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Budget deliberations underway

The Council's 2015-2016 budget deliberations are underway. I am again chairing the Council's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. We have heard from the County's separately elected officials – the Elections director, the auditor, judges, the Sheriff, the Prosecutor –about their budget needs. And those needs are great.

As a colleague put it, the County has been operating in a "managed bankruptcy" state for many years now. We have an ongoing gap year-to-year between our revenues and the cost of delivering our programs – which simply increase given inflation and population growth. The County's continuing shortfall is made worse by the decline of stable funding for core services.


budget_IMG_7793_825px Prosecutor Dan Satterberg discussed a variety of ways his office has reduced costs.

Three panels will direct County Council’s review of Executive’s Proposed Biennial Budget

$8.9 Billion proposal will be assessed with goal of November adoption

Four members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee will direct the Council’s deliberation of the proposed King County Budget delivered September 22 by County Executive Dow Constantine. 

“King County continues to face a massive budget shortfall in our General Fund which limits our ability to make wise investments that will save money in the long-run. That’s why I’m pleased the Executive announced that he will lead an effort to develop a levy to make the wisest investment possible – in our kids,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “I appreciate the hard choices Executive Constantine made while developing his budget. My council colleagues and I will now begin our review, continuing the Executive’s efforts to ensure our government is running as efficiently as possible.”

The proposed budget introduced today by County Executive Dow Constantine is King County’s first biennial (two-year) budget for all county agencies, including those contained within the County General Fund. After the budget is adopted, it will be updated as needed over the two-year period.The Executive’s proposal would bring the County’s total spending in the 2015-2016 biennium to a total of $8.9 billion. The proposed budget includes a $1.5 billion General Fund budget, three-quarters of which is targeted for law, justice and public safety services. 

All nine members of the Council serve on the Budget Committee during budget negotiations with Councilmember McDermott as Chair of the committee. For the 2015-2016 budget deliberations, three Councilmembers will direct panels that will review all aspects of the Executive Proposed Budget. 

The Council's budget and Fiscal Management Committee will hold four public meetings in north, east, and south county, as well as downtown Seattle, at which the public may comment on the proposed budget. 

Learn more about the King County budget and the challenges the County faces by reading the budget basics pages.

Council adopts legislation amending detention of immigration detainees

Only suspects with federal warrants will be held

The Metropolitan King County Council has adopted an ordinance modifying legislation on how the County will honor requests by the federal government on the detention of immigrants in the King County Jail. The legislation will continue the County’s policy detaining offenders accused of serious criminal offenses by holding those suspects that have a federal judicial warrant in the justice system. 

“It is my hope that today’s action will increase our community’s public safety by working to address the fear many have about contacting law enforcement and chancing deportation,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “The legislation approved today largely improves on what the Council originally adopted, and I’m proud to support it.” 

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.

Finding common ground on bus cuts

350,000 service hours to be cut; hard work ahead

Following an unanimous vote from the Metropolitan King County Council on the compromise plan to adopt service reductions for Metro Transit, Council Chair Larry Phillips, Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott, and Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove and Larry Gossett released this statement:

“We all want to keep buses running. Cutting service will impact our communities – and our economy. Yet we have an obligation to live within our means; it’s what voters told us to do in April. 

“The legislation approved today was developed in the spirit of compromise and meets our need to better align costs with revenues by authorizing 350,000 hours of bus cuts. Despite some claims to the contrary, our economy is recovering – but slowly. The latest revenue forecast confirmed that Metro’s financial situation has not vastly improved. In fact, it’s slightly worse. 

“In the coming months, Metro will prepare for cuts in September and February. The cuts authorized by today’s vote will be made based on Metro’s Strategic Plan which was unanimously adopted to keep politics out of route decisions. Metro will also complete another outside audit initiated by the Executive, to continue the County’s work to make sure our department is running as efficiently as possible. 

“This legislation is not perfect. But we have a bus system to run, and the people of King County deserve some certainty about whether their bus will continue to serve them. It is time to move forward.”

Councilmember McDermott speaks about Metro funding

King County voters could see April ballot measure to save Metro bus service and address backlog of road maintenance

King County has worked hard to make sure we’re using the taxpayer dollar wisely. We’re delivering services more efficiently than ever. But no amount of savings can make up for the recession’s toll on our revenues. This proposal is reasonable. New funding must be secured to keep our region – and our economy – moving. Read more

My Perspective on King County’s ICE Detainer Policy

On Monday, December 2, the Council adopted legislation limiting the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds that our County jail facilities will honor.  I proudly co-sponsored this legislation that Councilmember Larry Gossett introduced last summer, as I believed the legislation strengthened public safety and our community.  However, ultimately I voted against the measure and wanted to offer my reasoning.

My remarks in the Committee of the Whole, further explaining my concerns:

First, I believe the original purpose of not enforcing ICE holds is to increase public safety by addressing, and to the extent possible removing, the fear and concern many in our community have in contacting law enforcement.  For example:

  • 4 in 10 Latinos are less likely to report crime
  • Latinos are 45% less likely to volunteer information about crimes

When people are less likely to report or volunteer information about a crime, public safety decreases.  People who are not documented understandably refuse to speak up about crimes big and small for fear that they or a family member may be detained or deported.

Led by Councilmember Gossett, the Council has been working on this issue for some two years.  The legislation as introduced would only honor ICE holds for those previously convicted of a homicide or of a violent, serious, or sex offense in the last 10 years.  Such a “bright line” on what was included and what wasn’t is important to me, as without such a line the restoration of public safety is compromised.  To be successful in increasing public safety, people must perceive that many or most offenses would not result in detainers being honored.  In work with colleagues, Councilmember Gossett re-wrote the ordinance in a striking amendment, expanding the list of offenses that would be eligible for detainers in order to broaden support.  This expansion included:

  • Residential burglary
  • Drive by shooting
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm
  • Two serious traffic offenses (down from 4 in the original)

The Striking Amendment also extended the 10 years from conviction to 10 years from conviction or release from prison.  With some reluctance, I supported the striking amendment as it still only honored detainers for what could be considered serious offenses yet gained needed support of colleagues.

In the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday, November 20, we finally took up the legislation for amendments and votes.  Several amendments to the striking amendment were adopted.  In particular, a majority supported an additional amendment adding:

  • all sex crimes
  • any offense for sexual exploitation of children
  • all convictions including a firearms enhancement

Councilmember Gossett and I both opposed this amendment.  I did so because I believe it eliminated any “bright line” and included too many ICE detainer requests in those that King County will honor.  While “all sex crimes” sounds as if they are serious offenses, the list is long and varied.  Voyeurism is included.  Given the purpose of the ordinance – to create a community where people feel safe reporting crimes – I want people to report voyeurism without the threat of detention and deportation.  The balance went too far.

Thus I voted against the ICE detainer legislation because I believe the majority went too far in including offenses and diluted the original legislation to the point I was no longer willing to support it.  Better is certainly possible.  Other jurisdictions, including Cook (IL) and Santa Clara (CA) Counties, have policies of honoring no ICE detainer requests.  King County deserves better. 


Services, stability highlight 2014 King County Budget

Last annual budget focuses on human services, preserving public safety, maintaining strong bond rating and County reserves 

Inside the Orion Center there are programs providing shelter and critical services to homeless youth. The members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget Leadership Team said today that their proposed 2014 budget enhances services like these and protects housing throughout the County. Read more

ICE detainer holds

We need a policy that allows all County residents, regardless of citizenship status, to feel comfortable reporting a crime or seeking police protection. That’s why, with Councilmembers Gossett and Phillips, I’ve sponsored the King County Detainer Ordinance. This legislation addresses requests the County receives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to extend the detainment of certain individuals based on their immigration status. If the Council adopts the policy, it will limit the number of detainments by directing the County to only honor certain civil ICE detainer requests. Under theordinance, ICE would have to provide documentation that an individual has had a prior serious crime conviction in the past 10 years, or has been convicted of homicide at any time. I am pleased this approach has broad support from civil rights advocacy groups and expect it to receive its second hearing in September.

Preventing drug overdoses in King County


Overdoses in King County have surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of preventable deaths, and more people die from prescription medicines than from all illegal drugs combined. The misuse of prescription drugs has emerged as a national epidemic over the last decade. The Board of Health is working to address this public health risk through a proposal to create a drug manufacturer-funded, product stewardship model that would safely destroy unused medicines. This is one important part of a comprehensive strategy to address drug abuse. You can learn more about the issue here.

Working to ensure equality for all married couples

We each have a responsibility to do what is within our power to ensure equality in our communities. That’s why I introduced legislation that would level the playing field for same-sex married couples. Despite King Voters overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), individuals in same-sex marriages are required to pay income tax on the value of health benefits their spouse receives from their employer. This is not the case for different-sex spouses. Additionally, DOMA provides discriminatory treatment for same-sex couples during times of family illness and federal law provides no protected leave for an individual to care for their same-sex spouse if they get sick. My legislation would reimburse King County employees for the taxes they pay for their same-sex spouse’s health insurance. The second proposal would provide the same leave benefits for King County employees who need to care for their ill same-sex spouse as provided to different-sex couples.  I expect a hearing in committee in June.

Board of Health calls for action to curb gun violence

We have a moral obligation to curb gun violence. Every jurisdiction must do what it can do to keep our communities safe. Gun related injuries are preventable. Past public health successes, like increasing seat belt use and reducing tobacco use, show that gun violence is a fixable public health problem. It is public health problem that is responsible for more premature deaths than illegal drugs or infant mortality. That’s why the Board of Health adopted a resolution at its January meeting calling on lawmakers in Olympia and DC to take action to reduce the deaths caused by gun violence.

Gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature death in the U.S., with 31,000 people having died in 2010. Between 2007 and 2011, 625 King County residents were killed by gun violence, and an additional 512 people were hospitalized with nonfatal firearm injuries. Of the County gun deaths, 460 were self-inflicted. The adopted resolution supports efforts to reduce gun violence as well as encourages mental health programs that stress prevention and early intervention services.

Adequately funding our health and human services

2013 ended on a high note with the passage of marriage equality; I’m thrilled the voters overwhelming extended the same rights and responsibilities to all loving, committed couples. I enter 2013 with a renewed commitment to ensuring the success of our communities – and the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. That’s why this year I’m working to adequately fund an integrated public health and human services system in King County.

Learn more here.

County Council Adopts amended arena proposal

The County Council approved the final memorandum of understanding and interlocal agreement that will govern the role of the County, the City of Seattle, and ArenaCo during the development of a potential arena in SODO. The MOU and ILA call for environmental and economic impacts analyses. 

Learn more here.

Budget Committee sends Council 2013 Budget that meets current needs with a focus on the future

The members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s 2013 Budget Leadership Team said today that their proposed 2013 King County Budget meets current challenges and makes strategic investments that prepare the County for the future.

“The budget proposed by the leadership team makes strategic investments to save the County money in the long-run,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and leader of the Budget Leadership Team. “By seeking departmental efficiencies, helping individuals in need, and increasing accountability, we have put the County in an excellent position to prosper.” 

Read more

Expanded vessel capacity will make it easier to catch a ride on a King County water taxi

water taxi

More passengers can now hop aboard a King County water taxi for a trip between West Seattle or Vashon and downtown Seattle. With U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approval this week, the vessels Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann can each carry 172 passengers– 22 more people per trip than their previous capacity. 

The expanded vessel capacity will dramatically reduce the likelihood of extended passenger wait times due to high demand for peak commute period sailings. The increase in capacity is great news for our dedicated riders who at times have been left behind when a boat was full. With ridership up on both routes, the added capacity will make our water taxis an even more attractive transportation alternative. 

Read more

Council Committee hears from independent expert panel on risks and benefits of arena proposal

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee heard from the independent expert panel today about the potential risks and benefits of the SODO arena proposal. 

“Today’s discussion highlighted the proposals’ strengths and the areas where questions still remain,” said Budget Committee Chair Joe McDermott. 

During the presentation, Bill Beyers, who is a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Geography, argued for the importance of a full economic impact study. 

“I’m hopeful that we can address these concerns through amendments like Councilmember Ferguson’s call for a further economic analysis if we move forward,” McDermott said. 

Appointed by McDermott, the members of the panel are experts in economics, public finance, public-private partnerships, labor, urban development and transportation. 

The panel has been reviewing the memorandum of understanding negotiated between investor Chris Hansen, County Executive Constantine and Seattle Mayor McGinn to construct a facility with the ability to host NBA and NHL teams in the SODO neighborhood. Today was the Budget Committee’s seventh meeting on the topic. 

The panel highlighted the strength of this private-public partnership, stressed the protections given for the County’s General Fund and taxpayers and discussed the impact to traffic and our region’s infrastructure. 

“No public-private partnership is risk-free, but the proposed arrangement protects taxpayer’s interests in ways that many other partnerships have not,” UW associate professor Justin Marlowe stated. Marlowe specializes in public capital markets, governmental and nonprofit accounting, public-private partnership, and state and local fiscal policy. 

“I want to again thank these experts for offering complete insights and for volunteering a significant amount of their professional and personal time to helping the Council – and the public – better understand the proposal,” McDermott said. 

There will be a joint public hearing with the King County Council and the Seattle City Council on Thursday, July 19. Doors open at 5:00 p.m., the hearing will start at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the Bertha Knight Landes room in the City Hall. 

The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee’s next meeting is July 17, 2012. 

Marriage equality is official: McDermott commends Governor, supporters of legislation

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signs into law the recently adopted marriage equality legislation

Metropolitan King County Councilmember Joe McDermott released this statement today after witnessing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire sign into law the recently adopted marriage equality legislation: 

“Arriving at today’s bill signing was a long road. It took almost three decades to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals had the same basic civil rights and protections as every other Washingtonian. 

“But that hard work and years of debate brought us to today. 

“Business, faith, civic and labor organizations, straight allies, and gay and lesbian advocates worked together and demanded equality. This morning their applause echoed through the Capitol. 

“I commend Governor Gregoire for sharing her own personal journey and championing this historic legislation. She, like many people, realized marriage equality is about fairness and justice. 

“Washington now joins only six other states granting lesbian and gay couples the same legal right to a marriage license as straight couples. And I look forward to marrying my partner, Michael, in the great state of Washington.”

Joe McDermott named Chair of County Council’s Budget Committee

Will direct deliberation, adoption of 2013 King County Budget

financesThe Metropolitan King County Council unanimously selected Councilmember Joe McDermott to serve as Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and to lead the Council’s 2013 budget deliberations. 

“Tough choices and a true commitment to reforming county government have placed the County on sound financial footing,” McDermott said. “Sound fiscal management will continue to be my priority as budget chair.” 

The Budget Committee maintains oversight of the current year's budget, and is the lead decision-making body during the adoption of the 2013 budget. Read more...

County Council declares its support for marriage equality

The Metropolitan King County Council pledged its bipartisan support to marriage equality as part of the proposed 2012 legislative agenda for King County. The amendment was adopted by the Council at its January 9 meeting and will be added to the statement of state policy, a companion to King County’s legislative agenda. The Council is scheduled to adopt the legislative agenda at its January 17 meeting.

Legislation in 2007 established Washington’s domestic partnership registry and ensured parity between married couples and domestic partners for 23 rights and responsibilities. More than 170 rights were added in 2008. The remaining 283 were added and approved by the voters in 2009. Last week the Governor announced that she will introduce a bill to finish this work and provide marriage for same-sex couples. 

Read more

Contact Councilmember McDermott

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