One King County for ending sexual exploitation and trafficking

Dear fellow King County employee,

We’re fortunate to have a talented workforce dedicated to making King County a more just, more equitable community – a place where people’s rights are protected and everyone has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential in life.

As we showed when we helped nearly 200,000 residents sign up for affordable health insurance, we’re most effective at improving people’s lives when we work together as One King County to achieve a common goal.

King County Executive Dow Constantine

King County Executive Dow Constantine

Now, I want to apply that same collective approach to confront a destructive, often overlooked scourge in our region. Tomorrow, I will publicly announce that King County is a founding member of a national alliance of employers dedicated to ending sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children.

The alliance is led by a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that provides resources to help public- and private-sector employers prevent their assets from being used by traffickers. Research shows that a peak time for people going online to solicit sex for hire is 2 p.m. – in the middle of the work day.

We will start by revising our policy to make it unequivocally clear that employees are prohibited from using county government resources, facilities, or time to solicit prostitution. While the existing policy covers all illegal activity, it is important that we raise awareness of the damaging effect exploitation and sex trafficking have on individual lives and families, and how it undermines our commitment to equity and social justice.

Most people assume that sex trafficking is largely confined to other countries. But it occurs in our region at a startling rate. Researchers at Arizona State University found that in a single 24-hour period, more than 8,800 people in the Seattle area went online to solicit sex for hire. An estimated 27,000 people solicit prostitution each day in King County. The victims are among our most vulnerable, many forced into prostitution between the ages of 13 and 15.

While preventing our resources from being used by traffickers is an important, necessary first step, I also want us to consider all the opportunities we have as public agents to help victims of sex trafficking, and help prevent these horrific crimes from occurring. We have more than 13,000 employees – most of whom work directly with the public – who can help identify victims and circumstances that contribute to sexual exploitation. I want each of us to know what we can do in our individual roles to contribute to this effort.

This fall, the Executive Office, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office will host a screening of “The Long Night,” an insightful documentary on the underlying causes and devastating impacts of sex trafficking in south King County. After the screening, we’ll have a discussion about what actions we can take across departments to combat this growing challenge. I will send you an invitation in the next few weeks.

To be clear, I have no knowledge of any county employee violating our employment policies in this way. However, given the vast numbers of daily solicitations, it is unlikely that any major employer is completely immune from this problem. My goal is to establish King County as a model for how employers can strengthen community efforts to end slavery and trafficking, and to encourage private-sector employers to help create a united front.

This is an opportunity for us to once again lead by example and bring us closer to our promise of a more just and equitable King County.


dow signature

Dow Constantine

King County Executive

Watching out for salmon in King County Waters

It’s that time of year again. The time when King County’s many creeks and rivers begin to receive colourful salmon for their spawning season. Each fall, several salmon species make their way from the ocean into the Puget Sound and into King County’s urban and rural streams to lay their eggs.

It is an amazing natural process, Jennifer Vanderhoof said. As a senior ecologist for DNRP’s Watershed and Ecological Assessment, Vanderhoof coordinates a volunteer program to monitor salmon in the Lake Washington Watershed, called the Salmon Watcher Program.

Salmon Watcher Distribution Map for 2014 // photo courtesy of King County Water and Land Resources Division

Salmon Watcher Distribution Map for 2014 // photo courtesy of King County Water and Land Resources Division

A multijurisdictional effort, the program trains and educates volunteers throughout the Lake Washington Watershed. Now in its 20th season, the Salmon Watcher Program operates in coordination with King County Water and Land Resources Division, Bellevue Stream Team, and the cities of Seattle, Bothell, Issaquah, Kirkland, Renton, and Redmond.

Through the trainings, volunteers are taught to identify the salmon they may see spawning in local streams. Volunteers also learn about the impact humans can have on salmon and what they can do to help, Vanderhoof said.

“It is things like not washing your car in the driveway,” she said. Soapy water runs into storm drains, which in most cases lead directly to streams, lakes and Puget Sound. The soapy water from home car washes contains metals, such as copper and zinc, which can cause problems for fish by affecting their ability to keep the right balance of ions in body fluids, particularly blood. Surfactants and fragrances from soap can reduce reproduction and impact the hormone balance in fish.

Volunteers attend one of four workshops after which they are assigned a site along a stream to watch over. They are asked to go out to their assigned location twice a week and watch quietly for fifteen minutes. Volunteers record the number of salmon they see – dead or alive. They are also asked if they saw anything that needed attention, and the volunteers are provided with spill response hotline numbers. The volunteers are referred to as “the eyes and ears of the watershed.”

Professional fish biologists can’t cover the entire watershed, which is why the data collected by volunteers is so important, Vanderhoof said.

“We can use the data to inform people doing restoration if there are salmon in their project streams,” Vanderhoof said. “We have expanded the known fish distribution in some of our streams through this program. Our volunteers have found Chinook in a few streams where they had not been previously documented.”

The Salmon Watcher Program typically has between a 60 and 80 percent return rate of volunteers and normally has about 120 volunteers through the September to December salmon spawning season.

“People love this program,” she said. Volunteers participate because they love nature and are interested in helping the environment and the fish.

The Salmon Watcher Program will host its final training Wednesday, September 30th, at Carkeek Park in Seattle. For more information visit the Salmon Watcher website.

Breaking down language barriers to make King County accessible to all

translation-interpretationImagine not understanding public service announcements or not being able to call an information line because they are not offered in your language. It is a problem that many King County residents face and something the Office of Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) and Customer Service Officers are trying to change.

An Executive Order already requires printed public communications pieces and vital documents for broad distribution to be translated into at least Spanish, but the Office of ESJ and county agencies have been developing and implementing new ways to interact with the community and provide information.

One approach is working with ethnic media, such as the local Spanish language Univision TV channel. Unlike many other forms of journalism, ethnic media, such as in Spanish or Chinese, are growing instead of shrinking, Director of the Office of ESJ Matias Valenzuela said. Working with media can create a greater trust in King County and help non-English speaking residents access the information they need.

Continue reading →

New IT tool helping local law enforcement

After two years of hard work, King County Information Technology (KCIT) and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO) launched a new system known as eLODI, or Electronic Log of Detective Input. eLODI allows law enforcement officers throughout the county to electronically submit their referrals, evidence and case documents to the PAO’s case management system, PROSECUTORbyKarpel.

One of the first to involve a Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor of this scale, eLODI was a collaboration of the PAO, Karpel Solutions, the KCIT Project Management Office (PMO), Business Analysis Group, Business Solution Services (BSS) and local law enforcement agencies. Several departments within KCIT assisted in putting together the infrastructure.

“eLODI was developed from the ground up and allows law enforcement to search for and select actual PAO data, including charges, persons, businesses and police officers to the referral,” Dennis Fong, technical project lead said.

1 eLODI search

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Dry summer means we still need to conserve more water

water shortageThink we’ve had enough rain? Think again.

That’s the message from public water utilities that continue to urge businesses, governments and residents to take aggressive measures to conserve water by 10 percent. While recent precipitation and cooler temperatures did provide some relief, the extended hot, dry weather we experienced over the summer and the lack of snowpack in the mountains continue to create serious water management challenges.

In King County, water conservation efforts are essential to maintaining water quality conditions needed to support our salmon populations. Low instream flows combined with high water temperatures cause problems for young salmon as well as adults trying to return to their home streams and rivers to spawn. Our conservation measures today can help keep water in our rivers, streams, and aquifers for people and fish.

As King County employees, we need to do our part, both at work and home.

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Four employees spotlighted in The Seattle Times’ Women in the Trades feature

Women in the Trades portrait seriesFour King County employees were featured in The Seattle Times’ portrait series “Women in the Trades,” a look into Puget Sound’s hardworking women.

Mari Jane Friel (pictured right) and Liesel Brus with Road Services Division, and Kate Osborn and  Stacey Walker with Wastewater Treatment Division, spoke about their jobs in what have been traditionally male fields, and what they love about their work.

“I love what I do,’’ Friel, a laborer with Road Services Division, said. “It’s something different every day.”

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Kudos! David Yoshizumi, Senior Animal Control Officer, Regional Animal Services of King County

Hello Tim and Gene,

We had a recent experience with one of your Field Agents who services Carnation, WA.  I do not have his card in front of me, but I wanted to pass on my deep appreciation for the service he provided to us!!

Our situation was that an elderly neighbor had left their cat (healthy and older) with us when they sold their home and went to assisted living.  The cat was an outdoor cat with a “friend” who hung around with him who was quite sickly.  Like the neighbor couple, we felt sorry for the sickly guy and were feeding him, but it was quite evident that nobody was looking after him, so he was a stray.

This cat was bloated and sickly and moving along very slowly.  He was most likely 10-15 years old, but we aren’t sure.  We decided that we needed to call Animal Control because the animal appeared to be ailing and unable to continue to care for himself and we were concerned about his safety.  We also didn’t know if he might get the other cat or other animals sick.

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Restorative Mediation making a difference for youth

Earlier this year, Juvenile Court implemented a Restorative Mediation Pilot option for youth in diversion. The pilot has since expanded beyond diversion and is now available to adjudicated youth. It provides youth with the opportunity to reduce time on supervision or in place of court-ordered community service hours.

Restorative Mediation is an opportunity for an offender to have a facilitated conversation with the victim, giving the victim an opportunity to express how the event affected him/her, to provide space for understanding what took place for both parties, and to restore relationships that were harmed as a result of the offense.

During the first week of August, the first restorative mediation was held at Juvenile Court and was more successful than anyone could have expected. The offense at the center of this first mediation was a Theft 3; the youth had shoplifted from a neighborhood supermarket. Participants at the mediation included the youth, two of the youth’s family members, two representatives from the supermarket, a mediator from the KC Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), a youth co-facilitator from Garfield High School, and two selected community representatives.

Continue reading →

Women in Trades: King County Road Services

Mari Jane Friel | Photo by Bettina Hansen, The Seattle Times

Mari Jane Friel is up to her knees in mud as dark as chocolate cake and smiling broadly.

“I love what I do,’’ she says. “It’s something different every day.”

Friel, 58, a laborer with King County’s Road Services Division 2, previously worked in corrections and as a chef in downtown Seattle. Her first day on the job, she was assigned to dig a ditch.

Today, she’s wielding a shovel and a siphon to clear a drainage ditch of mud and weeds so that salmon can pass through during the rainy season. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing or hotter than a diesel engine: the crew works in all weather.

“Some days, you’re sore, using different muscles than usual,’’ she says.

Friel grew up on a farm, and occupied herself with Girl Scouts and riding horses.

There are a few other women on the job, but most of the time, it’s her and “the boys.”

“My husband says, ‘Men are like magazine covers. Women are like “War and Peace.”‘ I tell it like it is, and I appreciate the same.”

Mari Jane Friel was featured in The Seattle Times story Women in the Trades

Metro Transit names Operator, Vehicle Maintenance Employees of the Year

Metro Transit employees John Boone and Ryan Stringfellow were recently honored with the Operator and Vehicle Maintenance Employee of the Year awards.

John Boone (middle), named Metro's 2014 Transit Operator of the Year

John Boone (middle), named Metro’s 2014 Transit Operator of the Year

Bellevue Base operator John Boone was honored on June 24 as Metro’s 2014 Transit Operator of the Year. At the surprise ceremony, held in the East Base Vehicle Maintenance bay, he was interviewed by local TV outlets before being escorted on stage. Boone was chosen by his fellow 2014 Operators of the Month because of his long and excellent record of providing high-quality customer service to his riders. One of his satisfied customers urged us to “Hire more drivers like him.” Another said, “He had lots of info for people new in the area and is just a great, great guy with a positive attitude.”

Boone has earned a 34-year safe driving award, has received 35 commendations, and has been named Operator of the Month numerous times. Outside of work, he volunteers at the hydroplane races and the Unlimited Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum, and is a diehard Seahawks fan. In fact, he was the driving force behind Metro’s “Blue Friday” tradition, which permits Metro employees to wear Seahawks attire during a playoff season. So perhaps his favorite trophy of the day was a Seahawks jersey emblazoned across the back with “Op of the Year,” presented to him by Supervisor Rickey Moore and Acting Superintendent Ramona Dudley-Moore.

At a Hawaiian-themed celebration on May 27, North Base Superintendent of Vehicle Maintenance Elie Kourdahi named Ryan Stringfellow (on left in photo) as VM’s 2015 Employee of the Year. Speakers praised Stringfellow for his many achievements, including leading Metro’s maintenance roadeo teams to multiple wins at the local, state, and national levels. Stringfellow also racked up several first-place finishes in the non-operator Maverick Division of Metro’s Metroadeo driving competitions.

Ryan Stringfellow (left) receives Vehicle Maintenance's 2015 Employee of the Year from Rob Cannon (right)

Ryan Stringfellow (left) receives Vehicle Maintenance’s 2015 Employee of the Year from Rob Cannon (right)

He was first on the scene at two accidents near North Base, and received the Governor’s lifesaving award for his actions at one of them. As his lei-clad family members looked on, Stringfellow received a congratulatory banner from Kourdahi, a plaque from county Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, a mockup of a sign to be placed on Metro buses from Deputy General Manager of Employee and Internal Services Rob Gannon, a certificate for a paid day off from VM Manager Randy Winders, and a personalized sign for a well-earned reserved parking spot from VM Assistant Manager John Alley.


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