This morning, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld announced her campaign for King County Council District 4, which covers South Lake Union, Belltown, and everything north and west of that (Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia, etc).
The news comes a couple days after the current seat-holder, King County Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles, whom Reyneveld considers “a longtime mentor,” announced her retirement after two terms on the council and 30 years as a politician in various capacities.
In 2020, Reyneveld lost her race to represent the people of the Ballard area in the State Legislature after a kinda fun fight with her book club buddy, Rep. Liz Berry. But now she’s back in the saddle, after having transferred into the AG’s environmental protection division in May of 2021, with an emphasis on doing more to fight climate change, addressing the behavioral health crisis and its attendant workforce issues, and tackling the housing shortage. If elected, she plans to foreground people with lived experience to help solve those problems, and also to look at it all through a racial equity lens.
In a phone interview, she said the opportunity to make King County Metro “faster, more reliable, and more accessible to every one of our community members” constituted “a large part” of her decision to run. To achieve those goals, she aims to “build a coalition” to pass a countywide ballot measure to “fully implement” Metro Connects, a big plan to dramatically improve the bus service over the next 30 years.
As part of that package, she’d want to “fully implement” an income-based fare program, “provide incentives” for employers to pay for transit passes for employees, and “provide incentives and supports” for Metro drivers and other workers to make sure the County has the staff to do the job. As a bus rider who accompanies her son on Metro en route to his downtown daycare, she believes those programs are “critical” to increasing ridership and meeting carbon reduction goals.
Along those lines, she’d also like to work with King County Council Member Rod Dembowski to bring a green bond measure to the ballot to “accelerate efforts to address the climate crisis.” She thinks it’s “critical” to bring down transportation and building emissions, as well as reduce air pollution around frontline communities.
Speaking of countywide levies, Reyneveld plans to make the Crisis Care Centers Levy, which voters will consider in April, “a huge part” of her platform. She’ll endeavor to “help mobilize supporters” to pass the $1.25 billion measure to build and staff five new desperately needed crisis care centers because she finds the current number of beds “unacceptable.” According to the county, we only have 244 beds to serve 2.2 million people.
Though she strongly supports more density and “missing middle” housing in unincorporated King County, she also recognizes the need to find a dedicated funding source to build enough affordable and supportive housing to solve the homelessness crisis.
“We need to more aggressively find a revenue source, and the county’s role can be in helping to secure more affordable housing as well as looking at what where we can expand transit-oriented development,” she said, applauding the county’s Health Through Housing initiative, which uses a sales tax to raise money to turn old hotels into housing.
Reyneveld, who serves on the King County Women’s Advisory board, wants to continue implementing their recommendations to boost pay for child care workers and to pass a bill to prevent landlords from discriminating against potential renters with criminal backgrounds, as Seattle has already done.
Calling the recent string of suicides, reports of poor health conditions, and tales of short staffing in the downtown jail “tragic and unacceptable,” Reyneveld says it’s time to “reimagine the King County Correctional Center.” As one-third of the people sitting in jail are waiting for competency evaluations to determine mental and behavioral health issues, she believes passing the Crisis Care Center Levy will be a “key piece” to the puzzle of downsizing the jail to serve felony-level and “other offenders” while deferring others—”especially those in crisis”—to diversion programs. Doing so, she adds, would potentially help relieve staffing issues, too.
Though she’s not sure where the funding would come from quite yet, she also wants to pilot a voluntary reentry program to hook up people leaving the jail with housing, food, health care, and other sorts of services, which would help reduce recidivism.
To cut down on the number of people who end up in jail in the first place, she “absolutely” supports more investments into police alternatives, which will “probably result in less investment in local law enforcement” and free up time for the cops to work on solving crimes instead of responding to requests for wellness checks. Most King County residents agree with her, according to a recent report.
In her time on council, Kohl-Welles championed arts organizations both large and small, and Reyneveld very much plans on continuing that legacy if elected. She grew up dancing ballet and currently frequents the Seattle Repertory Theater and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, where her kid takes classes. She’s a “huge, huge fan and believer in public art,” too, and wants to do whatever she can to enrich communities with it.
Though she’s the only candidate in the race at the moment, Reyneveld has already locked up a formidable number of endorsements, including nods from her boss (AG Bob Ferguson), Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, and State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti. King County Council Members Rod Dembowski, Girmay Zahilay, and Dave Upthegrove have endorsed her as well. Ditto former King County Council Members Larry Gosset and Larry Phillips, who held the seat before Kohl-Welles.