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Executive: King County in better financial state
King County is finally on stable financial footing, Executive Dow Constantine said at his second State of the County Address Monday.
A chipper Constantine extolled the virtues of the Eastside in his speech, which was held at Bellevue City Hall. He said the growth of Bellevue over the last decade is proof that employers want to be in the region.
"If we keep doing our jobs, the jobs will come to King County," he said.
Constantine touched on many topics in his half-hour speech, including King County's financial position, transportation, climate change and leadership. He was proud of his accomplishments entering his third year on the job. He said he helped reform spending to make sure services aren't cut every year.
Comparing himself to Brad Pitt's portrayal of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, Constantine spoke of the need to do more with less. Unlike past years, when the county operated like the New York Yankees - high payroll and expenses - Constantine said the jurisdiction will be known for its ability to find and operate efficient programs.
Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee lauded the executive's performance in fixing the county's spending methods.
"We're very proud of the accomplishments he has made in such a short time, especially in areas of cost control," Lee said. "It's been a long time since King County has operated in the black."
Constantine said he has worked to speed up permitting processes and turn the experience from a complaint by nearly everyone, to a convenience, maybe even a compliment.
Of course, many of the improvements in jobs, permitting processes and other aspects, can only work so well if people can't get around. Transportation is at the top of Bellevue's priority list, and the county's as well. Constantine showed excitement about the extension of light-rail to the Eastside, of which he has been a primary backer, and the completion of a region-wide system. He was impressed by the push to make sure the area didn't lose bus service by passing a new $20 car-tab fee.
Cities and the county must fight to get the money they need for transit to make sure that people can get back to work, he said.
"We need long-term transportation funding to keep our buses on the road, and our economic recovery going," he said.
Among the proudest of Constantine's accomplishments was the elimination of a pair of outdated and clunky payroll computer systems that run programs from the 1970s. These two programs came to be when the county united with the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle following a public vote. Many have tried and failed to update these programs, and many budgeting functions had to be done by hand. Constantine unfurled a mountain of paperwork that represented King County's purchase orders - not from the 1980s, but from last month - to the surprise and humor of many in attendance.
"Today, I’m pleased to say that the Accountable Business Transformation project – ABT for short – has gone live, replacing 1970s business practices and 1960s computer code with 21st century efficiency – one, modern, efficient, business backbone."