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A critical election for King County

The county is in financial crisis, and there's a rare no-incumbent contest for Executive. A candidate who missed the cut lays out the issues for a serious debate about re-engineering county government and Metro.
Fred Jarrett: time for a real debate about King County

Fred Jarrett: time for a real debate about King County Jarrett campaign

While coming in third in a top-two primary for King County Executive is not where I hoped to end up, I am nonetheless proud of our campaign and the way it contributed to the public debate. I approached the campaign with the belief that voters want answers and that candidates can engage citizens in a serious and substantive discussion of important issues — particularly this year for King County.

The general election campaign between Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison offers voters a once-in-a-decade opportunity to re-engineer county government and make it the kind of regional partner it was intended to be. But taking advantage of this opportunity will require a commitment from both candidates to describe their visions for county government and tell us how they will address key issues once they take office. And it will be incumbent on voters and the media to hold the candidates accountable for addressing those issues. This opportunity will be lost if we allow the campaign to degenerate into a contest of personalities or partisan positioning. There is far too much at stake.

That King County faces a fiscal crisis of unprecedented proportions is a well-accepted fact. Each week brings news of park closures, employee furloughs, layoffs, service reductions, and ever-deepening deficits. The budget problems are real and here to stay until county leadership makes the tough decisions needed to get the government back on track.

Last week a report to the County Council described how the county’s spending problems go well beyond the general fund. Transit, water quality, development and environmental services, roads, and public health all face similar or worse deficits. As Rahm Emanuel has pointed out, it would be a shame to let a good crisis go to waste. The county clearly faces a "good" crisis. And, the County Executive campaign provides an opportunity for a public debate about the future path for the county.

Both candidates need to explain exactly how they intend to get the budget under control — not stop-gap measure like employee furloughs or temporary across-the-board budget reductions, but real structural reform that focuses on efficient delivery of basic government services. How do we move from a focus on how much we spend on programs (input) to what those programs actually deliver (measuring output)?

This debate must also speak to a vision for the future of King County. How can the next Executive make the county’s role one which is both rational (and fiscally sustainable) and one which adds value to the entire region? This will require transforming the county from the opaque mixture of urban, rural, and regional services to a new model. The candidates need to articulate what this transformed county will look like. What services will be continued? Discontinued? How will the county partner with local governments, both general purpose (cities) and special purpose (water and sewer districts) to meet the needs of all our neighbors?

And how will the county partner with cities and the state Legislature to accelerate the annexation of the “unincorporated islands” within our urban growth boundary? Resolving these annexations will be central to rationalizing municipal service delivery.

Lastly, Metro Transit, which is run by the county. The fiscal crisis facing that agency will force decisions that will have a profound impact on our region for many years to come. How can Metro handle the loss of sales tax revenue most gracefully, and in a way laying the foundation for future growth of public transit? How can these strategies be used to shape the development of the region? How do we accommodate the expected 1.4 million new neighbors in the next 30 years?

Central Puget Sound faces serious but surmountable challenges. King County ought to play a key role in defining what this region will look like in the future. This is the debate voters need to hear from our county executive candidates.

Fred Jarrett is the Democratic Senator from the 41st District. He recently retired from a career at Boeing and ran for King County Executive. He has long been active in planning and transportation issues.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 6:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry Fred, you have already come out in favor of Dow Constantine, so you have made your choice to continue the one party, status quo at King County. Why address this letter as if you hadn't already endorsed?

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 7:10 a.m. Inappropriate

1. The entire discussion will be moot unless Tim Eyman's odious Initiative 1033 is defeated. If this passes, there will be no chance to "re-engineer" anything in King County, which will be unable to provide much of any service to anything or anybody.

2. Pay no attention to pathetic little right-wing trolls like Cameron.

ivan

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 7:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Are you saying that Fred hasn't endorsed Dow? Fred has committed to the party line which is continued fiscal failure at King County. You did read about the additional 65 Million in deficit at King County under Dow's watch didn't you Ivan?

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Jarrett issues his challenges to both candidates, but it's clear that only one of the two hopefuls to survive the primary has the intelligence, the experience, and the respect from people within county government to accomplish them. The job facing the next executive is the same for the very-qualified Dow Constantine and the completely unqualified Susan Hutchison. Take a quick look at issues Jarrett calls out: unincorporated areas (14,000 people in North Highline just annexed to Burien; Constantine has worked on the issue for years), Metro Transit (Constantine is a Sound Transit board member and vocal Metro backer), and the budget (Dow can read a budget; Susan a teleprompter). The smart vote for reform in November goes for Constantine.

Mannix

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

If Dow could read a balance sheet that would indicate he simply ignored the structual deficit that was being built into the King County budget. He is either incompetent or ineffective, which is it?

Fred, after everything you said in the primary about King County and the mismanagement, for you to endorse Dow shows you to be a hypocrit and a party flunky.

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 8:44 a.m. Inappropriate

So let's take Fred at his word and ask the question: which candidate is more likely to go against the status quo -- a fresh candidate like Susan Hutchison or Dow Constantine, who has been part of these mounting problems and is backed by the labor groups that just want the county to spend more?

bthornton

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

Fred Jarrett, being an intelligent person, a dedicated public servant, and an engineer who wants things to work correctly, not only is correct to question the basic assumptions behind county government, but to demand a reasonable measure of experience and competence from the next Executive.

Dow is perfectly capable of "re-engineering" any part of county government if he thinks it is needed. You can bet Jarrett has gotten his attention, and will have his ear. Hutchison might be capable of re-engineering her hairdo. Being "fresh" won't cut it. She is unqualified, period, and she hasn't come close to making the case that she is qualified.

I just love how all the apologists for this supposedly "nonpartisan" candidate are having to resort to partisan arguments. It tells me they got nothing. It's starting to show, even to them.

ivan

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 10:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey Ivan if Dow thought "re-engineering" of County government was needed why hasn't he done any of it? Fred claimed there were long standing systemic problems in management and processes at King County during the primary and placed the blame squarely on those in charge, that would be Chairman Dow.

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

He's not the Executive. He's one of nine Council members. You're not fooling anybody with your display of ignorance of County government.

ivan

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 2:10 p.m. Inappropriate

What's the matter Ivan, being the chair and setting the agenda for council isn't enough power for Dow to get anything done? It's obvious Dow has been ineffective in any of his so called "reform" efforts. It doesn't speak highly of his ability to influence his fellow council members into action or to have worked cooperatively with the previous Executive to impliment any change. With Dow all you get is more failure.

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, he's going to be your next County Executive, whether you like it or not. And whereas you wouldn't like him if he perforned miracles or walked on water, there's no reason for him to give a rip what you, or losers like you, think.

ivan

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 5:02 p.m. Inappropriate

There is no danger of Dow walking on water, he is too busy robbing the treasury blind to sponsor his personal foot ferry fleet. It figures you would worship Dow as your golden calf. You aren't becoming a rapture monkey are you Ivan? Dow might get elected,but he will never represent the best interests of the majority of King county residents. Dow is way too far in the pocket of the unions and the far left to be a responsible Executive. How come the Chairman never mentioned the extra 65 Million in Deficit that the PI reported today Ivan? Was he trying to cover up his incompetence in budgeting or did he simply not know?

Cameron

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 9:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh ya' this went about the way I thought it would.

Good try Fred, good points and questions.

Mr Baker

Posted Tue, Sep 8, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

"How do we accommodate the expected 1.4 million new neighbors in the next 30 years?"

We can't, without destroying our quality of life and our environment.

The question should be "how can we prevent population growth in our area?"

That is what we should be working at. Growth is a disease that is destroying the earth. We must stop growth, not "accomodate" it.

His question is like asking, "How do we accomodate millions more tons of pollution in our area over the next 30 years?" Should we be thinking of ways to "accomoodate" more pollution associated with population growth, or thinking of ways to prevent that population growth and the pollution that surely will accompany it?

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Sep 10, 3:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Lincoln, I like your thinking!

psj

Posted Thu, Sep 10, 11:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Cameron, you haven't said anything good about your candidate, you've only attacked her opponent. You haven't even mentioned that she's your candidate (but it goes without saying). What are her qualifications to address the shortcomings you think Dow has?

I wish there was a limit on how much three of four people could dominate the comments section.

Fred, thanks for your thoughtful reflection. You are one of the only elected officials today willing to engage in a real and candid discussion, and I appreciate it.

Posted Fri, Sep 11, 6:59 a.m. Inappropriate

I was not a supporter of Hutchisons in the primary, I favored Jarrett or Hunter as reasonable alternatives for reform at King County ( I guess your assumptions are wrong, but then again that goes without saying). If you do not appreciate others passion for the subject at hand, please exercise your right to stop reading. If your assertion is that Fred's pleadings to the remaining candidates will in anyway influence Dow's policy, you are sadly mistaken.

I post against Dow because I have seen him operate under the color of authority as a King County Councilman and he tends toward the abusive side when it comes to others property rights and higher taxes, if that is your kind of candidate, vote for him. When he decides to violate your rights and raises your taxes beyond reason, don't come crying to anyone else.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Sep 12, 7:37 a.m. Inappropriate

I wonder if the editors share the sentiment of the WSDOT official who seeks conformance and silence over participation. Crosscut would not exist if they followed his wishes.

"I wish there was a limit on how much three of four people could dominate the comments section."

Perhaps that's whats wrong at WSDOT, too much group think.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Sep 12, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Like Fred Jarrett, I support Dow Constantine for King County Executive. Fred's piece, which is clearly intended as a message to Constantine, will clearly influence how Dow behaves as executive.

As for the Dow-obsessed Cameron, it's ironic that you would call anyone "abusive."

Mannix

Posted Sat, Sep 12, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

How much of your property did he take Mannix?

Cameron

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