Feb. 6, 2012
Executive Constantine calls for partnerships that help region to compete and build a shared prosperity
State of the County address focuses on advancing reforms and creating jobs
Building on the accomplishments of the past two years, King County Executive Dow Constantine in his State of the County address today said he would keep fighting to help the region compete on the global stage, speed local economic recovery, and get people back to work.
"King County is back on sound financial footing," said Executive Constantine. "Where government has integrity, where it is efficient and responsive, it creates the climate for communities to prosper. We can help put our region in a position to compete, and win, in a rapidly changing world."
Constantine spoke at a special meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council held at Bellevue City Hall. He commended their host, the Bellevue City Council, for the remarkable growth and dynamism that has transformed the county's second largest city, and praised those inside and outside of Bellevue whose "vision and leadership" led to the recent decision to align light rail through Bellevue.
The Executive said nothing that government does supports a strong economy more than ensuring mobility for people and freight, and he urged the Governor and Legislature to grant the local funding authority to fix local roads and bridges - inside and outside of cities.
In addition, he said the County has done its part to reform and streamline transit in King County, and to adopt interim funding. "Now we need long-term transit funding options, to keep our buses on the road and our economic recovery on track," he said.
To create thousands of much-needed construction jobs, the Executive said he would continue to advocate for expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. The expansion is projected to draw 130,000 new visitors to King County every year, and "every year we delay, we leave a quarter-billion dollars in new, direct spending on the table," he said.
"This isn't about government directly creating jobs. It's about creating the conditions and building the infrastructure to allow our economy to flourish, to produce good jobs with good wages and benefits, so that we can all, again, believe in a future where the next generation can do better than the last."
THE MANUFACTURING-BASED ECONOMY OF AEROSPACE
With the goal of fostering family-wage manufacturing and engineering jobs and the long-term vitality and growth of the local aerospace industry, Executive Constantine said partners in the King County Aerospace Alliance will join him next week to announce the findings of their King County aerospace competitiveness study, along with an ambitious local Action Plan for Aerospace.
The findings will confirm the competitive advantage King County enjoys in aerospace, he said, and the commitment, momentum, and follow-through it will take from regional leaders to maintain that advantage. "I look forward to the challenge, because this is about preserving a vibrant manufacturing economy in King County, and opportunity for tens of thousands of workers," said the Executive.
THE RESOURCE-BASED ECONOMY OF VALUE-ADDED AGRICULTURE
Noting that King County now ranks ahead of two-thirds of the counties in the state in the value of agricultural production, the Executive cited the example of Wade Bennett, owner of Rockridge Orchards in Enumclaw, as one of the members of his Rural Business Advisory Group consulting with him on the emerging and evolving needs of farmers, foresters and others in the rural area making a living with value-added products.
"Farming in King County is changing. It's entrepreneurial. It's not only about growing crops and raising livestock, it's about adding value -- turning apples into applesauce, milk into cheese, greens into salad mixes, and delivering fresh produce to your home," he said. "Together we're re-examining and continually improving our policies and codes so that farmers can prosper - whether it's permitting small sawmills or temporary housing for farm workers, allowing for sensible ditch maintenance, or holding back the tide of urban sprawl."
Constantine said the County is also partnering with others to revitalize the business districts of Vashon and Fall City, and to promote agri-tourism and recreation throughout rural King County.
INTEGRATION OF KING COUNTY AND METRO BUSINESS SYSTEMS
Executive Constantine declared the 1994 merger of King County and Metro to be finally complete, as he unveiling a new integrated business system that creates efficiencies in the tracking of financial information and makes it easier for the public to do business with the County.
"We are sweeping away the outmoded paper processes and redundant data entry of a payroll and finance system that was installed as far back as the Spellman administration, when I was in junior high school," he said in launching the Accountable Business Transformation (ABT) Program.
Voters merged King County government with the old Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro), a federated board that governed regional wastewater treatment and transit. Ever since 1994, the county has struggled with two separate payroll systems - one for King County and one for Metro - and two separate financial systems that could not talk to one another.
The ABT Program for the first time unites financial, human resources, and payroll functions from the two governments using Oracle software. Key benefits include ready access to real-time information for residents, businesses, managers, and policymakers and with it the ability to make informed decisions that benefit tax and rate-payers. Other benefits include cost savings through elimination of manual paper based processes, redundant data entry, transcription, and reconciliation, as well as a reduction of system maintenance and management costs.
"The ABT Program is replacing 1970's business practices and 1960's computer code with 21st century efficiency - one modern, efficient, business backbone," he said. "Today I am able to declare that the merger of King County and Metro is finally complete, and we are truly One King County."
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY
The Executive credited a partnership with employees for the County's ability to deliver the same level of services each year at three percent less cost. Based on the success of Lean pilot projects last year, Constantine said a new Continuous Improvement unit will train leaders this year within each agency to spread the Lean philosophy and give employees the tools and the authority to get more value for each dollar through employee-driven efficiencies.
Already, he said employees in the Elections Office are developing process improvements to prepare for the presidential elections, and staff in the Sheriff's Office are standardizing the deployment of deputies across the county, to save overtime and match resources to call loads.
PERMITTING REFORMS AND IMPROVED CUSTOMER SERVICE
With new management he introduced at the Department of Development and Environmental Services, the Executive announced plans for a number of customer service improvements, including:
- A move of the main office to the city of Snoqualmie, to bring services closer to the center of the agency's customer base;
- Creation of a Customer Assistance Center in front to provide all drop-in services at one central counter: permit inquiries, document requests, and over-the-counter permits;
- Online applications for nearly every type of permit, and immediate approvals online for simpler permits, without having to drive to the office.
Other "service first" improvements being introduced across all departments include:
- Training of hundreds of supervisors and managers on what customers want and how to better deliver it,
- A single point of contact for customer service issues designated for each County department, and
- Establishment of a translation policy for access by the nearly one-fourth of county residents who speak a language other than English at home, and increases in the number of public documents provided in other languages.
IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND NEW LOGO FOR REGIONAL ANIMAL SERVICES
Animal services has emerged from years of criticism to become a model of reform and humane care. Under the new management of Regional Animal Services of King County, foster care and adoption have increased, bringing closer the goal of taking in every healthy or treatable animal that comes into the agency's care.
In recognition of this new direction, the Executive last fall renamed the shelter in Kent as the King County Pet Adoption Center. Today he unveiled a new logo for Regional Animal Services that captures what he called "some of the joy of pets that are cared-for, and loved, and for which we find happy homes."
"We brought in new management, and 27 cities joined us in partnership to turn that operation around," said the Executive. "Now we're getting more value for each dollar, increasing outside revenues, moving toward a sustainable system, and we have dramatically reduced euthanasia and increased adoptions."
CLEAN, RENEWABLE ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
To advance the "ambitious, but achievable" goal of meeting half of County government's energy needs from renewable sources of energy, the Executive said the County would partner this year with the private sector for the capture of "waste energy" from County operations, including:
- Identification of solar "hot spots" on County buildings and facilities where community partners can invest in solar panels to generate green power.
- Firing up a co-generation system at the West Point Treatment Plant that will turn sewer gas into heat and electricity for the plant.
In addition, he said the County will install 54 more charging stations for electric vehicles this year, for a total of 81 in the regional network.
Later this week the Executive will release the results of what's said to be the first comprehensive study by a local government in the U.S. to quantify the impact of consumption upon climate change. "The bottom line is: buying local is not only good for our economy; it's good for the planet as well," said Executive Constantine.
On the Lower Duwamish Waterway - an economic engine that supports more than 100,000 jobs and generates $13 billion of activity - the Executive will advocate for a sensible plan for Superfund cleanup of historic pollution, with a priority on human health and protecting the jobs of the people who live and work there.
PUBLIC HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Despite having one of the finest, most progressive, public heath departments in the nation located in King County, health officials here and nationwide are warning that children - especially in the least healthy communities - are at risk of lives that are shorter and sicker than those of their parents: not from plague or pandemic, but from everyday things like unhealthy food, obesity, and tobacco.
Public Health of Seattle & King County is leading the way to reverse that trend through innovative prevention programs that are attacking causes of illness and premature death by promoting walkable communities, better nutrition and physical activity in schools, and tobacco-free parks.
Through the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, the County and regional partners have created more than 5,000 units of housing across the county over the past five years. The partnership will open eight new projects this year, with 385 new units of housing for veterans, seniors, homeless individuals and families. A Web-based, real-time housing locator system, developed with regional partners, will launch later this month to help people find rentals they can afford.
The Executive's 2012 State of the County Address will be cablecast on King County TV at the following times:
Monday, February 6, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, February 7, 10 p.m.
Wednesday, February 8, 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Thursday, February 9, 7 p.m.
Friday, February 10, 7 a.m.
For additional viewing opportunities, check the King County TV online schedule at www.kingcounty.gov/KCTV/schedule.aspx.