Dear Friends, 

While this is something that I have said many times before, to many of you on the campaign trail, at events, and even in this very newsletter, it still bears repeating – serving as your representative in Olympia has been the greatest honor of my lifetime.

There is something spectacular about public service, about stepping up and joining the ongoing work to create the best county, state, country, and world that we possibly can. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on your behalf, and now I am excited to let you know that there is an opportunity to join the work in Whatcom County!

The Whatcom County Council Office has a County Council Internship opportunity!

This is a part-time, temporary, paid position that will assist Councilmembers with policy research and special projects – the application deadline is February 20! For more information, click here.

This is a great opportunity to get involved with public service, and to make an impact right here in Whatcom County. If you know someone who might be interested, please pass this along!


Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Addressing Homelessness in Washington 

Those of you who have followed along and read my Fantastic Friday messages during my time in Olympia know that housing is an issue near and dear to my heart.

Whether it is addressing and supporting our unhoused population or working on behalf of all Washingtonians to ensure we have equitable and affordable housing, I will always put a priority on helping my community find and stay in their homes.

With that in mind, there are a few developments I’d like to highlight this week regarding housing in Washington State:

HB 1693 – Expanding the Students Experiencing Homelessness and Foster Youth Pilot Program

Last week we highlighted one of the bills I am co-sponsoring, and this week I want to tell you a little bit about a bill on which I am the primary sponsor.

Bettering ourselves through education at any level should be affordable and available, but for too many of our state’s students housing becomes an issue. That is why I introduced HB 1693, which will instruct eight college districts to provide assistance to students experiencing homelessness.

This bill will ensure that they have a place to stay during the school year as well as seasonal breaks, give them access to affordable meal plans, and create an environment where they do not have to worry about where they are going to sleep while they focus on their studies.

The bill will also extend the same assistance to students who were in the foster care system when they graduated high school.

This would be a great way to explore options to help support those students who need it most. I’ll keep you updated on the bill as it moves through the legislature – you can track its progress here.

Governor Inslee Prioritizing Housing

In December, Governor Inslee released his $70 billion budget proposal for 2023-25, which would include $4 billion towards affordable housing over the next six years.

The updated budget would allow the state to support housing construction over the next six years, adding around 5,300 additional unites by 2025, and 19,000 more over the remainder of the six years.

“Washingtonians will not accept this continuous scourge of homelessness in our society,” Governor Inslee said when the budget was released. “They do not believe the state of Washington, the beautiful Evergreen state, is a place for chronic, rampant homelessness and they are asking us to take bold action to do something about it, and in my budget, we intend to do just that.”

Thank you, Governor Inslee for leading the charge and helping to address this important issue! I will be a strong advocate for this to move forward as quickly as possible, and will always support efforts to make housing more affordable for all Washingtonians.

CWU Awarded Grant to Assist Homeless Students

Finally, I want to highlight a recent grant that was awarded to Central Washington University!

Last November, the Washington Student Achievement Council launched the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness pilot grant. Much like the proposed bill that would grow this type of program, students can qualify for the grants if they are homeless, housing insecure, or have turned 18 while in foster care.

According to CWU:

“The grant is handled by Resource Coordinator Jen Moultine in the CWU Office of Case Management…Grant funds are only dispensed once all other avenues toward financial stability, such as financial aid, loans, and other campus resources, have been exhausted. Moultine works with students seeking assistance one-on-one to identify these resources and ensure that nothing goes unutilized.”

These are all simple steps that we can take to help put roofs over the heads of all Washingtonians. This is an issue that remains near and dear to my heart, and will always be a priority for my work in Olympia.   

Highlights from the Week! 

Thank you, Firefighters! IAFF Local 1983/4111

WA State Firefighters in Olympia! Our Firefighters continue to not only protect our families and communities but fight for important policies that stretch from third party billing, housing shortages, to behavioral health and more.

At the end of the day our firefighters’ powerful and unified voices protect our communities in many ways. 

Thank you, Dean Shelton, for the picture

Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group

In 1990, the Washington State Legislature created the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group (RFEG) Program to involve local communities, volunteers, and landowners in the state’s salmon recovery efforts. 

The 14 RFEGs work within communities across the state to recover salmon. The RFEGs create partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies; tribes; local businesses; community members; and landowners. Through these collaborative efforts, RFEGs help lead their communities in successful restoration, education, and monitoring projects.

Here is an example of this incredible organization in our own backyard: 

The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) removed three consecutive barriers on the McCormick Creek tributary, two barrier culverts, and a concrete dam that was in between them. The culverts were replaced with steel bridges. The dam and associated sediment were removed and approximately 300 feet of new channel was constructed mimicking upstream and downstream reference reaches.

The project provided fish passage to 1.1 miles of largely undisturbed spawning and rearing habitat. The dam had been constructed in the early 1900’s, to provide water for agricultural purposes, and had slowly filled in with sediment over the years. NSEA worked with the landowner to progressively drill holes in the dam to drain the upstream pond without allowing fine sediments to migrate downstream where it would be detrimental to fish and other aquatic organisms.

For more information, click here.

Thank you, Chair Dustin!

Thank you Chair Georgiann Dustin, for her leadership on Washington State Council on Aging.  I was so grateful to see my wonderful friend Shirley, who has shared the love, kindness, and strict advice to me, as an Auntie would in my Tlingit Culture.  

The Washington State Council on Aging (SCOA), housed in the Department of Health and Social Service. SCOA is a unified voice across Washington for senior citizens. SCOA is a unique advocacy group in the arena of senior issues. Members are appointed by the Governor and Area Agency on Aging Advisory Councils and are charged with advising the Governor, the DSHS Secretary and the Assistant Secretary of ALTSA.

This connection brings the State Council on Aging inside perspective on matters concerning seniors and people with disabilities. We have a statewide perspective and speak as one voice.
Members are made up of representatives of local communities, from Area Agencies on Aging Advisory Councils, cities & counties, the legislature, and the long-term services and support field. The makeup of the membership provides the Council with a built-in communications and outreach platform that reaches all corners of the state.

Working to support our seniors and elders must always be a priority – they paved the way, and it is up to us to ensure they are looked after and taken care of. Thank you, Georgiann and Shirley for all your great work!

Thank You, Former Representative Blake!

I have the pleasure of learning from many colleagues, and one of my most treasured mentors was former Representative Brian Blake!

In my years advocating for tribal issues before I was elected to serve, I spent time with Brian. We share common values of listening to citizens who often were forgotten in rural areas or in underrepresented communities.

Brian represented Southwest Washington in the State Legislature from 2002 to 2020, following a decade as a logger and a career as an environmental specialist for the Department of Corrections.

He taught me the value of being a bipartisan collaborator in the State Legislature, having served as the Chair of the House Committee Agriculture and Natural Resources.

I am so grateful for the pathway he set up that allows current Chair Mike Chapman and I to continue carrying on the good bipartisanship approach.  Our committee members continue to build laws that affect rural communities and major elements of our local economy, including farming, forest protection, fisheries, and wildlife. 

Thank you, Brian! It was wonderful seeing you this week.

Creating a State Native Scholarship Program

I am so honored to have Cowlitz elder and Education Director Mike Iyall for joining me in sharing the need for a State Native Scholarship program. 

Native American have suffered the impact of education being used a weapon against our cultures. The historical trauma of the past continues to impact our communities today, and we must continue to make positive steps forward. 

Thank you, Zoey High Eagle Strong, Tribal Liaison for Washington State University, Western Washington University Indigenous Student Group, Bill Iyall, Cowlitz Education Director and past Councilmember, Kim Applet, Cowlitz Tribal Council and Evergreen College VP of Tribal Relations Kara Briggs.

Special Thank you to the Native American students, Washington State School Board President, Bill Kallappa, and Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs Director Craig Bill for your support, and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians for their unanimous resolution to support the Native Scholarship Program and the Centennial Accord.

Thank you to my Mom for working three jobs to help me with college and to my brother who fished hard to give us the financial support to have dreams. 

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