As we pass and acknowledge the end of summer with our Labor Day celebrations this past Monday, I’d like to take a moment on this Fantastic Friday to thank all of the incredible workers who have done so much for our communities, and for our state.
Thank you all so much for the work that you do, and thank you for your continued support as I work on your behalf in Olympia!
Thank you to everyone over at LiUNA for always standing by my side and supporting me – in both of my campaigns! Thank you to IAM Local 751, the American Federation of Teachers, the Washington State Nurses Association, and all of the other labor groups and unions that have supported me over the years!
This year, during our legislative session in Olympia, we passed multiple bills that will help Washington’s workers – including providing benefits to rideshare drivers, protecting our warehouse workers, creating safe at work regulations to protect Washingtonians from repetitive stress and other injuries, and so much more.
Our workforce is our lifeblood, and it is because of those who have come before that we are able to stand up and demand better working conditions, better pay, and better lives for our children’s children.
Supporting Washington’s workers will always be close to my heart, and you can count on me advocating on your behalf in Olympia.
Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday.
“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff
Wildfire at Whatcom Lake
Last week, we saw a wildfire ignite close to home here in Whatcom County.
On Monday of last week, a lightning strike started a wildfire near Lake Whatcom. State and federal responders made it to the area quickly, with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) working diligently to contain the blaze.
As of earlier this week, the fire is more than 90% contained, with difficult areas around the north flank secured as well. State and federal responders have left the area, with local DNR fire managers, engines, and crews handling the rest of the fire management.
Thank you to all the incredible, selfless individuals who stepped up to get this job done so quickly. We owe our deep thanks to all those who willingly step forward to contain these potentially devastating blazes.
It is because of their work that we remain safe and can look forward with the comfort in knowing we are prepared and ready.
Keep an eye out for any additional updates on this front.
New Director at the Office of Equity
Next, I want to take a moment to highlight an incredible public servant stepping into a new role that will serve Washington’s ongoing journey toward a more equitable reality.
Governor Jay Inslee has officially named Megan Matthews director of the Washington State Office of Equity. She has served as acting director of the agency since May.
According to Governor Inslee’s release:
“Megan is a dynamic and authentic leader who knows what it takes to make the Office of Equity successful. This agency is central to our work promoting equity and justice for all,” said Inslee.
Matthews has worked with the office since 2021 as an assistant director, and she has helped drive the agency’s strategy and budgets during her tenure. She has a background in social service, having researched poverty reduction for the Department of Social and Health Services and having chaired the Washington State Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (BUILD) business group for state employees.
“I am honored to serve Washingtonians in this role. Our office is busy laying a strong internal foundation by hiring to get fully staffed to do our critical work, implementing our budget strategy to be as efficient and impactful with the funds we have been allocated, and meeting our mandate to bring accountability to government and advance equity and justice for all Washingtonians,” said Matthews.
Congratulations to Megan on this incredible appointment!
I look forward to continuing to work with the Office of Equity under her leadership, and am excited to see all the great things we will accomplish together.
Examining Our Troubled Past
Friends, we have talked several times about former Native boarding schools in the United States Canada, where generations of Indigenous children were taken from their families in an attempt to assimilate them into American and Canadian culture.
These schools are horrible blights on our history, and we need only look so far as the survivors of these schools who walk among us today to understand the deep, traumatic impact this policy has had on our Native communities.
Now, I want to share with you a new interactive map that shows the locations and histories of these schools.
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has spent years building this database, and the interactive map now contains dozens of previously unreported schools that were operated without federal support by church institutions.
While it hurts to do so, we must always look back at the awful things this country has seen and done. By furthering the public understanding of these schools, both their operation and their impact, we will create a world in which such abuse is impossible.
Thank you, to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition for your incredible work on bringing to light the true history of our country.
Major Climate Win in Montana
Those of you who have followed my Fantastic Friday newsletter for a while will recognize a core truth in my work – our efforts today must always keep the next seven generations in mind. It is up to us to leave a world they will be excited to enjoy.
That said, sometimes the younger generation steps up and takes these matters into their own hands, like a recent court case in Montana.
Last month, a Montana state court ruled in favor of young people who argued that the state has violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment,” specifically through the promotion and ongoing use of fossil fuels.
According to the Washington Post:
“The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.
The ruling — which invalidates the provision blocking climate considerations — also represents a rare victory for climate activists who have tried to use the courts to push back against government policies and industrial activities they say are harming the planet. In this case, it involved 16 young Montanans, ranging in age from 5 to 22, who brought the nation’s first constitutional and first youth-led climate lawsuit to go to trial.”
Read more from the Washington Post here.
This is an incredible step in the right direction, and one that I hope sets a precedent across the country of strong action in favor of our youth, and our planet.
We do not want our children to look back and ask why we did not do more to help protect our home, this planet. I will always hold the health of our environment paramount in my work, and I’m happy to have you with me as we continue this important work for generations to come.
This Weekend’s Events
Now, as we look ahead to the weekend there are a few events I want to share with you.
First, State Senator Manka Dhingra running for Attorney General!
I’ll be introducing Manka during the San Juan Democrats’ September meeting on Saturday, September 9. According to her website:
“Manka has been a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with King County since January 2000, and is the former Chair of the Therapeutic Alternative Unit. As Chair, she supervised the Regional Mental Health court, Veterans Court and the Community Assessment and Referral for Diversion program. She helped create the 40 hour crisis intervention training for law enforcement and was a trainer at the Criminal Justice Training Commission.”
If you are interested in attending, you can join this Zoom link for the meeting at 10:00 A.M. tomorrow!
Then, also tomorrow morning I will be at the Tide Pool Coffeehouse in Easrsound at 8:30 A.M.!
I am so excited to have the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee with you, and to hear directly from you what is happening in our communities, and how I can support you all through my work in Olympia.
If you are interested in joining me tomorrow, the address is 365 N Beach Rd Unit 108, Eastsound, WA 98245. I look forward to seeing you there!
Supporting Affordable Housing
As many of you know, an issue that is near and dear to my heart is affordable housing. It is so important that we create affordable places to live for those who call this place home – or those who want to.
Now, I am pleased to let you know that thanks to a federal grant of $7.5 million, the Lummi Nation will add 32 units of affordable housing for its community!
According to the Bellingham Herald:
“The project will be built on 13.3 acres of previously undeveloped land off Lummi View Drive that overlooks the water. It’s expected to cost more than $11 million.
The apartments will consist of 3-,4- and 5-bedroom units serving mostly families with children, according to the Lummi Nation Housing Authority Executive Director Diana Phair.
The project is expected to be completed in a few years after permitting, clearing and infrastructure development.
This funding is coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Competitive Grant Program. It’s the largest single grant the Lummi Nation Housing Authority has ever received.”
This is a great addition to the Lummi Nation, and I am so glad to see this important work being done to support our communities. Creating affordable spaces for our neighbors to live will only help boost our communities as a whole, and I look forward to these affordable homes being finished and furnished.