SmallTownNews
Dow Constantine speaks at Chamber Luncheon

By Patrick Robinson

West Seattle Herald of Seattle, Washington

Newly elected King County Executive spoke before the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 13. He said he's been asked many times what taking the new role is like. "It's like jumping aboard a 14,000 passenger ship, that's going full speed, and trying to turn it around while half the crew is battling you for control of the steering wheel."

In speaking about his plans, he said, "What we're doing during this first 100 days is putting together a blueprint for genuine reform in county government." He plans to make a series of speeches on his progress at the 100-day mark. "When I took office we reduced the number of executive office employees by 15 percent," Constantine said. "And asked everyone who we hired to start with a lower pay. I'm doing the same. I'm deferring 10 percent of my salary."

He's appointed a Director of Customer Service, the idea being to treat people in the county like customers for a business. They will handle issues like responding to emails in a more timely fashion, talking to people instead of letting them negotiate through phone systems and address other matters in how people deal with the county.

Constantine said he has established a clearinghouse for employee-led reform ideas and a soon-to-be announced competition for the executive to "walk in the shoes of a county employee for a day. Most of his staff has made humorous suggestions thus far, he said.

Metro bus service is a challenge right now, he said, noting the drop of revenue from declining sales taxes, also slowed by the economic conditions. "Our goal is to put buses where people live and work, not to spread the service like peanut butter across the countryside but to focus on those places where we can get the most bang for the buck."

King County is now working on animal services for an orderly transition for animal sheltering that serves the needs of animals and the needs of cities. His stated goal is, "No healthy or treatable animal will be killed because we have failed to provide enough space or the adoption service to provide them with an opportunity for a new home."

The Water Taxi is an issue Constantine addressed saying, "We're working to keep the fishing dock open as much as possible during construction." The plan is to complete the project by the middle of next month. The water taxi is moving to year round service. The new dock will have a new passenger loading ramp that is less precipitous at low tide, he said.

Chris Arkills is the new lead on transportation issues, Constantine said.

"Our new administration is about not getting mired in the day to day crises that erupt" he said. "You've got to put in place the structures to focus on the big play...and the big play is restructuring this government for the 21st Century...and remake the way we do business."

Fred Jarrett, legislator from the 46th District, was asked to join the administration as deputy executive, eliminating the position of chief of staff and consolidating the duties of that position saving the county "a couple hundred thousand dollars."

He noted that during the past 10 years, "It is great to see all the positive changes that have been made in my community, particu-lary those that have been made in the last 15 years." Constantine explained that when he was running for the legislature in 1995, those he talked to noted the poor state of business in West Seattle. "If you look at all the business communities, it's difficult to remember that it wasn't even a decade and a half ago that they were all down on their luck. I am so impressed with the people in this room ...with how much this revival has helped to create community here in West Seattle."

Also in attendance at the luncheon was Jan Drago, who has replaced Constantine on the King County Council as District 8 representative. "My heart is always here in West Seattle so I'll be working closely with Jan," said Constantine.

"One of the things I'm doing as executive is reaching out to our King County legislative delegation and all the mayors and city councils of the 39 cities in King County to start to create a sense of shared purpose."

Pat Robinson can be reached at pr@robinsonnews.com.



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