Tag Archives: Councilmember Girmay Zahilay

Block Party Lays Groundwork for Proposed Youth Achievement Center

by Elizabeth Turnbull


Last Sunday, the Seahawks cheerleaders, local activists, and graffiti artists gathered along Martin Luther King Jr Way South and South Angeline Street in Columbia City for one purpose — to bring a youth achievement center to that block of South Seattle.

The building proposal for the center consists of a north and south site which will provide permanent and emergency housing and amenities for different age groups, in addition to space for commercial businesses. Both sites are located next to each other along Martin Luther King Jr Way South adjacent to the Columbia City light rail station. 

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What Would Ranked Choice Voting Look Like in King County?

by Ashley Archibald


The King County Council curtailed an effort July 12 to put a new form of voting before the electorate in November, citing a desire for more time to work through the details before presenting the option to voters.

The original legislation — sponsored by Councilmember Girmay Zahilay — would have given voters the option to approve ranked-choice voting (RCV) for certain nonpartisan County positions including the executive, assessor, director of elections, prosecuting attorney, and County Council.

Had the legislation gone forward and been approved by voters, the new system wouldn’t have taken effect until the Council hammered out the details and voted on a series of protocols, staff said at the July 7 Committee of the Whole. But after initially advancing the matter to its July 13 Council meeting, the Council decided to put the legislation on hold. 

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Chino Y Chicano Podcast: Girmay Zahilay

by Enrique Cerna and Matt Chan

A couple of retired guys that spent their careers making television dish on the good, bad, and ridiculousness of life for People of Color in America. They tear apart the news of the week, explore the complexities of race, and talk to people far more interesting than they will ever be.


Girmay Zahilay joins the Chino Y Chicano to talk about his first year and a half on the King County Council. It has been a rollercoaster of crises from COVID-19 to police violence and racial justice protests, a growing homelessness and gun violence problem, and now a reopening of the state as vaccination efforts continue. Zahilay reflects on a council experience that so far has been full of emotion, and unpredictability.

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Fireworks in Skyway Are Allowed for the Fourth — at Least This Year

by Elizabeth Turnbull


In years past, Skyway has been a place for residents of Renton and Seattle to skirt firework bans and to set off fireworks for July 4. To combat this, King County officials are implementing a three-year plan to crack down on fireworks in the area and in other unincorporated places.

“What was happening in Skyway is that because all of the neighboring cities have already banned fireworks, it was creating a funneling effect where everybody was coming to this city or this neighborhood to blow off their fireworks,” King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay told the Emerald. “They believed all fireworks are legal even though that’s not the case.”

Explosives such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, sky rockets, and missiles are banned for consumer use in Washington State as a whole, except in tribal lands. Display fireworks are also illegal for consumer use countywide.

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Thirty-Nine Percent: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick


This is the fifth and final article in a series of articles examining the pushback and internal pressure former Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) director Deborah Jacobs appears to have faced during her tenure at OLEO. This pushback appears to have mainly stemmed from within the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the very law enforcement entity OLEO is tasked with overseeing, as well as the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), some of whose members belong to the KCSO. Multiple sources have alleged that certain members of the KCSO and the KCPOG mounted an internal campaign against Jacobs and said that the main goal of the campaign was Jacobs’ ouster. The King County Council decided not to renew Jacobs’ contract, after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had violated King County discrimination codes. Jacobs has since filed a tort claim against King County. You can read part one of this series here, part two of this series here, part three of this series here, and part four of this series here.

Not The First

Former King County Office of Labor Relations senior labor negotiator David Topaz didn’t mince words, when, in the second article in this series, he described to the Emerald how he believed the King County Council (KCC) had never given former Office of Law Enforcement Dir. Deborah Jacobs or the office itself the support needed. But he told the Emerald in a March 22, 2021, interview that it still surprised him “to some degree,” when he learned that the KCC had decided not to renew her contract in September 2020, a decision the Emerald covered in the most recent article in this series.

“I would think, if I were somebody on the Council who wanted someone who was going to — no matter what kind of crap she got from anybody — was going to continue to push the envelope, why wouldn’t you want to keep her?” Topaz rhetorically asked. 

Topaz also continues to hold the belief that the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG) was at least partly responsible for Jacobs’ downfall, particularly given all the issues and allegations as outlined in the previous three stories in this series. 

“She doesn’t back down. You’d think that’s what [the KCC would] want in that role,” Topaz said. “But, certainly, the police guild had decided that that was not in their best interests, probably for the exact same reasons.”

KCPOG President Mike “Manny” Mansanarez has denied there was ever any bad blood between himself, personally, and Jacobs but has also admitted that Jacobs and former KCPOG President Steve Eggert had “problems” and that the Guild board saw Jacobs as an activist, rather than a neutral party. Under Eggert, the Guild also filed a grievance against Jacobs, as detailed in the first article in this series.

But while Jacobs is not the first OLEO director to face serious workplace accusations, a 2014 Crosscut article appears to confirm that she is the first to receive public punishment.

Continue reading Thirty-Nine Percent: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

Community Safety Requires All Of Us: Rainier Beach Safeway Update

by Mark Van Streefkerk


In January, the Rainier Beach Safeway parking lot saw several shootings — including one incident in which two people sustained non-life threatening injuries. In response, the community organized a series of Town Hall meetings, parking lot improvements, and an organically-driven “Action Team” that included Safeway employees, Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC), Southeast Network Safe Passage at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club, and Urban Family. Since then, business owners say the area is safer, with no reported incidents of violence to date. 

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Forum To Address Air and Noise Pollution in Beacon Hill, South King County

by Chetanya Robinson


Community advocates are fighting on multiple fronts to diminish the harms caused by air and noise pollution in Beacon Hill and South King County.

An upcoming online forum from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 10, Earth Day Aviation & Health Zoom Rally, will give those interested a chance to learn about how local politicians are addressing the problem.

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Councilmember Zahilay’s Workshop Encourages BIPOC Youth to Run for Office

by Chamidae Ford


On Feb. 20, Girmay Zahilay, the King County Councilmember for District 2, hosted the first installment of his new online series: Build the Bench. The monthly workshop is focused on providing a space for marginalized and underrepresented students and supporting them in eventually running for political office. 

“We will show you the roadmap for getting from where you are today to pursuing a career in policy or politics,” Zahilay said. 

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Black History Today: Girmay Zahilay, a Dream Manifested

by Marcus Harden

(Black History Today is published in collaboration with Rise up for Students.)


“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

—Barack Obama 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the African Diaspora and the connection to the African American experience. I’ve especially been fascinated with learning more about the countries in Africa such as Ethiopia, as it stands as one of the only countries to not be colonized by European “settlers.” It’s begged the question: What lay in the culture of those people? What portions of that culture permeate from generation to generation and how do they show up today?

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Chris Franco, Veteran and County Office of Equity & Social Justice Leader, Is Running for King County Council

by Chetanya Robinson


While he was in Afghanistan as an executive officer during the Obama-era “surge,” Chris Franco’s life gave him a shove that would eventually inspire him to work in public service for the King County government and, in January this year, to run for a seat on the Metropolitan King County Council in Position 9 as a first-time candidate.

“Unfortunately I had a very toxic and self-serving leader that was responsible for helping us out and getting us what we needed during our deployment,” Franco recalled in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. This leader, Franco said, withheld engineering support for barriers to protect people from attacks. “Unfortunately because of that negligence, one of our interpreters was killed.” 

Franco’s disdain for the poor leadership he experienced in Afghanistan grew over the years. “That was a wakeup call to what happens when you have leaders who don’t give a damn, that are vindictive or complacent or just apathetic,” he said.

Continue reading Chris Franco, Veteran and County Office of Equity & Social Justice Leader, Is Running for King County Council