Monday, June 29, 2009

Washington Politics: Who is the greenest Candidate for King County Executive?

You have heard this before: there are no victimless crimes in politics. That is of course, if you have been listening to Bill Moyers on PBS radio or television. This is once again true if you have been inquisitive and talking to people in the know, regarding who is likely to replace Ron Sims as the King County Executive. For those of us who are not familiar with Washington State politics, let me bring you up to speed: The biggest county in terms of population and commerce in Washington State lost its county executive to the Obama’s administration. Rom Sims, the former chief executive of the county is now an Obama’s executive. His temporary replacement, who had worked in close proximity with Mr. Sims, is Ballard resident Kurt Triplett, who had worked with the county for 17 years. Immediately Mr. Triplett indicated in his acceptance of his interim position with the words: “The reason why I was chosen was I’ve been with King County in various levels of senior management,” the politics of permanent replacement for Sims began.

Debates were rife as regards why Mr. Triplett must never be a member of the class of people who should replace Sims permanently. Sims himself put the ‘buhaha’ to rest when he indicated in his outgoing or resignation speech that the caretaker or interim County Executive, should not be someone who is planning to run for the office permanently, as this will give him an unfair advantage. The statement irked many of his council members who had be canvassing behind to be the seat warmer, and probably gain an undue advantage when the election for the office comes to play. Here ends the up-to-date events.

Now to the issue proper, who is likely to replace Mr. Sims permanently? There are arrays of qualified persons in and out of the current council members. I got to meet one of them on TV the other day: Ross Hunter, who had in the past worked for Microsoft for 17 years, holds a Bachelor’s from Yale University and represents the Bellevue district in the State Legislature. According to Mr. Hunter in his interview with KING-TV, he will like to provide a functioning transit system for the county; he will advance a more compact transit system and wants to pursue a clean environment agenda. He understands the budget problem, which most of us in the county are worried about; we will all like to know when we are going to pay attention to the gorilla in house. The county is about 100 million dollars in the red. He will also like to work with other cities and county to solve the issue of annexation of unincorporated areas around the county. He wants to increase the county’s revenue base and guess what? Increase salaries of King County employees.

Much as I admire his enthusiasm, I wonder about his ability to make good judgment about our budget items. Here is an incoming executive, who is facing a gapping hole in the county pocket, proposing to increase county employees’ salaries. He is either disingenuous or playing dumb about the gravity of the county deficit. A county of about 2 million people, carrying a debt in excess of 100 million dollars, is not one that should be contemplating increasing salaries. The whole state and county economy is not doing well, and the county had just put in place a mandatory unpaid vacation days for its employees, and here comes a replacement to the county executive’s position, brandishing a golden stick of increasing salaries of county workers. This hardly sounds like someone who understands the implication of a budget shortfall in the order of challenges facing the county. The county had also cut several critical county services, including public health, safety and human services in light of the budget shortfall. This county does not seem like a financially healthy baby. Hello? The interesting thing as well is that those (Sims & Triplett) Mr. Hunter is trying to replace probably do not understand the same budgetary implication, considering their recent pronouncements. The interim County Executive recently indicated that, the challenge of the transit system is that everyone needs more not less. How the county is going to be able to maintain its triple A’s rating while committing to project(s) at a scale that empties its pocket, is still the catch 21 question. While I am not going to flog this issue any harder now, I am a little bit skeptical of the judgment of this potential Sim’s replacement. I appreciate and welcome his green politics, but I am weary of his sense of appreciation of the challenge the county is facing.

How is the new county executive going to deal with the traffic issue, when residents are already complaining about the burden of traffic congestion? Mr. Hunter was not really explicit on this question. Can we really continue to dumb down to use public transportation when possible, pay the real costs of driving on our roads and make changes in our lives that will cut down on the need to use our cars, as are pursued by the current king county executive? What exactly is Mr. Hunter’s solution to the traffic issue? Current agenda by the outgoing King County executive’s administration seems a likeable green solution to the traffic congestion problem, but many of us are not convinced, we want bolder initiatives that will help cut down on environmental pollution from automobile fumes and rebuild back the budget short-fall in King County.

I will come back in my future blogs to debate other candidates as they show up in the public arena. This will give every candidate an equal opportunity of being assessed as a replacement candidate for the King County Executive position.
Post a Comment