King County Executive Dow Constantine visits Shoreline Rotary

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

County Executive Dow Constantine poses with
Shoreline Deputy Mayor Doris McConnell at the
May Shoreline Rotary meeting

King County Executive Dow Constantine is on the road discussing the region’s most pressing issues and hearing top community questions and concerns. His most recent stop was the Shoreline Rotary Club.

Constantine kicked off the May 15 meeting noting “King County is creating a welcoming community where all people have the opportunity to thrive.”

He acknowledged the rapid change the region has experienced – recently reaching 2.25 million people – and going from being a mostly unknown part of the country to a world leader in technology and political and social change.

“It’s a moment of change – both positive and negative,” he said. “A lot of what we seek to do is anticipate the change that is coming and try to guide it, so it reinforces our shared values.”

King County is the 13th largest county in the nation (larger than 15 U.S. states). Represented by 15,000 employees, King County government provides regional services such as transit, wastewater, elections, public health and the criminal justice system.

King County owns Harborview Medical Center and King County International Airport (a.k.a. Boeing Field). The County also provides contracted services to smaller cities – like the police department, court services and animal welfare. Constantine touted the County’s animal welfare work, noting it has reduced euthanasia rates to less than 5% down from 40%.

Constantine explained he has spent the last decade changing the way government services are provided and creating a “Best Run Government.”

This included creating a financially sound government – the County has once again earned AAA bond ratings which is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars each year – and developing a culture of continuous improvement and employee empowerment, all focused on “how can we do better?”. This work fits into three key focus areas: the human infrastructure, natural infrastructure, and physical infrastructure.

Helping the people of King County

Constantine noted the region’s economic prosperity has meant people are being left behind.

“It is our responsibility to ensure the people who built this place can continue to participate and those who have historically been left behind are not being further left behind,” said Constantine.

This means ensuring everyone has health insurance, expanding workforce development and creating new opportunities for our own employees, Constantine noted.

He acknowledged homelessness as being one of our biggest challenges. The County is building capacity in shelters, treatment, long-term housing and job connectedness. He cited the opening of the new 24-hour shelter, the overnight shelter at Harborview and modular units in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. Constantine also noted the investment in affordable housing and services for those who are suffering from addiction.

“We have built a system where you can get treatment-on-demand now,” said Constantine. “And we are funding outreach to go out and identify those people who are addicted and getting them help they need.”

This work has also been extended to those who are incarcerated. They will now receive medication-assisted treatment while in jail and when they leave.

Natural Resources

Constantine put forward a land conservation initiative to preserve 65,000 acres of wilderness and open space in King County. The renewed King County Parks Levy will include acquiring missing land and trail segments and building out current spaces, along with important maintenance of these properties. The Parks Levy will be on the August 2019 ballot.

He noted that King County’s Climate Action Plan is one of the best in the country, having been recognized by industry leader and founder of Earth Day Denis Hayes. Constantine talked about how the County has changed the way we build buildings and is finding ways to capture renewable energy such as that coming off the King County sewage plant and landfill. These things, he said, help us reach the County goal of being carbon neutral.

King County continues work to protect Orca and is removing culverts that have blocked salmon passage in local waterways. The most recent County two-year budget allocates about $13 million to open 150 miles of salmon bearing habitat.

Physical Infrastructure

Constantine provided a quick update on transportation, specifically Metro Transit and Sound Transit.

Metro Transit is now its own department. It has continued to increase service since the recession – with nearly 500,000 riders per day. It was named the Best Large Transit System in North America by the American Public Transportation agency.

King County Metro is working with Sound Transit as the light rail is deployed. The light rail will be coming to Northgate in a few years and then Shoreline and Lynnwood will follow.

Top of Mind in Shoreline

During the open Q/A, the following questions were addressed.

We have a lot of people that are in dire need of help. How do we give them a sense of rootedness and belonging once they get the treatment they need?

We need to ensure human connectedness – to family, friends, institutions and community. People need that. One of the challenges with this changing economy is people are being displaced from places where they have had roots. With the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, for example, we are helping people stay in the same neighborhood where they have lived.

This work connects veterans and those older than 55 to services such as affordable housing, job training, employment, behavioral health treatment, and more. Having a job is important. We are looking to unite area employers with potential employees and ensure residents receive the training and support they need to fulfill open jobs. This requires the public and private sector working together.

Are you planning to run for Governor?

This depends on several factors, what happens with Jay’s presidential run, among other things. I have a five-year-old at home and aging parents so there are reasons why being King County Executive could be better. The work we are doing here in King County could have benefit and application beyond King County. I’m certainly not dismissing it and I’m doing the things to prepare for this should the opportunity present itself.

Can you comment on the recent update that ICE flights will move from Boeing Field to Yakima airport?

At Boeing Field, you have something called fixed-based operators. One of them called Modern Aviation had a contract with Swift Air that works with Homeland Security. They were bringing immigrants and refugees in to be detained or taking them out to be deported. We have no way to monitor this activity. It was brought to our attention that some 34,000 people were processed in shackles through our publicly owned airport. This is not consistent with the values of this County.

Modern Aviation chose to stop serving Swift Air. Now, the federal government has decided to go to Yakima. Their local officials are now managing this challenge. I am pleased that the businesses at Boeing Field decided to act in a way that is consistent with the values of the people in the region they are serving.

In Closing

“It’s a real privilege to be the Executive of this County.” I am excited every day to be able to create the kind of change that our people want.”


Anonymous,  May 22, 2019 at 2:42 PM  

How is blocking the lawful deportation of convicted felons consistent with the views of the County, Mr Constantine?

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