The Gristle

Olympia Olympics

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

OLYMPIA OLYMPICS: Alex Ramel has been appointed to serve out the remainder of Rep. Jeff Morris’ term in the Washington House of Representatives for the 40th Legislative District. The Skagit Board of County Commissioners met in a special joint meeting this week with their counterparts on Whatcom County Council and San Juan County Council to select among three names offered to replace Morris, who resigned late last year after representing the district for 22 years.

Each of the county legislative bodies that make up the 40th District received three votes to select the replacement. Ramel was nominated by Whatcom County Council member Todd Donovan, a motion seconded by Skagit Commissioner Lisa Janicki. The vote was a straightforward 5-4 in favor of Ramel, and encumbered only by the usual and predictable tomfoolery of Whatcom County Council—Rud Browne oddly recused himself, and Barbara Brenner and Tyler Bird continued their intractable patterns and voted no. This ultimately cost the Bellingham Democrat half of the votes against him. Two of Skagit County’s three commissioners—Ron Wesen and Ken Dahlstedt—also voted against Ramel’s appointment.

Commissioner Janicki said she was impressed with Ramel’s familiarity with state issues and knowledge of the priorities and committees he wanted to pursue in the coming session.

Ramel is indeed a fine choice to replace Morris in Olympia—a dependable vote, a quick study on emergent issues and already well versed in the state’s legislative agenda. He has already filed to run for election next fall to the full-term position.

Ramel was selected over three-term Bellingham City Council member Michael Lilliquist and Marco Morales, a migrant graduation specialist with the Mount Vernon School District.
“Alex is an environmental organizer from Bellingham and brings with him a breadth of experience in addressing both the need for affordable housing and climate change in the 40th LD,” Rep. Debra Lekanoff said of her new colleague in a statement. “Immediately sworn in after the commissioners vote, Alex will be joining me in Olympia for the 2020 Legislative Session.”

Ramel in turn predicted he would join a strong team with Lekanoff and Sen. Liz Lovelett representing the diverse issues of the powerfully progressive 40th District.

Morris made his mark out of the gate in in 1997, when he went from being sworn into office to being thrown into a fight for the state ferry system, joining with Anacortes to save the Anacortes to Sidney, BC ferry run. In a remarkable parallel, Ramel finds himself cast into a similar predicament in Olympia this session.

Washington State Ferries has an operating funding gap of approximately $30 million annually. Historically, this revenue has been made up through special transfers from the WSDOT gas tax fund, but gas tax revenues are now fully committed for debt service on Dept. of Transportation highway projects as the state pays heavy interest to commercial banks.

The passage of Initiative 976 to slash car-tab fees creates additional funding uncertainty for highway—and marine highway—projects. Whether that initiative is properly constructed and constitutional is currently under review by the state courts. With the initiative in place the state is looking at $454 million gap in transportation spending.

If the initiative isn’t thrown out in court “we have to be prepared for the impacts and consequences of that, and my job is to make sure that we don’t lose services that our community relies on,” Ramel said. “I think there is a path forward.”

Ramel said he is excited to tackle state policy response to climate change, which is expected to consume a great deal of the attention of the Legislature this session.

“I am eager to see us put a price on carbon pollution,” he said. “There may be an economy-wide cap-and-trade program proposed, or a low-carbon fuel standard enacted,” he predicted. “My understanding is it will be one or the other. But if we can get it right, an economy-wide system is better than a solution for the transportation sector only. But the details in either proposal matter.”

Another issue of particular interest to Ramel this session is stabilizing the state’s Housing Trust Fund as a means to address affordable housing.

Since 1989, the Housing Trust Fund has successfully built, rehabilitated and preserved more than 36,000 healthy and affordable homes across the state. These investments have created thousands of jobs and have generated millions in state and local tax revenues.

Housing Trust Fund dollars support a wide range of projects serving a diverse array of low-income populations. Projects can serve people with incomes up to 80 percent of area median income (AMI), but the majority of projects funded to date serve households with special needs or incomes below 30 percent of AMI, including homeless families, seniors, farmworkers, and people with developmental disabilities. Washington has specifically structured its housing trust funds to encourage and support affordable housing efforts at the county level, and can leverage local housing levy tax dollars.

“We face a big crisis in the costs of housing,” Ramel admitted, “and I have been an advocate for improving the funding of that tool, fully funding it, and using those funds as intelligently as we can to address this problem.

“It’s a short session with a lot to do, and I am starting a bit behind others who are already at work,” Ramel said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Past Columns
‘I Have A Dream’

January 15, 2020

What Dreams May Come

January 1, 2020

Alt-America

December 25, 2019

Missing Middle

December 18, 2019

War Waged on Two Fronts

December 11, 2019

Work Horse, Not Show Horse

December 4, 2019

Toward A Housing Summit

November 27, 2019

Dueling Data

November 20, 2019

Of Apples and Barrels

November 13, 2019

Hide the Money

October 30, 2019

Anchors Are Weighed

October 23, 2019

A Working Waterfront?

October 15, 2019

Keep Working

October 9, 2019

Signs of Hate

October 2, 2019

Trust Gap

September 25, 2019

Netse Mot

September 18, 2019

A Rising Tide

September 11, 2019

The Power of Change

September 4, 2019

Hands Against Hate

August 28, 2019

Ground Zero

August 21, 2019

Events
Today
A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden Park

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Herbal Tonics Class

5:30pm|Chuckanut Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Paddling With Spirits

6:00pm

Stand in the Corner

7:00pm|Bow Corner Pub

Beauty and the Beast

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Tanya Tomkins and Tamara Friedman

7:00pm|Croatian Cultural Center

The Curious Savage

7:00pm|Alger Community Church

Contest of Crowns

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Sweet Honey in the Rock

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Singing truth to power

7:30pm

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

The Revolutionists

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Tomorrow
A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Paddling With Spirits

6:00pm

Beauty and the Beast

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

The Curious Savage

7:00pm|Alger Community Church

Contest of Crowns

7:30pm|ACT Annex

The Revolutionists

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference

8:30am|Whatcom Community College

WNPS Field Trip

9:00am|Larrabee Park

Winter Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Cooking

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am|South Whatcom Library

Propagating Perennials

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Womxn's March

11:00am|Bellingham City Hall

Seed Swap, Barter Fair and Skillshare

12:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Camera Unobscura Workshop

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Bird Smarts

2:00pm|Everson Library

Discovering Sherry Tasting

2:00pm| Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

More than a label

2:00pm

Rising Above the Pain

4:00pm|Village Books

Sunrise Night of Music

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Blue Abode Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Blue Abode Bar

Whatcom Wind Ensemble Winter Concert

7:00pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Patsy Cline Tribute Concert

7:00pm|Magnolia Grill Hall

Hot Club of Troy

7:00pm|Walton Theatre

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

Sunday
A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

The Curious Savage

7:00pm|Alger Community Church

Beauty and the Beast

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Skagit Eagle Festival

10:00am

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

An American in Paris

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

An American in Paris

7:30pm

see our complete calendar »