Jeanne Kohl-Welles

The Environment: Expanding Transit, Protecting Puget Sound, Facing Climate Change

Transportation Choices

As a daily transit user, I know firsthand that a robust transit system is central to our economy and quality of life. I’ll continue to be a strong advocate for increased access to transit and bus service hours for District Four, Seattle, King County and the entire region.  

District Four is dealing with rapid growth and needs expanded service, from the densely populated areas in Downtown, Belltown, and South Lake Union through the Interbay and Aurora corridors to Fremont, Ballard, Crown Hill, and Sunset Hill, all the way north to Shoreline, east of I-5 and beyond.  I’ve also been working to fill the service gap on the waterfront and in northwest Belltown.  Not only will more frequent and accessible transit allow people to travel more quickly through our region, but it also means fewer emissions and cleaner air for us all.

Ensuring timely construction of the Sound Transit 3 light rail link to Ballard and creating a Ballard-to-Downtown water taxi route will also be top priorities to expand transit.  I am committed to restoring public transit in some form to the Shilshole Bay and Sunset Hill neighborhoods.

Access to transit is especially important for people trying to make their way out of poverty and homelessness.  King County is working hard to implement my legislation for low and no-cost transit fares for Metro’s lowest-income passengers, ensuring they can get themselves and their families to work, school, the doctor and other vital services. I am committed to meeting our goal and implementing this program by 2020. I recently introduced legislation that would make Metro fare free when the Emergency Snow Network is activated, ensuring that all people can reach shelter through the snow.

I’ll continue to advocate for increased service hours, availability and accessibility of transit options throughout the region, both through Metro and through Sound Transit.  

Climate Change

Climate change is an urgent issue of public health and equity. Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief Medical Officer for Seattle-King County Public Health, calls climate change “the most serious health threat currently facing [hu]mankind.” 

I was recently elected Chair of the Seattle-King County Board of Health (BOH) and am also Chair of the Council’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee.  I use these platforms to call attention to the severe public health threat and inequitable impacts of climate change and pollution and to increase support for funding services and programs that reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions

To a large extent, the focus in King County for reducing emissions involves transit and land-use decisions, but it also affects decisions about how we deliver and prioritize public health services.  Just a few of the health impacts we can expect to see include increasing cases of respiratory disease, heart attacks, strokes and possibly certain cancers, such as lung cancer. 

In February, I co-sponsored legislation to impose a six-month moratorium on the construction of all fossil fuel infrastructure within the county. I’ll continue to call attention to the severe public health threat and inequitable impacts of climate change and pollution. I’ll push to increase funding for programs that reduce air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

King County/Metro has been working to reduce the county’s carbon footprint for several years.  Almost 70 percent of Metro’s bus fleet is electric and diesel hybrid. Council Chair Rod Dembowski and I sponsored legislation directing a County study and implementation plan on the feasibility of making the entire fleet completely emission-free within the foreseeable future. In my second term I will work to expedite the implementation of the recommendations of the study to continue “greening” Metro’s bus and vanpool fleet, with the goal of making the entire fleet free of greenhouse emissions.

Developing housing – especially affordable housing – close to transit hubs is also critical.  I secured funding in the 2019-2020 Biennial Budget for several transit-oriented affordable housing developments, including one for pre-design work at North Seattle College across I-5 from the Northgate Transit Center, which will be easily accessed on the pedestrian bridge being built.  I also pushed for increased funding for transit-oriented developments in the Hotel/Motel tax allocations.

It is important to protect and expand the green spaces that we have available in our County. This is why I sponsored the legislation for the renewal of the 2020-2025 Parks, Trails and Open Space Levy that will appear on the August ballot to be approved by voters. As climate change continues to impact us, we must prioritize urban green space and tree cover in the interest of a healthier planet and a healthier public.  I believe lack of access to nature can have long-term impacts to our children. 

Water Quality: Puget Sound, Orcas and Salmon

Protecting Puget Sound is priority of mine, and King County plays an important role in protecting water quality.   

Like so many others, I was heart-broken as I watched an Orca mother carry her deceased calf with her for weeks last summer and when a juvenile Orca named Scarlett died from starvation. Tragically, not one Southern Residents’ calf has survived in the past three years. We must do more to make sure Puget Sound is clean and healthy. 

Protecting Puget Sound, including our orcas and salmon, is a top priority for me.  I secured funding in our 2019-2020 Biennial Budget to study the impact of storm water runoff and industrial waste on marine life in the Sound, including on our Southern Resident Orcas and their main prey, the Chinook salmon.  I also added funding to the budget to update the County’s Integrated Pest Management program and reduce our use of toxic pesticides, like Glyphosate.  These toxic chemicals run off with storm water when it rains and pollute our waters.  

During my first term, I led the Council in addressing the causes, recovery and new protocols related to the 2017 catastrophic failure of the West Point Treatment plant in Magnolia. I spearheaded the legislation calling for an independent, third party investigation into the causes of the accident and recommendations for correcting them.  I am diligently monitoring how the County implements the recommendations in the report and establishes new protocols to ensure such a failure is never repeated. 

Not only am I focused on keeping Puget Sound clean, but I have also been focused on getting lead out of the water in our schools.  I obtained funding in the budget to expand screening for lead poisoning, especially in children and residents of affordable housing, and have included this as a public health initiative this year in the Board of Health’s agenda.  

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