Mosqueda talks water taxi, healthcare on the island

On Jan. 17, newly elected King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, representing West Seattle and Vashon, came to the island — a day that included check-ins with representatives of Vashon HouseHold, Seattle Indian Health Board, and Vashon Health Care District, as well as businesses on the island.

Last week, Mosqueda was named chair of the King County Board of Health, as well as the chair of two key Council committees: the Health and Human Services Committee and the Regional Transit Committee.

In between stops, in an interview with The Beachcomber, Mosqueda sketched out her priorities in her new role on the county council.

News from Washington State Ferries that the Triangle route serving Vashon, Southworth and Seattle would stay at reduced service until at least 2028 “means, to me, that King County has an opportunity to step up to try to increase the frequency of the water taxi and work with Metro to create shuttle service,” Mosqueda said.

That metro service would be key to catalyzing improved water taxi service, Mosqueda said, because it would allow people to take aquatic transportation to and from the island without needing to worry about driving and parking.

She uses the water taxi from her residence in West Seattle to downtown Seattle frequently — made feasible by reliable, free Metro shuttles, she said, that stop within three blocks of her home and circle back to the water taxi.

King County water taxi service brings people to and from downtown Seattle to the north-end ferry terminal on weekdays, providing a zippier and more urban-accessible alternative to ferry service. But once on Vashon, that car-less visitor must take the bus or rely on a friend to give them a ride to the island’s town core.

While there is Metro bus service to reach the water taxi terminal in downtown Seattle, Mosqueda said she’s heard from islanders that a consistent shuttle service on Vashon would benefit workers, those with disabilities or frequent off-island medical appointments, and others who regularly travel on-and-off island.

“It seems like it could fill a gap, as well, if people could more quickly get back and forth to downtown Seattle,” she said. “It is not a far-flung possibility.”

Meanwhile, expanding water taxi service itself — such as by adding more hours or weekend service — would be another challenge. Mosqueda said she intends to speak more with water taxi leadership, and said investments in the program could come from the legislature.

“I think we should partner with our state friends … perhaps there’s more advocacy we could do with our friends in Olympia to try to get some additional funding to support another supplemental service through the King County water taxi,” she said.

Housing, healthcare and small business support remain her other priorities in serving the island, Mosqueda said. This month, she sat in her first briefing from King County Executive Dow Constantine over the draft King County 2024 Comprehensive Plan — which will set the stage for how developers build housing on the island for years to come.

“I asked them questions specifically about Vashon and Maury’s access to affordable housing,” she said. “I want to make sure we are reducing any barriers … and that we’re doing so in a way that listens to what residents, businesses and developers are saying would be the most helpful tool to spur affordable housing.”

Mosqueda said she couldn’t yet opine on the current proposed plan and its amendments from Constantine — she said she’d be speaking to residents and developers on the island about the proposed changes next to deepen her understanding.

“This is the biggest priority for me,” she said. “Honestly, in the first year, to be able to take on the comprehensive plan with a housing equity analysis … that’s a huge priority and responsibility.”

Vashon Health Care District

At a board meeting of Vashon Health Care District, Mosqueda officially swore in the district’s two newly elected commissioners, Sarah Day and Bill Hamilton. It was the second, ceremonial swearing-in of the commissioners; a notary had also performed the duties last month as the commissioners assumed their roles.

As a candidate, Day said her priorities as a commissioner would include “providing care for homebound individuals as well as a shortage of behavioral health care providers and access to urgent care.” Hamilton, as a candidate, also pledged to work collaboratively to explore enhancing after-hours health care options as well as behavioral health programs.

At the meeting, Mosqueda took part in a board discussion, passionately speaking about promoting public policy that addressed intersectional needs for affordable health care and housing, education, a clean environment and transportation.

Citing her frequent visits to Vashon, Mosqueda said she understood that health and transportation needs for islanders were not being met.

“The number one thing I hear [from islanders] relates to concerns about the ferries and what is going to happen in a health emergency,” she said, citing inadequate ferry service as having “a disproportionate impact on folks who have chronic conditions, or elderly populations, or folks who might need regular and acute care, or folks who are getting ready to give birth.”

Mosqueda said she was encouraged by Vashon Fire & Rescue’s soon-to-be-launched Mobile Integrated Health program, which would provide home visits to islanders identified by the fire district as needing preventative and follow-up care, and also praised the work of Seattle Indian Health Board, which will open a new treatment center on Vashon for those seeking recovery from addiction.

Mosqeuda said she had worked closely with Health Board leaders Esther Lucero (Diné) and Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee).

“They have the best outcomes for treatment facilities in Seattle — a proven model that helps not only care for people in their health crisis but also holistically in getting people stabilized,” she said.

Mosqueda urged communication and collaboration between the Health Care District and the Health Board, pointing out that the treatment center will also bring more health services to the island, including a dental clinic. Finally, she said, she believed that the Health Board would also be an asset in helping to advocate for enhanced transportation options.

When asked by Commissioner Tom Langland if she believed she could encourage other council members, from other districts, to consider the needs of Vashon in terms of transportation, Mosqueda said she would try.

“I’m not going to let it go, because this is a health equity issue and an economic justice issue for the small businesses that have told me they don’t have enough workers on the island,” she said.

Elizabeth Shepherd contributed reporting to this story.