Seven King County Executive Candidates Offer Differing Ideas At Burien Forum
Although seven hopefuls for King County Executive agreed Wednesday (July 8th) at a candidate forum in Burien that decisive action is needed to correct the countyâ€™s budget woes and clean up Puget Sound, each offered different ideas for achieving these challenging goals.
Candidate Stan Lippmann reportedly was working and could not attend the forum, sponsored by the Burien Lions Club with six weeks remaining before the Aug. 18th primary election.
King County Councilman Dow Constantine, who currently chairs the county council and whose district includes Burien/North Highline, noted that â€œgovernment has to get our own house in order to provide the foundation for our economy to run rightâ€¦”
â€œFrom day one I have pushed for change and reformâ€ to enact performance measures to ensure that county funds are spent efficiently, and to protect whistle blowers, he said. And, as chairman of the Regional Transportation Committee, â€œI have worked hard to expand bus service and light rail despite the economy.â€
â€œAt all levels of government, we need to be open to new ideas, to innovation, rather than circling the wagons,â€ Constantine added.
â€œBoeing is very important to King County. We want to make it profitable for Boeing to continue making lots of planes in King County,â€ said Goodspaceguy. He told the audience, â€œWeâ€™re in orbit in spaceâ€ and as the â€œcrew and passengers on spaceship Earthâ€ it is up to them to make the local economy work.
â€œWashington has the highest minimum wage in the nation â€¦ so I want government to be the safety net employer,â€ he said.
State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, who chairs the House Finance Committee, observed that King Countyâ€™s $5 billion budget is larger than the budgets of 14 states, yet â€œthe county suffers from a lack of managementâ€¦. We need to focus on what we can do here,â€ including â€œchampioning Puget Sound cleanup.â€
This includes â€œmaking transportation work, not more costly,â€ and having â€œpermitting agencies that actually functionâ€¦. Our transit agency is very expensive to run. We need more access and less overhead.â€
Hunter said a coalition of south county cities that are joining together to build a jail because â€œthey donâ€™t trust King County to create a jailâ€ reflects the current lack of confidence by cities in county government, which he expects to change with effective planning and management.
Former KIRO-TV news anchor Susan Hutchison, who chairs the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, said, â€œThe county has got to get its own house in order and live within its means, just as families have to live within their meansâ€¦. I will happily trade (high-salary) patronage jobs that rose up under (former county Executive Ron Sims) for (sheriffâ€™s) deputies any day.â€
Adding that, â€œPeople are throwing up their hands and saying, â€˜What is wrong with the county? Why canâ€™t they get their act together?â€™â€ she said, â€œThey feel county government is arrogant and not respectful of them and is on a power trip. Weâ€™re going to change that.â€
Itâ€™s time to â€œhang an â€˜open for businessâ€™ sign on the county,â€ Hutchison said. â€œWe will make King County a good place to do business again. The first step toward doing that is solving our financial crisis.â€ In addition, Hutchison pledged to work with the Legislature to lower the state business and occupancy tax.
State Sen. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island, said his land use and planning experience and experience as a Boeing manager will help him â€œchange the management of the county.â€ This will involve not changing the funding of county programs â€œbut how (services) are delivered.â€
Managing county government well will make King County â€œa great place to invest,â€ Jarrett said. â€œWe need to work â€¦ to make this a great place for the aerospace industry. We must do it with a sense of urgency.â€
He added that ways need to be found to protect the environment, and that this can best be done â€œby holding people accountable so they can be innovativeâ€¦. (But) to have a good environment, we have to have a good economy.â€
Citing â€œextensive â€¦ experience and knowledgeâ€ of operations inside cities and counties, Alan Lobdell, a civil engineer who has worked with many county employees for many years, suggested that â€œKing County has some issues.â€ But these issues are â€œnot as catastrophic as some people thinkâ€¦. Things will take time to fix but are not that difficult to fix.â€
Environmental protection should begin by enforcing â€œrules and laws we already have, and using technology we already have,â€ Lobdell said.
Noting that a lot of residents in south and east King County feel ignored by county government, Lobdell pledged to spend 16 hours a day on the job, including weekends, if thatâ€™s what it takes to turn things around. â€œThis is a job for about six people but one person has to do it all.â€
County Councilman Larry Phillips said basic county services must be stabilized because â€œall are threatened by the current economyâ€¦. Public safety is the top priority for the county,â€ he added, citing his leadership on the council to reduce the impact of budget cuts this year on the sheriffâ€™s and prosecutorâ€™s offices.
Also a member of the Sound Transit board of directors, he said his ability to correct current budget problems is reflected in the fact that â€œlight rail will open on time (July 18) and $100 million under budget.â€
Declaring that executive experience is at the core of his years in public service, Phillips said his â€œpassion is making sure our environment is well protected. That is one of the central things county government has to focus on.â€ This commitment, he said, is why â€œevery environmental leader in this area has given me their endorsement.â€