Dear friends and neighbors,
Fall is officially here as of tomorrow, but we’ve been bidding summer goodbye all week with the return of cooler temperatures and the arrival of (much-needed) rain in our region.
I am sorry to begin this newsletter on a tragic note, but last week every parent’s nightmare happened once again in our state when a student at Freeman High School in Spokane County brought two guns to school and successfully fired one of them, killing another student and wounding three others.
On the day of the shooting I happened to be in Spokane attending a health care conference. News of the shooting spread quickly in the community, and it hit all of us very hard. My heart immediately went out to the students, parents, and school employees affected by this horrible event. For me, when it comes to children dying from gun violence, thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. I remain committed to working together with my colleagues in the Legislature on solutions to help prevent these tragedies and keep ALL our children safe at school.
On a brighter note, fall brings with it a bounty of produce harvested from our local farms and gardens. I recently spent part of a Saturday touring some of the incredible community gardens and urban farms in our area. The beautiful flowers pictured above were in full bloom at the Tacoma Community College community garden. It was one of the most relaxing, rejuvenating, and inspiring days I’ve spent in a long time.
Health tour: Successes and challenges in our rural communities
I recently participated in a two-day rural health tour with some of my House colleagues from both sides of the aisle, organized by the nonpartisan Office of Program Management. We visited hospitals and treatment centers in Kitsap and Mason counties and on the Olympic Peninsula. At each stop we were joined by community leaders, local public health officials and even members from the law enforcement community.
Three main themes emerged during this tour. One, our rural areas are really grappling with the opioid crisis, something which came up again and again. Two, delivery of mental health care remains a challenge. And three, there is a need for more primary care providers in our rural and underserved areas. My recent column in Tacoma Weekly discusses some of the steps taken this year by the Legislature to improve our mental health system so it serves patients and families better. I’m also very pleased we’ve increased funding in our state budget for mental health and public health, and we’ve accepted federal Medicaid funding that will go to help fight the opioid crisis, reduce homelessness rates, and integrate physical and behavioral health so we can treat the whole person.
We have more work to do, but the investments made this year are putting us on the right track.
My biggest takeaway from the tour was seeing how our rural communities are really pulling together, working across all sectors to address the health care challenges they face.
Projects around Tacoma anxiously await state capital budget dollars
Important construction and renovation projects in our district – from the Eastside Community Center to Tacoma Community House to our beautiful historic theater district – are still waiting for funding they’ve been promised from the state capital budget. Unfortunately, because Senate Republicans refused to pass that budget after multiple special sessions, these projects are now stalled or in danger of stalling. I continue to be hopeful that in the coming weeks we will be able to get this done. Click here or on the video image above to hear more info about what’s at stake in Tacoma without a state capital budget.
By the way, this Saturday, 9/23, a free community event celebrating construction of the new Eastside Community Center is happening from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. This project is a recipient of state capital budget dollars through the state Department of Commerce’s Local and Community Projects grant program. It’s one of the many reasons I was proud to join 96 of my House colleagues from both sides of the aisle in voting YES on the capital budget.
Meet me in the community
I’m offering a number of informal “office hours” out in the community between now and the end of the year, as well as more structured “community conversation hours” with my seatmates, Rep, Jake Fey and Sen. Jeannie Darneille. These events provide an opportunity for me to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you have about legislative topics and issues of importance to our district. Please come to one of the following events in October:
Drop-in office hours – come chat with me when I’m in your neighborhood!
- Tuesday, October 3rd, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. at Old Town Markee, 2312 N 30th St (North Tacoma)
- Thursday, October 26th, fro 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. at Erica Peace Love and Ice Cream, 4822 Pacific Ave (South End)
- Tuesday, October 31st from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Rhapsody in Bloom, 3709 6th Ave (Central Tacoma)
Community Conversation Hours – come meet with me, Rep. Fey and Sen. Darneille!
- Saturday, October 14th, from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Black Kettle Bites and Brew, 744 Market Street, Suite 102B
- Thursday, October 19th, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., at Red Elm Café, 1114 MLK Jr Way (meeting room in back)
Additionally, TONIGHT, September 21st, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. is the NE Tacoma Neighborhood Council meeting at The Center at Norpoint, 4818 Nassau Ave NE. I’ll provide a brief legislative update and take questions. The City of Tacoma will also be presenting on the proposed Tideflats Interim Regulations.