News

Not everyone shares county exec's outlook

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

King County Executive Ron Sims laid out his goals and priorities for 2005 this week, with special emphasis on projects related to the environment, healthcare, transportation, community development and economic growth.

But while the Democrat’s outlook for the county was optimistic, his State of the County address was met with criticism by County Council Republicans, who pointed to soaring costs, legal battles over elections and the recently passed critical areas package, persistent homelessness and ongoing traffic problems.

Several council members also noted that while Sims identified ambitious plans and programs for the county, he failed to identify funding to pay for them.

Councilman Reagan Dunn, recently appointed to replace Rob McKenna, who was elected state attorney general last November, said Sims failed to discuss several “key issues.”

“We need to come up with real solutions to our transportation problems, we need to fix our broken elections system, and we need to make sure rural landowners have a seat at the table,” Dunn said.

Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, whose district covers the county’s south end, including Federal Way, said the county has some work to do to gain the support of its residents — urban and rural alike.

“While I share the executive’s optimism for the future of King County, we must double our efforts to earn back the trust of all 1.8 million of our supervisors,” von Reichbauer said.

After outlining his plan for the county, Sims reiterated his commitment to fiscal discipline, saying county administrators would “build our future plans on the strong financial foundation we have worked so hard to develop.”

“We will continue to be the best managed government in the state,” he said. “The state of the county is excellent, and with your help, it will continue to be so.”

While Democrats on the council expressed support for Sims, Republicans were skeptical, claiming the facts don’t substantiate Sims’ rosy outlook.

Among the plans Sims listed for the future were an ambitious proposal to end homelessness in 10 years, continue identifying cost-saving measures and efficiencies in county departments and protect water and air quality and natural areas.

He acknowledged the difficulties the county has had in its elections department, including controversy over handling of ballots in the recount in the governor’s race last November, but said the department has made “remarkable changes” in the past year.

“When mistakes were made during the general election, we stepped up to our responsibilities and worked to make sure every eligible ballot was counted,” he said.

Several of Sims’ priorities will be of interest to Federal Way this year, including seamless jail service, open-space issues and transportation.

While many of Sims’ goals and plans for the county won’t affect Federal Way residents directly, many will “affect us indirectly, like air pollution, new jobs, a clean Puget Sound, affordable housing (and) homelessness,” assistant city manager Derek Matheson said.

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