With his Best Run Government reform efforts providing the foundation of strong and effective regional leadership, King County Executive Dow Constantine will focus on a series of key initiatives to build a more equitable and healthier community after voters elected him Tuesday to a third four-year term.
King County continues to grow, with a population of more than 2.1 million – about 200,000 more people since Constantine took office. This region serves as a beacon of economic vitality, natural beauty, and progressive values, according to a media release from the executive. However, growth has created its own challenges: housing affordability, regional mobility, and economic inequity. The opioid epidemic and other national conditions are found here as well.
With the governing philosophy of “You belong here,” Constantine set a third-term agenda to ensure all have access to opportunity, and all can fulfill their potential:
• Expanding our homelessness response to address the current crisis and address root causes
While we have made great strides — housing 15,000 people last year through the community’s homeless crisis response system — an increasing number of people are experiencing homelessness. We must take immediate steps to house people while investing upstream, to address the root causes of homelessness. We will invest in more 24/7 shelters with on-site services, and create a day center so that people have a central location to receive services. We will continue to engage the broader community and collaborate with the faith community, other local governments, the business community, philanthropy and individuals across the region who are working to help their neighbors find safe, stable housing and we will scale up strategies.
• Treatment on demand: Providing behavioral health resources available to all who need it, when they need it
Through Best Starts for Kids, we have focused on prevention and early intervention for mental health and substance abuse for young people. While this work will avert future issues, there are people who are in crisis today. To meet the tremendous need for mental health and addiction services, we must offer treatment on demand. This means continuing to work with providers, Managed Care Organizations and the state to match resources with needs and to ensure we have adequate funding to make a difference in our communities.
• Rolling out more transit options
Cities throughout King County are seeking more transit investments to meet the region’s rapid growth. We must make sure Metro’s structure and resources are aligned to partner with our local jurisdictions to deliver needed services. To better ensure accountability for the transit agency that provides more than 500,000 rides every day, Metro is set to become its own county department. This will provide Constantine with direct oversight of Metro’s leadership. It will also better facilitate Metro’s ongoing coordination with Sound Transit and other regional agencies. Metro will offer more: more bus service, more battery-powered buses and more ways to get around the region.
• Protecting our rivers and streams, forests and farmland
In addition to King County’s groundbreaking work to fight climate pollution, we will focus on improving water quality and habitat across the region as our population grows. The Clean Water and Healthy Habitat Agenda will focus our efforts to clean up historic pollution, protect public health and safety, and restore salmon habitat. The county will accelerate work to remove decades-old barriers to migrating salmon and protect working farms and forests in the face of increasing development pressure. We will make smart investments in wastewater and stormwater systems that plan for growth and a changing climate.
• Making sure all young people have the chance to succeed
We will continue to support proven solutions and data-driven programs through Best Starts for Kids, funding partnerships that build on the strengths of communities and families so that more babies are born healthy, more children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and more young people grow into thriving members of their community. In addition to our efforts through Best Starts, we will work with families, advocates, judges and others to support young people who are at risk of becoming involved in the justice system by providing positive alternatives. Our work will move forward on innovations such as restorative justice and other programs that offer young people a chance at true accountability and a second chance.
• Expanding opportunity and prosperity
King County has experienced unprecedented growth and prosperity. But not all have shared in the region’s success, and too many people are on the sidelines as businesses struggle to find qualified workers. We will make greater investments in apprenticeships and workforce development programs, to fill living wage jobs in our economy, from construction to coding. Particularly, we will prioritize hiring from our communities for King County construction jobs. We will also streamline our regional economic and workforce development efforts, to make sure we retain and attract the next generation of employers and have a regional strategy to prepare our workers for those jobs.
• Exploring new and better way to serve unincorporated King County
King County is the local government for the nearly quarter-million people who live in the unincorporated areas of King County, outside of cities. Taken together, they would make up the second-largest city in Washington, even larger than Spokane. Constantine created the Local Services Initiative to explore new and better ways to serve the people of unincorporated King County – in the rural areas as well as the major remaining urban unincorporated communities of East Federal Way, Fairwood and East Renton and North Highline.
“Every election is an opportunity to take stock of where we are as a region, and to plan for the future we want to create. I’m honored to be entrusted with another term as King County executive, to serve the public as we confront some of the biggest challenges of our time,” said Executive Constantine.
“In the coming months and years, King County will work with cities and other partners to stabilize housing for more people than ever before, and address the root causes of homelessness. We will continue to expand access by building the best transit system in the nation so that everyone can get to jobs, education, and all that our region has to offer. We will protect our rivers and streams, our forests and farmlands, and leave to the next generation a natural legacy to cherish. We will make sure all people have the full and fair opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential.
“There is much to do, and no time to waste. This day brings the opportunity to align our actions with our aspirations, to solve our greatest challenges. I can’t wait to get to work on this next chapter in our region’s history.”