Hilary Franz drops WA governor bid to run for U.S. Congress

Twice elected state commissioner of public lands, Franz has been running for governor in a crowded field that includes Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Hilary Franz

Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. (Courtesy of Steve Dipaola/Franz Campaign)

Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is switching from running for governor to running for U.S. Congress in the wake of Rep. Derek Kilmer’s announced retirement.

The moderate Democrat, first elected representative in 2012 from Washington’s 6th Congressional District, announced Thursday that he wouldn’t run for another term.

In a statement Friday through Franz’s campaign, Kilmer offered his endorsement.

“As lands and wildfire chief, Hilary Franz has proven herself to be a bold, strategic leader with a track record of bringing people together from across the state and from different backgrounds to find solutions to our shared problems,” Kilmer said in prepared remarks. Twice elected statewide as state commissioner of public lands, Franz has been running for governor in a crowded field that includes Democratic state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Dave Reichert, Republican and former member of Congress.

In her campaign statement, Franz touted her time serving in the district between 2008 and 2011 as a member of the Bainbridge Island City Council.

“Over the last few months, I’ve talked to voters in every corner of Washington and heard the same concerns – rising prices for necessities like housing pushing families out of the middle class, protecting reproductive freedom and women’s rights, safeguarding our democracy, supporting our veterans and military families, and the climate crisis bearing down on us,” said Hilary Franz. 

The statement also announced a slew of other endorsements for Franz, including from Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards; Kitsap County Commissioner Christine Rolfes, also a former state senator; and state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles.

Washington’s 6th Congressional District includes the Olympic Peninsula and stretches over Puget Sound to include parts of Tacoma.

Though she has been previously registered to vote in Seattle, Franz bought a home in the congressional district – in Grays Harbor County – in 2022, according to Franz spokesperson Jack Sorensen.

“Has had a home and spent much of her time there for a while,” Sorensen wrote in an email. “That’s her voting address, and she voted there in this election.”

“The house in Seattle you’re referring to has actually been rented out for a while,” he added.

In the hours after Kilmer announced, two state lawmakers have also said they were considering bids: Democratic Sen. Emily Randall of Bremerton and GOP Sen. Drew MacEwen of Union.

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Lisa Brown is sworn in as the new mayor of Spokane

Lisa Brown during election night in November 2023

Lisa Brown speaks with an attendee at an election-night results watch party at Spokane’s Riverside Place, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Young Kwak for Crosscut)

Calling for a “better way” going forward, Spokane Mayor-elect Lisa Brown took her oath of office Wednesday during a ceremony at the Central Library. 

She replaces outgoing Mayor Nadine Woodward after one of the most contentious local races in last month’s general elections in Washington. Brown’s term officially starts on Jan. 1. 

Following taking the oath, Brown said she felt different ways at once, including “terror” at the complicated problems she would tackle. “I fully expect, despite all the great jobs I’ve had in my life, that this will be the hardest one.” 

But at the same time, she said she was also excited because of the many “talented, passionate and compassionate people who want to be part of making Spokane better.”

“In essence, I feel hopeful for our city,” she said.

Brown comes to the mayor position with extensive public service experience that has included representing Spokane in the Washington State Legislature for more than two decades. Most recently, she served as director of the Washington state Department of Commerce. 

Brown said in preparation for her term she invited nearly 100 people of diverse experience and backgrounds to participate in work groups to identify issues and solutions in five areas — public safety, health and housing, economy and workforce, environment and sustainability, and families and communities. 

Brown said she didn’t expect Spokane’s divisions to disappear with her election but believed the city could overcome them over time by working together. 

It’s time for us to come together and focus on solutions, not jurisdictions, on people, not political differences, to join hands instead of pointing fingers,” Brown said. “A better way starts now, and it starts with all of us.”

Lisa Brown takes the oath of office
Lisa Brown takes the oath of office at Spokane's Central Library. on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of Spokane Public Library live stream)

Brown defeated Woodward during last month’s general election, 51.74% to 47.71%. The race generated more contributions than any other local race statewide, including ones for Seattle City Council seats. 

Councilwoman-elect Kitty Klitzke also was sworn in during Wednesday’s ceremony. Klitzke had campaigned alongside Brown and previously worked for Brown during her 2018 run for U.S. Congress against U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Klitzke said working for Brown’s congressional campaign inspired her continued involvement in public service. 

“I do want to thank Lisa Brown, who is a leader and always leaves the door open behind her and beacons the next generation in,” she said.

A person empties a bag of soil in a garden.
Marcus Henderson works in the community garden on Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). The area surrounding Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill had been claimed by protesters and included art instillations, a co-op, medical tent and library. (Sarah Hoffman/Crosscut)

A community garden in Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park that was established as part of Seattle’s 2020 Black Lives Matter protests was removed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department Wednesday.

The city, which did not sanction the garden, cited “public health and public safety issues” including vandalism of the park’s public bathrooms. City crews also removed tent encampments in and around the park.

Black Lives Memorial Garden was created by participants of the 2020 Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), an occupation protest against police brutality and racial injustice that took over several city blocks including Cal Anderson Park. CHOP was largely cleared from the streets and sidewalks after about a month of occupation, though marches and rallies continued in the neighborhood and the garden remained.

Parks officials said they had been negotiating with organizers Black Star Farmers Collective to find a new location for several months before dismantling the garden on Wednesday.

Supporters, who posted a petition to save the garden when plans emerged in October to remove it, called the site “an ongoing, occupied protest space started in 2020 by people taking land back and organizing against police violence.” 

“We see this threat for what it is - an attempt to suppress BIPOC-led movements for liberation and decolonization,” petition organizers said on Change.org. Community group Cal Anderson Park Alliance also opposed clearing the garden from the park, according to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

However, other community leaders, including leadership in the state and local NAACP, relatives of Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor, who were killed by Seattle police, and Seattle City Councilmember-elect Joy Hollingsworth, backed the removal of the garden on several grounds, including lack of public safety and accusing organizers of co-opting the call for police reform.

“It’s bewildering to see a memorial meant to address specific atrocities against the African-American community being overshadowed by narratives and causes unrelated to its intended purpose,” said Jonathan Jones-Thomas, environmental climate justice Chairman of NAACP-WA, in the parks department prepared statement. “While acknowledging the importance of addressing wrongs across all communities, the African-American community’s memorial is unfairly bearing the weight of broader issues.”

WA’s new wildfire smoke exposure rules for workers start Jan. 15

Yellowish wildfire smoke obscures Lumen Field in 2022.

Lumen Field is hidden in smoke as seen from the Jose Rizal Bridge on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries announced it will enforce new permanent wildfire smoke protections for outdoor workers starting Jan. 15, after two years of operating under emergency measures.

Washington joins Oregon and California as one of the few states to regulate outdoor workers’ exposure to wildfire smoke. There are no explicit protections on the federal level, despite the uptick in wildfires in recent summers as a direct result of climate change

Wildfire smoke can be especially dangerous to those working in fields such as agriculture and construction as workers inhale fine smoke particles that catch deep in the lungs. Continued exposure can lead to a wide array of health defects – aggravated asthma, heart failure or even death.

L&I enacted emergency wildfire smoke measures in both 2021 and 2022. Under the new year-round protections, employers must monitor daily forecasts and hourly estimates for air quality. The permanent measure also asks employers to draft wildfire response plans, and mandates respiratory protection once the Air Quality Index tops 101 or higher. 

In a preliminary analysis provided by L&I, the agency estimated the permanent rules will cost employers from $10.7 million to $14.6 million a year, and will be offset by another $17.6 million and $27.8 million in “annual benefits.”

In August, Crosscut found that employers wanted clearer instructions on their individual responsibilities when enforcing said protections, while advocates – especially in the agriculture industry – felt L&I could have issued protections starting at a lower AQI.

Mayor Harrell, new Councilmembers tout alliance on public safety

the seattle mayor and five councilmembers stand at a lecturn in city hall

Mayor Bruce Harrell stands with Councilmembers-elect Bob Kettle, Joy Hollingsworth, Maritza Rivera, Rob Saka, and Cathy Moore at City Hall on Dec. 15, 2023. (Josh Cohen/Crosscut)

Mayor Bruce Harrell held a press conference Friday morning to welcome the five City Councilmembers-elect to City Hall in advance of the Jan. 2 swearing-in ceremony.

Councilmembers-elect Rob Saka, District 1; Joy Hollingsworth, District 3; Maritza Rivera, District 4; Cathy Moore, District 5; and Bob Kettle, District 7 stood with Harrell on the seventh floor of City Hall to emphasize their commitment to collaboration and transparency.

“We have some excitement and some energy on the kinds of things we want to do together,” said Harrell. “And I trust that they will lead with integrity, with passion, with intelligence.”

In his remarks, Harrell said that he expects to work with the new Councilmembers on public safety, homelessness, affordable housing and basics like constituent services and fixing potholes.

All five incoming Councilmembers ran on platforms that largely aligned with Harrell’s priorities, especially when it comes to public safety, where they promised to hire more police, expand the newly launched dual dispatch pilot program, address the drug crisis and more. Harrell endorsed Saka, Hollingsworth, Rivera and Moore in the general election.

The Councilmembers-elect also benefited from the backing of business and real estate in the greater Seattle area, which spent more than $1 million on their campaigns through independent political committees.

Each Councilmember-elect gave brief remarks Friday morning.

Saka re-emphasized his public safety goals and noted the historic moment they’re a part of with such high turnover on the Council. According to the City Archivist, the last turnover of five Councilmembers in a single election in the body’s modern history happened in 1970. There were larger turnovers between 1886 and 1910, but the Council’s size and term lengths were different, making it an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Hollingsworth said she’s been meeting with community and public safety groups in her district, City Hall staff and others to get up to speed before she’s sworn in. “We know that this process will take time. We know that everyone wants a sense of urgency. But we also understand that it’s a process.”

Rivera said she was humbled by her election and that she is “looking forward to getting this city back to the vibrant state so our kids are really thriving here, as well as all of us.”

Moore said she’s been working on assembling her team, recognizing the role that Council staffers play in Councilmembers’ success. She said one of her top goals is to get sidewalks in every neighborhood, a particularly pressing issue for her North Seattle district.

Kettle reiterated the message of collaboration and his goals to foster it within the Council body and with the mayor. “Ultimately, it’s about leading with compassion, but then also wisdom and having balance. Balance is, like, my new favorite word, and I’m looking forward to leading with that balance.”

The five electees join District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales and District 6 Councilmember Dan Strauss, who were reelected to second terms in November along with at-large Councilmember Sara Nelson, whose first term ends in 2025.

One of their first tasks in January will be to appoint a replacement for at-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who was elected to the King County Council in November and begins that new role at the start of January.

Police pursuits measure likely headed to Washington’s 2024 ballot

Seattle Police officers during May Day protests in Seattle

Seattle Police officers during May Day protests in 2019. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Let’s Go Washington announced Tuesday it is submitting petitions for an initiative to loosen restrictions around when law enforcement officers can engage in vehicle pursuits.

The group, which is funding a series of proposed conservative ballot measures, said it turned in more than 400,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office for Initiative 2113. That’s the third of six proposed initiatives the group is bringing to the Legislature but expects will be up for a statewide vote next November.

In a statement, Let’s Go Washington founder Brian Heywood said, “Communities across the state are suffering impacts of rising crime while lawmakers tell them not to believe their eyes.”

“Local police, mayors and city councils should not be stuck with a one-size-fits-all policy that keeps police from doing their job,” he added. “Handcuffing police is a failure and regular Washingtonians are paying the price.”

In 2021, lawmakers tightened the circumstances around which law enforcement officers can engage in police pursuits. The law was one of roughly a dozen measures to change policing after the deaths at the hands of police of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Manuel Ellis in Tacoma, among other people of color.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature last year then loosened the new restrictions a little, but it has not dampened criticism from conservatives.

I-2113 would allow pursuits when officers have “a reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law” in instances where “pursuit is necessary to identify or apprehend the person, the person poses a threat to the safety of others, those safety risks are greater than those of the pursuit, and a supervisor authorizes the pursuit,” according to the ballot measure summary.

Washington raises $2B in first year of carbon pollution auctions

A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle

A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle featured at a December 2021 news conference in Olympia where Gov. Jay Inslee announced several climate-related proposals for the 2022 legislative session, including a plan to offer rebates on the purchase of new and used electric vehicles for qualified buyers. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington raised another $370.6 million in its final carbon auction of 2023, bringing the total to slightly more than $2 billion in the first year of the state cap-and-invest program, the Ecology Department announced Wednesday.

Carbon-emitting corporations bid every three months on state allowances for the pollution emitted by their facilities. The winning bidders all pay the same price on those allowances after the auction. The “settlement” prices in the first few Washington auctions were $48.50 for roughly one metric ton of carbon for the first quarter of 2023; $56.01 for the second quarter; $63.03 for the third; and $51.89 for the December auction.

Of the total $2 billion raised through the program, $1.82 billion goes toward environmental investments and another $376 million will go to gas and electric utilities to help ratepayers, especially low-income families.

The cap-and-invest system passed by the Legislature in 2021 is aimed at decreasing carbon emissions to a small fraction of their current levels by 2050.

In addition to clean energy investments, the program has made driving gas-powered vehicles more expensive. It has raised Washington’s price at the pump from 15 to 50 cents per gallon, depending on who is calculating. Republicans have been slamming Gov. Jay Inslee over those increases and a conservative group has been gathering signatures to send an initiative to the Legislature to get Washington out of carbon pricing.

Washington has traditionally had some of the nation’s highest gas prices due to various geographical and economic factors outside of the cap-and-invest program.

For the program’s first two years, the Legislature appropriated $2.1 billion in cap-and-invest revenue for numerous climate mitigation projects. On Monday, Inslee said the state expects to collect $941 million in additional cap-and-invest money in the first half of 2024, bringing the overall income to roughly $3 billion over the system’s first 18 months and adding that much to be spent on climate projects. 

Inslee’s supplemental budget request includes: 

- A one-time $200 credit to the utility bills of roughly 750,000 low- and moderate-income households in Washington. 

- Speeding the transition from diesel school buses to electric school buses across the state. 

- Installing electric heat pumps in low-income multiple-family homes, replacing gas furnaces.

- Providing matching funds for competitive federal grants to bring clean-energy jobs to Washington. 

- Converting a large diesel ferry into a hybrid fuel/electric ferry. As Washington’s ferries are breaking down in increasing numbers, Inslee also said on Monday that future cap-and-invest income could speed up replacing the old ferries with new hybrid ones.

CORRECTION: Fixes the amount raised in the most recent action and how it was distributed.

Republican State Sen. Drew MacEwen has officially joined the race for the 6th Congressional District seat that will be vacated by outgoing U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer.

Washington State Sen. Drew MacEwen (R-Shelton) (Washington State Senate)
Drew MacEwen (Washington State Senate)

MacEwen, of Shelton, is the first Republican to register a campaign for this seat with the Federal Election Commission, which oversees federal campaign finance laws. Three Democrats – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean – also have launched campaigns for the seat.

MacEwen, a U.S. Navy veteran, has been in the state Senate since January 2023 after he was elected to replace retiring State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Shelton. Before being elected to the state Senate, MacEwen represented the 35th District in the state House of Representatives between 2013 and 2022.

Washington’s 6th Congressional District covers the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas and stretches into parts of Tacoma. The next elections for the U.S. House of Representatives will be in 2024, and the newly elected representative will start a two-year term in January 2025.

 

Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm to resign after just 16 months

a sound transit light rail train pulling into mount baker station

A light-rail train heads out of Mt. Baker Station south toward Angle Lake, Feb. 11, 2022. (Genna Martin/Crosscut)

Sound Transit on Tuesday announced the resignation of CEO Julie Timm. Her final day at the regional transit agency will be Jan. 12, just 16 months after taking the position in September 2022.

The announcement comes on the heels of Timm’s performance review by the Sound Transit Board last week. The review is not yet public, but board members had recently expressed disappointment in the agency for not taking sufficient steps to avoid cost overruns and delays on its multibillion-dollar work to expand the Link light-rail system, according to reporting by Publicola.

In an email to the Sound Transit staff, which was shared with Crosscut, Timm wrote:

“For the past several months I have been struggling to balance the needs of long-distance care and support for my aging father with the intense requirements of leading Sound Transit as CEO. Over the past week in collaboration with board leadership, I came to the difficult, but I believe the correct, conclusion that my family needs more of my focus.”

In a press release, Sound Transit said Timm is moving back to the East Coast to spend time with family. The release continued, “Since joining Sound Transit in September 2022, Timm has overseen a renewed emphasis on the rider experience as Sound Transit approaches the opening of several new extensions, starting with East Link next spring.”

The Sound Transit Board expects to appoint an interim CEO in the coming weeks.

The agency is in the midst of its next phase of expansion, which will extend the existing line north to Lynnwood and south to Federal Way and build new light rail across Lake Washington from Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond.

Sound Transit is also in the planning stages of its third phase of expansion, which was approved by voters in 2016 as a $54 billion ballot measure. Once completed it will connect Tacoma to Seattle to Everett and build new lines in Seattle connecting West Seattle and Ballard to Downtown. The agency's most recent financial plan estimates it will spend $148 billion on operations and new construction between 2017 and 2046.

Update: This article was updated to clarify Sound Transit's estimated operations and construction costs.

The group Let’s Go Washington on Tuesday announced it is submitting signatures to put on the ballot a parents’-rights initiative that could be decided by voters next November.

Fueled by a big donor, Brian Heywood, the conservative group is aiming to qualify half a dozen proposed initiatives to the Legislature by an end-of-year deadline.

The proposed parents-rights’ initiative, Initiative 2081, would let parents and guardians of public-school children review curricula and student records, including disciplinary and health information, according to a summary of the proposal. Among other things, the measure would allow parents to opt their children out of sex education.

“A parent’s right to care for their child is foundational to strong communities and a functioning society,” Heywood said in a statement. “Parents are the primary stakeholder in raising children. No government employee can care about or love a child like their parent.”

The citizen sponsor of I-2081 is state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, who is also chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. Let’s Go Washington gathered more than 420,000 signatures, nearly 100,000 more than needed to qualify, according to the group.

The proposal comes after loud opposition by conservatives to a comprehensive sexual education law passed a few years ago – and later approved by voters. A law passed earlier this year, Senate Bill 5599, has also rankled conservatives.

That new law expands an existing statute allowing organizations that provide services to unsheltered youth to hold off on notifying a guardian or parent if there are compelling reasons, such as neglect or abuse. SB 5599 added protected health care services as a reason to delay notification. Such services include reproductive health care and gender-affirming treatment. The bill quickly became a target in the national culture wars.

I-2081 is an initiative to the Legislature, and if it qualifies, lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature can either choose to pass it during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January; take no action and let I-2081 go to the ballot; or pass an alternative proposal, which would send both I-2018 and the alternative to a vote of the people.

Last month, Let’s Go Washington submitted signatures for I-2117, an initiative to the Legislature that seeks to repeal Washington’s carbon cap-and-trade system.

Only 26% of WA children on Medicaid receive required lead testing

Sadie Armijo, director of State Audit and Special Investigations at the Washington State Auditor's office, sitting in front of a computer

Sadie Armijo, director of State Audit and Special Investigations at the Washington State Auditor's office, in her Olympia office on March 2, 2022. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

A new state auditor’s report says only 26% of Washington children enrolled in Medicaid are being tested for lead exposure, even though the federal government requires them all to be tested twice between their first and sixth birthdays.

“Although Washington has multiple factors that can increase a child’s risk of lead exposure, most children with the highest risk have never been tested,” said the performance audit report issued Tuesday.

Children in areas with more risk for lead exposure were tested at higher rates; however, some counties with elevated risk tested the fewest children, according to the report. The auditor also notes that the state does not have an adequate process to make sure children are getting the required testing.

As the report notes, Washington children may not be as much at risk as children from more industrial states, but no level of lead exposure is healthy for kids. The auditor’s office did make some positive findings, including connecting better community outreach with higher testing levels.

Report recommendations to the Washington Department of Health and the Health Care Authority include:

– Make sure health insurance companies involved in Medicaid have a clear understanding of testing requirements.

– Increase awareness of lead exposure testing among health care providers.

– Implement a state monitoring process for lead testing.

– Assess lead exposure risk at the community level, at least annually.

The Health Care Authority responded to the report saying it is working on improving education, outreach and test monitoring structure. They also promised to look into mandatory tracking.

“Please thank your team for their work on this audit. We will use the information and recommendations as an opportunity to improve. Many improvements are well underway,” concluded the DOH and HCA response, which was also signed by David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management.