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King County Council District No. 2

As the legislative branch of county government, the Council sets policies, enacts laws, and adopts budgets that guide an array of services, including:• The criminal justice system of prosecutors and public defenders, District and Superior Courts, juvenile detention, and adult jails; • The King County Sheriff’s Office, which directly serves residents of unincorporated areas and contracts with many cities to provide police protection; • Public health and human services; • Metro Transit bus service, Water Taxi, King County International Airport (Boeing Field), and county roads; • Wastewater treatment and solid waste management; • Regional parks, open space, and trails; and • Elections, records, and licensing.Each of the nine members of the King County Council represents a geographical district of about 240,000 residents. Councilmembers are elected on a non-partisan basis and serve four-year terms.

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  • Larry Gossett

  • Candidate picture

    Girmay Zahilay

Biographical Information

How has your experience prepared you for this position?

What will be your top three priorities, if elected?

What measures do you favor to keep your county economically viable?

How do you view balancing development with protecting our natural resources?

What do you think are the most important environmental issues your county will face due to changing climate?

What are the issues surrounding your county's infrastructure?

How do you think your county should approach legal and illegal immigration issues?

How do you think your county could best respond to homelessness and the economically disadvantaged?

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Phone (206) 552-8773
Town where you live Seattle
Experience (300 characters max) I am an attorney, non-profit founder, and organizer with experience in anti-poverty, youth development, and legal advocacy work.
I've helped activists around the country participate in the political process by updating them on federal legislation and showing them how to persuade their elected officials to vote in their favor. I also met with members of Congress to report my findings on community health in Brooklyn. They all agreed that having first-hand accounts from community members is integral to making sound policy. I learned here that the most effective solutions to poverty marry the strengths of grassroots and government efforts: bold legislation that actively seeks input, leadership, and commitment from the people it is intended to impact.

After my time doing policy and organizing work, I enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In my third year of law school, I interned at the White House and saw how the Obama administration combined law, policy, and grassroots efforts to drive change. I was excited to one day run for office and do the same in King County, the community that raised me.
Three of my top priorities include housing affordability, criminal justice reform, and environmental justice. Building affordable and supportive housing must be a top priority for the King County Council. The housing and homelessness crises are a regional issue requiring a focused and aggressive response from our county government. We need a central authority that has buy-in from all local governments and aggressively pursues a housing first approach to the biggest challenges of this era.

I’m running for King County Council, D2, in 2019 because I believe in the promise of all our residents from our youth to our senior citizens. I’m running for King County Council because in one of the wealthiest counties of the wealthiest nation in the world, none of our neighbors should be too poor to live. I believe the county government must take a leadership role in building affordable housing, fixing our criminal justice system, and promoting environmental justice.
At a time when King County is experiencing massive growth and development, many of the Counties resident are left out of that growth. We need to be bold and get creative in finding ways to make keep King County economically viable to all residents. I would propose the creation of new revenue streams and revise the current budget to better utilize existing revenue. We can do more to more to tap into new streams of revenue by getting creative, looking at what other states and counties are doing that may work for us, and ensuring that the budget accounts for the public services that King County residents rely on.

King County is likely going to continue to operate at a deficit given our current funding mechanisms. Our hands are also tied when it comes to introducing new revenue streams such as a capital gains or income tax. This is why I would propose the creation of a county bank that we could use to create an influx of funding to be used to at least dampen the deficit.
King County has experienced exponential growth and development but has truly fallen short in protecting many natural resources that have suffered as a side effect of urban sprawl. We need to create legislation that commits developers to reducing the environmental impacts of urban sprawl while ensuring that residents do not ultimately pay the price. Furthermore, as we focus on protecting natural resources, we must look at all policies and legislation through a lens of equity and ensure that communities of color and poor communities don’t disproportionately carry the burden and pay the price, in dollars and negative health impacts, of our failures to account for the need to protect natural resources.
We must plan to transition our transportation system to renewable energy sources well in advance of 2045 to ensure that community impact is considered and access to transportation is not impacted. We need to create legislation that commits developers to reducing the environmental impacts of urban sprawl while ensuring that residents do not ultimately pay the price. We need to ensure that as electricity and heat are transitioned to renewable sources any increases in energy prices aren't disproportionately shouldered by the poor by providing energy assistance to low-income households.

I will advocate for bold steps such as a countywide commitment to making sure county facilities are decarbonizing and facilities begin using 100 percent renewable electricity prior to the 2045 mandate. Washington is ready to transition beyond coal and fossil fuels to protect our environment so that generations to come can experience a good quality of life.
Funding for roads and bridges in King County has been dwindling for years, and money for capital investments in unincorporated areas is still set to run out within the next six years or so. The county found in 2014 that its roads and bridges program was underfunded by roughly $250 million annually. This has led to a situation where 72 miles of county roads may go to gravel and multiple bridges could be closed in the next few decades. One way the county can go about finding additional funding is by creating enterprise zones where the county would actively recruit businesses to unincorporated areas in an attempt to generate more sales tax.

I also support mandates requiring private developers to build affordable housing, and support eliminating the loopholes that allow them to pay their way out of that requirement. I would also support creative partnerships with the tech community so we can bring innovation labs and investments into local affordable housing and community centers.
King County should focus on promoting fairness to immigrants and protecting the privacy and civil rights of all residents. The County has a responsibility to treat all residents with dignity and respect while recognizing that immigrants are an integral part of our communities and workforce.

Federal agencies have been relying on local law enforcement resources in order to investigate civil immigration violations, diverting local resources and taxpayer dollars away from local public safety issues and discouraging people from contacting first responders. On May 21, 2019, Keep Washington Working went into immediate effect repealing RCW 10.70.140, which previously required jails to collect and report information to immigration authorities. Now, the law requires that law enforcement and jails change their policies and practices to ensure the privacy of all Washingtonians. I support this legislation and I plan to be a leader in ensuring that the County enforces it.
The County must focus on decriminalizing poverty. Incarceration is not a sustainable solution to remedy the homelessness crisis in the County. Decriminalizing homelessness and working together to support those experiencing housing instability ultimately benefits all resident of King County. I will commit to protecting tenants from racial bias and unfair eviction practices by strengthening tenant protections though legislation that ensures all people are given equal access to housing.

The County and the city of Seattle are on the cusp of simplifying the fragmented systems to better confront the region’s worsening homelessness problem. The plan includes the creation one government office that consolidates services to be accessed by those who are homeless or experiencing housing instability.