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Year in review: In Burien, King County delivers in transit, health & environment

Dow-Constantine-Portrait2014 [1]

By Dow Constantine
Special to The B-Town Blog

I’ve had to privilege to represent Burien, in one capacity or another, since I was first elected to the State Legislature in 1996. The holidays are a good opportunity to reflect on all that can happen in just 12 months’ time here at home in our neighborhoods, and across the county.

This year has been a rewarding one for me professionally and personally. On the home front, Shirley and I are spending our first holiday season with our baby girl, Sabrina. In my work as King County Executive, I had the opportunity to deliver results [2] across our region, particularly for the people of Burien. I want to take this moment to report to our neighbors on the work my administration did in 2014 to ensure that King County remains a healthy, prosperous place to live and, yes, raise a child.

2014 was an historic year for our efforts to create a more integrated and efficient transportation system that includes buses, rail, roads, and water taxis – all working together to improve mobility in our growing region.

Riders in the Burien area will benefit from increased joint planning and service coordination [3] by Metro and Sound Transit, which I called for this year in my role as the Chair of the Sound Transit Board of Directors. To ensure that our transportation system remains accessible, the County Council, Sound Transit Board and I created a reduced fare program [4] for lower-income riders.

To address our region’s long-term mass-transit needs, County Councilmember Joe McDermott and I successfully introduced an amendment to Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan to finally put Burien, West Seattle, and White Center on the map for future light rail. Funding for that vision depends on development of a ballot measure, known as ST3, in 2016.

Thousands of residents celebrated the opening of the new South Park Bridge [5], five years after I vowed to do everything within my power to reunite communities along the Lower Duwamish. The new state-of-the-art drawbridge reconnects local businesses with their customers and allows Metro to better connect the Duwamish Peninsula to Beacon, First, and Capitol Hills.

It was a record-setting year for Metro Transit, which provided more than 120 million trips – or an average of 400,000 trips each weekday. The popular A Line, which operates along Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard, has seen its ridership soar 82 percent since it was launched in 2010.

Public health is another important service that has suffered from years of declines in federal and state funds. Four of Public Health’s 10 clinics – including the location in White Center that serves Burien – were scheduled to close next month. Thousands of local residents who live below the poverty line would have lost access to important preventative services – including family planning and maternity support – that help mothers deliver healthy babies.

That’s why I was pleased to announce in September that we had formed a partnership with the City of Seattle and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to maintain services at the nearby clinic. We went on to create similar partnerships elsewhere in King County to keep the Federal Way, Auburn and Northshore clinics open for the next two years while we develop a long-term, sustainable funding source for Public Health.

My goal for 2015 is to apply that same sense of shared purpose and urgency to a region-wide effort to improve the long-term health of our region. That’s why I announced Best Starts for Kids, an initiative to ensure that every baby born and every child raised in King County reaches adulthood ready to succeed.

We have to spend so much money on lives gone awry – on bad outcomes like crime, mental illness and addiction – and so very little on the early prevention and intervention that is proven to work. Best Starts will take advantage of groundbreaking UW research on early childhood brain development, while helping school-age kids facing physical or mental challenges and creating communities that support moms and families.

This year included two major milestones in our effort to create healthy communities. The Environmental Protection Agency issued its landmark decision that allows the Superfund cleanup of the Lower Duwamish to move forward, building on the progress we’ve made over the past decade at the local level. To ensure lasting results, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and I launched the Green/Duwamish Watershed Strategy to coordinate cleanup efforts not just in the Lower Duwamish, but across the entire 93-mile-long watershed, from the Cascades to Elliott Bay.

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the partnerships we’ve built with community stakeholders, other elected leaders, and the hard-working public employees who continue to deliver the services that make our region a better, more prosperous place to live.

I wish you the happiest of holidays, and look forward to continuing our partnerships to advance equity and social justice, confront climate change, increase regional mobility and opportunity, and provide the best start for every child.

Dow Constantine is the King County Executive.

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