Dear Friends, 

We’ve entered the month of June, and I’m delighted to wish everyone a happy Pride Month! The celebrations kicked off on June 1st with the Whatcom Youth Pride coalition leading a powerful march through the streets of Bellingham.

Before the march, a festive Pride festival allowed LGBTQ+ youth, allies, and the entire community to come together in celebration. An estimated 1,500 people attended to enjoy a drag show, food trucks, art displays, and an atmosphere of Pride.

The parade itself was a vibrant, moving display of LGBTQ+ youth proudly embracing their identities alongside their supportive community. Witnessing such joyful Pride is truly heartwarming.

Celebrating diversity and honoring the brave individuals who fought for LGBTQ+ liberation is incredibly important, especially as we see an increasing number of anti-LGBTQ+ legislations introduced across the country, particularly at the state level. Celebrating our community and standing together in solidarity takes on even greater significance.

Seeing so many wonderful people unite in celebration fills me with energy and renews my commitment to defending LGBTQ+ rights in Washington State. Protecting our LGBTQ+ youth will remain a key focus and priority for me.

Let’s continue to uplift and support our LGBTQ+ community not just during Pride Month, but every month. Together, we can create a more inclusive and affirming society for all.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Supporting Affordable Housing in Bellingham 

With amazing views, culture, and diversity, Whatcom County has increased in popularity. With increased population in recent years, Bellingham has struggled to keep pace with affordable places to live. 

The ratio between new housing construction and population growth is exceedingly separating. Community members fight the ongoing rising challenges of housing inventory and affordability, and the rising costs of living expenses. We are now seeing the consequences of these economic issues, with increased rates of homelessness and food insecurity. 

The county and city are implementing affordable housing development initiatives, incentives for developers, tenant protections, and are collaborating with stakeholders to create a more affordable and stable housing market for residents. 

The county and city have a strong history of collaboration. In 2007, Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas and County Executive Pete Kremen appointed a Countywide Housing Affordability Task Force (CHAT) to develop and present action strategies and programs. 

We may not have all the answers today; but this beautiful city has a future that is built on working together, and it is this intent that we can share just a few programs: 

  • Affordable Housing Development: Bellingham has focused on increasing the supply of affordable housing through partnerships with developers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. This includes supporting the construction of low-income housing units and mixed-income developments to accommodate a range of income levels. 
  • Preserving Existing Affordable Housing: Bellingham has implemented a program that offers low-interest loans to low-income households. This initiative is designed to provide financial assistance to those who may struggle to afford necessary repairs to their homes. The primary goal is to help maintain safe and livable conditions, ensuring that homeowners can address damage that might otherwise go unaddressed due to financial constraints. 
  • Urban Villages: Bellingham has implemented urban village plans to create dense, mixed-use communities near existing infrastructure, promoting affordable development. These plans aim to place residents close to jobs, transit, schools, and services, fostering diverse, resilient communities. Incentives have been established to make development in these areas economically feasible, with a significant portion of future growth allocated to these urban villages.

 Here are some local resources for anyone who may need assistance with their housing:  

The partnership between the county and the city is one of the more progressive answers to address the challenges we were facing then and what we are facing today. 

These efforts are a quality start to return Bellingham to an affordable economy, but we need to do better, and it is going to take all governing bodies.   

Leaders of the Area: Clyde Shavers, Janey Sinclaire, Joe Timmons, Bob Ferguson

What an honor it has been to support my democratic colleagues from the La Conner Channel to the Skagit River up to Bellingham Bay.  

In the 10th LD, Rep. Clyde Shavers held his Re Election campaign, and his event was filled with diverse groups of community members.  Clyde is a veteran, and he brings his fierce loyalty to serve his country and to serve his constituents.  We know that he is a man who is invested in higher education and apprenticeships for unions and he is committed to a strong workforce and safe workspaces. 

The State Senate race in the 10th LD is gaining momentum for Janet Sinclaire. I’m pleased to share that she is a strong candidate as a social worker, teacher, and elected official. She brings her expertise to find balance in education costs for teachers and students, and she knows the issues from infrastructure to healthcare. We need her in the Senate to ensure every one of the 10th LD’s constituents are included in every vote.  

With his sleeves rolled up, this young Democrat can be found engaging with a room full of constituents who believe in his commitment to their community. He is one of those people who loves his job, and you can see it in his genuine approach to service.  That evening Rep. Joe Timmons reached everyone, shown through his passion to listen to the community. 

His event was lively, you could find him throwing a baseball with Bellingham Port Commissioner Mike Shepard’s son outside the event, or sitting with Abe and Carla, long-time loyal Democrats discussing rising costs of living and our regressive tax system, and Roe v. Wade. City Council President Dan Hammel, Lummi Chairman Anthony Hillaire, and Joe strategized against the fentanyl crisis all the while making sure to give a smile to his wonderful wife Heather and their son. 

It was an honor to speak on his behalf amongst dedicated voters who stand with Joe, and I am proud to support him as he runs for re-election. 

In the homelands of the Lummi Nation, over 150 Democrats gathered to support Bob Ferguson as he campaigns to be our next Governor of Washington State. The room was filled with community members from diverse cultures, ages, economies, industries and livelihoods, and what we all had in common was BLUE! We are in for a fight my friends, and Whatcom is one of three counties that needs to invest our time in making sure we get the Blue Vote.  

We need to invest our time in talking to our neighbors and friends about how vital this race is and why we need to vote Bob for Governor. The most effective campaign strategy is a good conversation, as the trust and personal discussion between voters is always going to be respected by all.  

Many of you may not be aware; but in the past two major Governor Races, the split was 2%, and in the race between Gregoire and Rosse, she won by only 133 votes.  It is going to take all of us getting out and knocking on doors, talking to our neighbors and friends, and making sure we get out the vote for all Washingtonians. 

The Drought in Washington State

The Washington State Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply convened this week to discuss the April 16, 2024 Drought Declaration. As the representative for the 40th LD, which includes the Skagit and Whatcom counties that have faced critical drought situations impacting instream flows and agricultural industries, I was honored to serve on this committee.

The Department of Ecology, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, is providing guidance and effective relief programs and grants to address water supply challenges during this critical time. The Drought Relief account, established by HB1138 in 2023, enables the Department of Ecology to provide funding, with $4.5 million in relief funds allocated in 2023.

The 2024 Drought Declaration was triggered by low snowpack and a warm, dry forecast, meeting the two requirements: hydrologic threshold and anticipated impacts on environmental and natural resources due to water supply constraints. The declaration process, outlined in RCW 43.83B.405 and WAC 173-166-050, involves three levels of assessment before the final decision by the Governor. Factors considered include year-to-date snowpack, precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and forecasts for streamflow, precipitation, temperature, and soil moisture.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply during Drought convenes when drought conditions are anticipated or an advisory or emergency order is in effect. The committee gathers and assesses information on water supply conditions, economic impacts, and environmental impacts of water scarcity. State agencies collaborate to respond to the committee’s inquiries. During drought emergencies, the Department of Ecology must regularly report on drought response efforts, including emergency water withdrawals, changes in water rights, and grant disbursements. The committee suggests improvements to the state’s drought response initiatives and planning to the Senate and House of Representatives, addressing budgetary allocations and legislative measures.

In my career focused on salmon recovery and protection, water quality and quantity have been crucial policy, science, regulatory, and fiscal concerns. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife experts, Jeremy Cram and Megan Kernan, provided informative presentations to the committee. We learned that water droughts in streams typically impact salmon during the summer months of July to September, sometimes extending into October in the Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish areas. 

Instream flow is critical for salmon survival as reduced water levels and warmer temperatures lead to decreased habitat, increased predation, stranded fish, decreased dissolved oxygen, and impacts on spawning due to the health effects on salmon and warming temperatures. I am committed to supporting science-based approaches and collaboration across all governing bodies to protect salmon for future generations.

Lummi Nation Opens MWIC Wellness Center 

I’m excited to share that the Lummi Nation Northwest Indian College (NWIC) has opened their new Wellness Center to serve students and community members. NWIC has been accredited since 1993 and currently serves around 1,200 students from over 115 federally recognized tribes, as well as students of all backgrounds.

This Wellness Center is the culmination of years of planning and effort by NWIC to create a space dedicated to cultural, health, social, and mental wellness solutions. Through over 12 diverse funding sources, including partnerships with the USDA, Washington State Department of Commerce, Puget Sound Energy, The Murdock Foundation, and support from Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, the center features state-of-the-art technology and green building materials and energy systems.

The Lummi Nation is investing in the future of its tribal members by providing this academic home that welcomes individuals from tribes across the nation and Canada. The campus embodies the vision of Lummi elders to address historical trauma through education rooted in their values and traditions. Since its 1973 founding, NWIC has nurtured students across diverse fields in a welcoming environment.

Looking ahead, the Lummi Nation plans to further expand the Wellness Center with a new Health Clinic, Recovery and Healing Center, and enhanced programs and services for all ages. The nation is a leader in healing practices, working collaboratively with Whatcom County, Bellingham, and others, as exemplified by the joint emergency declaration to combat the fentanyl crisis. Grounded in Lummi cultural values, this vision aims to save lives and enhance well-being throughout our northern Salish Sea region.