In case anyone was wondering, King County executive Dow Constantine's office has scheduled the annual State of the County address for this Thursday, April 18. The traditionally public event will take place at the Preston Community Center at 11:00 a.m. "Elected leaders and community members" will be invited to fill the 150-person capacity room, according to Alex Fryer, Constantine's director of communications. In an email, Fryer also said the office may "give informal heads up to the few media outlets that have covered the speech in the past," rather than send out a general press advisory beforehand. Fryer added that the meeting is an RSVP situation due to "seating constraints."
Holding this speech at a small community center in Preston is an interesting choice for Constantine. While East King County seems like a good place for the speech (the last few speeches have been held farther west), it is much more difficult to reach Preston than it is to reach, say, North Bend, Issaquah, or Snoqualmie. Google can't even find transit directions from Seattle to the community center in Preston. Metro shows no transit service to the Preston park and ride. So if you live in Seattle and would like to hear the executive give a speech about the county's accomplishments and challenges in person, you'll have to drive or else pay a popular ride-hailing service $70.05 one way. (You could split the ride for $59.64.) Constantine's decision makes a little more sense, of course, if you remember what happened last year.
According to former Stranger staffer Sydney Brownstone, Constantine quickly cancelled last year's address after youth jail protestors disrupted the event. A video of Constantine giving the speech was later released online.
Amid the raucous debate surrounding the new youth detention facility in Seattle, Constantine's office apparently took measures to draw as little attention to the speech as possible. They failed to notify major local media outlets ahead of the State of the County meeting, which was held in at the Burien Library, though a representative from the executive's office said he believed those outlets had been notified.
That year, "even the majority of King County employees were only made aware of Constantine's speech by an advisory eight minutes before the event." In previous years, the county's 14,000 employees had been given between four days and two weeks advance notice.
We're now two days before the meeting, and two King County employees say they've received no notice.
Because a majority of King County Council members show up to the event, the meeting has traditionally counted as a special session of the King County Council, which must be noticed as a public meeting at least 24 hours before it happens.
Fryer says Constantine's office will be "tweeting the speech in real-time, as well as showing it on Facebook Live, and KCTV, as well as sending out a media release with highlights and full text."
"If any member of the public wanted to watch the speech 'live,' there are plenty of opportunities to do so," Frye added.
As for the choice to hold the meeting in Preston, Frye said "East King County seemed like the best place for 2019," given where they've held the speech in recent years.
But in recent years, the speech has been slightly more inviting to the public. In 2017, Constantine delivered his speech during a special session of the King County Council at the Auburn Community & Event Center, which can hold 264 people. In 2016 he did it at Redmond City Hall.
If Constantine's office is partly choosing this small venue that is impossible to access via public transit in order to cut down on the possibility of protestors showing up, the effort might be for naught. Andrea Marcos, a member of the No New Youth Jail Coalition, says she doesn't know of any planned demonstrations.