored to recommend that the Conservation Futures program award funding to the P-Patch which would be helpful in its purchasing the property, as well as the adjacent property, thus protecting it all as an urban natural area.
In so many ways, the Ballard P-Patch is more than just a community garden. It’s a vibrant gathering place where people from all walks of life can come together to grow produce, learn from each other and provide food for some of our most vulnerable neighbors, such as through the Ballard Food Bank. And, importantly, it’s a much needed open and green space in a part of our city that is becoming increasingly dense. With this vote, we are taking a very important step toward preserving this garden for generation to come.
Click here to learn more.
New leadership role
Earlier this year, I was selected to be the Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee — responsible for being the lead in crafting a biennial budget that funds the county equitably and responsibly. Click here to learn more about the other roles I will fill in 2020.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on the council in this new role as Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. Our county faces many challenges, from homelessness and housing affordability to affordable transit access and climate change. However, these challenges provide us as an elected body the opportunity to implement meaningful policies aimed at making our county a better place to live. I’m excited to continue my work for another term serving the constituents of District 4 and all the residents of Martin Luther King County.
Keep in touch
Thanks again for taking the time to read my e-newsletter and remember I do my job best when I hear directly from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime if you have any questions or concerns. You can also stay tuned in to what I’m doing by following me on Twitter at @KCCKohlWelles or on Facebook at facebook.com/CMKohlWelles