King County Executive Dow Constantine may have been joking moments before he stood up to speak at the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Wednesday, Feb. 25, but his tone changed dramatically when he shared his goals for the growth and direction of our region.
“We are the ones who are going to determine our future, and no one else,” Constantine assured the audience of about 100 people.
That future, he said, would reflect the area’s values, including opportunity for everyone willing to work hard to succeed, reverence and protection for the region’s natural beauty, trade and international relations, “upstream solutions” that address the causes of social problems, respect and care for local senior and veteran populations, and support for a vibrant cultural community.
Getting there might be an ambitious goal, he acknowledged, in light of the new presidential administration.
“As a region we of course are impacted by the decisions of a president,” he said. “When the president protects our environment, our region’s environment benefits. When the president denies climate change and opens up the oil spigots, we suffer in a number of different ways …. When a president advocates trade and stronger international ties, this region does better. When a president launches a trade war, our region, which is both a trading hub and the source of some of America’s finest exports, suffers.
“We are impacted by what a president does, any president. But we don’t have to do what a president says. We have our own mind, and we have the ability to go our own way, in many ways. We cannot allow what is happening in the other Washington, or elsewhere, to block the things that we need to do for our region to be successful.”
Among the things that will make this region successful, he said, are its people, its world-class businesses, and its natural resources. He noted that the county, with partners began work on a vision “to finish the job of conserving the region’s highest-value open spaces, the farms, the forests that really define this region.”
Constantine then discussed the area’s growth. The region is growing by about 300 people per day, he said, and so are the needs for housing, infrastructure, and protection for our valued natural assets.
“Growth brings the prosperity that gives us the means to protect and enhance and restore the things we care about,” he said, thumping the podium with each word. “We just have to be smart about how we plan for it.”
One example of smarter planning is alternative transportation services, such as the county’s partnership with Snoqualmie Valley Transportation. Another was the county’s work to provide nearly 2,000 units of affordable housing, by loaning its credit rating to the King County Housing Authority.
Housing will be an important focus in the coming year, Constantine said, noting that the county last year received a $34 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, to help get people out of homelessness.
However, he said government subsidies are not the solution to the area’s housing struggle. Referring to the $34 million from HUD, he said, “You know how many that will get out of homelessness? A hundred and sixty-four…. It’s expensive once people fall all the way down.”
Instead, he advocated for public-private partnerships and “upstream solutions” such as the county’s new Best Starts for Kids program, funded by a voter-approved levy, to prevent problems before they start.
Constantine also advocated strongly for supporting veterans services and senior citizens and stated that the county was in the process of asking voters to renew the Veterans and Human Services levy.
The executive’s review of his plans was bookended by references to President Trump’s turbulent first days in office, a commitment to regional values, and confidence that “we are on the right track.”