State of King County: Constantine touts efficiencies

King County Executive Dow Constantine - Courtesy photo
King County Executive Dow Constantine
— image credit: Courtesy photo

King County Executive Dow Constantine gave his annual State of the County Address on Feb. 6 in Bellevue, saying a lot of good work has been done in King County over the past couple of years, but that a lot of work still remains.

"The common thread rung through much of our success is a spirit of partnership, in service of a shared prosperity," Constantine said. "(Of) finding a way for people to work together, who perhaps didn't before."

Constantine touched on the county government's success in a number of areas, including the repair of the Howard Hanson Dam and the preservation of the South Park Bridge.

Outside of those two items, the county executive touched on last summer's fight over King County Metro service, and the record number of people who turned out in support of keeping 600,000 service hours available to residents in the region.

Alongside those accomplishments, Constantine said King County's credit rating remains strong, which is not the case for many local or state governments, or the federal government.

"The state of the county government can be found in this simple fact: King County is back on sound financial footing," Constantine said. "Our credit outlook is stronger than that of the state and federal governments and most other local governments. We are doing things right, and those who study our work are taking notice."

Likening King County's transformation over the past few years to the movie "Moneyball," Constantine said King County has shifted from an attitude of just "throw(ing) money at the problem" to being "smart and scrappy. Finding inefficiencies in the established system (and) seeking out the highest performance at the lowest-possible cost."

"So my job — our job — is to ensure that government works, and that it works for all the people to support safe communities, accessible justice, a clean environment, the ability to get around, and a chance for everyone to thrive and succeed regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the zip code in which they live," Constantine said.

The executive credited this success to the county's adoption of LEAN business practices, which he described as a "tool… of continuous improvement and employee engagement." Since adopting LEAN practices, the executive said a number of once time-consuming tasks of county government have been drastically shortened, leading to happier customers and savings for the local government.

Moving forward, Constantine announced in his State of the County address that two antiquated payroll systems used by the county and Seattle were being replaced with a new system. The hope for this new system falls in line with much of his goals these past few years, Constantine said: increasing efficiency and creating costs savings. Outside of this announcement, the executive touched on green energy projects within the county that are moving forward, continuing to keep transportation issues a priority, and job creation, especially through the technology and aerospace fields.

"I want King County to be a place where you can live and perhaps even become wealthy, but you don't have to be wealthy to live. A place where you can get educated, trained, and get a good job, and buy a decent home, and raise a family, and someday retire, and live better than your parents did, and know that your kids can live better than you," he said.


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