Transformers: 2016

Many of you know that I’m a big movie buff. I love everything about the movies. Popcorn – love it. Milk Duds – love them. Milk Duds in my popcorn – LOVE IT!

Not only do I like the one-off classic movies, I’m a fan of franchises. As the biggest Star Wars fan in Congress, I’m a fan of that whole series (though I admit, I’m still not keen on Jar Jar Binks). I’ve enjoyed every single one of the Hunger Games films. And why have one Rocky movie when you can have seven? 

I confess, though, that I’ve never really gotten into the Transformers movies. While the idea of a yellow Camaro turning into a giant robot seems cool at first blush, that series has just never been my thing.

That being said, over the weekend I talked about Transformers with the 2016 graduates from University of Puget Sound. I was honored to be their commencement speaker. When I was thinking about what to say, the word Transformers came into my mind. Not the movie but the idea. The idea has a lot to offer. These students have undergone an amazing transformation as graduates and have the power to transform our economy, our political dialogue, and our world.

I challenged them to become part of an economic transformation that enables us to have an economy that works better for everybody – where people can have more stability and better pay and benefits. Where workers can be better respected. Where people feel less squeezed and have more opportunity. And where local communities and our planet can benefit. 

For the record, I also did use a joke about Optimus Prime in my remarks.

It was an amazing day. I look forward to hearing about all the great things these graduates do.

Now read on for a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish since my last letter to you.

Progress for the Arts

In my last newsletter, I mentioned all the great students that participated in our Congressional Art Competition. Now we have more good news on the arts front. You may remember that back in February I invited the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Jane Chu, to our neck of the woods. We took a tour of some amazing sites in Tacoma, Port Townsend, and Bainbridge Island and she walked away impressed with everything she saw.

Last week, we received word that key art projects in Tacoma and Port Townsend received NEA grants. The Washington State Arts Commission also received investments which could make their way to our region as well. These awards will help us further the development of Tacoma’s Theater District and support a new exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum on Chinese history. The Port Townsend grant will be used for workshops at the Centrum Foundation.

All in all, they will help add to the vibrancy of our communities, enhance our livability, and attract talented people and businesses. Here’s a throwback to our visit with NEA Chair Jane Chu!

Progress in the Fight against Opioid and Heroin Abuse   

I’ve spoken to you a lot recently about the impacts of opioid and heroin abuse. We’ve seen it all over and it’s hurt far too many folks we are close to. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city like Tacoma or Bremerton or in a small town out on the Peninsula.

This is a big issue that I’ve been banging the drum on for the past few months. That’s because medical professionals and emergency responders are being challenged to help a growing number of folks battling addiction, law enforcement officials are dealing with crowded jails, and families just want to do more to help their loved ones.

Luckily, Democrats and Republicans agree that more must be done to prevent the spread of this abuse. Last week the House of Representatives passed a number of bipartisan bills to help deal with this epidemic. I am a sponsor of bills we passed that would reauthorize treatment grants that help pregnant and postpartum women deal with substance abuse issues. Another bipartisan bill I sponsored would direct the Government Accountability Office to issue a report that examines where abuse treatment and infrastructure can be bolstered across the nation.

This is a good start and I’m hopeful that our package of bills can be combined with legislation that passed the Senate so we can get something to the President. But I still believe we can do more. It’s why I’m an original cosponsor of a bill that would provide additional resources to boost initiatives the President has championed like a cooperative agreements between states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse disorders and to expand access to substance use treatment providers.  

A 10 Year Milestone

Recently, I also got a chance to go down to the House floor and say a few words about the 10 year anniversary of the Crystal Judson Family Center in Tacoma. Lane and Patty Judson began the center to honor the tragic loss of their daughter to domestic violence.

The center serves as a “one-stop shop” for victims of domestic violence.  It’s a place of empowerment with caring staff who change the trajectory of lives and families. The center fosters the truth and seeks justice for those that deserve it. You can read more about the center’s important work here

Organizations like this deserve our continued support. This matters. As the dad of two little girls, I’m grateful for all the Crystal Judson Family Center does.

You can watch my remarks by clicking on the image below.

A Commitment to Improving Cybersecurity

I also got a chance to speak at the University of Washington-Tacoma Next-Gen Cybersecurity Symposium. That’s a mouthful so let me break it down a bit. UW-Tacoma has been at the forefront of cybersecurity in Washington – and our nation.

This symposium was a chance to gather together some of the leading experts in the field to talk about where we go next to protect not just your personal information but our nation’s from outside attacks. Because these days our infrastructure and other critical systems are just as plugged into the Internet as our computers and cellphones.  

Folks in our region created partnerships and strong relationships with tech and cyber companies around Puget Sound, the Washington National Guard cybersecurity unit at Camp Murray, and the larger American academic community working on these issues. Building on that foundation is the UW-Tacoma Institute of Technology that blends business soft skills and leadership training with the technical considerations arising from the interconnected nature of our economy. So we are ahead of the curve in terms of preparing future leaders in industry with an understanding of cyber from the beginning, to make sure it’s factored in to how we do business.

I’ve been working on a handful of bills and provisions in our appropriations bills focused on strengthening our cybersecurity.  Stay tuned for more details.

Working for You

Our work with the Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative continued in Aberdeen. We had another great public meeting with folks in Grays Harbor that focused on how we can promote increased harvest levels to support local economies while protecting sensitive environmental areas. Thanks for everyone who came out to ask questions and hear more about what we’re up to. I’m hopeful we can keep this momentum going!

I had a great time visiting with FKC Screw Press in Port Angeles this morning. They are a great local company about to undertake an expansion. I even learned about a chemical process called flocculation. Putting that on the list of "Big Words Derek Learned in Congress." Thanks to the FKC team and Mayor Downie for taking the time to visit!

I spent a great Saturday hanging at the Ocosta Community Hall in support of the programs they support. It was great to chat with attendees and refill juice for folks on a beautiful day in the Harbor. Thanks to Bob Ponselle and the Oyster Feed team for the opportunity!

If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone you know, please give me office a holler.

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

Derek Kilmer