Bothell sends 1st District legislators off to Olympia

The long session started Jan. 14.

The Bothell City Council hosted the 1st Legislative District delegation — Sen. Guy Palumbo and Reps. Derek Stanford and Shelley Kloba — at City Hall on Jan. 7, discussing topics from behavioral health and education to transportation and the environment.

Many of the improvements the city wants to see will require additional funding. For example, Palumbo said the state is “failing” at mental health, but that building out a new system will require both a capital investment — potentially of a half billion dollars — as well as operating funds.

“The data shows you get better results with these community-based, smaller treatment facilities. The problem is we don’t have any,” he said.

Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume said that the city went to voters with a public safety levy in November partly because of issues with mental illness and opioid addiction.

“That’s an area that’s been getting a lot of attention and awareness in the Legislature,” Stanford said. “We need to build capacity and we also need to staff that capacity…and continue with some of the diversion programs that seem to be doing well, to keep people who are dealing with addiction issues from going into the criminal justice system — where it may be more expensive and less effective to deal with them — and into treatment so they can actually recover.”

Bothell councilmember Tom Agnew gave a shoutout to a solution in Bothell that seems to to be working: the city’s navigator pilot program, which places a mental health professional in patrol cars to help connect people struggling with addiction, homelessness and other issues to the resources they need.

“[It’s] the biggest game changer that I’ve seen since the invention of paramedics,” Agnew said. “The state needs to think about funding that totally.”

Councilmember James McNeal wanted to focus on a different aspect of law enforcement: training for officers. Washington has had issues with a large backlog and long wait times to get recruits into the police academy.

Kloba said the state wants to provide more openings in the academy and reduce wait times to a maximum of three months. With the passage of the levy, Bothell will be looking to hire several officers over the next few years.

“We fully understand the difficult bind that it puts cities, and counties for that matter, into,” Kloba said.

She said it was “inefficient and wasteful” to have recruits on wait lists instead of out serving in the community because there are no openings to send recruits to the academy.

On the transportation side, Deputy Mayor Davina Duerr voiced the city’s support for the Interstate 405 master plan, including a funding request for $20 million for right of way acquisition and $450 million for north end improvements.

“It’s important these investments are made this biennium because WSDOT will need to begin construction in 2021 in order to have the dual express toll lanes and direct access ramps completed in time for the BRT in 2024,” she said.

Councilmember Liam Olsen also presented a funding request of $400,000 from the state operating budget to complete the Canyon Park subarea plan, calling it a “critical step in attracting developers.” Palumbo said that transit is an issue in that area, as well as a lack of housing and retail. He and Kloba said they see potential for growth there, with Palumbo noting that expansion in the area could be an economic driver for south Snohomish County.

Rheaume said the city needs to ensure the area is meeting its goals as a Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) designated Regional Growth Center, emphasizing that “re-visioning it is something we really need to do.”

Rheaume mentioned the funds needed for another important area of Bothell: the downtown. He said that the city and state have been working together to clean up the contaminated properties Bothell purchased as part of its downtown revitalization efforts and noted that $1.5 million from the state would help that project get to the finish line.

Agnew also requested that the Washington Wildlife Recreation Program be fully funded at $130 million, so Bothell can get the $1.08 million it requested for the bridge at Bothell Landing. Without a state match, the city would lose federal funding. The bridge is 35 years old and serves 1.2 million users annually, Agnew said, and connects the Burke-Gilman Trail to downtown Bothell. Palumbo said that this project is already on the Legislature’s radar.

On the environmental side, Stanford said that one of his priorities was to help the city with Shelton View Forest, despite challenges with local funding.

Palumbo added that 2019 will be a big year for housing, infrastructure and energy.

“Last year, a lot of the environmental bills died at the end and what should have been a very big year for the environment wound up being a very bad year,” he said. “I don’t see that happening again.”

Councilmembers also had questions about solar and recycling, which the legislators said would likely be discussed this session.

This year, Stanford will chair the House Commerce and Gaming committee and Kloba will serve as vice chair of the House Economic Development committee. Palumbo will chair the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development committee and serve as vice chair of the Environment, Energy and Technology committee.

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