What DC Can Learn From Our More Beautiful Washington
Congress is now midway into the August District Work Period, but this is no time for rest. These last few weeks I have travelled from pillar to post across the region meeting with organizations, businesses, and communities that make our state so great.
I wish folks in DC could learn a few things from the things I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.
Competing to Win in Our Economy
Last week I met with the staff at the Bremerton Goodwill’s Job Training and Education Center. You might know Goodwill as a place to drop off and buy clothing, but the group also uses their earnings to help fund vocational training for folks in the community. These vocational programs have helped thousands of people from the area develop the skills they need to land jobs and succeed in the workforce.
I got to meet one of the center’s clients, Janice. She spent nearly 30 years employed as a waitress, until she was fired from her job. She wanted to get a new job, but she didn’t know how to use the touch-screen cash registers that most restaurants now require applicants to operate.
So, through a job placement program, she heard about a cashiering course at the Goodwill. She took the class, and then she took another on how to use Word, then one on Excel, then one on customer service. She took nearly every class the Goodwill offered and realized she believed so strongly in the Goodwill’s mission, that she should work for them! For the last three years, she’s worked at the Goodwill helping customers enroll in the classes.
Janice is a great example of how learning new skills can help people change with our economy. While the Goodwill’s courses are free, many classes that workers are looking for aren’t.
That’s why a few weeks ago, I introduced the Skills Investment Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill would create lifelong learning accounts – optional, portable accounts to help invest in new skills. Workers and employers could opt to pay into the accounts for a tax benefit, and the account would travel with workers as they change jobs. You can read more about it here.
There are a lot of people experiencing the same things Janice did throughout our country. They worked in one job for a long time, but when they need to find a new one they find themselves in need of new skills to be qualified. I hope Congress follows the Bremerton Goodwill’s example and makes it easier for people to learn new skills and change with the economy by passing the Skills Investment Act.
Building Our Community
I also had the opportunity to meet with the students and leaders of the REACH Center in Tacoma. REACH is a one-stop youth service organization that helps young people in Tacoma with everything from finding housing, to getting a GED, to applying to college or lining up a job interview.
I had a great conversation with some of the center’s students. They shared some of what they learned in the program, and their insight about the challenges people just starting out in their adult life face in our community. They gave me some ideas about how Congress can help make it easier to find affordable housing and get to work.
I told them about a group I’m in – the New Democrat Coalition – which just released a report on housing affordability. It is worth a read and can be found here.
We also talked about the TacomaLink extension. In May, I joined with Senators Cantwell and Murray to announce a $75 million extension of the TacomaLink which will create 6 new stops and connect more neighborhoods.
These kids were rock stars, and they’re looking for internships. If you have a business in Tacoma and you want some great applicants, call the REACH team at (253) 573-6590.
Washington, DC could learn a lot from the kids at the REACH center – from addressing affordable housing to investing in infrastructure, Congress can do a lot more to support people who want a reliable way to get to work, affordable housing options, and economic security.
Working Together to Tackle Big Challenges
Last week, I also traveled up to Forks to tag along with members of the Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative (OPFC). The Collaborative is a group of environmental leaders, local government officials, members of the timber industry, and tribal leaders, who shared goals that promote jobs and healthy forests on our federal land.
For years, this group has worked hard to build consensus about the best ways to manage our region’s federal forests. They have created projects that lead to more economic opportunities through sustainable timber harvests. Additionally, these projects ultimately protect the habitats of endangered species, conserving culturally significant plants and animals, removing invasive plant species and reducing the presence of brush that fuels forest fires.
We toured their H to Z project, the first of several projects completed by the OPFC in 2017 that helped combine timber harvests and restoration. This awesome work is a big step forward for the environment and economy of the Olympic Peninsula.
Washington, DC could learn a lot from the collaborative. These groups set a goal and they worked through their differences successfully. Congress needs more people like the Collaborative members who are willing to listen, respectfully disagree at times and ultimately, to deliver for their communities by building consensus. The goals of each group aren’t mutually exclusive. And when folks take the time to listen to each other and respect one another, we can make progress!
Working for You
These last couple weeks I’ve had the opportunity to see a ton of you around our beautiful region. Here are some of my recent visits.
I recently visited the Suquamish Tribe’s Geoduck operation. Unfortunately, President Trump’s trade policies have caused China to place retaliatory tariffs on geoducks. That’s made it harder for seafood companies to sell their products abroad. In our export-dependent state economy, this is just one of many examples of the negative impacts the administration’s trade policy has on local agriculture and farmers. I will continue and push for smart policies that actually put more money in the pockets of American workers.
(I'm aware this is not a geoduck, but I couldn't resist not sharing it.)
Power Paddle to Puyallup
Over the last few weeks, thousands of people from dozens of tribes put their canoes in the water and joined the Canoe Journey. This celebration honored both their heritage as well as the theme of “Our Medicine” – the waters that have been the lifeblood of the past, and with our efforts, the future as well. I am grateful to the Puyallup Tribe for hosting this event, and want to honor all those who participated.
In the middle of some record-breaking heat outside, my stop at NewCold was definitely the coolest thing I’ve done in the last two weeks. This facility is a midway point in the supply chain that sends fish from Alaska and our region to grocery store freezers around the world. NewCold’s new storage facility in Tacoma is state of the art.
Thanks for choosing our region as a place to do business!
Grays Harbor County and Jefferson County Fairs
It has been a fun couple of weeks, and we are coming up on one of my absolute favorite times of year—the time when I get to go to the county fairs across our region and eat some exotic fried food. First up this week was the Grays Harbor County Fair, where I learned alligator tastes a lot like chicken. Tess and I also had an awesome time in Port Townsend yesterday at the Jefferson County Fair (where I did not eat alligator).
That’s all for now! As always, it’s an honor to represent you. Please reach out if I can ever be of assistance.
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