Executive offers bold plan in State of the County address
March 1, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
King County Executive Dow Constantine reflected on milestones from 15 months in office and outlined a bold agenda for the months ahead in the State of County address Feb. 28.
The top elected official in the county offered a plan to shore up aging infrastructure and the social safety net amid drastic budget cuts. The address to County Council representatives and community members also emphasized regional partnerships.
“The choices we make will have a lasting and profound impact. As our parents and grandparents did, we too owe it to those who come after us to be responsible, thoughtful and smart,” Constantine said. “If we do our jobs right — building on the commitment to partnership and collaboration that have created the many successes of the past year — we can translate our internal reforms to external results.”
The executive delivered the speech at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, in part to highlight efforts to shore up the aging Howard Hanson Dam. The dam, upstream from Kent along the Green River, required local, county and federal agencies to join together to secure funds for long-term repairs.
“A year ago, we were evacuating county facilities in the Green River Valley,” he said. “Today, we’ve gathered here in the valley city of Kent, secure in the knowledge that the Army Corps is moving ahead with well-designed and fully funded long-term repairs to the Howard Hanson Dam.”
Constantine also announced a plan to relocate King County Elections from a temporary office in Tukwila to a state-of-the-art office in Renton in June. The elections office evacuated the Renton facility amid the Green River flooding threat in 2009.
The address also focused on the struggle to produce a balanced budget late last year. Officials instituted deep cuts to criminal justice agencies and other county departments to close a $60 million budget gap.
“Last year — with many painful-but-necessary cuts — we reset our general fund budget to a level that we can sustain,” Constantine said.
The electorate defeated Proposition 1 — a proposal to raise the sales tax rate and send the additional dollars to the King County Sheriff’s Office and courts — last November.
Collaboration is key
“We gave voters a choice over the level of public safety services, and we must respect their choice,” Constantine said. “Each of our elected justice-system leaders made tough choices that support financial sustainability.”
The address also touched on “green themes” — including efforts to cut energy usage and conserve open space.
Constantine spotlighted Sammamish for joining a regional effort to preserve rural land and steer construction to urban areas.
“Sammamish is the latest to join the club of city partners who are accommodating transferred development rights from open space to urban areas, and I will send our council legislation in the coming weeks to formalize this new agreement,” he said.
Constantine also offered a proposal to change the county Road Services Division — the agency responsible for maintaining roads in rural and unincorporated areas.
“Later this year, I will transmit a plan to transition our Roads Services Division to a provider of rural roads — a plan to address an aging infrastructure of roads that lacks stable funding,” he said.
The county has identified Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast as a candidate for safety upgrades.
Officials welcomed the proposals to forge partnerships and reshape county government.
“I am encouraged by the success of this first year and the executive’s emphasis on collaboration and infrastructure improvements to better serve our citizens while meeting ongoing economic challenges,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative, said in a statement. “It is exciting to see the cooperation among county agencies that already has produced efficiencies in the past year. I look forward to working with the executive on implementing new qualitative and quantitative measures to streamline government to meet the needs of our citizens all across the county.”
Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger credited Constantine and county staffers for fostering partnerships through communication among King County and the municipalities — and for trekking to meet city leaders. Constantine traveled to all 39 cities in the months after assuming office in November 2009.
“County Executive Constantine made good on his promise to reach out to communities,” Frisinger said. “He is very interested in working better with the cities.”’
On the Web
Watch a video of King County Executive Dow Constantine delivering the State of the County address.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.