Councilmember Rod Dembowski
Crisis Response Center to open in Kirkland Serving North King County
There is exciting news to report in North King County. This March I joined Governor Inslee, Executive Constantine, Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, as well as other North King County leaders and behavioral health specialists to announce a new and innovative crisis care center dedicated to helping community members with behavioral health needs opening in 2024.
For too long, we have relied on our police officers, jails and courts to substitute for a missing behavioral health care system. It’s an unfair burden on them and our community. That’s why I am proud King County is partnering with five cities in my district who are leading the charge to stand up the essential behavioral health response system our community needs. This new facility builds on the work we have done in recent years to create the RADAR program, partnering behavioral health professionals with law enforcement to ensure an effective response to community health and safety needs.
We will now have a community-based care center to support our front-line mental health professionals in delivering compassionate and timely care to those in crisis, and enhancing public health and safety. I am especially proud that King County secured $11.5 million to make this project a reality. I thank and congratulate all involved in this powerful partnership and look forward to seeing its positive impact in North King County. More information on the new facility can be found here.
First Gun Buy Back Event
I previously reported on legislation I authored directing the King County Sheriff’s Office to create a permanent firearm and ammo return program.
Thanks to $100,000 I was able to include in the 2023-2024 King County budget, the Burien Sheriff’s Office was able to host the first “Gift Cards for Guns” event on Saturday, April 1st. At the event, community members were able to turn in unwanted firearms voluntarily and safely, in exchange for gift cards worth up to $300. In total, 287 firearms were turned in, with deputies handing out gift cards totaling $36,525.
Residents told our deputies over and over how much they appreciated the opportunity to securely dispose of their unwanted firearms without any concern about how the guns might be used in the future if they were sold on the private market. I appreciate the professionalism and service to our community from the Sheriff’s department and their team who ran this program, and value their work using a range of law enforcement strategies to keep our communities safe.
Studies have repeatedly shown that guns in homes are more likely to lead to accidental shootings, assaults, or suicide attempts than to be used successfully in self-defense. Voluntary buyback programs can be effective at decreasing that risk. While other public safety strategies are meant to address guns used in crimes, this particular strategy is about safety at home and reducing the risk of firearms injuries and deaths.
TrEE Panel Discussion on State of Downtown Seattle
At the April 18th Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee meeting, I hosted a series of panel discussions focused on the long-term future of downtown, tourism, office and residential space, and how King County can partner to make certain Seattle maintains a vibrant city core.
King County has broad authority over a number of government institutions that intersect with the day-to-day and long-term future of downtown, such as Metro Transit. King County is also one of the largest property owners in the city core and has a significant role to play in ensuring that downtown is a destination to work, live and play.
The panel discussion was fascinating, and the video of the committee meeting can be found here. I look forward to working with this broad coalition to collectively recover and shape the future for a vibrant, safe, and growing downtown Seattle.
Crisis Care Levy Update
The results for April 25th election are in. King County's crisis care levy has officially passed. This levy will provide much needed funding for mental health, addiction and homelessness services in the county and is a major step forward in helping to reduce the crisis care gap for those in need. In my opinion, this is a huge win for the community and further demonstrates the commitment of the voters of King County to providing a safe and healthy environment for all.
Below are some key details of what the levy will provide for the community. Additional information can be found here.
- Creates Five Crisis Care Centers: Distributed geographically across the county, the centers will provide walk-in access and the potential for short-term stays to help people stabilize, depending on needs, with one center specifically serving youth.
- Preserves and Restores Residential Treatment Beds: Slows the loss of residential treatment options that provide behavioral health supportive housing or a psychiatric residential treatment bed for longer-term stays with support.
- Invests in the Behavioral Health Workforce: Creates career pathways through apprenticeship programming and access to higher education, credentialing, training, and wrap-around supports. It will also invest in equitable wages for the workforce at crisis care centers.
King County’s 2023-2024 Biennial Budget
The King County Council approved a $16.2 billion budget to fund King County for the next two years. The 2023-2024 biennial budget includes funding for clean energy, affordable housing, public transit, protecting the environment, improving community safety, behavioral health and more. Learn more here.
King County’s Free Youth Transit Pass
As a middle schooler at Dimmitt Middle School in Skyway, I often took Metro home after end-of-day school activities. Finding money to pay the fare could be a hassle and too often a hardship for many of my classmates. That is why I was happy to co-sponsor legislation creating a Free Youth Transit Pass. Now all King County kids are able to hop on board Metro transit to get to and from school and around the county to activities, without having to worry about whether there's enough money on their ORCA card. This important legislation ensures that all kids in King County have the same free access to our transit system and will help to create life-long transit riders on what will soon be a zero-emissions bus fleet. Learn more here.
2022 Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee
Each year, the Council reorganizes to select committee leadership and membership. This year I am serving as Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. I plan to focus the committee’s work on protecting our waterways, preserving open space, and ensuring Metro Transit is safe and reliable.
My top priority, however, is to lead an effort for the county to seize upon this moment in time to address the real impacts and causes of climate change before it is too late. The County has been a leader in many efforts, and for our generation and the next, we need to step up to the plate and not wait for others to try and solve this crisis for us.
Councilmembers Dembowski and Dunn introduce legislation to provide County support to Ukraine
People all over the world have been inspired by the bravery and heroism of everyday Ukrainians fighting for freedom and democracy. That’s why I’m so pleased to co-sponsor legislation to support our local Ukrainian community, potential refugees from the war in Ukraine, and to ensure King County is doing all that we can to support efforts to bring peace to the people of Ukraine. I’m especially pleased that our King County Immigrant and Refugee Commission will be consulted in the development of our response. I look forward to moving this legislation expeditiously through our Council.
This motion requests that the County develop plans that will give support to Ukraine by divesting in goods and services that benefit the Russian Federation and its leaders; providing surplus medical supplies that the County has on hand; allowing employees of the County to support the relief efforts in Ukraine through the Employee Giving Program; and working with federal, state and local governments and non-profit partners, to provide support for Ukrainian refugees.
Refugee Artisan Initiative Finds New Home Thanks to $800,000 County Grant
At the end of 2021 the Council completed our update to the county biennial budget. I served as Vice-Chair of the Budget & Fiscal Management Committee, and was pleased to be able to work with our Chair, Councilmember Kohl-Welles to put together the approved budget.
I am proud to report that I worked to secure an $800,000 appropriation to the Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI) to help the nonprofit acquire a permanent home in the heart of Lake City. If you are familiar with Lake City, you might know the Pioneer Woodworks building, which has been a family run business for decades.
In 2021 the owner Wally announced his retirement and his desire to sell the building. Upon learning this, RAI requested a meeting with me to learn about potential county funding for capital grants. I was immediately interested in helping as the building is in an ideal location and a perfect space for RAI and their future growth. Lake City is often overlooked and underserved. RAI moving into this space, will help ensure Lake City’s future is bright and vibrant!
Rod touring the basement of the Pioneer Woodworks building in July of 2021.
King County Council Districting Committee Update:
Every ten years following the national census, the independent King County Districting Committee adjusts the boundaries of the nine King County Council districts to balance population.
For District 1, this means we gain additional constituents in North Seattle and North Kirkland, but lose constituents in the City of Woodinville to District 3. The new District 1 map can be found here and a before and after comparison map can be found here.
I loved my years representing Woodinville, but I look forward to representing vibrant new neighborhoods in Kirkland and Seattle.
2021-2022 King County Biennial Budget Update
In mid-November, the King County Council adopted King County’s 2021-2022 Biennial Budget. It is a $12.5 billion two-year budget covering all of King County’s operations. As Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee, I worked closely with Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles to help the Council complete its work on the budget. Along with five special CARES Act budgets to address COVID-19 impacts, and two supplemental budgets, the 2021-22 Biennial Budget was the 8th budget council adopted in 2021.
Financial Help During the COVID-19 Outbreak
With the recent closures and event cancellations, the financial burdens of the COVID-19 outbreak can be felt throughout all of King County. We’ve put together some resources that may help you and your family stay afloat during these tough times.
These resources contain information on how to file for unemployment or workers’ comp; help with paying utilities, rent, and mortgages; issues with insurance; food assistance; and much more.
Senior Property Tax Relief
Rod and his 91 year-old father Al Dembowski at an Armistice Centennial Ceremony. Al still lives in his longtime home in Renton and loves the independence and peace of mind living in his home affords him.
"Too many senior homeowners struggle to pay their property taxes. That’s why for years I’ve advocated for a change in the state’s senior property tax exemption law to allow more seniors to qualify for relief."
Taking action on climate change
Global climate change and the impact of harmful emissions are some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. Locally, we see the impacts on our environment, economy and quality of life. Acidification of Puget Sound and warming in the seas, for example, are already impacting shellfish and seafood and the industries and communities that rely on those harvests. Increased frequency and intensity of adverse weather events and forest fires adversely impact our health and safety. While no single community or initiative can address this monumental challenge alone, local action and continued strategic work is essential in combating this serious risk to humanity.
King County has long been a leader in working to reduce carbon emissions. Our Strategic Climate Action Plan guides our work. We are on a path to reducing emissions from County operations to a net zero. We are leading the nation in converting our bus system to a zero emissions fleet. We are conserving farms and forest land and planting 1 million trees to capture carbon. But we all recognize that there is more work to do and that we must pick up the pace.
$318 Million for New Early Learning Facilities, K-12 Programs, College and Career Support for Underserved Youth in King County
The King County Council passed legislation allocating roughly $318 million in education funding to be spent over the next 15 years on improving educational outcomes for underserved populations in King County.
The Council identified three priority educational areas for the future allocation of proceeds from the Puget Sound Taxpayers Accountability Account (PSTAA): early learning; K-12 education for vulnerable and underserved youth; and college, career and technical education. The Motion also prioritizes improving educational outcomes for the following underserved populations:
Promoting safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities for all
Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and I unfurled a Pride flag from the top of the King County Courthouse for the first time ever this June. I am proud King County is committed to promoting safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities for all.
Dembowski named Chair of the King County Council
On January 8, my fellow councilmembers elected me as the new Chair of the King County Council for 2019. My colleagues Reagan Dunn and Claudia Balducci will serve as Vice Chairs.
We live in times of increasing economic disparity, where the middle class and our most vulnerable residents face unprecedented challenges. King County has a tremendous opportunity to improve every community in our region and the tools to make it happen. I appreciate the trust my colleagues have placed in me to guide that work and Chair the council in 2019.
To find out more about the reorganization of the King County Council, please read this recent press release.
Highlights from 2018, looking forward to 2019
Putting your County Budget to work on our shared priorities
Every two years, the King County Council analyzes the Executive’s proposed biennial budget before adopting a final County Budget in November. The budget is the story of who we are, our priorities, and how we respond in times of need and crisis. A priority for me is, and has always been, to address economic inequality and poverty in King County.
With my colleagues, I secured $330 million for thousands of new housing units and shelter beds, funding to begin implementation of low/no-cost transit fare for low-income riders, investment from the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency sales tax to fund the successful Mental Health Navigator and Response, Awareness, De-escalation and Referral (“RADAR”) program, and much more.
To find out more about the 2019-20 budget, including investments for North King County, please read my recent e-news.
Councilmember Dembowski and Shoreline Mayor Will Hall, with Chiefs of Police, City Managers and School District leaders from Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Kirkland, working to secure funds for the RADAR & Navigator Programs.
Promoting environmentally friendly & healthy dry cleaning
Cancer prevention has been a top priority during my tenure as Chair of the King County Board of Health. In addition to passing tobacco-free parks policies this year, I have also worked closely with the County’s Local Hazardous Waste Management Program (LHWMP) to help local businesses switch to an environmentally safer dry cleaning method that reduces exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Approximately 70 dry cleaners in the county are using perchloroethylene (PERC), an identified carcinogen, to clean clothes. This summer, King County awarded $20,000 grants to five family-owned dry cleaners to support the transition to wet cleaning. Going forward, the agency anticipates helping 10 local dry cleaners per year with $20,000 grants, with the goal of eliminating the use of PERC in all King County dry cleaners by 2025. Learn more about the program here.
Sun Drive-In Cleaners owners Mr. and Mrs. Park, Board of Health Chair Rod Dembowski, Board of Health member Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Lynda Ransley, Program Director for King County’s Local Hazardous Waste Management Program.
Voted against public funding for Safeco Field
King County receives significant funds from a lodging tax on hotel, motel, and short-term rental stays occurring countywide. The funds are restricted in use by state law to one of four purposes: (1) Arts & Heritage programs, (2) Affordable housing, (3) Services for homeless youth, and (4) Tourism promotion. Earlier this year, acting on a proposal from County Executive Dow Constantine, the County Council voted to divert $135 million in lodging tax revenue to support improvements to Safeco Field over 25 years.
I opposed and voted against this ordinance, as I believe we should prioritize our most pressing community needs like housing and services for homeless youth, and avoid asking homeowners to raise their taxes when existing revenues like the lodging tax are available.
To read more about my position, please read my recent e-news.
As the Chair of the Board of Health I was proud to sponsor a new county-wide regulation prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco at all professional sporting events in King County. The regulation completes the full ban of tobacco use of any kind at Century Link and Safeco fields, as well as Key Arena.
I was moved by young Mariners fans who testified before the Board of Health and honored that they joined me at the official signing ceremony at Safeco Field. They made perfectly clear that watching their heroes chew smokeless tobacco conflicted with their understanding of the dangerous substance, effectively persuading the Board of Health that is was time for action.
The regulation received support from both the Seattle Mariners and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national advocacy organization. The new regulation makes Safeco Field the 15th Major League Baseball stadium to become completely tobacco-free.
On May 15th Rod signed Board of Health Rule and Regulation 18-02, officially making all King County stadiums tobacco free.
Councilmember Dembowski awarded Public Official of the Year by the Municipal League
The Municipal League Foundation of King County awarded Councilmember Rod Dembowski with their prestigious Public Official of the Year award on May 10, 2018. Councilmember Dembowski was presented the award by the Executive Director of Mary’s Place, Marty Hartman. Ms. Hartman highlighted Councilmember Dembowski’s leadership in opening the new Mary’s Place shelter in Kenmore that is offering a home to more than 60 women and children.
The Municipal League Foundation has been leading nonpartisan civic engagement in King County for over 100 years. Each year the organization highlights, “both long time and unsung heroes in our community,” with their annual Civic Awards. More information can be found here.
Rod was honored to receive the Public Official of the Year award at the 59th Annual Municipal League Civic Awards.