A Call to Action

Dear Friend,

Is there a better place to be in August than the Pacific Northwest? Sunshine, the outdoors, and a bevy of delicious food to eat at fairs, parades, and festivals. Plus, can you think of another organization in baseball that would mark Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s last game at Safeco Field by giving him 34 pounds of salmon? I don’t think so.

We also try to encourage civic engagement in our neck of the woods. Here in Washington, we’ve tried to make it easier for folks to cast their ballots. Unfortunately, in 2016, there are other areas of our country that are not taking the same approach and are undermining the rights of American citizens.

Working for an Updated Voting Rights Act

recent national story powerfully captured why in 2016, we still need a strong Voting Rights Act. In Sparta, Georgia, more than 180 African-American citizens were confronted by law enforcement officers that were dispatched by the local election board. These citizens, all American voters, were told they had to appear in person in order to prove they were a resident and could vote in upcoming elections.

This is not an isolated incident. Local governments across the United States have engaged in practices that intimidate potential voters and diminish turnout. We’ve heard the stories about voter ID laws (requiring voters to purchase expensive state-issued identification cards) and states curtailing early voting periods.

This problem was exacerbated by a Supreme Court decision in 2013. Shelby County v. Holdereffectively gutted the Voting Rights Act. In that decision, the court struck down a section of the law specifically designed to ensure that when state and local governments with a history of discrimination are changing their voting laws, they aren’t disenfranchising voters.

From 1982 to 2006, the Voting Rights Act successfully blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes throughout our nation. On what would have been the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, folks across the nation will be going to the polls without the key protections it offered. That’s not right. States that were once being monitored by the Justice Department are up to electioneering tricks once again. Counties in Florida, North Carolina, and Alabama with large minority districts have closed or moved polling places.

It’s time for Congress to take up and pass legislation that would put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act, address the issue raised by the court, and counter voter disenfranchisement.  In fact, there’s a bipartisan bill to do just that.  It’s time to act. For a deeper dive into why this matters, you can check out my blog.

Coming Together to Protect Our Communities

Our coastal region is defined – in large part – by its relationship to the water. The ocean provides significant economic benefit to our region – ports to ship goods in and out that supports middle class jobs; an historic fishing industry; a variety of companies that build boats, provide charters, and welcome tourists.  These waters provide extraordinary recreational opportunities that make the sides of your mouth turn up and your blood pressure go down.

But these blessings bring challenges as well – from coastal erosion to flooding problems.

But thankfully, folks in Grays Harbor consistently come together to tackle these challenges. We saw that last year following severe flooding in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.  In the days and weeks that followed, neighborhoods went the extra mile to lift their neighbors up.

We see that can-do spirit again as the region works to address coastal erosion.This year, Ocean Shores lost 10-30 feet of shoreline to pounding storms and high-surf damage. It happened on both the ocean and Grays Harbor side of the peninsula. Out of this, Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler launched a Coastal Resiliency Coalition that includes Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Montesano, and Westport.

These communities have banded together to come up with a plan that will deal with beach and shoreline erosion to  better protect the community. I’m proud to support this effort and look forward to being a partner as it continues.

You can read more about the most recent progress here.

Supporting Veterans and Workers

It's great news for our region that the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding has committed to ensuring that veterans have access to a quality educational experience. That reputation has led the State Department of Veteran Affairs to recognize the school for stepping up to help veterans in our region thrive. It’s fantastic to see educational institutions like the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding serve as shining examples of how servicemembers can make the transition to civilian life a successful one.

This school gives everyone that walks through its doors the skills to undertake a career in the maritime industry. In fact, a recent story in the Seattle Times highlights the fact that the average age of an employee in the maritime workforce is 54, and many are expected to retire very soon.

This presents an opportunity for folks who want to earn quality pay in the maritime trades. Whether they work as a welder putting together new vessels or as an engineer, opportunities abound.

You can check out the Seattle Times article on the maritime workforce here.

Given these opportunities, I remain focused on expanding vocational opportunities for K-12 students and making sure that training programs match up with in-demand fields.  

Working for You

While Congress is in recess, I’ve been visiting every nook and cranny of our region.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in two National Night Out Events in Tacoma.

The first was at Jason Lee Middle School for "Arts Night Out" with the Hilltop Artists students, Executive Director Kit Evans, and a whole bunch of supporters of the arts. These students were so darn talented, they even managed to make me look like an artist for a few minutes! I’m pleased to report that I managed to do some glasswork and didn’t light anything on fire.

My second stop was at People's Center (no, I was not allowed in the bouncy-house) where I had some great conversations with neighbors and friends. I even got a sneak peek at the People's Center Community Pool slated to open next month. Here's an insider secret...it is amazing!

The National Night Out events are terrific community building events that include families, local law enforcement, small businesses, and service organizations.

I had a productive meeting with the staff at Centro Latino in Tacoma. They are a great resource for families across our region and work to ensure our community is an inclusive and welcoming place. Thanks again for all your great work!

We also marked the culmination of the 2016 Tribal Canoe Journey Paddle to Nisqually. I joined the Nisqually Tribe and other local tribal leaders in celebration of this historic event and all that it means for preserving cultural and ancestral heritage. Thanks to all the folks who worked so hard to make it happen!

Tess and I got to kick off the Whaling Days Fun Run which, this year, supports the Kitsap Meals on Wheels program. Each year, they serve more than 65,000 meals to seniors in Kitsap County.Thanks to everyone who participated!

OK that’s all for this update. If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone you know, please give me or my office a holler.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you.

Derek Kilmer