In State of County Speech, Constantine Promises Metro Reform, Budget "Efficiencies"

By Erica C. Barnett February 28, 2011

In his first annual State of the County address---held this morning at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent---King County Executive Dow Constantine praised the county's unions and vowed to cut costs and make county government more efficient in the coming year.

Constantine's speech, like Mayor Mike McGinn's last week, was tightly scripted (the copy staffers handed out to the press included capitalized points of emphasis and ellipses for pauses in the speech). Unlike McGinn's speech---which outlined a broad agenda but stuck to sweeping generalities about improving schools, restoring the public's faith in SPD, and "figuring out how to" expand access to broadband---Constantine's address included nearly a dozen specific policy proposals. They included:

• Reopening King County Elections headquarters in Renton, which had been closed because of the threat of flooding from the Green River;

• Cutting three percent of the county's budget every year by finding efficiencies and "meeting shortfalls by constantly creating value, rather than diminishing service";

• Updating the county's comprehensive plan to promote density in urban areas, protect farms and rural areas, and prepare for climate change, among other changes;

• Proposing a new strategic plan for Metro that includes the elimination of "arbitrary boundaries and political divisions"---i.e., ending the politically constructed "40/40/20" system, under which just 20 percent of new service goes to Seattle---and coming up with a new, stable funding source for Metro; and

• Creating a new $1.4 million revolving loan fund for small businesses in King County.

Constantine is a stiff speaker---the only apparently spontaneous line in his speech was a joke about forgetting to "pay the heat bill for the Maleng Regional Justice Center," which was freezing---but he does know how to get an audience to applaud, which they did more than a dozen times throughout his 40-minute speech. Another contrast with McGinn (whose vow to "let the people decide" on the deep-bore tunnel was met last week with surprising silence): Constantine made a point of praising the tunnel project, which he said will "put people back to work" and help the county recover from the recession.
Filed under
Show Comments