COVID, PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE FOR ALL
As a UW School of Public Health faculty member, Gerry is a leader to ensure Washington responds to COVID based on science and public health principles. He continues to lead efforts to have the contact tracing, vaccination and testing in place for our children to continue in-person learning if COVID resurges. Colleagues in the Legislature rely on Gerry’s expertise to understand epidemiology of COVID and what policies are supported by evidence.
For 2022, Gerry is introducing legislation to provide school nurses in every school. Shamefully, the State only funds one school nurse for every 5,263 elementary school students. Seattle is funded for only a handful of nurses for over a hundred schools.
Access to quality health care – including primary care and mental health – is a fundamental human right. Gerry believes we need to lead the nation in providing health care for all Washington residents with a “Medicare for All” program.
Gerry developed and successfully passed the first state legislation in the US to respond to the epidemic of our youth being addicted to nicotine – once again – by the vaping and e-cigarette industry that is dominated by Big Tobacco. He continues to lead efforts to eliminate bubble gum, fruit and other vaping flavors marketed and sold at corner stores to addict our youth to nicotine.
Gerry also developed and passed ground-breaking legislation to have opioid overdose reversal nasal spray or injectable medicine available at every high school and college dorm.
Gerry led the State ballot initiatives that stopped the federal government from using Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump. After graduating from UW Law School, Gerry chose to dedicate his career to fighting for environmental justice. He took on the nuclear weapons industry to end Plutonium production at Hanford and forcing the US Department of Energy to clean up the most contaminated area in North America by founding and continuing to lead the region’s leading citizens’ group working for the cleanup of Hanford (Heart of America Northwest Hanfordcleanup.org).
Gerry has been a leader to fight climate change for over 20 years. He was one of the leaders of the multi-year legislative effort to end Washington State’s use of fossil fuels for electricity. He worked with Sierra Club, 350, Columbia Riverkeeper and other organizations to develop groundbreaking legislation to require Washington State to consider the “life-cycle” methane emissions from fossil fuel facilities, which has helped end the threat of new coal or methane export facilities in Washington.
As Chair of the House Local Government Committee, Gerry is shepherding legislation to have all local government land use and traffic plans include reducing our local contributions to climate change through the Growth Management Act, as well as increasing density in urban areas near transit.
Gerry is committed to developing and mentoring a new generation of attorneys working to protect the environment, protect Treaty rights and promote environmental justice. He runs the region’s only Tribal and Environmental law program for law students in collaboration with the Yakama Nation and Center for Indian Law and Policy.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
Gerry has been a leader to fully fund our children’s education and schools. He was an active PTSA advocate for fully funding education, which was a major reason Gerry ran for the Legislature. He has been a champion for lower class sizes, paying living wages for our educators, investing in professional development, increasing school nurses, guidance counselors and social workers. Gerry has been recognized repeatedly as “the leading advocate” for special education students in the Legislature.
For years, schools in North Seattle were overcrowded and getting worse. Science and computer labs had to be converted to classrooms, classrooms had to be combined despite promises of lower class sizes. Seattle Public Schools and the State were doing nothing to address our school capacity crisis in North Seattle as our population surged. Gerry was responsible for funding new classrooms and renovations from opening Cedar Park and renovating Olympic Heights, Cascadia, Decatur elementaries to renovating Lincoln HS and John Marshall and funding renovation to come at John Rogers.
Washington’s students now have the strongest protections against lead in our school water in the US thanks to legislation that Gerry developed with other public health experts and national environmental advocates.
HIGHER EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
As one of only a few higher ed faculty members in the Legislature, Gerry has been the leading voice to increase access to the opportunities that higher education offers in ending poverty, overcoming racism and offering a better future for Washington’s students. Gerry has been named Legislator of the Year repeatedly by the Washington Student Association and the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
When the UW was exposed allowing an athletic administrator to quietly move on to work at another higher ed institution after being found likely to have committed a sexual assault, Gerry worked with advocates and survivors of assault and harassment to develop and pass the first legislation in the US to end “pass the harasser” practices that allow faculty and administrators to move from school to school and continue harassing or assaulting students and staff. Watch Gerry’s floor speech.
Gerry developed and introduced our state’s first legislation for free community college, which became the model for the Seattle Promise, with now US Congress Member Pramila Jayapal when she was a State Senator and David Frockt.
We need to recognize that institutionalized racism benefits and represents each person with privilege. It is up to us to dedicate ourselves to dismantling racism. The knee on George Floyd’s neck was the knee of the state, of our government. He was being arrested in the name of the state like countless Black, Brown, Native Americans subjected to fear and disparate policing. He would have been prosecuted in the name of the state – in your name. So, it is up to us to dismantle racism, not to be comfortable in privilege we benefit from.
Gerry has been committed to working, throughout his adult life, to undo systemic and institutionalized racism.
Gerry teaches at the UW School of Public Health. The most important thing he does is to inspire in a new generation of public health professionals is that the social determinants of health start with poverty and racism. The MPH program, Community Oriented Public Health Practice, is the only program in the US with an explicit mission to undoing racism in all aspects of public health and our own program.
Poverty and racism are totally connected. Race is a major cause of intergenerational poverty. Thus, both are the major social determinants of health in the US.
With COVID 19 we have seen how race and poverty are costing lives. COVID-19 is having a devastating disparate impact on the health of communities of color. Those communities have never had access to the health care that should be the basic right of everyone living in America. These communities already suffer from high rates of diabetes, heart disease. Lung disease, obesity…. All of which greatly increase the risk for anyone who is infected with Corona Virus.
Policing is the highly visible branch springing from the many interconnected roots of institutional racism. We need to recognize that race determines who will come into contact with police, and that this is connected to every other aspect of life in our nation.
A just and equitable society recognizes that housing, healthcare and education are basic human rights. Race sadly determines access to each in our society. Our State’s regressive tax system contributes to, and perpetuates, inequality. We impose the greatest tax burden to pay for housing, healthcare and education on those with the greatest need.
We need to understand that systemic racism that shows its effects in policing and jailing of people of color starts with our education system and the grossly unequal access that children of color begin life with from lack of health care to not having life-changing early learning through our public schools and postsecondary opportunities. That is why Gerry supports universal early learning and greatly increasing support for public education, transforming curriculum (including being a supporter of ethnic studies in all public schools) and championing free public access to all qualified residents (regardless of immigration status) to postsecondary education and workforce training.
Gerry is engaged in developing legislation regarding police, race and force. This includes renewing his effort to require all police to wear body cameras and ensure that the video is available promptly to community, civil rights groups and news media. He has been a longtime advocate to reduce youth entangled in the juvenile justice system and youth jails – which is where we see African American male youth disproportionately begin to be incarcerated. Gerry continues to work on legislation to address the inability of police to be disciplined for violating civil rights and use of force.
Gerry has been deeply engaged for several years in developing environmental justice legislation and ensuring that our budgets reflect environment justice principles. This work includes not only advocating for consideration of disparate impacts of new proposed projects on People of Color (including efforts to ensure there is meaningful participation and formal consultation with Tribes) but also proposing that communities of color have enforceable legal rights (cause of action) when communities suffer disparate impacts to health.
Gun violence is a public health crisis in our state and nation. Far too many children die from gun violence, often due to the failure of adults to secure guns. Gerry strongly supports efforts to have gun owners bear responsibility when their guns are taken by children or others who should not have them; and, for gun sellers to be required to sell a gun safe or with a secure locking jacket. We need to recognize that the epidemic of youth suicide is greatly increased by access to guns.
90% of initial suicide attempts by gun are fatal while over 90% from all other efforts do not succeed and allow us to work with youth for treatment.
Gerry will continue to stand up to say that assault weapons and high-capacity magazines belong in the military, not in homes or our parks, streets, or schools.
Gerry has been a champion to pass legislation in 2022 to bar guns from public meetings such as school board meetings, where they are used to intimidate.
Gerry has joined in organizing fellow legislators to push our leadership to bring bills to reduce gun violence to the House floor for votes. While passing limits on magazine clips was significant, we can not believe that one small step relieves us of the duty to take many larger steps, including a ban on assault weapons, holding gun owners accountable for failing to safely store guns, ensuring that every resident of Washington - regardless of which county or city they live in – is safe from someone continuing to have access to guns after orders have been signed to remove guns due to domestic violence or behavioral health.
As a teacher in public health, he will keep working to recognize that guns, suicide (and efforts) and behavioral health are inter-related public health problems – and that Washington far exceeds the national average in regard to the percent of gun deaths which are by suicide.
A CHAMPION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING & PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS
We are losing affordable housing units far faster than we can build new housing. Long-time residents are being displaced, while young working parents can't afford to rent family units and buying is out of reach because new construction homes now cost what had been unthinkable amounts.
Gerry has been a leader to build permanent supportive housing, fund rapid rehousing, preventing displacement and for protecting tenants. His record reflects years of dedication.
Gerry's provided leadership to build hundreds of units of permanent supportive and workforce affordable housing here in the 46th District. He was widely recognized as a leader in building community support, obtaining funding and planning for hundreds of affordable housing units - with childcare and a health center - at Magnuson Park, including revitalizing old Naval buildings. He's also been a leader in funding tiny homes and rapid rehousing.
"To pass middle housing, I think we first need to pass statewide ADU reform. My bill, 1660, was the first bill to even come close and it wouldn't have been possible without Gerry's championing of it." Rep. Sharon Shewmake, 42nd LD
In order to provide thousands of persons experiencing homelessness with safe and healthy housing and wraparound services, we need "rapid rehousing," such as buying and converting hotels or existing apartments as well as "tiny home" villages. Gerry provided the leadership as Chair of the Local Government Committee to pass groundbreaking legislation that removed barriers to quickly renovating unused hotels and apartments for rapid rehousing; and, to require that local governments plan for the first time under the Growth Management Act to meet the housing needs of all economic segments of our communities - not just increasing housing for the top of the market.
We have to recognize that we need to prevent displacement of low-income residents and entire communities of color which has been occurring, and will increase, much faster than we can build new housing units. Gerry's led efforts to increase transit-oriented development and use of accessory dwelling units (ADUs aka "in-law apartments") while including tools and funding to prevent displacement of those current residents and communities due to gentrification and top of the market new construction (for rentals and homes).
New ADUs need to be built for affordable housing, not as investments by LLC corporations in Airbnb type tourist and business rentals in Seattle. That's why Gerry's legislation to authorize incentives for ADU construction does not allow for incentives to be extended if the builder does not commit to the unit being available to meet our needs for additional long-term housing.
Gerry recognizes that evictions and lack of protection from rapid, massive rent increases are major causes of our local homelessness crisis. He is a leader in removing local preemption of rent stabilization and eviction reforms.
WORKING WITH OUR FIREFIGHTERS
Gerry is committed to continuing to work with our firefighters to ensure that the State recognizes that they face huge health risks. Sadly, life expectancy for fire fighters is far shorter after retirement than for any other public profession. He pledges to continue working with fire fighters to ensure that we presumptively provide workers compensation and medical coverage for the cancers, respiratory and other illnesses that are closely associated with firefighting.
We need to increase and protect staffing levels on equipment to protect our communities as well as our firefighters. As Chair of the Local Government Committee, Gerry works to provide local governments and fire districts with the revenues needed to support crucial safety investments.
Our firefighters spend an inordinate amount of their time responding to calls from adult / retirement homes when residents fall. Many residents fall every day. For insurance purposes, the retirement homes do not help their residents get up – calling firefighters instead. We need to address this diversion of our firefighters while increasing support for our senior citizens who shouldn’t have to wait on the ground for a firefighter to help them back up. We should change insurance requirements and improve staff training and staffing levels.
ABORTION AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Gerry's been a long-time advocate for abortion rights and reproductive healthcare in Washington. As a faculty member at the UW School of Public Health, he knows how important access to reproductive health care is for women in our state. He is the sole endorsed candidate by Planned Parenthood for 46th District Representative position #1 and has served as volunteer legal counsel for NARAL-Washington (now Pro-Choice WA). Gerry's been a leader working for school-based health clinics (like the one at Roosevelt High School) that include access to reproductive health care, contraception, and comprehensive sex education. All of which are threatened by the US Supreme Court's decision.
Following the shameful rollback of US constitutional protections by the right-wing supermajority on the US Supreme Court, Gerry wrote:
"The right to abortion in Washington is only as good as access. “While our state laws protect the right to abortion, half of all hospital beds in our state are now controlled by religious institutions that do not allow for abortion and the full range of medical practice to offer gender confirming care, protect the health of women, or persons at the end of their lives. Hospitals that receive state funding should not be allowed to restrict medical procedures or training of UW and WSU medical students based on the religious directive of the hospital’s owner."
"I have led efforts to ensure that our public medical schools' students are trained in the full range of medical practice, including abortion, EC, all reproductive health, and end of life care as part of their training - regardless of religious directives at hospitals they intern at. I have been a leader for Medicaid funding of gender affirming care and surgery services as part of managed care (not pay as you go) and expanded training to meet the extreme shortage of medical providers.”
In addition to funding broader access for persons seeking care in Washington, Gerry’s proposed that the State take civil and criminal action against officials from other states who use threats to prevent women and transgender persons from obtaining medical services here in Washington, or if they threaten medical providers here in Washington.