Councilmember Claudia Balducci
We live in a dynamic, diverse, and growing region.
I am excited to put my experience as a local elected official, transit leader, and mom to work to enhance our communities and our region. I look forward to meeting and working with the people of the 6th District and all of King County!
East Link Starter Line’s next step forward
Photo: Sound Transit
Since Sound Transit announced delays to a full opening of East Link light rail in summer 2022, I’ve championed the possibility of an early opening for an East Link Starter Line connecting Redmond to Bellevue while work continues to complete the light rail connection between South Bellevue and Seattle. Over the past few months, Sound Transit staff have diligently explored the concept and on January 26 the Sound Transit Board of Directors took a critical next step by a vote of 16-1 to fund additional planning, design, and construction activities necessary to further develop the East Link Starter Line option for a potential spring 2024 opening.
In addition, the work funded by this vote will give the Sound Transit Board the necessary data and information to make its final East Link Starter Line go-no-go decision in fall 2023.
It’s clear that as the Eastside grows, we need great transit ASAP. And we're not alone; we also must commit to expediting light rail and bus rapid transit service to Snohomish County, South King County and Pierce County.
You can review the meeting presentation about the progress in making the East Link Starter Line happen here:
Jan. 26 East Link Starter Line presentation >>>
A budget that responds to our evolving needs and priorities
On November 15, the King County Council adopted a 2023-2024 budget that responds to the evolving needs and priorities of King County residents and advances several Eastside priorities, including: safe and sustainable homes and communities, transportation, and pathways to jobs.
The two-year budget makes major investments in some of our most important countywide priorities like $166 million to fund affordable housing near transit centers, supportive housing operations and coordinated crisis response efforts to homelessness; $220 million to continue electrification of buses; and $55 million for community safety, including efforts to reduce gun violence, new Metro transit security and community engagement staff, body worn cameras for King County Sherriff’s deputies, creating pathways away from jail for our youth and more.
Read more about the budget and the significant investments in Eastside projects and organizations here >>>
The announcement that Sound Transit’s East Link light rail expansion will be delayed by at least a year came as a blow, but what if we could still open an Eastside-only starter light rail line connecting Redmond to Bellevue, or even to Mercer Island, in 2023?
In short, we can and should.
Read my Seattle Times op-ed urging just that, and supporting improved oversight and finding ways to build light rail faster and cheaper:
Seattle Times Op-Ed >>>
In response to the US Supreme Court Dobbs decision that takes away the constitutional right to an abortion, on July 5, 2022 the King County Council voted on emergency legislation to allocate $500,000 directly to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, an organization dedicated to helping people secure abortion care in the Pacific Northwest. Also, on Tuesday, I joined Executive Constantine who signed an executive order to that cooperate with out-of-state prosecutions of abortion providers and patients.
I am not backing down from this battle—personally and professionally. I will continue to do everything I can to make sure women have the right to determine the course of their own lives, including if and when to have children.
In the long term, we will have to fight a long and uphill battle to re-secure abortion rights for all Americans. In the short term, we need to support women whose rights, lives, and decisions have been abruptly upended by the Supreme Court's onerous decision. That’s what we did.
In May, I was honored to be named 2022 Woman of the Year by the WTS Puget Sound Chapter for how my work has advanced women and the reputation and credibility of women in transportation. WTS is a forum for discussing transportation trends and projects and highlighting women in the transportation field. It provides critical mentorship and support for the next generation of women transportation professionals.
Throughout my career, I have benefitted from the mentorship and guidance of strong women leaders in transportation, so this award is especially meaningful to me. When women are part of designing and implementing our transit system, it works better for everyone. I am committed to doing my part to lift the next generation of women leaders in transportation.
In 2021 I donated a "retired" van to Global Social Business Partners (GSBP). GSBP is a food system and entrepreneurship incubator with a mission to foster entrepreneurship and social business innovation to solve social and environmental issues.
Despite the challenges of the second year of the pandemic, the King County Council accomplished a lot with and on behalf of King County residents in 2021.
As chair of the Council, I’m proud that my colleagues and I passed over 350 pieces of legislation, approved $795 million in COVID-19 recovery and relief, approved several major plans to guide work into the future, and worked to support our communities with targeted grants and outreach. As a regional leader, my work extended beyond the County Council, and included working to keep Sound Transit projects on track and help ensure that climate, safety and equity were built into housing and transportation plans being developed by the Puget Sound Regional Council, where I serve as president.
Thanks to each of you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with me and the Council via emails, meetings, town halls and public comment at Council meetings. Read more for a selection of highlights from a busy 2021:
Year in review 2021 >>>
When I was the mayor of Bellevue, I made a commitment with fellow mayors from Redmond and Kirkland to work together to provide a full suite of emergency shelter services for people experiencing homelessness on the Eastside – youth, women and families, and single men. After years of work with public and private partners and the community, we are adding the last piece of that commitment with a permanent men’s shelter in Bellevue.
In mid-July 2021, the King County Council unanimously approved the sale of surplus property in the Eastgate neighborhood for this purpose. Shortly thereafter, the Bellevue City Council approved $4 million for the project. These actions mean the finish line is in sight for the new facility, which will be the first and only permanent men’s shelter on the Eastside, and the first permanent supportive housing constructed on the Eastside. Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of Congregations for the Homeless and their partners, with critical support from local government, this project has become more than I could have dreamed.
Read more about the new shelter and permanent supportive housing in the Seattle Times >>>
The May 2021 $631 million COVID relief budget adopted by the King County Council makes truly transformational investments in King County. With these funds we will be able to continue our nationally recognized public health response to the pandemic and meet the needs of our communities, especially those communities of color that have historically experienced underinvestment.
At a high level, the investments are directed at the following programs:
• Community supports (such as rental assistance, homelessness services and food assistance) - $256M
• Getting more people vaccinated – $117M
• Public Health response to the pandemic – $114M
• Economic Recovery and Jobs – $67M
• County Operations – $41M
• Support for Arts, Entertainment, Culture and Science – $36M
I am excited to see the work that will done with these dollars, what outcomes we will achieve and the future we will build on this foundation of the COVID relief budget.
In May 2021 the Affordable Housing Committee, which I chair, released a Regional Affordable Housing Dashboard to track our county’s progress toward our goal to build or preserve 44,000 affordable homes by 2024 and 244,000 homes by 2040.
The dashboard will help jurisdictions track their progress, arm housing advocates with data to make their cases, and provide the public with information to hold elected leaders accountable.
Read my op-ed in PubliCola about the Regional Affordable Housing Dashboard >>>
The King County Council represents the public and it’s critical that our meetings and decisions are open and accessible to all. That's why I advocated to add a closed caption option for all King County Council meetings so more people can watch what we're doing on your behalf.
We have our work cut out for us in 2021 to respond to and recover from the pandemic and to build toward a better more equitable future together. Learn about the King County Council's plans for the year ahead, including the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, housing for people experiencing homelessness, and criminal justice reform.
Thanks to all who joined me and Public Health – Seattle & King County Director Patty Hayes for a virtual town hall to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and other COVID-related issues. I appreciated the thoughtful questions and feedback you provided. If you were unable to attend, watch the virtual town hall >>>
Additionally, if you attended the town hall, or watched the video, I’d appreciate your feedback by filling out my town hall survey >>>
You can review the questions asked, including the ones we couldn’t get to during the town hall, and responses from Seattle – King County Public Health here.
Balducci re-elected Chair as Council embarks on busy new year
I’m proud of the work the King County Council accomplished in 2020 under unprecedented conditions and look forward to leading the Council in 2021 as we continue to respond and recover from the pandemic. As the pandemic raged, the King County Council adapted and worked together to support our constituents. In 2021, we will recover and build toward a better, more equitable future with economic opportunity and improved public and mental health for all.
Giving Thanks in 2020
Every year I am fortunate enough to give ‘retired’ King County Metro Transit vanpool vans that can no longer be used in the vanpool but still have a lot of life in them to community organizations who can use them to serve the people of King County. In 2020, I’m so thankful King County can continue to give back to the amazing non-profits that do so much for our neighbors.
This has been a tough year, but these four amazing organizations give me so much hope about what we can do when we work together and take care of one another. As we express our gratitude this holiday season, join me in thanking Bridge of Promise, FOB Hope, LifeWire and Friends of Youth for what they do every day in our community.
County investments to support mental health, childcare are key to healthy communities
As the world enters the ninth month of the Coronavirus pandemic, the burgeoning mental health crisis is becoming an epidemic within a pandemic and the need for enhanced health protections are straining childcare services. In recent King County Council-approved budgets I’m proud to have advocated for investments that provide relief for childcare and mental health services.
Connecting Eastrail Together Faster
Achieving great outcomes for the Eastside feels even better when they are built with strong community partnerships. In October 2020 I joined REI Co-op, Facebook and Eastrail Partners to announce a suite of capital investments that will be made by both companies and King County to complete the Northup Way Connector project. Located adjacent to the junction of SR 520 and I-405, the Northup Way Connector will link Eastrail and the 520 Trail and serve as a gateway into the City of Bellevue and the fast-growing Spring District neighborhood. This partnership illustrates how effective we can be when government and the private sector work in concert.
Vote-By-Mail in King County Leads the Nation
Voting is a hallmark of our democracy and yet it’s been called into question too often in 2020. That’s why I wrote op-eds in the Washington Post and HuffPost outlining the work of King County to deliver a robust and transparent vote-by-mail system. In the Washington Post Opinion (note: subscriptions are required after viewing the first free article), King County Elections Director Julie Wise and I share steps that officials, the media and voters across our nation can take to make sure that vote-by-mail delivers results everyone can trust. Additionally, read my Huffington Post op-ed on why vote-by-mail is the safest, most secure way to vote in November's critical election.Bellevue Downtown Tunnel Construction Complete!
Sound Transit construction crews have now completed a major milestone in the 14-mile, 10-station East Link expansion project: the Downtown Bellevue Tunnel. It runs beneath downtown Bellevue and sits at the center of the Eastside light rail route where trains will run between the East Main Station and the Bellevue Downtown Station.
Reaching the agreement that led to the Bellevue Tunnel took years, hard work, and extensive planning. It's one of my proudest achievements as an elected official and an embodiment of how we can make government work for people. I’m so excited that it's finished, but I’ll be even more excited to ride the train through this tunnel in 2023!!!
Building a countywide transit measure for the future
In July, I joined colleagues on the King County Council as well as the King County Executive to voice support for a Seattle transit funding measure that will maintain critical service for people in and commuting to Seattle. In our letter, we urged Seattle to leave open the possibility of joining a larger countywide transit measure in the coming years.
As we have all learned during the last few months, our region’s public transit system is critical for many essential workers and first responders and has helped people throughout King County get to essential services, including groceries and medical treatment. I will continue to support transit service on the Eastside and throughout the county and am committed to rebuilding our system as we recover from the pandemic.
Council Responds to COVID-19 and Calls for Racial Justice
We're here to support you. Watch my latest video report out on the activities the King County Council has been taking on behalf of King County constituents.
My Seattle Times Op-Ed: COVID-driven disaster shows we need bold action to fix housing crisis
The housing crisis is disproportionately affecting people of color. We must do better.
The Seattle Times published my op-ed about how the impact of COVID-19 has exposed our continuing long-term housing crisis and created a short-term housing emergency.
The housing affordability crisis in both the short and long terms falls disproportionately on people of color. Ensuring that all our neighbors have a safe and affordable place to call home is an essential component of addressing the systemic inequities that have plagued our nation for too long. In the editorial, I outline the challenges we face, as well as several actions we can take to tackle the problem.
We live in one of the wealthiest, most innovative and creative corners of this nation. If anyone can figure this out, it should be us. We can correct the mistakes of the past and boldly prepare this region for a better future. Now is the time. Read the op-ed here.
The King County Council is working for you, here's how..
Learn about how the King County Council is working for you to make sure we get through the #COVID19 crisis and recover together.
Making the Opportunities to Live and Thrive in King County Available to All People
We have a big year ahead of us. Learn more about some of the major issues that the King County Council is poised to tackle in 2020.
Councilmember Balducci Unanimously Elected Chair of the King County Council
Our county’s booming economy and rapid growth present both opportunities and challenges that affect all of us, not just as individual cities and towns, but as a region. The King County Council is ideally situated to act as a leader and convener to work with our partners throughout King County and the Puget Sound and build solutions together. As Chair, I will be committed to fiscal stewardship, regional collaboration and quality government at King County in 2020.
Redoubling Our Efforts to Combat the Climate Crisis here in King County
Many District 6 constituents share my alarm and are urging greater action to address the climate crisis. After talking with constituents and members of People for Climate Action, I introduced legislation that calls on King County to build on its partnerships with cities and other stakeholders to go further to reduce greenhouse gas emissions communitywide.
This legislation will direct the creation of a Climate Action Toolkit that all jurisdictions can use to create locally-tailored climate action plans. The Climate Action Toolkit will enable cities to identify their leading greenhouse gas contributors and implement strategies to reduce those emissions. It will also be a tool for residents to use to advocate actions to meet our collective goals to reduce communitywide greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
Investing in Our Values
Voters and the King County Council took action in August to invest in community priorities, including:
- King County Parks Levy Renewal: On August 6, 70% of King County voters approved the 2020-25 King County Parks, Recreation, Trails and Open Space Levy, which will invest over $50 million to build out the Eastrail, along with new investments in open space, pools and playfields. Learn more about the Parks Levy.
- $100 million for affordable housing: Legislation I sponsored unlocks a new tool provided by the Washington State Legislature to access approximately $100 million in funding for affordable housing over the next 20 years – all done without raising taxes. Read more about the legislation in the Seattle Times.
- $318 Million for New Early Learning Facilities, K-12 Programs, College and Career Support for Underserved Youth in King County to improve education outcomes: I worked with my colleagues and the community on a plan that will ensure we make targeted, deep investments that will be transformational for a generation of youth and young adults over the next 15 years. Read more about funding to specific educational priorities.
As a sponsor of the legislation leading to these important King County investments, I’m proud to represent the values of our District 6 neighbors to build a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
The Eastside Rail Corridor is Renamed the Eastrail
Twelve years ago, the future of the Eastside Rail Corridor was uncertain. Since then we have preserved the corridor and started opening segments of the trail to the public. Now with the unveiling of the new Eastrail name, we make a turn and begin the process of transforming these segments into a singular, regional whole.
The name change to Eastrail, which was made official in Redmond on July 20, as well as the community and business leadership behind it, marks an exciting next step to realize the vision of a connected 42-mile corridor to communities, light rail and many destinations across the Eastside. As the chair of the Regional Advisory Council, which guides the development of this regional treasure, I’m excited to continue the work to realize this vision.Learn more about the Eastrail from King County Parks, and be sure to watch the video recap, courtesy of King County TV, of the official name unveiling celebration.
Working together to build more affordable homes across King County
At the same time that job numbers and economic growth are at record highs in King County, thousands struggle to find an affordable place to call home.
To respond to this housing crisis, I co-chaired the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force, which wrapped up its work in December 2018. The Task Force estimated that King County needs 244,000 new affordable homes now to meet the need by 2040 and it recommended the creation of a regional body, now called the Affordable Housing Committee, to bring cities, the County and stakeholders together.
This Committee began work on June 21 to implement the Task Force’s ambitious 5-year action plan to build or preserve 44,000 homes by 2024 for families in King County earning 50 percent or less of area median income. Learn more about the Affordable Housing Committee, and the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations.
Listening to Sammamish Valley
Thanks the many engaged community members who attended the June 4 Winery, Brewery and Distillery Code Update community meeting, as well as to our wonderful hosts at Lake Washington United Methodist church. We had a wide-ranging discussion, lots of good questions, listening and learning. I appreciate everyone who spoke and shared their knowledge, experience and concerns. The love and care for our Sammamish Valley and irreplaceable agricultural areas was strongly evident.
Many requested additional responses to questions, which can be found here.
A formal public hearing on the code update occurs at the meeting of the Full King County Council on Wednesday, June 12 at 10:30 am.
Connecting with Constituents at District 6 Town Halls
Thank you to everyone who joined me at the town hall meetings in Kirkland and Bellevue on Saturday, April 27. I enjoy town halls because I get to hear from constituents directly on topics they are passionate about. This year’s themes included King County initiatives to mitigate and adapt for climate change, next steps to build and preserve affordable housing in King County, as well as new legislation impacting wineries and breweries in the Sammamish Valley.
For those who missed it, you can find the presentation I gave at both meetings here. As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to reach out!
Making a Transportation System that Puts People First
As ride-hailing, bike-share, scooters, and more autonomous vehicle technologies come online, disruption of the existing transportation system is inevitable, but worsening inequality doesn’t have to be.
At the April 2019 Regional Transit Committee meeting, Stuart Cohen, the co-founder and former Executive Director of TransForm, presented on how we can harness these changes to create a more equitable and accessible transportation system that puts people first. Mr. Cohen’s presentation is part of Councilmember Balducci’s ongoing initiative to build a regional mobility framework in King County. Read Cohen's "A Framework for equity in new mobility” here.
Standing with our Muslim American Neighbors
I’m proud to have sponsored, along with my King County Council colleagues, a proclamation condemning acts of violence against those exercising their constitutionally protected right to worship. While the genesis of today’s proclamation is in response to the horrific attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, this proclamation is so much more. With this proclamation, the King County Council celebrates how the Muslim American community contributes to our civic, economic, cultural and spiritual life both in King County and nationally.
Read the proclamation here.
Balducci Calls for State Action to Create Clean Energy Future
King County is taking local and regional climate action now to protect the health, environment and economy of future generations through the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C). Through this collaboration, King County, 15 cities, and the Port of Seattle are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our communities by 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.
But we can’t stop there and that’s why I’ve joined with Mayor Matt Larson of Snoqualmie and Councilmember Bruce Bassett of Mercer Island to ask all Eastsiders to contact your state legislators to pass strong, effective state legislation to secure our clean energy future.
Read our op-ed calling for a clean energy future in the Issaquah Reporter.
Regional Leadership for Affordable Housing
With the tremendous growth in King County, thousands of our neighbors lack safe, healthy and affordable places to call home. Almost one month ago, through the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force that I co-chaired, King County and all of its cities agreed on a path forward, confirming that working together is the only way we can solve the region’s affordable housing crisis.
But cities and the County cannot do it alone. I applaud Microsoft for its historic investment in our community. Our shared prosperity depends on businesses and governments coming together to build more affordable homes across King County.
Council Chambers are now Looped!
Almost 20 percent of Americans report hearing loss and almost 15 percent of school-age children, including my own middle school-aged son, have some degree of hearing loss. Looping the chambers is an important step to make King County meetings and deliberations more accessible to our constituents and will enable more people to engage in our civic life.
Check out the King County TV segment on this great improvement at the King County Council:
Bellevue Eastlink Tunnel Breakthrough
In July 2018 Sound Transit’s East Link project completed its initial excavation for the light rail tunnel in downtown Bellevue. This tunnel breakthrough represents a decade of vision, hard work and tenacity by local and regional leaders, planners, staff, and many, many members of the public who all insisted on a great transit. Light Rail connecting Eastside communities will give more people the freedom to get around easily and affordably. I can’t wait to see it open in 2023.