Tag Archives: King County Council

OPINION: Racist Deeds Without Adequate Consequences

by Glenn Nelson


I’m going to skip right to the punchline here: The King County Council failed last week when it asked Kathy Lambert to apologize for what six of them termed her “racist piece of political mail.” It also acted insufficiently on Tuesday when it voted to strip Lambert of her committee leadership positions. Nothing short of her resignation or removal is enough of a reckoning for what even in today’s divisive climate were absurdly blatant, public, and undeniably racist actions.

With a super-majority endorsing her opponent, Sarah Perry, the Council has only partly done a deed that they should have finished.

That is, unless they all can rationalize that, by following the research and advice of her political consultant, Lambert simply was representing her constituency. Even that is more problematic than it sounds.

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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. 

Continue reading What Would Ranked Choice Voting Look Like in King County?

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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City, County Get Busy Spending Federal ARPA Relief Dollars

by Kevin Schofield


On May 25, the King County Council passed a supplemental budget bill allocating $367 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for COVID-19 relief, while Seattle officials unveiled a draft plan for how the City intends to spend its share of the $1.85 trillion pie.

The King County budget bill includes $631 million in new spending: $367 million from ARPA, $249 million from a variety of other sources, and $16 million from the County’s existing reserves. The Seattle plan appropriates $128 million from ARPA: $116 million of flexible-use “COVID Local Recovery Funds” or CLRF, and $12 million specifically targeted for housing and homelessness programs. CLRF funds are received from the federal government in two equal payments: one now, and the second approximately one year from now. Seattle is planning to spend its CLRF funds as they come in; however, King County has chosen to front-load $367 million of their total $437 million allocation this year, spending from its cash balance now and using much of next year’s second payment as reimbursement.

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County Council Candidate Ubax Gardheere Centers Campaign Around Lived Experience

by Chamidae Ford


Ubax Gardheere recently announced her plan to run for King County Council District 9, which includes portions of Renton and Bellevue as well as Maple Valley and Enumclaw. The single mother describes herself as a “bureactvist” who is looking to shift the King County Council to a more cooperative community. 

She currently oversees the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) program as the equitable development division director for the City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development. She’s also the governance group member for Communities of Opportunity, a board member of A Regional Coalition for Housing, and a member of Fund 4 the Frontlines committee. Gardheere has also served on the advisory board of Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund and is a former board co-chair of Social Justice Fund NW.

Gardheere has experienced homelessness, poverty, a mental health crisis, and inaccessibility to resources throughout her life. These obstacles guide Gardheere’s platform and influence the policy she seeks to implement.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Continue reading County Council Candidate Ubax Gardheere Centers Campaign Around Lived Experience

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

A Director’s Downfall: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick

This is the fourth 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, and part three of this series here.

The Investigation

Deborah Jacobs officially lost her job as King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight director on the first day of September, 2020. That was the day the King County Council voted — narrowly, in a five-to-four vote — not to renew her contract. She spent one of the last days on the job presenting the independent investigative report her office commissioned into Tommy Le’s 2017 shooting death at the hands of a King County Sheriff’s officer.

And then, she was out.

Jacobs does not appear to have been entirely blameless in the loss of her job. As noted repeatedly throughout this series, the King County Council decided not to renew her contract because an independent investigation the Council commissioned found that she made discriminatory and inappropriate comments towards employees about other Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) employees or others outside OLEO.

The Emerald was unable to interview current OLEO employees or King County Councilmembers (KCC) about the issue due to a tort claim Jacobs filed against the County. The Emerald also requested comment from a past OLEO employee who declined to provide one. Thus, this article is based upon the final investigative report the KCC’s Employment and Administration Committee referred to in their Aug. 18, 2020, vote not to renew Jacobs’ contract. It’s worth pointing out that the Council’s Employment and Administration Committee is made up of all nine councilmembers. Notably, when it came time for the final full-Council vote in September, one councilmember — Joe McDermott — changed his vote in favor of keeping Jacobs on as OLEO director, despite having voted not to renew her contract in the Employment and Administration Committee vote. McDermott did not offer an explanation for the change of heart.

Publicly, Jacobs’ downfall was a rapid one.

Continue reading A Director’s Downfall: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

‘You Don’t Make a Lot of Friends’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick


This is the third 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 and part two of this series here.

Author’s Note: Several sources requested anonymity over concerns of retaliation or professional repercussions. These sources are noted as such throughout the piece. Their real names have not been used.

“Designed to Frustrate the Work of OLEO” 

When Deborah Jacobs was hired as the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight’s director in mid-June of 2016, “she took her job seriously,” one of the Emerald’s anonymous sources, Dan, said. But the critical eye the office cast over law enforcement at the King County Sheriff’s Office meant that Jacobs made few friends, he said.

“[OLEO] actually started going through the cases, the investigations, and then asking — as is their right — for follow-ups,” Dan said. “Like, ‘You did not do a good job on this interview. Why did you not ask these questions?’ And if there is nothing cops hate more, it’s being told they don’t know how to do their jobs.”

Dan said that this “also started to sort of change the temperature when it comes to her. Because it was happening a lot. There were a number of people [at the KCSO] that OLEO had deemed were not thorough and complete” in their investigations or processes.

“Then, you start getting into the pride issue, and ‘Who are you to know what police work is?’ And all that BS,” Dan continued. He told the Emerald that he believes that there was a way for Jacobs to have approached this work in a way that would not have “gotten a knee-jerk reaction … but it just didn’t happen. 

Continue reading ‘You Don’t Make a Lot of Friends’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

‘The Knives Come Out’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick 


This is the first 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.

Sitting at the table with other King County officials, Deborah Jacobs watched then-Sheriff John Urquhart gesture towards his side as he answered questions in a private 2017 meeting at the Asian Counseling and Referral Services’ headquarters, just before a public one for the community at the same location, regarding Tommy Le’s death, only weeks after it happened. Urquhart was talking about where King County Sheriff’s Office then-Deputy Cesar Molina had shot Le.

It’s unclear whether Urquhart knew at that point that Molina had shot Le in the back. But Jacobs knew. And it was then, said Jacobs — the director of the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) at the time — she realized that she might very well lose her job: She said that she did not want to hide the fact that Molina had shot Le anywhere other than in the back but that she was bound by internal politics and policies that forbade her from speaking about the shooting in public. 

Deborah Jacobs would eventually lose her job when, in 2020, the King County Council voted not to renew her contract. But while she served as OLEO director, she appears to have faced a years-long internal campaign against her by the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), whose ultimate goal was her ouster. Furthermore, Jacobs would also spend much of her tenure at OLEO caught in a contentious collective bargaining agreement negotiation with KCPOG and the KCSO that would prove to hinder her ability to do her job as she saw fit

Continue reading ‘The Knives Come Out’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

County Purchases First Hotel to Provide Shelter to Those Without It

by Paul Faruq Kiefer

(This article previously appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


In his State of the County Address Tuesday, May 11, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that the County would purchase the Inn at Queen Anne, which has been serving as a temporary shelter operated by Catholic Community Services (CCS) since April of last year.

The 80-room hotel, which CCS will continue to operate, will cost the county $16.5 million; the money will come from the new “health through housing” sales tax that the County Council passed — with some notable abstentions from suburban cities — late last year. The County plans to purchase “several more properties in several more cities … in the coming weeks,” Constantine said in his address.

Continue reading County Purchases First Hotel to Provide Shelter to Those Without It