Councilmember Rod Dembowski
Letter from Rod: West Point Treatment Plant Disaster Update
From the day I took my oath of office as your King County Councilmember, I committed to you that I would work to protect our environment and reform and improve King County government. These are commitments I hold dear, and they have been tested by the failure at the West Point Treatment Plant.
By now you have probably heard or read about the ongoing environmental disaster at King County’s largest wastewater treatment facility, the West Point Treatment Plant. To provide a brief background, on February 9, during heavy storm flow that inundated the facility, the plant’s mechanical operations were destroyed. This led hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater to bypass the plant and flow directly into Puget Sound. More than a month later, the plant is still not fully operational and is at risk of similar bypasses. The damage caused in February has left the plant unable to fully treat incoming flows, and heavy rain could again exceed the plant’s current limited capacity and cause untreated sewage and stormwater to pour into Puget Sound.
Around-the-clock work to repair the plant began immediately, and is currently projected to have the plant back at full capacity by the end of April. But simply returning the plant to how it was before the disaster is not acceptable.
|Professor David Bain and Eric Adman of the Sno-King Watershed Council teach Rod about ph and other water quality measuring equipment at the "Influence of the Confluence" event at Thornton Creek. Rod helped secure grant money for these testing kits as part of his efforts to clean up our urban waterways.
That is why Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Councilmember Kathy Lambert, and I have formed a partnership to find out what caused the unprecedented failure of the West Point Treatment Plant, and steps we can take to ensure this type of disaster does not ever happen again.
On Monday, March 13, the County Council voted unanimously to approve emergency legislation we sponsored that authorizes a wide-ranging and fully independent investigation of what occurred in the lead up to and aftermath of the West Point disaster. The Council will contract with an independent third party consultant, who will report back to the Council and the public later this year.
I believe this process is essential, as the public needs to have the utmost confidence in the report regarding what went wrong at the plant. You can read more about our plan here and see coverage in the Seattle Times here. Additionally, you can track King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks progress towards restoring the plant to full operation here.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for you and please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 206-477-1001.
Vice Chair, King County Council
Chair, Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee
Chair, Board of Health
Confronting the homelessness crisis
Increasing shelter space and affordable housing to make a serious dent in King County’s homelessness crisis was Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s top priority in the County’s 2017-18 biennial budget. Working with his colleagues, Rod helped secure $7 million of historic new investments to meaningfully tackle homelessness and serve the region’s most vulnerable members.
The County’s plan includes:
- Development and operation of a twenty-four hour a day/seven day a week emergency shelter on County-owned property across from the Courthouse or at another suitable location. The emergency shelter will include day-center services, storage lockers and on-site supportive services.
- Development and operation of shelter and housing services at Harborview Hall on Seattle’s First Hill.
- Investment in local partnerships to create programs that will assist people experiencing homelessness in cities outside of Seattle.
WATCH: Rod discusses the early stages of exploring the development and operation of shelter and housing services at the vacant Harborview Hall on Seattle’s First Hill with KIRO 7 (click on the above photo).
Dembowski named an Aspen-Rodel Fellow
King County Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski has been selected to the newest class of the Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship. The nationally-selected group of 24 elected officials will participate in the two-year fellowship designed to bring together lawmakers who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to work responsibly across partisan divisions and bring greater civility to public discourse.
The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership program seeks to enhance democracy by identifying and bringing together the nation’s most promising young political leaders. During the term they are tasked with exploring, through study and conversation, the underlying values and principles of western democracy, the relationship between individuals and their community and the responsibilities of public leadership.
The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership is a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for men and women under age 50, holding elective office at the state, local or federal level. Rodel Fellows are selected following a yearlong nomination and review process with the program open by invitation only. Each class consists of 24 fellows, identified by the program’s leadership as America’s emerging political leaders with reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness and a commitment to civil dialogue. The complete list of participants selected for the class of 2016 can be found here. More information on the Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship is available here.
Prior Rodel Fellows from Washington state include Attorney General Bob Ferguson, former Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Dembowski honored for his work to expand voting access
King County Vice Chair Rod Dembowski was honored with a “Leadership Award” from the Korean American Coalition of Washington State for his work to expand Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to mandate election materials be provided in additional languages, starting with Korean and Spanish in the 2016 general election.
King County is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, with a rapidly growing population of individuals who speak a language other than English. According to the county demographer, one quarter of King County residents speak a language other than English at home, and close to half of them report that no one in their households speak English well or at all.
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions provide language assistance to voters if more than 10,000 members or 5 percent of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority group who do not “speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process.” For King County, this standard has required election materials be provided in only two additional languages other than English — Chinese (since 2002) and Vietnamese (since 2010).
New ballot drop boxes in District 1
Councilmember Rod Dembowski joins King County Executive Dow Constantine, Director of Elections Julie Wise, and local elected officials and community leaders to celebrate the opening of the Ballot Drop Box at the Lake City Library.
King County Elections will be adding 33 drop boxes over the course of the year. The additional ballot drop boxes are in response to a Council motion calling for plan to improve voter access. The first 29 will be open for the August primary election with the remainder installed by the November general election. Combined with the previous ten drop boxes, elections will operate a combined total of 43. The drop boxes in District One are listed below. You can also find all drop boxes throughout the County here.
- Bothell Regional Library – open for November general election
- Kingsgate Library – open for November general election
- Lake City Library – open for August primary election
- Lake Forest Park City Hall – open for August primary election
- Shoreline Library – open for August primary election
- Woodinville Library – open for August primary election
Honoring Immigrant Heritage Month
The King County Council celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month with community organizations and members of the King County Immigrant and Refugee Task Force.
Councilmember Dembowski visits Idris Mosque in north Seattle
King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski stands with Hisham Farajalla outside of Idris Mosque in north Seattle. Farajalla, a member of the mosque’s Board of Trustees, hosted both Dembowski and Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez following threats of gun violence against the mosque that occurred last week.
"We appreciate the support of the community during this time and thank Councilmembers Dembowski and Juarez for visiting us and demonstrating both care and leadership," said Farajalla.
Council asks Metro Transit to examine greening its fleet
Metro Transit has been a national leader for decades in reducing the overall impact transportation has on our climate by implementing cutting edge technology and reducing single occupant car trips. On April 25th the Metropolitan King County Council helped Metro take efforts to further reduce climate change when it approved a measure asking Metro to study the feasibility of achieving a zero emissions or carbon-neutral bus and van pool fleet. I partnered with community organizations including Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club to bring this measure to the Council.
From early adoption of hybrid buses, to our largest in the nation public vanpool fleet, Metro is a model transit agency when it comes to protecting our environment. Nearly 70% of Metro’s fleet is currently either all electric or diesel-hybrid, and Metro has stated a goal to have an all-electric or hybrid fleet by 2018. However, even the cleanest hybrid diesel buses still emit about 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide per mile into the atmosphere. Balancing an ever expanding network of routes to meet population growth and new demand while greening our fleet is a tall order, but one I believe we can and must accomplish.
Studies indicate transportation is the region’s largest source of greenhouse gases, accounting for nearly half of all carbon emissions. Air particle pollution is a significant problem in the greater Seattle region, exacerbating health conditions such as asthma and disproportionately affecting communities of color and low-income communities. The motion calls on Metro to prepare an analysis and recommend whether a carbon-neutral or zero emission fleet should be the preferred goal.
The motion also requests that the feasibility report include an evaluation of the battery bus pilot program, and an analysis of any gaps in available technologies or products that would need to be addressed in order to meet the recommended goal. Metro Transit will deliver the report to the Council by March 2017.
Board of Health works to protect domestic abuse survivors from gun violence
The best available research shows that the most important element in preventing domestic violence fatalities is to remove firearms from the situation. To that end, as Chair of the Seattle – King County Board of Health, I co-sponsored the adopted resolution to improve King County’s compliance with a state law that requires domestic violence offenders to surrender their firearms when they have protection orders issued against them. The Board of Health pursued a coordinated approach to implementing the law in King County in response to inconsistencies within the County.
HB 1840, signed by Governor Inslee in 2014, requires domestic violence perpetrators who are subject to no-contact orders, protection orders, and restraining orders to temporarily surrender their firearms or other dangerous weapons. The legislature passed a great law to protect those affected by domestic violence, but more work needs to be done by King County to implement the law. A review found that, in a 3-month timeframe in 2015, of the 94 cases where an affidavit of surrender (or non-surrender) was due to the court, only 12 respondents complied with filing the required declaration.
The County Council collaborated with the Seattle City Council, the King County Prosecuting Attorney, the Chief of the Seattle Police Department, and the Director of Seattle-King County Public Health to automate the surrender process. This action strengthens the County’s commitment to ensuring public safety and, simply put, will save lives.
Council supports action plan for safety on Metro Transit buses
On March 21st, the Metropolitan King County Council voted unanimously to develop an action plan to increase security for both passengers and operators of Metro Transit buses. I called for this legislation in response to recent assaults that took place on Metro buses. A review of safety and security measures on buses will provide Metro an opportunity to use all the tools available to make it the safest transit agency in the nation.
The motion calls on the Executive to develop and transmit to Council an action plan that supports strategies outlined in the Metro system security plan and identifies and prioritizes specific activities to enhance the safety and security of Metro Transit's customers and employees. The plan will include a review of current staffing levels for Metro Transit Police and contract personnel used to provide security in the transit tunnels and at metro stations; an investigation of fare enforcement policies and the relationship to operator and passenger security; and an analysis of how transit safety programs can be implemented so as to avoid disparate impacts on disadvantaged communities. It will be submitted to the Council by July 15th.
Three Year Report to Constituents
On February 11, 2016 I completed my third year serving on the King County Council. Though elected from the 1st District, I am cognizant that my votes and work impact everyone in King County. I wanted to update you on the issues that my colleagues and I have been addressing at King County during the last three years. Please read my report that summarizes our work, here.
My highest priority as a councilmember is working to ensure that everyone in our community has a fair and equal opportunity to achieve their full potential, and live a healthy, safe, and productive life. Today, nearly ten percent of King County residents live below the federal poverty level. Life expectancy can differ by ten years, depending on your ZIP code. These challenges know no municipal or demographic boundary – solving them requires partnerships across the region.
I firmly believe that by deploying the tools we have in hand at King County – from our health department, to our justice system, to our Department of Community and Human Services, to our Department of Natural Resources and Parks and Metro Transit – we have the capacity to address pressing regional issues like poverty, transportation, environmental protection, and disparities in health outcomes.
I take the job of representing you seriously and have not missed a single vote. I have voted over 2,300 consecutive times since taking office in 2013. This report highlights some of those votes.
I welcome your comments and ideas for additional areas where we can work together to ensure King County is the best place in America – for everyone – to live, work and play.
Thank you for taking the time to review this report. For regular updates, please consider subscribing to my e-news by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling my office at (206) 477-1001.
Very Truly Yours,
Council approves nation-leading paid parental leave program
Beginning in 2016, King County employees who welcome a new child will have 12 weeks of paid leave to stay home with their families. The Metropolitan King County Council gave its approval to legislation that will create a program providing certain County employees with paid parental leave to run concurrently with unpaid federal and state family and medical leave.
The adopted legislation grew out of a motion adopted by the Council this past spring declaring that it is county policy to establish a paid family leave program for King County employees. The motion also requested the Executive develop a work plan and recommendations for implementing a paid parental leave program along with a cost analysis of the potential financial impact of the program. The Executive sent a cost-benefit analysis and a recommendation to the Council in September and followed up with a work plan and proposed legislation in November.
New Funds to Address Untested Rape Kits in King County
Every year across the country, thousands of “rape kits” – DNA evidence collected by a health care professional after a sexual assault – go untested. While the reasons for this backlog vary, it’s clear that cases in which a rape kit is tested are more likely to result in arrests and prosecutions.
In jurisdictions like New York City, Dallas, and even Tacoma, the analysis of previously untested sexual assault kits has led to the identification of new offenders, linking of serial cases, and exoneration of the wrongly convicted. Most importantly, these cities have demonstrated a commitment to survivors to do everything possible to help them find justice and healing.
Thanks to the tireless work this year of State Representative Tina Orwall, moving forward Washington State now must test all new rape kits that are collected. However, there is still work to do to address existing untested kits in local jurisdictions, including in King County, where approximately 400 rape kits sit in evidence storage.
I’ve partnered with Representative Orwall and Sheriff Urquhart to take immediate action regarding these kits here at King County. In this week’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee meeting, I was able to secure $200,000 for sexual assault experts in the Sheriff’s office to identify exactly how many untested kits remain in King County, prioritize those cases for testing, and submit them to the State Patrol Crime Lab for processing.
This is the right thing to do, and as we’ve seen across the country, this work will likely result in arrests and convictions of serial rapists and other criminals. It also sends a clear message to victims of sexual assault – you matter, what happened to you matters, and we take your case seriously.
County Council Expands Access to Voting
Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Federal Voting Rights Act into law, the Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous approval to broadening the historic law’s standards in King County by requiring voting materials be translated into additional languages, starting with Spanish and Korean.
King County is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, with a rapidly growing population of individuals who speak a language other than English. According to the county demographer, one quarter of King County residents speak a language other than English at home, and close to half of them report that no one in their households speak English well or at all. Read more