Councilmember Rod Dembowski
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
King County "Youth Action Plan" calls for a new set of priorities
The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous support to the Youth Action Plan (YAP), a new set of priorities that will guide and inform the County's annual investment in programs and services for children and youth, from infants to 24-year olds.
Development of the YAP was completed by an appointed task force of twenty-five experts representing a broad range of organizations and entities with substantial expertise and knowledge relevant to children and youth. Community input was collected through five community conversations held across the county, and through a survey of more than 1,000 youth. The nine recommendations contained in the YAP are the culmination of the task force’s work over the last year.
The recommendations in the Plan include:
- Social Justice and Equity
- Apply social justice and equity principles to our children and youth policies
- Strengthen and stabilize families, children, youth, and young adults
- Stop the School to Prison Pipeline
- Break down barriers between government, non-profits, and other providers of services
- Use data to measure program efficacy and to make investment decisions
- Invest early, invest often, and invest in outcomes
- Increase accountability and oversight
Metro Transit Audit Manager
The new Metro Transit Audit Manager was officially appointed in March, and is operating within the independent King County Auditor's office. This position will be responsible for ongoing reviews and audits of Metro's near billion dollar annual budget.
Audits have proven to save Metro money, in addition to increasing transparency, improving accountability and fostering more trust with the public. My ultimate goal has been, and continues to be, to reform Metro such that we can grow the system to serve the significant unmet demand for transit.
At its March 3rd meeting, the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee received a briefing from the new Transit Audit Manager regarding their work-plan for upcoming audits of Metro Transit.
Paid Leave and Family Friendly Workplace Policies
The King County Council unanimously passed Motion 2015-0102, which declares that it is County policy to establish a paid parental leave program for our employees. When implemented, the legislation will provide working moms and dads employed by King County up to 12 weeks in paid parental leave after a birth, adoption, or new placement of a foster child. The legislation also directs the County Executive to develop a workplan for providing paid family leave for eligible County employees to address the serious health condition of the employee or close family member.
Additionally, on March 30th the Council unanimously advanced recommendations from the King County Women's Advisory Board for improving wage equity and promoting family friendly workplace policies. The board's recommendations include ways to encourage and promote family leave and workplace flexibility, as well as actions to achieve wage transparency and end the gender pay equity gap.