Modeling Good Behavior in the Pacific Northwest

Dear Friend,

Too often Congress – and our political scene in general – looks like a clip from the World Wrestling Federation. Lately, we’ve seen far too many insults and jabs (though thankfully, we’ve mostly avoided actual body slams). But even the biggest Hulkamaniac has got to feel the need for greater civility. For more progress. For the voices of the American people to be listened to in our political process.

Having said that, despite the smackdown that we see on TV every day, I’ve got some good news.  Having traveled from pillar to post in our region this August, I’m reminded that there are a lot of cool things happening locally. It’s a reminder that we have many significant challenges as a nation but there are people hard at work every day that have put their heads down and are working toward progress.

Read on for a few examples from the last two weeks.

Developing Timber 2.0

As many of you know, recently I was proud to introduce a bill – supported by Democrats and Republicans – that would encourage the use of innovative timber products. Earlier this month, I joined Senator Maria Cantwell in Shelton to discuss our bill and to tour the site of what will be Sierra Pacific’s new mill.

We spent time talking about the potential of these mass timber products – like cross-laminated timber (CLT). Cross-laminated timber gives us a chance to utilize an abundant and sustainable product native to Washington state that connects rural economies to greener urban growth.

Our legislation would take a lot of important steps forward. For example, it would establish a new wood innovation grant program to help rural communities, prioritizing projects that would utilize existing mill infrastructure in areas currently experiencing high unemployment. That could provide a boost to towns in our region who want to make sure our top export isn’t our young people.

During the roundtable, we heard from economic development and workforce development leaders who expressed their interest in pursuing opportunities in this developing arena. We heard from industry leaders who detailed the resources that they will need to open a CLT mill. We heard from local community leaders who are ready to roll out the red carpet and cut through the red tape. And the most inspiring part of the discussion: Everyone was committed to working together to move this effort forward. Stay tuned!

Leading the Way on Clean Energy

Want another example of working together? At a recent conference on clean energy, I gave an update regarding federal policies to promote clean energy and talked about the economic opportunity – and the moral imperative – of tackling climate change. 

But I wasn’t alone. We heard from industry leaders. We heard from scientists. We heard from elected officials and from the Secretary of Energy. Heck, the conference even brought together Huskies and Cougars toward a common cause.

The common denominator? We are all committed to building a clean energy future. 

Developing cleaner forms of energy production, new methods of enhancing energy efficiency, and smart grid technology can be difference-makers in the battle to combat climate change. Investing in the technologies that can give us green power will continue to increase our energy independence while creating entire new industries. We can create the jobs of the future and give entrepreneurs a chance to try out their ideas. Who knows, the next big thing might happen right here.

Encouraging Breakthroughs

For decades, collaborations between federal laboratories and private industry have changed our world for the better. They’ve driven new innovation. They’ve created new jobs. 

That’s why last week we brought together more than a dozen leaders at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Sequim for a discussion about innovation and economic opportunity. We heard from leaders like Peninsula Community College President Luke Robins who discussed key steps the federal government could do to unleash educational opportunities in rural areas like the Olympic Peninsula. We heard from leaders from the Clallam and Jefferson County economic development councils who discussed the importance of enhancing broadband access and leading the way in new industries (like – you guessed it – cross-laminated timber). We heard from leaders from the Composite Recycling Technology Center who discussed the role the government could play in helping the peninsula become a hub for new composite technologies.

So, where does this discussion go from here?

Well, back in 2007, some in Congress put forth an “Innovation Agenda” to ensure we kept our competitive edge in a changing world. There were 22 initiatives in that agenda and of these, 21 were turned into legislative provisions that were signed into law.

Now, several of us are preparing a new Innovation Agenda 2.0 to build on what has been accomplished. There are amazing things happening in our region and I wanted to hear what folks think we should be doing to support them. In my view, it’s important that new innovations and new jobs happen in our neck of the woods. As Russell Wilson said, “Why not us?”

Again – making progress in that regard will require everyone having their oars in the water, rowing in the same direction. Based on the discussion we had in Sequim, I’m hopeful!

Standing up for Civil Rights

In our region we have a history of standing up for civil rights and what’s right. I recently attended the Tacoma National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) awards banquet. While there, I provided an update on the effort to pass a new Voting Rights Act. Also, we heard from a number of inspiring speakers, including award recipient Harold Moss, the first African-American Mayor of Tacoma. Mayor Moss gave an inspiring speech about the work done over numerous decades to advance equal rights and to open the doors of economic opportunity. It was a valuable reminder that so many folks in our region have volunteered their time and efforts to make a better world.

Despite the progress we’ve made, we still have a lot of work to do. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of having “infinite hope” that we could change things. But he told us to do more than hope. He told us to work. He said “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability – but comes through continuous struggle.” And so, he said, “we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

That’s what we are doing here. And why organizations like the NAACP are so important.

Working for You

I was honored to be part of welcoming home the USS John C Stennis! Thanks to the sailors who were at sea for seven months--and thanks to the families who sacrificed by their sides.

I caught up with residents of the Brookdale-Allenmore Senior Community in Tacoma and Park View Villas in Port Angeles for two town-hall-style meetings. We talked a lot about the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and getting our Congress back to working together to solve problems.  In Port Angeles, it was fun to visit with some seniors who new my folks (and my grandparents!).

I also held employee town hall meetings at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles (the hospital where I was born!) and at Harrison Medical Center’s campus in Silverdale. We discussed Zika funding, combating the opioid crisis, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and funding for mental health. Thanks to all who participated!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if my office can ever be of assistance. As always, it’s my honor to represent you.

Derek Kilmer