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King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

Serving the communities of Council District 8

Joe McDermott
Council District 8
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-477-1008
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
TTY/TDD: 206-296-1024
Fax: 206-296-0198

Serving the communities of West Seattle, North Highline, Vashon/Maury Islands, SoDo, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and portions of the International District, Burien, SeaTac, and Tukwila.

Councilmember McDermott speaks about Metro fundingKing County voters could see April ballot measure to save Metro bus service and address backlog of road maintenance

King County has worked hard to make sure we’re using the taxpayer dollar wisely. We’re delivering services more efficiently than ever. But no amount of savings can make up for the recession’s toll on our revenues. This proposal is reasonable. New funding must be secured to keep our region – and our economy – moving. Read more

My Perspective on King County’s ICE Detainer Policy

My remarks in the Committee of the Whole, further explaining my concerns:

On Monday, December 2, the Council adopted legislation limiting the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds that our County jail facilities will honor.  I proudly co-sponsored this legislation that Councilmember Larry Gossett introduced last summer, as I believed the legislation strengthened public safety and our community.  However, ultimately I voted against the measure and wanted to offer my reasoning.

First, I believe the original purpose of not enforcing ICE holds is to increase public safety by addressing, and to the extent possible removing, the fear and concern many in our community have in contacting law enforcement.  For example:
  • 4 in 10 Latinos are less likely to report crime
  • Latinos are 45% less likely to volunteer information about crimes
When people are less likely to report or volunteer information about a crime, public safety decreases.  People who are not documented understandably refuse to speak up about crimes big and small for fear that they or a family member may be detained or deported.

Led by Councilmember Gossett, the Council has been working on this issue for some two years.  The legislation as introduced would only honor ICE holds for those previously convicted of a homicide or of a violent, serious, or sex offense in the last 10 years.  Such a “bright line” on what was included and what wasn’t is important to me, as without such a line the restoration of public safety is compromised.  To be successful in increasing public safety, people must perceive that many or most offenses would not result in detainers being honored.  In work with colleagues, Councilmember Gossett re-wrote the ordinance in a striking amendment, expanding the list of offenses that would be eligible for detainers in order to broaden support.  This expansion included:
  • Residential burglary
  • Drive by shooting
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm
  • Two serious traffic offenses (down from 4 in the original)
The Striking Amendment also extended the 10 years from conviction to 10 years from conviction or release from prison.  With some reluctance, I supported the striking amendment as it still only honored detainers for what could be considered serious offenses yet gained needed support of colleagues.

In the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday, November 20, we finally took up the legislation for amendments and votes.  Several amendments to the striking amendment were adopted.  In particular, a majority supported an additional amendment adding:
  • all sex crimes
  • any offense for sexual exploitation of children
  • all convictions including a firearms enhancement
Councilmember Gossett and I both opposed this amendment.  I did so because I believe it eliminated any “bright line” and included too many ICE detainer requests in those that King County will honor.  While “all sex crimes” sounds as if they are serious offenses, the list is long and varied.  Voyeurism is included.  Given the purpose of the ordinance – to create a community where people feel safe reporting crimes – I want people to report voyeurism without the threat of detention and deportation.  The balance went too far.

Thus I voted against the ICE detainer legislation because I believe the majority went too far in including offenses and diluted the original legislation to the point I was no longer willing to support it.  Better is certainly possible.  Other jurisdictions, including Cook (IL) and Santa Clara (CA) Counties, have policies of honoring no ICE detainer requests.  King County deserves better.


Services, stability highlight 2014 King County Budget

Last annual budget focuses on human services, preserving public safety, maintaining strong bond rating and County reserves

Inside the Orion Center there are programs providing shelter and critical services to homeless youth. The members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget Leadership Team said today that their proposed 2014 budget enhances services like these and protects housing throughout the County. Read more

ICE detainer holds

We need a policy that allows all County residents, regardless of citizenship status, to feel comfortable reporting a crime or seeking police protection. That’s why, with Councilmembers Gossett and Phillips, I’ve sponsored the King County Detainer Ordinance. This legislation addresses requests the County receives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to extend the detainment of certain individuals based on their immigration status. If the Council adopts the policy, it will limit the number of detainments by directing the County to only honor certain civil ICE detainer requests. Under the ordinance, ICE would have to provide documentation that an individual has had a prior serious crime conviction in the past 10 years, or has been convicted of homicide at any time. I am pleased this approach has broad support from civil rights advocacy groups and expect it to receive its second hearing in September.

Preventing drug overdoses in King County

drugtakebackOverdoses in King County have surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of preventable deaths, and more people die from prescription medicines than from all illegal drugs combined. The misuse of prescription drugs has emerged as a national epidemic over the last decade. The Board of Health is working to address this public health risk through a proposal to create a drug manufacturer-funded, product stewardship model that would safely destroy unused medicines. This is one important part of a comprehensive strategy to address drug abuse. You can learn more about the issue here.

Working to ensure equality for all married couples

We each have a responsibility to do what is within our power to ensure equality in our communities. That’s why I introduced legislation that would level the playing field for same-sex married couples. Despite King Voters overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), individuals in same-sex marriages are required to pay income tax on the value of health benefits their spouse receives from their employer. This is not the case for different-sex spouses. Additionally, DOMA provides discriminatory treatment for same-sex couples during times of family illness and federal law provides no protected leave for an individual to care for their same-sex spouse if they get sick. My legislation would reimburse King County employees for the taxes they pay for their same-sex spouse’s health insurance. The second proposal would provide the same leave benefits for King County employees who need to care for their ill same-sex spouse as provided to different-sex couples.  I expect a hearing in committee in June.

Board of Health calls for action to curb gun violence

Gun Violence We have a moral obligation to curb gun violence. Every jurisdiction must do what it can do to keep our communities safe. Gun related injuries are preventable. Past public health successes, like increasing seat belt use and reducing tobacco use, show that gun violence is a fixable public health problem. It is public health problem that is responsible for more premature deaths than illegal drugs or infant mortality. That’s why the Board of Health adopted a resolution at its January meeting calling on lawmakers in Olympia and DC to take action to reduce the deaths caused by gun violence. Gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature death in the U.S., with 31,000 people having died in 2010. Between 2007 and 2011, 625 King County residents were killed by gun violence, and an additional 512 people were hospitalized with nonfatal firearm injuries. Of the County gun deaths, 460 were self-inflicted. The adopted resolution supports efforts to reduce gun violence as well as encourages mental health programs that stress prevention and early intervention services.

Adequately funding our health and human services

2013 ended on a high note with the passage of marriage equality; I’m thrilled the voters overwhelming extended the same rights and responsibilities to all loving, committed couples. I enter 2013 with a renewed commitment to ensuring the success of our communities – and the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. That’s why this year I’m working to adequately fund an integrated public health and human services system in King County. Learn more here.

County Council Adopts amended arena proposal

The County Council approved the final memorandum of understanding and interlocal agreement that will govern the role of the County, the City of Seattle, and ArenaCo during the development of a potential arena in SODO. The MOU and ILA call for environmental and economic impacts analyses.  Learn more here.

Budget Committee sends Council 2013 Budget that meets current needs with a focus on the future

The members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s 2013 Budget Leadership Team said today that their proposed 2013 King County Budget meets current challenges and makes strategic investments that prepare the County for the future. “The budget proposed by the leadership team makes strategic investments to save the County money in the long-run,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and leader of the Budget Leadership Team. “By seeking departmental efficiencies, helping individuals in need, and increasing accountability, we have put the County in an excellent position to prosper.” Read more

water taxiExpanded vessel capacity will make it easier to catch a ride on a King County water taxi

More passengers can now hop aboard a King County water taxi for a trip between West Seattle or Vashon and downtown Seattle. With U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approval this week, the vessels Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann can each carry 172 passengers– 22 more people per trip than their previous capacity.  The expanded vessel capacity will dramatically reduce the likelihood of extended passenger wait times due to high demand for peak commute period sailings. The increase in capacity is great news for our dedicated riders who at times have been left behind when a boat was full. With ridership up on both routes, the added capacity will make our water taxis an even more attractive transportation alternative. Read more

Council Committee hears from independent expert panel on risks and benefits of arena proposal

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee heard from the independent expert panel today about the potential risks and benefits of the SODO arena proposal.

“Today’s discussion highlighted the proposals’ strengths and the areas where questions still remain,” said Budget Committee Chair Joe McDermott.

During the presentation, Bill Beyers, who is a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Geography, argued for the importance of a full economic impact study.

“I’m hopeful that we can address these concerns through amendments like Councilmember Ferguson’s call for a further economic analysis if we move forward,” McDermott said.

Appointed by McDermott, the members of the panel are experts in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation.

The panel has been reviewing the memorandum of understanding negotiated between investor Chris Hansen, County Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor McGinn to construct a facility with the ability to host NBA and NHL teams in the SODO neighborhood. Today was the Budget Committee’s seventh meeting on the topic.

The panel highlighted the strength of this private-public partnership, stressed the protections given for the County’s General Fund and taxpayers and discussed the impact to traffic and our region’s infrastructure.

“No public-private partnership is risk-free, but the proposed arrangement protects taxpayer’s interests in ways that many other partnerships have not,” UW associate professor Justin Marlowe stated. Marlowe specializes in public capital markets, governmental and nonprofit accounting, public-private partnership, and state and local fiscal policy.

“I want to again thank these experts for offering complete insights and for volunteering a significant amount of their professional and personal time to helping the Council – and the public – better understand the proposal,” McDermott said.

There will be a joint public hearing with the King County Council and the Seattle City Council on Thursday, July 19. Doors open at 5:00 p.m., the hearing will start at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the Bertha Knight Landes room in the City Hall.

The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee’s next meeting is July 17, 2012.

Marriage equality is official: McDermott commends Governor, supporters of legislation

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signs into law the recently adopted marriage equality legislationMetropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott released this statement today after witnessing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire sign into law the recently adopted marriage equality legislation:

“Arriving at today’s bill signing was a long road. It took almost three decades to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals had the same basic civil rights and protections as every other Washingtonian.

“But that hard work and years of debate brought us to today.

“Business, faith, civic and labor organizations, straight allies, and gay and lesbian advocates worked together and demanded equality. This morning their applause echoed through the Capitol.

“I commend Governor Gregoire for sharing her own personal journey and championing this historic legislation. She, like many people, realized marriage equality is about fairness and justice.

“Washington now joins only six other states granting lesbian and gay couples the same legal right to a marriage license as straight couples. And I look forward to marrying my partner, Michael, in the great state of Washington.”

Joe McDermott named Chair of County Council’s Budget Committee
Will direct deliberation, adoption of 2013 King County Budget

financesThe Metropolitan King County Council unanimously selected Councilmember Joe McDermott to serve as Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and to lead the Council’s 2013 budget deliberations.

“Tough choices and a true commitment to reforming county government have placed the County on sound financial footing,” McDermott said. “Sound fiscal management will continue to be my priority as budget chair.”

The Budget Committee maintains oversight of the current year's budget, and is the lead decision-making body during the adoption of the 2013 budget.  Read more...

County Council declares its support for marriage equality

The Metropolitan King County Council pledged its bipartisan support to marriage equality as part of the proposed 2012 legislative agenda for King County. The amendment was adopted by the Council at its January 9 meeting and will be added to the statement of state policy, a companion to King County’s legislative agenda. The Council is scheduled to adopt the legislative agenda at its January 17 meeting.

Legislation in 2007 established Washington’s domestic partnership registry and ensured parity between married couples and domestic partners for 23 rights and responsibilities. More than 170 rights were added in 2008. The remaining 283 were added and approved by the voters in 2009. Last week the Governor announced that she will introduce a bill to finish this work and provide marriage for same-sex couples. Read more