KC Rod Dembowski at Lake City Neighborhood Alliance Meeting

Rod Dembowski, our representative on the King County (KC) Council, was the guest speaker at the July 9, 2020 Lake City Neighborhood Alliance meeting (via zoom). Here is a synopsis of his talk:

Operating remotely has had some challenges, but it is also nice to be able to work from home. Rep. Dembowski has been on the council since 2013. This is his 7th year.

Discussing public health and the Covid-19 response. KC has a terrific public health department. It is run under a partnership with the city of Seattle. KC folks jumped right in when we were one of the first hot spots. The King County Public Health Covid-19 dashboard has a lot of good information with statistics available through a number of different lenses. About 8% of the population here has been tested with about a 5.8% or 5.6% positive rate. (see the website: )

KC did a lot of work to flatten our curve. The county stood up a number of testing sites, the closest to us was in Shoreline. The county also bought a hotel in Kent.

The economic shutdown has created a challenging impact on the KC budget. Metro did get some federal help, which is allowing it to continue operating. Metro stopped collecting fares so riders could use the rear doors to protect the drivers. This could also change how it operationally provides service. In the past, there is peak morning and evening service across much of the county. In the future, those peaks might soften due to continued work from home, and Metro could expand more on the all-day frequent network, especially with the expansion of light rail.

Debrowski helped the county distribute an entire pallet of re-usable masks to many groups, Hunger Intervention Program, God’s Lil Acre Day Center, the Senior Center, the Food Bank, etc.

In many ways, because the county is funded largely through property tax, it is in better shape than the city of Seattle, as most cities are largely funded through sales tax.

Q: Have there been property tax delinquencies due to covid-19?
A: All of the mortgage companies and most escrow companies paid in April. We were close to 97%-98% for the July payment. We think that the fall payment might be lower.

Q: And discussion of funding of Parks, and money sources that help fund Parks, and human services.
The county brought some money to help purchase the red house on 125th Ave NE. Helped with funding to help clean up Thornton Creek. KC has the Parks Levy, Land Conservation Fund, and other funding sources.

Q: What is the plan to get jury trials re-instated? They have been halted for 4 months.
A: The judges are planning to re-commence jury trials in the next month. To socially-distance, they are opening courtrooms at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, and they are using technology like Zoom for as many things as they can.

Q: Could the Councilmember speak about King County declaring racism being a public health crisis?
A: KC did declare it a public health crisis. It puts a public health lens on it, that lets KC use tools, databases, analysis, and research on the problem; in a similar way to how it has looked at gun violence. Law enforcement has two components: the laws side, and the enforcement side. Rod has worked with the Radar Navigator program (you call 911 and it is effective; the police show up) to partner a social worker with the officer when they respond. There is also another program which is trying to see if they can avoid sending an officer, for example if 911 is called in response to a family living in a car, and instead send a social worker.

Q: King County invited community organizations to order masks through the county. Do you have any information on the delay?
A: Some have been sent to the cities. If you don’t get any soon, contact Rod.
Comment: The Emergency Communication Hub got masks, but they had run out of hand sanitizer.

Q: Programs to get people housed?
A: KC is trying to provide vouchers to help get people out of tents. In the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program, they have started giving people vouchers for housing and that has also helped reduce other problems.

Q: With respect to homelessness, is there an effort to reduce the patchwork of different laws in jurisdictions within the county?
A: Not that Rod knows of. Each city council wants to have their own laws and then there are different levels of enforcement. That would probably require State-level action. There is an effort to create a regional authority to add more capacity (shelter space, affordable housing), and help reduce in-flow (vouchers to help bridge temporary gaps). Reference to the 3rd Door Coalition. The county could propose a “model code” that they ask the cities to consider.

Q: Students (K-12, and adults) with the Digital Divide – Device access and Internet Access have both been struggles.
A: The county has $1.5 M for grants to help with access.
Comment: It would be great if the Internet were declared a public utility and the government provided it. Tacoma did it, and it is high speed and works well.

King County Charter reform – Every 10 years there is a charter review commission. There is a civilian oversight agency, but due to collective bargaining, KC only gets the oversight that the sheriff’s department agrees to have. The Council is looking at going to the voters to get subpoena power. There is a recommendation to return the sheriff to be an appointed position instead of an elected position. There is discussion of other potential charter amendments as well. These would be November ballot issues.
If you need help on human services, contact Rod’s office to help figure out what grant programs might be applicable.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>