The Regional Roundup

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News from King County Council Chair Rod Dembowski

October 2019

Dear Colleague:

As the beautiful colors of fall arrive and the nights grow cold, I look forward to continuing our work together to tackle this region’s toughest issues. We know one of the biggest questions this season is the future of transit funding. In less than a week, voters will decide on I-976. In this newsletter, I discuss some of anticipated impacts to Metro Transit in the event voters approve the initiative.


Winter is a particularly difficult time for those experiencing homelessness. In a previous update, I discussed some of the recent steps the County has taken to address homelessness and affordable housing. Now, the County Council is considering a proposal for a consolidated regional authority to implement our crisis response services. I share some of the details and my thoughts below.


I’ve made improving communication and collaboration a top priority during my time as Council Chair. I’m excited to announce that we’ve recently added two new regional staff members: a new Municipal Relations Director and our first ever Director of Equity and Social Justice. Meet Tom and Vazaskia below, and learn about their roles.


My colleagues and I appreciate your continued partnership and look forward to continuing to advance our collective work throughout the region. You can reach me anytime at




In this update

  1. Impacts of I-976
  2. Regional Homelessness Authority
  3. New regional staff
    a. Director of Equity and Social Justice
    b. Director of Municipal Relations


Impacts of I-976

With election day nearly upon us, many jurisdictions are analyzing the impacts of proposed initiatives. Given the quick implementation timelines in I-976, King County, like many jurisdictions, has begun planning for the potential impacts. As important regional partners, I want to make sure you know how transportation funding and Metro service may be impacted if voters approve the initiative.


For cities, I-976 would repeal the authority for local transportation benefit districts to impose a car tab fee. I-976 will also reduce revenue to numerous state transportation accounts that fund projects in our communities. The state Office of Financial Management projects 2020-2025 revenue losses of $1.92 billion for all state transportation accounts (including $1.48 billion in the Multimodal account), about $1.97 billion for Sound Transit, and about $349 million for city transportation districts (including more than $240 million from cities in King County).


Metro Transit relies on funding from a variety of sources, including funds that flow through state and city transportation accounts. Actual cuts will depend in part of the future decisions of the State Legislature and city leaders. Based on current projections, the County estimates substantial impacts to Metro, including:

  • Approximately $119 million in cuts to Metro services between 2020 and 2025 due to reductions in the State’s Multimodal Account. If reductions are made across-the-board, cuts could include:
    • $22.8 million in cuts to Regional Mobility Grant Program awards
    • $29.2 million in cuts to grants awarded to cities
    • $12.2 million in cuts to Access paratransit
    • $15 million in cuts to replace Metro vanpool vans
    • $36 million in cuts to bus fleet electrification

  • Loss of 175,000 Metro bus service hours on 74 routes in Seattle, Burien, Shoreline, Skyway, Tukwila, and White Center during 2020, as a result of the cuts to the Seattle Transportation Benefit District funding.

  • $1-$10 million per year in cuts to Metro services due to reductions in formula grant funding provided by the Federal Transit Administration due to reductions in service

A variety of smaller programs could also be impacted, such as the ORCA Summer program for high school students, transit incentive programs for nonprofits and small businesses, and funding for improving accessibility for low-income passengers.


We expect Metro to act quickly to announce service reduction plans if I-976 is approved. At the County Council, we are committed to working with our partners at the city and state to best prioritize funding and services in the years ahead. If you have any questions about how Metro will be impacted, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. Additional information on the city impacts of I-976 can be found on the Association of Washington Cities website.


AWC map graphic

Considering the Future of our Homelessness Crisis Response System

Regional leaders including elected officials, business, philanthropy and stakeholders across King County have been working to determine how best to change course for our homelessness response system. Clearly, the current approach is not meeting expectations. This is a regional crisis that deserves a stronger and more effective regional response. 


On September 4, 2019, the County Executive transmitted proposed legislation to authorize the chartering of a public development authority by King County to coordinate provision of services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. The proposed legislation contemplates a King County Regional Homelessness Authority that would be directed by a steering committee, governing board, and at least one advisory committee. The scope of its work would be limited to crisis response services. The Executive’s stated goals for the proposal are to (1) have a more efficient system and (2) reduce racial disparities in the delivery of services. While those are important goals, I believe that the most important goal will be to reduce the number of unsheltered residents living in King County. That must be the priority for any reformed system. 


The core of the proposal is to merge City of Seattle and King County funding, staff, contracting and accountability for addressing the needs of unsheltered residents county-wide.  How cities outside of Seattle would participate in the planning, funding and implementation of a revised regional approach is less clear.  


As my colleagues and I consider this proposal, many want to ensure that we aren’t creating new silos for crisis response services, adding new barriers to the coordination and delivery of wrap-around services. 


Many have expressed concerns with standing up a new government (a separate public development authority created under state law) when action short of that can accomplish the same thing. As the regional government with longstanding structures and protocols in place to address regional issues, King County government, in partnership with cities, can and should be a key leader in delivering a reformed and more effective homelessness crisis response system. Like you, I take our responsibility and accountability to taxpayers seriously and want to ensure that we are not passing off duties that belong with those directly accountable to the electorate.


The County Council is working with City leaders across the county to determine the best course of action. The legislation is being heard in the Regional Policy Committee and the Council’s Heath, Housing and Human Services Committee.  I encourage you to contact me or my colleagues with any ideas or concerns you may have. It’s important to get this right and to do that takes all of us.


Image from RHA website

New regional staff

The King County Council recently welcomed two new staff members who will be working with local communities and our civic partners throughout the region.


Director of Equity and Social Justice

Photo of Vazaskia Crockrell

Vazaskia Crockrell is our first Director of Equity and Social Justice, a new role that will act as a liaison between the Council and marginalized or underrepresented communities in King County. She’ll spend time interacting with community groups and individuals, reporting back to the Council about issues of racial disparity, access, injustice and more. Similarly, she’ll help engage those same communities in the work the Council is doing to make government more inclusive, accessible and equitable.


Vazaskia comes to the County after three years as Director of the Office of Juvenile Justice for Washington state. She helped give incarcerated youth a seat at the table and led them through improvements that included eliminating the use of detention for status case offenses and raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 25 for certain offenses. Simultaneously, she also served as Chief of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the state Department of Social and Health Services.


Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Vazaskia has believed since a young age in the vital importance of promoting equity for historically marginalized groups and has dedicated her career to that work. She has instilled that ethic into her three successful daughters, who incorporate it into their professions in communications, education and law.


Vazaskia holds a bachelor’s degree in Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies from the University of Washington. She recently was awarded the Social Justice Warrior and Courageous Champion for Youth award from the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice.


Director of Municipal Relations

Our new Director of Municipal Relations for the King County Council is Tom Goff, who brings with him over a decade of experience in legislative environments.


As the Director, Tom serves as a primary point of contact between the Council and the 39 cities and nearly 150 special purpose districts in King County. He advises the Council about local concerns and issues and represents the Council at Sound Cities Association events and other relevant meetings as needed.


Photo of Tom Goff


Tom works to fulfill the direction set by Council leadership, including broadening the outreach and involvement of King County in regional issues. One of the first steps of this effort is the County becoming an Associate Member of the Association of Washington Cities to further strengthen our engagement and understanding of statewide issues that municipalities face.


As a lifelong resident of King County, Tom is dedicated to helping to facilitate communications with the Council to help keep governments throughout King County working together for the benefit of its residents.

Thank You

Your continued partnership and leadership are essential for our shared success. Thank you for all you do to support our region. I welcome your feedback on how King County can partner with you on these and other issues.