King County Councilmember Joe McDermott
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January 2013

Neighbors:

2012 ended on a high note with the passage of marriage equality. Iím thrilled the voters overwhelming extended the same rights and responsibilities to all loving, committed couples and in December King County proudly issued the first marriage licenses to same sex couples in the state. Thrilled, even if it means my mom is now concerned about finding the right dress for my wedding to Michael later this year. I enter 2013 with a renewed commitment to serving you and working to ensure the success of us all and the well-being of the most vulnerable in our community.

Gun safety

Decemberís news from Connecticut was devastating. We lost 20 beautiful children and 6 adults dedicated to their education. Our country continues to see mass shootings. These shootings rightfully garner the attention of our nation. But there are thousands of Americans who also privately grieve each year because theyíve lost their loved one from gun violence. The number of Americans who die each year from gun violence exceeds the number of babies who die during the first year of life. It also exceeds the number of people who die from AIDS. And the number of Americans who are killed by guns is greater than the number of people who die from illicit drugs. These deaths are preventable, and it is my firm belief gun violence is a public health problem. Thatís why at this monthís meeting the Board of Health called on state and federal lawmakers to take meaningful action to curb gun violence. The Board also committed itself to take any action it could to help these efforts. We all must do what we can to end these senseless deaths.

Iím working to transform our human services and public health systems. The recessionís devastating effect on families Ė and County coffersóhas left many falling short of the most basic of human needs. State funding for many public health and human services was decimated with the passage of I-695 in 1999. In response, counties throughout Washington began funding these important programs. But that model was not sustainable. At its height, King County allocated nearly $26 million to human services from the General Fund. Now that figure is less than $2 million. The need has not gone away. Earlier this month I toured public housing in North Highline and learned that there are 10,000 people on the King County Housing Authorityís waitlist.

With the implementation of the national Affordable Care Act we have an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we deliver services. The Council and Executive are working with providers and a broad group of stakeholders to develop a plan for a system that is adequately funded and integrates health, human services and community prevention. An integrated system has the opportunity to deliver services in an efficient, coordinated manner. This will help save the taxpayers money. Sufficient access to good health care and basic needs will drive down health care costs for everyone, keep people out of our jails and help to create a more productive citizenry. The Council expects to receive the stakeholder report in June. At that point in time, we will begin our policy discussion about how to move forward.

King County also is still dealing with our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Our Roads fund is facing an annual gap of $50 million. Moreover, once the temporary Congestion Relief Charge ends in 2014, Metro will be facing a $75 million a year gap. Youíll recall the Council approved the temporary Congestion Relief Charge in 2011 to stave off deep service cuts. Once the CRC expires, we face this same risk. 600,000 hours of bus service is at risk. Thatís the equivalent to cutting all weekend transit service or all weekday rush hour commuter service.

The County is making our case in Olympia in the hope the Legislature will pass a transportation package that is made up of both state funding for highways and tools for local jurisdictions. The options currently being discussed are combinations of Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) and gas taxes. If Olympia fails to act, we are at-risk of seeing service levels erode. Thatís why the County, its suburban cities, and the City of Seattle are working together in Olympia to ensure our needs are met. This broad partnership isnít as common as it should be, and provides me some hope.

Until next month,

-Joe

 

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Contact me: joe.mcdermott@kingcounty.gov; 206-296-1008
Website: https://www.kingcounty.gov/mcdermott

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