Creating Jobs and Rebuilding Our Economy
Gael represents a district with one of the most diverse economies in the state and a 7-mile stretch of waterfront businesses and public agencies from Pier 62 north to Golden Gardens Beach. The biotechnology cluster, cancer research institutes, Amazon, the Gates Foundation, literally thousands of small businesses and fantastic restaurants and hotels keep the local economy humming. Tucked in and around all of these industry sectors is Washington State’s largest maritime and fishing industrial center. The Port of Seattle’s headquarters along with Fishermen’s Terminal, three cruise terminals, and one of the largest grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest depend on Puget Sound’s deep-water harbor in Elliott Bay.
The people of Ballard, Magnolia, Belltown, South Lake Union and Westlake Avenue know what it means to have a working waterfront. But many in our city, county and state are newly arrived citizens.
To reach the newcomers and the people who didn’t grow up around boats and docks, Gael created the Working Waterfront Project. She teamed up with the maritime and fishing community to have Guenther Media, a Seattle firm, produce the first videos of what the future holds for all those kids who choose to work with their hands and want to be on the waterfront.
- There are thousands of living-wage jobs on the working waterfront.
- Washington is one of the few states in the nation that runs a trade surplus every year – because our companies manufacture and export airplanes, ships, heavy construction equipment, medical devices, high-end electronics and software along with apples, cherries, soy, lentils, and wine.
- These jobs require skilled workers who get high school diplomas and go onto some post-secondary education and apprenticeship training.
- Gael works with the maritime, aviation, and manufacturing industries around the city and state, connecting them to each other and to higher educational institutions producing the graduates ready to build their careers in the fishing and maritime sectors.
Also in her first term:
- Gael has led the way on building the state’s future in maritime and manufacturing industries. She prime-sponsored HB 2580, “Economic Resilience of Maritime and Manufacturing Industries,” which creates a bi-partisan, bicameral legislative task force on which Gael will serve in 2014-15 to evaluate maritime and manufacturing jobs, industrial lands, and infrastructure across Washington State.
- She helped found and c0-chairs the bi-partisan State Aviation Caucus and the Economic and Community Resilience Caucus, and she continues to support the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Airport Investment Study to strengthen the small airports around our state.
As we rebuild our economy, it is time to commit to a shared sense of economic security for all our workers. Now that we have affordable healthcare, we must tackle the other anchors of economic security: fair wages, pay equity, paid time off for illness and vacation, and retirement savings.
- Because people are not machines and cannot work 24/7, Gael is the prime sponsor of HB 2238 requiring that all employers offer paid vacation leave.
- Gael also co-sponsored legislation to increase the state-wide minimum wage and continues to support legislation requiring paid sick and safe leave.
The downturn of the economy in late 2008 devastated our state’s economy and our job market. Although we appear to be rebounding, it has been a tough and uneven recovery. As a Port of Seattle Commissioner from 2008 through 2012:
- Gael worked with her colleagues to create nearly 7,000 jobs.
- Gael voted in favor of 2010 Capital projects for the airport supporting environmental mitigation, airfield improvement, panel replacement and construction of a new sky lounge for Delta Airlines’ expanded international flights.
- Gael voted in favor of moving forward with funding for transportation projects that mitigate the impacts of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, specifically implementing Phase 1 of new FAST Corridor project on Spokane Street.
- Gael supported a port version of “Helmets to Hardhats” program, an apprenticeship program for returning Iraq and Afghan war veterans to ease back into the workforce.
Funding Higher Education and Healthcare
Equal access to opportunity begins with access to affordable education and healthcare. Gael knows what this means. She worked her way through college and took out student loans to pay for tuition, room and board, transportation, and books and fees.
Throughout her working life, Gael has changed career fields a half-dozen times. And her number one consideration for all those career moves? Ensuring she and her husband had access to employer-provided health insurance. There were several times she opted for less salary, limited retirement contributions, and fewer hours of sick and vacation leave in order to have a job that provided health insurance. It was terrifying to think that one serious injury or illness combined with no health insurance would wipe out retirement savings and potentially result in losing our home.
We are in the midst of a revolution in our nation, where the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes healthcare a right for the first time ever. People no longer have to fear losing healthcare when they lose their job or need to take time off to take care of a family member.
- Gael co-sponsored legislation and voted to expand Medicaid health and adult dental coverage, guaranteeing access to healthcare for an estimated 1 million Washingtonians who were uninsured in 2013. Since October 2013, nearly 500,000 previously uninsured citizens of our state now have healthcare. This change is transforming the quality of life of all our people and communities.
- Gael prime-sponsored HB 2351 to allow out-of-state healthcare practitioners to volunteer their services at a free medical clinic being conducted at the Seattle Center in October 2014. More than 4,000 Washingtonians are expected to have access to care and enroll in the Washington Healthcare Exchange.
We need to mobilize a similar revolution in funding higher education to support life-long learning opportunities for our citizens. Gael is a member of the House Higher Education Committee and believes in a “Doors Wide Open” policy for access to higher education and life-long learning without life-long debt repayments.
- Gael fought successfully for a two-year tuition freeze across the board.
- She made the case to help justify the first expansion in baseline institutional support in more than 25 years, reversing the curse of systematic disinvestment in Washington higher educational institutions.
- Gael co-sponsored the DREAM Act, giving children of undocumented Washington residents the right to compete for state financial aid. This truly will change the trajectory of our state, giving all our residents equal access to the opportunities that higher education creates.
- Her HB 1725 proposed innovative ways for employers and non-family members to buy college tuition credits for future college student scholarships. This bill was instrumental in highlighting the essential role of the state’s tuition savings program, GET, in supporting middle-class families who don’t qualify for financial aid but fear that constant tuition hikes will deny their kids access to the American Dream.
Safeguarding Our Environment
Gael takes all her passion to save the salmon and protect our beautiful Puget Sound and natural landscape to her legislative work. Her membership on two key committees – House Technology and Economic Development as well as House Transportation – creates the opportunity to make progress on multiple fronts simultaneously. We are in a race to break our addiction to fossil fuels. We must fight climate change now:
- Gael’s House Bill 2223 qualifies a new source of renewable energy for the first time in years. Liquid biomass derived from woody pulp will be piloted at Seattle Steam, one of the nation’s leading clean-energy adopters to prove the concept of using liquid renewable fuels to generate heat and electricity.
- Gael also advanced legislation to expand publicly funded electric-vehicle charging stations, and supported converting the Washington State ferries to cleaner natural gas as a transition space between dirty diesel fuel and renewable energy.
- She co-sponsored HB 2555 to permit alternative contracting performance goals, encouraging requests for proposals to require sustainable design, construction, and life-cycle energy efficiency in public works projects.
- In her first year she was appointed to the Legislators’ Energy Horizons Institute, a national program for state legislators who are dedicated to pursuing clean energy choices throughout their legislative careers.
Gael’s constituents know how much she and her husband cherish the survival and sustainability of wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Pacific Northwest. When one of her constituents asked Gael to help stop the mining practice known as suction dredging – which involves “shop-vac” mining in wild fish gravel beds – Gael went to work:
- She prime-sponsored House bill 2579, the “Give Fish a Chance Act,” to prohibit suction dredging in areas designated by federal and state agencies as critical habitat.
- Gael also co-sponsored various pieces of legislation to protect critical habitat areas from invasive species.
Joining with her seatmates and many colleagues, Gael is fighting to protect our communities from the risks of oil trains and coal trains. She co-sponsored the Oil Transportation Safety Act and signed onto numerous letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and State Department of Ecology requesting a more comprehensive economic impact analysis of proposed environment projects.
Gael’s commitment to fighting climate change and reducing carbon emissions started early. When she ran for the Port Commission in 2007, Gael saw the potential of the Port to act as a leader in adopting strong environmental standards for the air, water and land, consistent with the values of the people of her district and all of King County. A few of Gael’s environmental accomplishments as a Port Commissioner include:
- Gael championed the first-ever grant to support congestion relief, expand safe bike/pedestrian paths and improve air quality in the SODO, South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods. Thanks to Gael’s constant urging, Port staff aggressively pursued environmental federal stimulus dollars resulting in the Port winning more than $30 million in federal grants for port vehicle electrification, shore power hookups, and pre-conditioned air to reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by idling planes.
- Gael pushed for and secured funding for electric car chargers at Sea-Tac airport for hybrid electric and all-electric vehicles.
- Gael insisted on the completion of the storm-water run-off tank prior to the start of the Sea-Tac Rental Car Facility construction, protecting a salmon-spawning creek nearby. Further, the new rental car facility at the airport uses closed-loop recycling and cleaning of wastewater, further protecting our region from the harmful effects of storm water runoff.
- Gael pushed for a clean-energy solution for the rental car companies’ shuttle buses and as a result the new Port-owned fleet is 100 percent hybrid and reduces shuttle bus trips by an estimated 30 percent.
- Gael led the revision of the Memorandum of Understanding with the cruise ship industry to prohibit any ship from dumping waste into Elliot Bay and also require them to use low sulfur fuels and “shore power” to reduce impacts on water and air quality while cruise ships are docked.
- Gael supported a Lower Duwamish Habitat Restoration Plan where 56 parties have all agreed to allow the Port to create 23 new restored habitat wetlands on privately held land on the river.
- The Commission unanimously passed Gael’s green-trade initiative in early 2011 that accelerates efforts to meet federal clean air standards two years ahead of schedule.
Protecting Our Citizens and Communities
With more than 30 years as a security and intelligence expert, Gael knows what’s at stake when it comes to maritime security and protecting our people and communities.
As a state legislator, Gael has worked to help keep people safe in their own homes and to advance legal protections to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
- Her first piece of legislation, the Safe Keys Act (HB 1647), revised the Landlord-Tenant Act of 1947, holding landlords responsible for protecting tenant keys under the “reasonable care” standard. Because of a very brave woman, who was brutally attacked by a maintenance worker who had access to the master keys to her apartment complex, we now have a law that says people have a right to expect to be safe in their apartments.
In Olympia, Gael continues to press forward in her efforts to make our people and communities aware of risks from natural disasters. She is fighting for funding for the State Geologist to assess risks to state critical infrastructure from earthquakes and other natural disasters.
- Gael is the prime sponsor of HB 1819, which sought to create digital maps of the state’s critical economic infrastructure to help local and state agencies understand potential risks to transportation, water and sewer, energy, and digital systems.
- Gael established the Economic and Community Resilience Caucus with colleagues from the House and Senate, in an effort to develop legislative priorities to protect our communities and accelerate their recovery from disasters.
- Gael won a coveted appointment to serve on the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Advisory Board, where she continues to strengthen local and state maritime security relationships between the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian authorities.
- Gael is the prime sponsor of HB 2580, creating a maritime and manufacturing legislative task force will assess the resilience of our infrastructure to recover jobs, trade and economic opportunities.
Gael has built lines of communication and coordination with the Washington Emergency Management Association; the Washington Military Department; the U.S. Coast Guard’s Area Maritime Security Committee in Puget Sound; Pacific NW Economic Region; and the University of Washington to build a robust network of maritime security and resilience professionals.
During her 5-year tenure as Port Commissioner, Gael’s experience protecting our nation’s ports from nuclear, biochemical and natural disasters helped move the Port in a new direction as it dealt with its own long-term goals. Now, the Port is a regional partner leading the way in protecting our airport and our seaport while also combating national issues like human trafficking.
Choosing Transparency and Restoring Common Sense
Our citizens want to know what their government is up to. They want public money being spent in public. The people want their voices heard and want access to their elected officials.
- Gael is a relentless advocate for open government. She keeps connected to her constituents and the broader public with community meetings, one-on-one coffees, and social media. It’s not unusual for her constituents and reporters to see Gael’s tweets or Facebook posts and then have the chance to talk to her in person the next day.
- During her first term, Gael c0-sponsored legislation to require the City of Seattle to notify neighbors when building permits would allow multi-unit, multi-story buildings in previously single-family residential neighborhoods. It just makes sense that public agencies should keep neighborhoods informed about what’s happening on their street.
- Gael worked with her fellow legislators to resolve confusing and contradictory regulations among four Washington State agencies regarding houseboats and on-water dwellings. Her work resulted in new legislation clarifying state regulations and city planning and development rules.
- As a legislator, she has a 100 percent voting record – she has never missed a vote. She wants her constituents to know where she stands and how she is representing them.
- Gael actively participates in the Coalition for Open Government legislative caucus, and has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation directing broader use of web-based information from state agencies.
- Gael continues to fight for more visibility into funding sources for ballot initiatives and is committed to protecting the public’s access to campaign contributions to candidates for public office.
Gael learned from her time as a Port Commissioner that public agencies must work with their neighbors. The Port of Seattle is the second largest public property landowner in King County, and affects the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of King Country residents. Below are a few of Gael’s reforms and common sense accomplishments during her tenure at the Port of Seattle:
- Thanks to Gael’s leadership, the Port Commission created a Commission Audit Committee. She chaired it in 2010. It includes a volunteer committee member from the public. More than 100 internal audits were completed during her tenure, collecting more than $4 million in fees owed to the Port.
- Within her first month in office, Gael wrote the “Transparency Code of Conduct” policy that is still in force today, moving the Port away from its history of closed-door meetings.
- Under Gael’s leadership, the Port staff adopted new policies for small-works contracting and consulting projects, and implemented new community outreach with women- and minority-owned businesses to help more companies qualify for Port contracts and procurement projects.
- All Port projects and their schedules and budgets – approximately 85 active contracts and more than 600 contractors, tenants or suppliers – were posted online, through Gael’s urging, and accessible to any citizen who wishes to see how public money is being spent.
- All Commission and Audit Committee meetings were streamed live on the web and are archived on the Port’s website.