At the request of the King County Council, executive Dow Constantine will deliver his State of the County address in council chambers on Wednesday, April 24 at 10 a.m.
Constantine gave his speech last week at a small, community center that is impossible to access via public transit in Preston, WA, as planned. But Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who recently said that slapping women on the butt was considered a compliment in her day, was the only council member who showed up.
According to a spokesperson for the council, many council members were afraid of running afoul of state public hearing laws if too many of them attended the event. Any time a quorum of council members (i.e. five of them) attends a meeting where county business is being discussed, state law says that meeting must be public and therefore be noticed and organized as such.
Last week Constantine's office offered to make his invite-only event a public meeting, but, instead of doing that, they all agreed Constantine would officially deliver the speech during a public meeting in council chambers as required by the county charter.
"The speech has historically been a public meeting of the council, and members thought this year should be no different," the spokesperson said. "Council members look forward to hearing executive Constantine's priorities for the county as they work together to advance shared goals."
During the speech last week, Constantine celebrated the achievements of his third term and looked forward to finding his administration's "true North," which is "making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive." He broke out several of the words in that sentence ("making," "welcoming," "community," and "can") to form them into a mission statement for the county. I'll spare you the explication.
Constantine first applauded himself for signing a labor agreement with the King County Coalition of Unions, which increased wages for King County employees.
He then went on to claim that the region was experiencing "unprecedented prosperity" at the moment, adding that the county is providing "more housing and transit to more people than ever before," as well as more mental health services to people who need them.
On health care, he noted his administration's promotion of the Affordable Health Care Act, which helped cut the county's uninsured rate in the last five years.
He also highlighted the county's "new model for delivering maternity support and nutrition services." Participation in the maternity support program, according to the Seattle Times, has dropped by more than 35 percent. Facing staff cuts, Constantine wants to reduce the program to part-time and also deploy "mobile teams" that bring "counseling, support services and nutritional help" to "food banks, human services agencies and community centers throughout the region."
Moving on to transit, Constantine lauded the new "Via To Transit" program, which aims to solve the last-mile problem by offering shuttle services between residences and transit hubs. Implementation of that program in Seattle has been controversial.
He hailed the expansion of the Trailhead direct program, which is indeed very good.
"Transit is so important to me because it provides access, access to jobs and access to education. Access to opportunity. And also to what we like to call, our big back yard," said Constantine while standing in a room that was completely inaccessible by transit.
He also celebrated the reduction in average population at the youth jail, but admitted "we must go even further" to achieve the county goal of zero youth detention. He praised county investments in community-based organizations and diversion programs.
He concluded on the issue of homelessness, mentioning a newly opened men's shelter downtown and reminding the room about Best Starts for Kids, a voter-approved fund that invests money in child development programs. He also said he looks forward to presenting the results of his "One Table" project this summer, a collaboration between the county and other cities tasked with creating the "regional solution" to the homelessness crisis.