11:32 AM: Gov. Inslee is in West Seattle right now during a daylong tour of the metro area, signing bills. He has just arrived at the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse, he is signing the HEAL Act (SB 5141), which he says will “set a course toward a more healthy and equitable future with greater environmental justice for all Washingtonians.” The Longhouse is hosting a celebratory event for the occasion, both inside and outside.TVW plans to stream the signing above; we are at the Longhouse to cover the event, and we’ll add more photos/details later.
11:52 AM: The ceremony has begun with a song of welcome. James Rasmussen of the Duwamish Tribe then speaks.
“My people have been here for over 10,000 years.” The bill the governor will sign today, he says, is “about healing” – not just environmental, but “all kinds.” He also reminds those gathered – and those watching.- that the Duwamish are still seeking federal recognition.
11:59 AM: Now the governor takes the podium. He says this bill addressing systemic racism’s role in environmental injustice has been decades in the making. He hails the work of organizations such as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, whose executive director Paulina López is among the dozens of people in attendance. While the bill may “sound like process,” the governor insists that it’s “about results.”
Also speaking, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña. “It is about how we approach all the work we do” – to undo what has led to disparities in “health and opportunity” affecting too many “because of where they live.” Joining her at the podium is Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, a new legislator who speaks emotionally about her pride that this was accomplished – “I don’t want one more auntie to die 10 years too early … I don’t want one more child to have asthma” because of pollution.
12:40 PM: And after more speaking and singing, the signing.
The governor declares that the HEAL Act will make environmental justice part of the state’s “core strategy.” He moves on to one more on-location signing in about an hour, three environmental bills he’ll sign in Shoreline, two of them sponsored by West Seattle House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. Meantime, the video from this event should be viewable, archived, above, before long. And we’ll add more coverage when we’re back at HQ.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: From the legislative news release about the HEAL Act, more explanation:
Senate Bill 5141, the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL Act), addresses the disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards suffered by Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, along with low-income communities in neighborhoods across Washington state, putting them at higher risk of adverse health outcomes. This risk is further amplified for communities with pre-existing economic barriers and environmental risks.
The HEAL Act, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), implements recommendations from the Environmental Justice Task Force – established by the Legislature in 2019 – on how state agencies should incorporate environmental justice principles to reduce health disparities when implementing policies and programs. Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. …
Saldaña’s bill establishes environmental justice requirements for seven state agencies, an interagency workgroup, and a permanent environmental justice council, the makeup of which includes a majority of representatives from impacted communities. It also sets timelines for guidance, recommendations, and implementation of environmental justice assessments, measurements, and public reporting of progress.
The indoor ceremony at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center was followed by an outdoor celebration (with food by the Off the Rez truck, funded by Front and Centered Coalition). Speakers included the tribe’s longtime chair Cecile Hansen:
She also reminded those in attendance that the Duwamish battle for recognition is not yet won, and noted what they had given up so long ago – 55,000 acres, while now, they hold only the 2/3 of an acre on which the Longhouse sits. As noted in our recent District 1 Community Network report, you can expect to hear more about the tribe’s renewed quest. Their message is that despite the federal attempt at erasure, “We are still here.”