5:53 PM: West Seattle/White Center/Vashon (and vicinity) County Councilmember Joe McDermott mentioned on Facebook that he was in Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union; we asked for a photo but didn’t expect to get one, since he also mentioned everyone had to turn in their electronic devices upon entrance. But he managed to e-mail this just before going into the House gallery – a photo with North Sound U.S. House Rep. Rick Larsen and County Executive Dow Constantine, taken by Larsen staffer Bryan Thomas. The president’s speech is set to begin at 6 pm, televised/streamed/broadcast in a multitude of places.
P.S. Speaking of politics, one more reminder – Election Day for the Seattle school levies; the ballot-dropoff van is at West Seattle Stadium, along the driveway between the parking lot and 35th SW, till 8 pm, and we’re expecting the first results (only announcement of the night) around 8:15.
ADDED 10:24 PM: We invited Councilmember McDermott to share thoughts/observations after the State of the Union address:
I flew to Washington DC this afternoon to lobby our federal leaders over the next two days on behalf of King County. As I was in the air Congressman Jim McDermott’s office confirmed that I could attend the State of the Union as his guest.
As political theater it is an inspiring event to witness the President comply with Article II Section 3 of the United States Constitution, but it was personal specifics that spoke to me in the House Chamber tonight.
When President Obama announced the Fix it First program to repair 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country, I stood and applauded. Not many in the Gallery jump up — even if members of one or both parties on the floor do. Few others in the Gallery stood for this. But not everyone in the Gallery has had a major bridge in their district close due to safety concerns from age and deterioration. Thankfully the South Park Bridge will open in just about a year but the fact that it closed harming the South Park community and broader economy is a failure. I welcome cooperation with the federal government to prevent that happening to other communities.
The President addressed sequestration and how it will harm people and our economy. This underlines the message I will take to Capitol Hill tomorrow. For instance, I am concerned about the effects of an 8.2% cut to the Women Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (WIC SNAP) in the Farm Bill sequestration. Those cuts alone would affect 3,100 clients in King County.
Having worked on voting and election issues as a state legislator and now supporting the work of King County’s elections Director Sherril Huff, the call to action on voting rights struck a chord with me. That a guest who was in the First Lady’s box this evening waited six hours to vote — regardless of her age — demands to be addressed nationally and in every local community. Our vote by mail program doesn’t mean there aren’t other improvements possible locally.
In the most emotional moment of the evening, President Obama addressed gun safety in the wake of the Newtown shooting. The Chamber fell silent. The President demanded a vote. People rose and applauded the demand. Members chanted “Vote!” The King County Board of Health, which I chair, joined this call last month when we passed a resolution calling for state and federal action and committing to do what little state and federal laws allow local jurisdictions to adopt. Reasonable measures must be taken before even more are lost to gun violence — a public health crisis we can and must address.
Throughout the speech I reflected on how legislators and elected officials — Representatives and Senators in this case, but on any level — need to recommit to achieving the common good for our jurisdictions. In campaigns we can fight, but in governing we must put the fight aside, certainly there will be debate, and then act in the common good. I recommit to this imperative myself.
Within all of this policy and politics, the speech touched me most personally when in the beginning President Obama referred to ensuring equal opportunity for all. In doing so he spoke to who needs to be included and specifically called out that equal opportunity must be available to people regardless of who they love. To hear the President speak to inclusion of my lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community inspires me in how far we have come in equal opportunity. I am renewed in working for equal opportunity for all and encouraged by the state of our union.