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Operating at 100% capacity, Harborview asks King County voters to pay for upgrades

Nurses put on PPE outside Harborview on April 2, 2020.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
Nurses put on PPE outside Harborview on April 2, 2020.

A major expansion of Harborview Medical Center is on the ballot in King County. It’s listed as King County Proposition 1. If approved, the $1.7 billion, 20-year bond would pay for a new 10-story medical tower along with upgrades to emergency and behavioral health facilities, as well as earthquake proofing.

Harborview is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, serving Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Olga Laskin is campaign manager for Harborview Health for All, which advocates a yes vote on the measure. She says, while it isn’t the best time to be asking people to increase their taxes, approving the bond is crucial right now.

“More than ever, we really need this expansion to be sure that we are providing high quality care to everyone in our community," Laskin said. "So, at the end of the day, if it isn’t passed it’s the care that the community will receive that will be impacted.” 

She says the pandemic has put extra strain on Harborview, which operates at nearly 100 percent capacity most days. The bond would cost the owner of a $600,000 median priced home about $75 a year. The last Harborview bond was approved by voters in 2000 and it expires in 2023.

Proposition 1 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass, and King County officials acknowledge it’s a bit of a risk to put it before voters right now. Given the state of the economy, they did decide not to place a library levy on the same ballot.

There is no organized opposition to the Proposition.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.