Catching up with county council member Kathy Lambert

Transportation, technology in courtrooms, converting solid waste into energy and maintaining King County's AAA credit rating, are key issues for district 3 council member.

A majority of Kathy Lambert’s district on the King County Council is home to bears, deer and other wildlife. And while each district has roughly the same population – 214,000 – Lambert’s territory extends east to the county line where there is nothing except roads and critters.

Redmond, the northern part of Issaquah, Sammamish, Duvall and the town of Skykomish (population 202) fall into District 3, as does a number of county, state and federal lands in unincorporated King County.

As the district with the most county roads, transportation is a key concern for Lambert.

“We have 567 miles (of roads) in District 3, and only enough money to overlay 15 miles,” she said. “Most are asphalt, and not in good repair to the point of being dangerous.”

Issaquah-Fall City Road, which has been a topic of conversation in the Klahanie annexation discussion, is in Lambert’s district. She said there was money in the budget three times to expand the road and it still hasn’t happened. As roads deteriorate, it costs more and more as time goes by to repair them. For example, routine maintenance on a good road is $42.97 a square yard, where roads that are at a much lower rating can cost the county and taxpayers $152 a square yard to maintain. Lambert said roads need to be a priority in King County and she will continue to make a case for improved funding.

Lambert, who serves as the chair for the council’s law, justice, heath and human services committee, has advocated for a program that uses technology extensively to speed up paperwork in the courtrooms, called court of the future. Courtroom 854 in the county courthouse is the only one with the technology so far, which includes remote testimony. Lambert hopes to expand the program, and will be attending a court technology conference next month. Justice and safety accounts for 76 percent of the county’s general fund.

Lambert was instrumental in bringing Safe Place to King County as a way to give at-risk youth a place to go if they are in danger, or just have nowhere to go. Safe Places now include all Metro buses, all Sound Transit buses, every library in the King County library system and all branches of the YMCA.

Waste to Energy has been another program Lambert is passionate about. She traveled to Hamburg, Germany, to see how that city is converting garbage into energy. With the Cedar Hill landfill set to close in 2024, she started looking at other ways to deal with trash since the only alternative to the landfill is long-haul exporting of garbage.

Lambert said in Hamburg they burn the garbage in kilns that reach 1,800 degrees Celsius. It comes out clean, then they use bottom ash for roads and fly ash to solidify cement.

“Germany is considered the most progressive country on garbage control,” she said.

Although garbage tonnage in King County has declined with more people recycling, she wants to build a plant similar to the one she visited, noting that several mayors are already onboard. They are interviewing two companies right now to get ideas on how to move forward with waste to energy. The plant in Hamburg powers 37,000 homes.

“Garbage has to be considered a renewable resource,” Lambert said.

Lambert, who was first elected to the County Council in 2001, is proud of the fact that the county’s budget has the highest credit rating possible – AAA — and she is committed to budgets that don’t vary dramatically. She supports stable budgets that come from prudent spending decisions.

When asked how she felt about county commissioners being elected at large rather than by district, she thought that was a “terrible” idea because unincorporated areas would be abandoned.

Lambert is unopposed in November’s general election.