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King County joins community leaders, parents, and youth on work to end racial disparity in juvenile justice system

“It is imperative that [we create] a new paradigm that moves us away from further criminalizing our children – especially youth of color – and moves King County towards creating equitable opportunities for all,” said King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. “Our history consists of watershed moments where it’s been more important for us to change; this is one of those moments.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine joined with Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead and members of the King County Council to announce members of a countywide steering committee charged with recommending solutions to a growing racial disparity in the regional juvenile justice system. It is the largest and most diverse group King County has ever assembled to act on juvenile justice issues.

“Racial disparity has no place in our justice system, especially not in a system responsible for the well-being of our youth,” said Executive Constantine. “Making the system impervious to the mostly unacknowledged, but nevertheless real biases that each of us carries with us is a tall order, and will require the partnership of everyone in our community."

“There is an urgent need to redefine how the juvenile justice system works,” said Judge Craighead. “Lasting and effective reform depends on collaborative, community-informed actions to end racial disproportionalities in school discipline, arrest, and detention rates.”

Among the members of the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee are parents, youth, mental-health and grassroots leaders. They are teaming up with the heads of school districts, law enforcement agencies and courts from across the County, including Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O'Toole, Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield, and Juvenile Court Judge Wesley Saint Clair. The panel includes youth who have experienced juvenile detention themselves, youth mentors, a foster parent and community-based advocates fighting to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by increasing effective alternatives to school suspensions and youth detention. Read more

Operation Nightwatch

Van donationEach year, the King County Council donates vans from Metro's Vanpool to local cities and nonprofit organizations to provide transportation for low-income, elderly, youth and disabled residents. The vans are part of a fleet of county vehicles that have been 'retired' after exceeding a certain number of miles.

This spring, I had the opportunity to donate a retired van to Operation Nightwatch. Operation Nightwatch provides food and shelter nightly for 150 homeless adults in downtown Seattle, housing for 24 low-income, formerly homeless or housing vulnerable seniors (age 62 and older), and provides assistance to unsheltered homeless people surviving outside. They will be using their van to transport homeless adults to shelter late at night, and to transport low-income seniors for grocery shopping, healthcare appointments, and enrichment activities.

Elementary School Students at the County Council

Elementary School Students at the County Council

I was honored to host 18 girls and boys from Martin Luther King Jr. and Emerson Elementary Schools during their recent visit to the County Council. The 4th and 5th grade students visited the Council to get hands-on understanding of how the Council works as well as learn how their Council serves constituents. The youth learned about the Council, met with staff, and toured the Council Chambers. I had the opportunity to have lunch with the students and talk with them about government-local and national and hear their views on what the Council should address. A special thank you to the staff, Ms. Vallerie Fisher and Mr. Michael Melonson for bringing their students for a day at the Council.

ORCA LIFT Reduced fare

Image: Orca Lift program

I was a proud prime sponsor of the legislation creating the low-income fare, the new ORCA LIFT reduced fare program to make public transportation more affordable for those who need it most. The creation of the low-income fare has been 3 years in the making. I am excited King County is committed to bus service for all. Thank you to the members of the Low Income Fare Advisory Committee for the hard work they put into recommending the creation of a low income fare. The ORCA LIFT fare can be used on Metro Transit buses, Sound Transit Link light rail, the Seattle Streetcar, King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit buses. You can apply for the ORCA LIFT program at Public Health - Seattle & King County and selected social service agencies including these locations in District 2: Seattle Vocational Institute, Rainier Community Service Office, King County Juvenile Detention, and the Rainier Beach Community Center. See a list of enrollment locations here.

The reduced fare on an ORCA card is valid for 24 months and the reduced fare for King County Metro buses is $1.50 per trip any time of day, for one- or two-zone travel; Sound Transit Link light rail is $1.50; Seattle Streetcar is $1.50. Click here for additional information

Read the OpEd I co-authored with Councilmembers Phillips and McDermott:
A transit option for those who depend on public transportation

What’s Happening in District 2

The leaves are starting to turn, and you can feel that the heat of the summer is coming to an end...fall has arrived in King County! As the season starts to turn, there are still a number of events throughout the district you may enjoy.

University District Farmers Market
Saturdays, year round
9 am - 2 pm
University Way NE (the "Ave"), between 50th & 52nd streets, Seattle 98105

The award winning University District Farmers Market is a part of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance founded in 1993. The University District Farmers Market is open year round and committed to supporting and strengthening Washington's small family farm businesses by creating and operating vibrant, successful neighborhood farmers markets. For more information, visit or contact the NFMA at (206) 632-5234.

Healthy Eating and Dental Hygiene Discussion
Saturday, November 14, 2015
12:00 pm- 1:30 pm
The Backpack Academy, 3021 South Bryon, Seattle, WA 98144
Free event

Join the community discussion lead by Dr. Jones, certified orthodontist at the Backpack Academy. She will presenting research on the history of teeth and will remind everyone of the importance of taking care of our teeth through healthy eating and lifestyle choices. The workshop is free and open to the community. Free healthy meal served. For more information click:

Third Friday Sit and Sips with Guest Speaker Valencia Carroll, Art Therapist
Friday, November 20, 2015
6 pm - 8 pm
1816 26th Avenue, Seattle WA 98122

Learn how Art improves your general well-being. Valencia Carroll formerly practiced as a Board Certified Art Therapist for families and children in the Baltimore, MD region. She completed her Master's degree in Art Therapy through the George Washington University. She's worked in many settings including public schools, outpatient treatment centers, and psychiatric hospitals. Though she currently enjoys her profession as a Fine Artist, she still believes in the healing power and value of Art Therapy. In this presentation, expect to learn or gain a better understanding of Art Therapy the profession. This event is free and open to the public, please RSVP.

Winter Arts and Music Festival
Wednesday, November 25- Saturday, November 28, 2015
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Langston Hughes, 104 17th Ave S. Seattle, WA 98144

Starting Wednesday November 25 through November 28 is the Africatown - Central District Winter Arts and Music Fest will present a variety of cultural events including concerts and a visual arts exhibit across the Africatown - Central District. For more information visit, or follow us on social media at

Gang of Four Book Reading
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
El Centro de la Raza (Dining Room, Bottom Floor), 2524 16th Ave S. Seattle, WA 98144

The evening will include conversations between Estela Ortega, Bob Santos, Larry Gossett, Laura Wong Whitebear, and others about the book Gang of Four. The book is based on the partnership and friendships between El Centro de la Raza’s four founders Roberto Maestas, Bob Santos, Larry Gossett, and Bernie Whitebear. The event will be held in the dining room on the bottom floor of El Centro de la Raza and there will be tacos, pan dulce, and agua fresca. Add this event to your calendar for a memorable evening learning about the history of our organization and the work our founders have done in our community. This event is free and all are welcome. For more information, visit:

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