King County Executive Dow Constantine kicked off the March 7 Redmond Rotary Club meeting.
According to Constantine, the important work of the 15,000 King County employees is all about creating a “best run government,” centered on built infrastructure, natural resources and most importantly, the people.
During his talk, Constantine focused on transportation, specifically Metro Transit and Sound Transit.
King County is diversifying the type of transit it provides — from vanpools to water taxis and community shuttles. Constantine’s goal is for everyone to be able to take a short walk to transit and be connected to where they want to be.
A former board chair of Sound Transit, Constantine noted that the light rail is arriving in downtown Redmond by 2024, with rapid bus transit providing coverage where the light rail isn’t available. He also took a moment to acknowledge the city of Redmond for doing more than any other city in King County to get ready for the voter-approved transit expansion package from Sound Transit.
Having started his political career preserving a green belt in West Seattle, protecting natural resources is a passion for Constantine.
“This is why my job is a good one to have,” he said in a press release. “You can do something you really care about and leave a legacy for those who come after you.”
Constantine recently put forward a land conservation initiative to preserve 65,000 acres of wilderness and open space in King County. The county is set to purchase that land over the next 80 years. This will include acquiring missing land and trail segments and building out current spaces (for example, the Eastside Rail Corridor). The parks levy will be on the August 2019 ballot if King County Council passes it.
The housing shortage continues and many people are getting squeezed out, Constantine in the release. He explained the real solution is for people to be given the training and education to participate in the economy and for the market to build enough housing for people in all economic tiers. Until that happens, King County is exploring several solutions, one being the lodging tax from tourism. It will bring in $650 million for more affordable housing over the next 20 years.
Constantine also discussed a homelessness program that is part of the Best Starts for Kids measure that helps families in danger of losing their homes. By offering employment support, limited financial aid and targeted services to help people negotiate landlord and child care challenges, the county prevented 6,000 people from being homelessness in the first year, the release states.
“Our core commitment is every person will have the opportunity to flourish,” Constantine said in the release.
Top of mind in Redmond
Constantine confirmed at the Rotary meeting that SR-520 was built with the light rail in mind but couldn’t comment on the future of I-405.
When asked about prioritizing fairness, he noted a key pillar for King County is to create equity and social justice in the region.
“You have to be purposeful about that,” he said in the release. “You have to constantly ask how does this decision affect people in different positions?”