Dear Friends, 

Looking ahead to the pivotal election in November, we have our work cut out for us. It is with great pleasure that I welcome you back to Fantastic Friday!

I am thrilled to bring you weekly updates on my work campaigning to continue representing you in Olympia and to ensure that the right people represent us at all levels of government. It will require a lot of hard work, but I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it right alongside you.

Now, to start us off on the campaign trail, I want to share the announcement from your 40th LD Representatives!

WE ARE THE 40th! Senator Liz Lovelett, Representative Lekanoff, and Representative Ramel officially announce their re-election campaigns in 2024. Working across the 40th, these elected officials are coming together this year as a united ticket to continue to serve and represent the 40th legislative district.

We look forward to earning your vote, earning your support, and earning your endorsement this year. We’ll see you at the doors!

For more information, visit our websites:

Check out our announcement video here.

We look forward to seeing you out on the campaign trail!

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Opening of Affordable Housing For Our Elders

Last week, I was lucky to join the Opportunity Council of Bellingham for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Laurel Forest Apartments.

The project in downtown Bellingham offers more than 50 one-bedroom apartments, aimed at providing low-cost housing to adults who are 55 and older, with specific units dedicated to people who are directly exiting homelessness.

I was honored to join Senator Maria Cantwell, County Commissioner Kaylee Galloway, and Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu, and Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund for the opening of the Laurel Forest project, a great service of the Opportunity Council providing housing for low-income elders in the 40th district.

Together we have invested in a state-of-the-art building that will reach out a hand to many of our community members who are transitioning into their next chapters and lives. We have a great need for housing for low income elders, and this model brings all governing bodies together to provide the very best for our elders.

Bridge Collapse in Baltimore, Maryland 

Friends, like many of you I woke up last week to learn of the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.

The incident occurred when a cargo ship lost power multiple times and rammed into the bridge, causing the span to collapse and presumably killing six construction workers, four of whom are still missing.

The collapse of the bridge will have widespread impacts as it shuts down one of the busiest ports in our country. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a plan that prioritizes recovering the bodies of the workers who passed, then establishing a limited access channel for ships, then removing the ship and clearing remaining wreckage from the river.

This will be a long recovery process, and I have every faith in the local, state, and federal governments to address the issues head on, transparently, and effectively.

Keep an eye out for future updates.

Vin Baker Recovery Center

Last year I had the honor of meeting Rise Above, a Native American non-profit organization founded by Jaci McCormack. Through her work with Rise Above, Jaci uses her experiences and story to provide guidance and tools to Native Youth by meeting them where they are in life.

She brings Youth together through their shared love of basketball, connecting them with legends such as Super Sonics Coaches Lenny Wilkens and George Carl, with players Dale Ellis, Vin Baker, and Herman. My journey in recovery to addiction began with these legends who lifted me up and believed in me, stepping alongside to walk with me during my journey.

Jaci and Vin Baker continue to be part of my journey, and this week I had the pleasure of traveling with Rise Above to Milwaukee for the opening of the Vin Baker Recovery Center. The center opened its doors as an affordable resource for people looking for help addressing substance abuse, addiction, and mental and behavioral health crisis.

Vin is a former NBA star for the Milwaukee Bucks and a current Assistant Coach with the team, announced his plans to open this affordable treatment center last year. Vin has struggled with alcohol and drugs in his life and is giving back to the community that supported him through trying times.

During my visit to the Vin Baker Recovery Center, I met with Vin Baker, Representatives Kalan Haywood, Robyn Vining, Darrin Madison, and Dora Drake, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and community members to understand their approach to combating addiction and promoting wellness. Wisconsin’s innovative model, with the creation of recovery hubs like the Vin Baker Recovery Center, serves as an inspiration for addressing addiction crises and promoting healing in communities. 

Looking ahead, I am building a partnership with Vin Baker, I am committed to bringing a similar accessible treatment model to Washington to support individuals battling addiction. Collaborations with influential figures like Attorney General Josh Kaul, who played a crucial role in allocating opioid lawsuit settlement funds towards supporting recovery structures, provide valuable insights for our work in Washington and beyond.  

We should all feel inspired by Vin Baker’s remarkable journey of recovery and the collaborative efforts in Wisconsin, and I am determined to work towards providing accessible healing options for individuals in need.

By joining forces and learning from successful models like those in Wisconsin, we can make meaningful strides in supporting our communities and saving lives. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against addiction.

Highlights from the 2024 Legislative Session

Next, as we look back at the 2024 legislative session, there are so many great things that we accomplished! I could spend the next two months updating you on all of the great work my colleagues and I did in Olympia, and the tremendous bills that we passed to uplift all Washingtonians.

Instead, today I want to take a minute to highlight just a handful some of the legislative victories from our session.

Making Our Communities Safer

  • House Bill 2021: This bill ensures that all firearms seized by law enforcement will be disposed of safely.
  • House Bill 1903: This bill requires the reporting of lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours.
  • House Bill 2118: This bill establishes standards for licensed gun dealers.

Protecting Washington’s Environment

  • House Bill 2301: This bill strengthens food waste management practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase food security for vulnerable communities.
  • House Bill 2207: This bill provides new approaches to address unlawful solid waste dumping and enhance waste management efforts.
  • House Bill 1368: This bill funds the transition to zero-emission school buses.

Supporting our Students

  • House Bill 1228: This  bill supports multilingual and multicultural education to empower students and celebrate linguistic diversity.
  • House Bill 2331: This bill establishes a process for removing books from schools to ensure LGBTQ+ and diverse voices are represented in our curriculum and libraries.

This is just a small snapshot of all of the incredible work we did in Olympia this term – keep an eye out in future newsletters for additional highlights!

Bellingham Bay Clean Up

Finally, to round out this week’s Fantastic Friday, an update on the Bellingham Bay Cleanup.

Cleanup work at 12 contaminated sites located on the Bellingham waterfront is happening at the direction of the Department of Ecology under authority of the state’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act.

According to the update:

“In 2023, [the Department of Ecology] made significant progress in Bellingham Bay.

In addition to regulatory requirements, the cleanup work is guided by the Bellingham Bay Comprehensive Strategy completed in 2000 by the multi-agency Bellingham Bay Action Team. The Comprehensive Strategy integrates cleanup of contamination, controlling sources of sediment contamination, habitat restoration and land use on a bay-wide scale. The Action Team is co-managed by Ecology and the Port of Bellingham.

The state has partially funded the cleanup work conducted to date. The Port of Bellingham and the City of Bellingham are the main entities responsible for addressing contamination. As public entities, up to half of their costs may be reimbursed through a state remedial action grant program that helps pay for cleanup work at publicly-owned sites. The Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.”

If you’d like to read the full update, check it out here.

This is a long project that is continuing to progress, and I am glad to have the dedicated individuals at the Department of Ecology working so hard on this. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am heartened by the continued progress in cleaning Bellingham Bay.