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Councilmember Joe McDermott

Councilmember Joe McDermott

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2023 Intentions

Dear Friends,

After more than 22 years in public office, I will not be running for re-election this fall. I remain humbled and honored by the trust granted to me by the people I’ve represented in the Washington State House of Representatives, State Senate, and for over twelve years now on the King County Council. To be able to serve the community I’ve called home my entire life has been a true joy and remains a deep responsibility I take seriously every day. Thank you, truly, to all my neighbors, from West Seattle to First Hill, Capitol Hill, Downtown Seattle, Chinatown International District, Little Saigon, Pioneer Square, SODO, White Center, Georgetown, South Park, Tukwila, Burien, and Vashon & Maury Island for this opportunity.

I will continue to work diligently for the people of the 8th County Council District and King County though the end of my tenure. I look forward to pursuing other professional opportunities yet to be identified once I leave office while always remaining involved in the issues I am passionate about.

Some of the legislative accomplishments I achieved of which I am most proud include:

When I joined the state Legislature in 2001 it was the first time there was more than one openly gay legislator serving in the Legislature. Ten years later I was the first openly LGBTQ+ member to serve on the King County Council. Over my time in the Legislature, I am proud to have contributed to passing the Civil Rights Bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our state’s anti-discrimination statutes, Domestic Partnerships creating recognition for same sex couples that led to Marriage Equality, and added protection for transgender persons to the Washington’s hate crimes statute.

As a Councilmember, I created and passed the King County Gun Safety Action Plan, a package of legislation addressing elements from safe storage to confiscated weapons. The safe storage requirement was in response to a Washington state study that found 21 percent of residents report having a gun in or around their home, and of those owners almost half reported these guns were stored unlocked. Unlocked firearms contribute to the public health crisis of gun violence, so safe storage improves safety. I continue to provide recognized leadership on responsible firearm policy.

As Chair of the King County Board of Health, I established the first producer-paid Secure Medicine Return program in Washington state and second in the nation to address the opiate crisis and safely dispose of unused medicines throughout King County. The program provided 198 drop boxes across the county and destroyed over 115 tons of drugs in the five years before a statewide program took effect.

Responding to a fireworks related death in my district, I collaborated with communities and built a coalition to support and together we passed legislation to ban the sale and discharge of commercial fireworks in unincorporated King County.

As Budget & Fiscal Management Committee Chair, I secured unanimous passage of King County Biennial Budgets. As Chair I also led independent review and approval of King County’s public participation in SODO arena proposal for NBA basketball and NHL hockey.

I sponsored the original and 2021 renewal of Executive Dow Constantine’s Best Starts for Kids Levy in King County to make strategic early investments in the lives of young people to produce better long-term outcomes. To date, Best Starts for Kids has served more than half a million King County children, youth, young adults, and families in partnership with more than five hundred community-based organizations, ensuring a growing return on investment for years to come.

I championed Council approval of the Health through Housing proposal to house 1,600 of the most challenged people experiencing homelessness in King County.

Together the King County Board of Health undertook a challenging equity and social justice discussion regarding disproportional enforcement of bike helmet laws.

I sponsored and led the Council compromise on long range hotel motel tax revenue allocation making significant investments in affordable housing and public infrastructure.

As a Sound Transit Boardmember, I fought for inclusion of light rail service to West Seattle in the 2016 Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, campaigned for successful passage of ST3, and continue to pursue station design and locations and alignments that meet the immediate and long-term needs of the West Seattle to Ballard alignment. I also ensured greater equity in Fare Enforcement for Sound Transit riders.

As Chair of the King County Water Taxi District, I promoted current service and oversaw a new Passenger Only terminal at Coleman Dock and the building of two new water taxis.

Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to work for our communities. I look forward to continuing doing so as a private citizen.


Vaccinations – resources to use right now

If you or a loved one need help scheduling a vaccine appointment, please contact the Washington State COVID-19 Assistance Hotline: dial 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Spanish language assistance is also available.

This hotline is staffed Monday through Friday from 6am – 10pm, and on weekends and state holidays from 8am – 6pm.


Investing in a just, equitable and thriving King County simply can’t wait

Highlights from the King County 2021-2022 Biennial Budget

There’s no way to overstate how challenging the pandemic has made life for everyone, and the economic impact will continue to cause harm to families, communities and governments for years to come. In the face of these challenges and massive uncertainty, and facing revenue shortfalls not seen since the Great Recession, we worked together to craft a budget that promotes smart, targeted investments to help our region move forward.

Click here to read my 2021-22 Budget priorities.

Systemic Racism

The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others have galvanized a national movement to fight against and end systemic racism that has plagued the entire history of our country. From Tommy Le in Burien to Charleena Lyles in Seattle to MiChance Dunlap Gittens in Des Moines – this pain is too real right here in our own community. I commit to keep learning about the systems and policies that harm our neighbors who are black, indigenous and people of color and listen to anyone fighting for racial and social justice so we can take action, and make real change, to ensure a just and equitable King County.

I encourage you to learn more, and get involved to support, the good work being done by the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.

The King County Office of Equity and Social Justice is an important resource for all county residents.

Please find my message about the death of George Floyd and the movement to end systemic racism HERE

Covid-19 King County

As the Chair of the King County Board of Health, I know that if we continue to work together, informed by science and data, we can weather this terrible and unprecedented threat to the health of our entire community. Here are some resources for you to stay informed:

King County COVID 19 Resources – this is a one stop shop for the County’s COVID 19 resources, with materials available in over 30 languages.

Safe Start King County – check back here for the latest updates on where the County is at as we seek to reopen our community and economy from the statewide Stay Home orders.

Public Health Insider – run by Public Health – Seattle & King County, you can find all of the latest data, science and public health information that shapes our policy making regarding COVID 19.

COVID Financial Assistance – visit here for a list of financial resources, from personal to business, that the Council has compiles to help you through this challenging time. 


West Seattle Bridge Closure

The West Seattle Bridge is the most used arterial in all of Seattle, with some 100,000 vehicle trips every weekday in normal times. Other major bridges like Aurora? About 62,000. As a life-long West Seattleite, I know this is a massive change to how we are going about our lives, and Vashon and White Center residents are equally affected. This is a regional disruption affecting residents, businesses and statewide trade activity. So while this is a City of Seattle bridge, this demands a coordinated city, county, state and federal long term solution. I am sitting on the West Seattle Bridge Community Task force so I will keep informed on what I learn through this process.

Commute news you can use in 2018

Please use these resources to stay in the know and get involved!

h-line-map-smViaduct is shutting down this fall – plan ahead!
Metro is finalizing routing plans to get to and through downtown and we’ll post that information here, but think about the water taxi ( as an alternative this fall (can’t beat the view on that commute)! Stay up to date on details and progress of the closure, click here.‚Äč

RapidRide is coming
Metro is expanding RapidRide service to Route 120 from downtown Seattle – sign up here to keep updated on the progress.

Light Rail to West Seattle
The route for the light rail expansion into West Seattle is being decided in the next year and a half – please make your voice heard as Sound Transit makes these decisions that will shape our communities for generations.

Local Plan for Vashon-Maury Island First in County to be Adopted

I am proud that Vashon-Maury Island is the first community in King County to have an updated local town plan. As an incredibly active and deeply engaged community, Vashon-Maury Island was the perfect place for King County to kick off the work of updating the plans for the eight community service areas across the county.


The Vashon-Maury Island Community Service Area (CSA) Subarea Plan provides guidance on King County activities specific to Vashon-Maury Island. These issues range from land use to transportation, housing to the environment and beyond. This plan is the result of an extended, twenty-two month long process involving residents, community members, and representatives from King County.

Residents identified a number of priorities through this process which are included as elements adopted in the Vashon-Maury Island CSA Subarea Plan. In recognition of these priorities, among the activities to which the Plan commits include:

  • Integrating public art in County facilities and public spaces, 
  • Seeking funds that can lead to creation of a new regional trail, and
  • Growing opportunities for affordable housing through a Special District Overlay (SDO) and study of alternative models for use on Vashon-Maury Island.

By far, the topic that received the most attention was the lack of availability of affordable housing on Vashon-Maury Island. In order to address this challenge, and at my request, the County will conduct an annual review of the SDO’s impacts on housing availability and the broader community. This review will also include a study to consider whether alternative housing models would be appropriate and effective in creating additional housing capacity. These reports will be done annually beginning December 2018.

To learn more, see the press release on the Plan adoption and the Vashon-Maury Island CSA Subarea Plan.

2017 Community Engagement Grants Available

Have an idea for a project that will connect people in your community? King County is now accepting applications for the Community Service Area Awards, which provides up to $5,000 per award to enhance community engagement for residents of unincorporated King County. Applications are due by November 18. Read more information and apply.

Affordable housing

Having a place to lay your head at night is the most basic of needs. Yet our region has seen a disturbing, unacceptable and rapid increase in our homeless population. Together, we can – and must – end this.

King County has dedicated millions of dollars to create thousands of affordable homes. We’ve also allocated more to prevent homelessness in the first place through the Best Starts for Kids Levy (

But King County cannot solve this crisis alone. In fact, no one jurisdiction can do it alone. This is a regional problem, and we must have regional solutions. That’s why every jurisdiction must do what it can to address the crisis. I’m pleased King County is partnering with cities, Sound Transit, the State of Washington and the King County Housing Authority to do just that.

Our plan provides King County Housing Authority access to King County’s triple-A credit rating. This will make it possible for the Housing Authority to develop or preserve more than 2,000 affordable homes in locations close to well-performing schools and transit hubs. We are also considering a proposal to invest $49 million in transit-oriented development which will connect mixed-use housing to schools and job centers.

Together, in partnership, we can help to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and one-time.


Taking action to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness

We all rely on a safe and stable place to call home as a foundation in life.

But for a growing number of people in King County, that foundation doesn’t exist.

That is why I joined my colleagues, community members, and Executive Dow Constantine to announce new, significant investments to expand shelter capacity and access, build more housing, and provide supportive services to help people regain and keep their housing. The Council is also working on a strategy for affordable housing that will meet our region’s needs.

This year’s King County One Night Count provided a stark snapshot of our regional crisis of homelessness. The Count shows a dramatic county-wide increase in the number of people without basic shelter, with 4,505 unsheltered people who have nowhere to go. This represents a 19% increase since last year, which itself was an increase of 21% from 2014.

I am committed to reversing this trend. While homelessness affects people across the board, we know that it hits some of our neighbors hardest – veterans, youth and young adults (especially young people of color and LGBTQ youth), survivors of domestic violence, and families. Homelessness is an experience of urban, suburban, and rural areas, and we must be able to help people no matter where they live.

We are putting into action the recently adopted All Home strategic plan, with strategies focused on:
  • Preventing homelessness by addressing the challenges that push people into homelessness,
  • Connecting people to the services that help them to exit homelessness like rapid rehousing, and
  • Building an engaged community to sustain our successes.

Best Starts for Kids also holds the promise of new tools to address homelessness among youth and young adults through the Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Strategy. This multi-year effort will focus on preventing young people and families from becoming homeless, and it is one of the first elements of Best Starts for Kids that will be put into action. This means more stability for kids, who would otherwise be at greater risk of disengaging from school or becoming involved in the justice system as a result of homelessness.


In the same way that homelessness has a variety of causes, we must approach it with a variety of solutions. By working together as a community and making smart decisions, we can move closer to our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time.

Working together to keep youth out of the justice system

I recently joined fellow Councilmembers, Executive Dow Constantine and Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead to announce a new effort to address racial disproportionality in King County’s juvenile justice system. We appointed the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, a group composed of community members, leaders, and representatives of schools, courts, faith, and law organizations to begin the work of identifying recommended solutions to address this challenge. 

Over the last few years, King County has taken successful steps to reduce the number of young people involved in the juvenile justice system. While the overall number of involved youth has dropped dramatically, these efforts have not benefited all youth equally – African American, Hispanic and Native American youth are still disproportionately represented in this system. Meanwhile, representation among Asian American and Caucasian youth has gone down. 

Bringing together the voices of community members and leaders, as well as schools, faith organizations, and law organizations, and courts is an important step forward that will help youth and young adults succeed. I invite you to learn about and get involved in these efforts. Please visit the King County Youth Justice webpage to find out more.

A transit option for those who depend on public transportation

Image: Orca Lift program

King County's new $1.50 low income transit fare, Orca Lift, goes into effect on March 1. Orca lift gives residents a cheaper alternative to get to school, work, health appointments and key services they need.

This valuable program will help many residents in our region who are struggling to make ends meet. Some in King County are starting to experience economic recovery from the Great Recession, but many in our region still struggle with rising housing and transportation costs. 

Read more 
of the OpEd I co-authored with Councilmembers Phillips and Gossett.

Budget Committee presents spending plan that prioritizes secure families and communities

Joined by the King County Sheriff and representatives of agencies that serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, the budget negotiation team comprised of four members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee introduced their 2015-2016 Budget Proposal on November 12. The committee members unveiled a budget plan that will include funding for the investigation of sexual assault crimes. 

The budget makes cuts to better align our revenues with our costs. But it also makes strategic investments to help our King County families and communities be secure. Thanks to key partnerships we propose keeping all ten county public health clinics open into the biennium. This is only a bridge. We will continue working with many partners – and our state Legislature – to find a more sustainable solution for Public Health.

Joined by Committee Vice Chair Kathy Lambert and committee members Jane Hague and Dave Upthegrove, McDermott introduced the budget plan that is the culmination of months of review and negotiations. The result is a $9 billion proposal that is King County’s first biennial (two-year) budget for all county agencies, including those contained within the County General Fund. Read more


Budget Chair Joe McDermott introduces the Council-proposed 2015-2016 Budget on Nov. 11. McDermott was joined by Sheriff John Urquhart; Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove, Jane Hague andKathy Lambert; Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center; Merrill Cousin, ‎Executive Director of King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Barbara Langdon, ‎Executive Director of Lifewire.

Contact Councilmember McDermott

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