Dear Friends, 

This week’s Fantastic Friday starts on a solemn note, as we say goodbye to an incredible woman who had worked tirelessly as a public servant for so much of her life. Earlier today, it was announced that California Senator Dianne Feinstein had passed away at the age of 90.

She was the oldest member of the Senate, the longest-serving female senator, and the longest serving senator from California. She was known for always making room at her kitchen table, stepping up and finding middle ground to help the country move forward.

Her work inspired generations of women, showing countless people what is possible when you put your head down, do the work, and refuse to be deterred. Her work spanned decades, her impact felt across generations of Americans. Her voice and passion will be missed dearly.

“In San Francisco, she showed enormous poise and courage in the wake of tragedy, and became a powerful voice for American values. Serving in the Senate together for more than 15 years, I had a front row seat to what Dianne was able to accomplish,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Dianne made her mark on everything from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties. She’s made history in so many ways, and our country will benefit from her legacy for generations.”

Senator Feinstein first came to public office following the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first gay elected official in California. She later became the first woman elected mayor of San Francisco.

My heart goes out to her family in this trying time, and I hope you are able to feel the love emanating from Washington, D.C. all the way to California.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Whatcom Meeting on MMIWP 

Over these last five years serving as your voice in Olympia, we have made such great strides in protecting our Indigenous brothers and sisters, setting up systems to help locate those that have gone missing, and bring them home.

This work is ongoing though, and just yesterday I joined the Commission on Sexual & Domestic Violence at the Mt. Baker Theatre to discuss our work and priorities moving into the future.

The meeting focused on local community responses for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP), and their families, emphasizing that we must learn together about the scope of the problem, and prioritize our work to achieve change for safety, justice, and well-being. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this productive, enlightening meeting. Together we can accomplish so much, and continuing the dedicated work on this issue will have real, tangible impacts.

When issues are as plain to see as this one, it’s clear that we must take action. Addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in this country must continue to be a priority, and we must do everything we can to protect Native women.

Protecting Our Southern Resident Killer Whales

During my first term in Olympia, I sponsored House Bill 1578: Reducing Threats to Southern Resident Killer Whales by Improving the Oil Transportation Safety Act, which created new requirements to reduce the risk faced by our Orca population.

Part of the act directed the Washington State Department of Ecology to “develop and maintain a model to quantitatively assess current and potential future risks of oil spills from covered vessels in Washington waters,” and as a result use the model to provide two analyses by the first of this month.

The two reports were released recently – the Tug Escort Analysis, which was conducted by the Washington State Board of Pilotage Commissioners (BPC), and the Analysis of an Additional Emergency Response Towing Vessel, conducted by the Department of Ecology.

According to the Department of Ecology:

“Ecology and the BPC analyzed the potential change in oil spill risk resulting from the use of tug escorts by towed oil barges, Articulated Tug Barges (ATB), and tank ships less than 40,000 deadweight tons (DWT) but more than 5,000 DWT. The Summary of Tug Escort Analysis Results focuses on how tug escorts can prevent vessels from drifting aground after unexpectedly losing propulsion and how tug escorts can limit oil spill risk from loss of steering events.

The Analysis of an Additional Emergency Response Towing Vessel modeled seven potential emergency response towing vessel locations. For each location we evaluated their potential to respond to simulated loss of propulsion incidents for vessel traffic produced by our oil spill risk model.”

Thank you to all of the dedicated public servants who worked to make these reports a reality. Following your work, we will be better equipped to protect our Southern Resident Killer Whales, and to take strong action preventing future oil spills.

Now this week I want to highlight an additional point – ensuring that we listen to our communities and address the needs that they place before us.

The San Juan County Council has sent a letter to Canadian Ministers Joyce Murray and Omar Alghabra, asking them to move an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) to Sidney in order to better respond to emergencies off Canada’s west coast.

According to the County Council:

“Recent studies by Canadian interests, San Juan County, and the Washington Department of Ecology demonstrate the need for and feasibility of an ETV for oil spill prevention in the Southern Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass, Turn Point off of Stuart Island, Haro Strait, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”

In all of our work it is vital that we listen to those on the ground in community to hear what they need, and I am proud to stand behind the San Juan County Council as they continue to work towards the safest possible waters.

Keep an eye out for additional updates on this front in the future.

Spend Some Time With Me 

Next, I would like to let you know about an opportunity for us to meet!

On Saturday, October 7 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, we will be hosting an event at the Orcas Center Madrona Room (917 Mt. Baker Rd, Eastsound). This will be a chance for us to connect face to face, and for me to hear directly from you.

Thank you to Patricia Benton, Janet Brownell, Lisa Byers, Hilary Canty, Jan Ehrlichman & Mark Mayer, Angela Foster, Joe Gaydos, Elly Hoague & Marc Cohen, Jay Julius, Christina Koons & Jim McIntyre, Robert Morris, Heather & Greg Oaksen, Erin O’Dell, Judy Scott & Don Stillman, Anne Marie & Bern Shanks, Stephanie Solien & Frank Greer, Amanda Sparks, Geri & David Turnoy, Cindy Wolf, and Georgette Wong for helping to make this event possible!

If you are interested in attending, please email [email protected].

Door Belling in Whatcom!

As we look ahead to the 2024 election campaign season is already kicking into gear! As a result, the Whatcom Democrats will not have a September meeting, but instead there will be ample opportunities to get involved.

Every week day they are out door belling after 3pm, and every weekend starting at 11am! They are also in need of phone banking volunteers – if you are interested in supporting, click here!

Additionally, I want to highlight one specific door belling event – and a chance to knock on doors with me!

Here is the write-up from the Whatcom Democrats September newsletter:

“October 21st, 10:30am: Join Reps. Alex Ramel, Debra Lekanoff, Joe Timmons, Alicia Rule, and  Sens. Sharon Shewmake & Liz Lovelett, and other community leaders at Boundary Bay Brewing for our first Get Out the Vote canvas! 

Local elections often see lower turnout, but the Whatcom Democrats are leading an effort to turn out voters for these crucial races. Come hear from inspiring speakers, receive any helpful training, and make a difference this election by talking to voters just as ballots arrive. 

We’ll be focused on the countywide races, supporting Satpal Sidhu for County Executive, Donnell Tanksley for Sheriff and Jon Scanlon for Whatcom County Council. 

After knocking on doors, join us back at Boundary Bay to celebrate the impact you are having this election. Join elected leaders, candidates, and other volunteers for complimentary snacks and a round of drinks.

This event begins October 21st at 10:30 AM at Boundary Bay Brewing, 1107 Railroad Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225.”

We need all the help we can get to ensure that the right candidates are elected to serve the 40th LD, and Washington! I hope to see you there next month.

New Ways to Support Communities 

In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in Washington v. Blake that the state’s law making drug possession a felony was unconstitutional. We came together in a special session this year to pass legislation making it a gross misdemeanor to knowingly  possess counterfeit substances and controlled substances, or knowingly use prohibited substances in a public place.

This shift in drug policy over the last two years joins Washington and Oregon as the only two states that have implemented drug decriminalization policies.

New research by the NYU Grossman School of Medicine published online in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that there is no evidence of an association between decriminalization and fatal drug overdose rates.

Another study published last month found that the Oregon and Washington decriminalization policies dramatically reduced arrests for drug possession and did not lead to increased arrests for violent crimes. 

For more information on these developments, click here.

This shows us plainly that we must prioritize the people as we work to address ongoing issues with drug use and addiction. Supporting those trying to heal and recover will benefit our communities in so many ways, and I will always work to ensure that the proper resources are available and plentiful to those who need them.

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine 

Finally, last week Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Dr. Mandy Cohen endorsed the recommendation made by the agency’s committee of outside vaccine experts, approving a new COVID-19 booster shot that is recommended for everyone 12-years and older.

As we move into the Fall and Winter, it is important that we take these steps to protect ourselves and others. Updating our COVID-19 vaccines, and getting annual flu and RSV vaccines, is a strong way that we can help keep ourselves, and those around us, healthy.

Friends, by now we all understand the impact that each of us can have on preventing the spread of COVID-19 to those around us. Getting vaccinated remains the most powerful way that we can protect our communities.

For more information, click here.

Electric Ferries, Coming Soon! 

Finally, some exciting news on the Washington State Ferry system!

Back in August, work began to convert one of our existing diesel ferries to a hybrid electric vehicle, and I am happy to let you know that the vehicle will be back in service by this time next year!

This is just one of the steps we have taken to transition our ferry system to electric power, with the first all-electric vehicle set to begin work on the Seattle to Bainbridge Island route in 2027.

While legislation requires that all of Washington’s ferries be electric by 2050, current estimates say that 76% of our boats will be electric by 2040.

For more information, check out this article from King 5 on the topic.

We need to focus our efforts to not only build ferries but support the robust shipbuilding industry and the economic benefit it provides to our communities. Working together, these builders contribute to living-wage jobs and a diverse local economy that ensures our tax dollars benefit our communities. 

This is an incredible step that Washington is taking for the future, and for the next seven generations to come. I am so proud to be a part of this vital work.