King County executive forum in Federal Way: Primary candidates state their cases July 28

Six of the eight candidates for King County executive primary race gathered for a forum July 28 in Federal Way.

Susan Hutchison, Fred Jarrett, Ross Hunter, Larry Phillips, Dow Constantine and Alan Lodbell stated their views for voters from South King County at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The event was sponsored by Multi-Service Center. Goodspaceguy (Michael Nelson) and Stan Lippman, the other two candidates on the primary ballot, did not attend the forum.

In some areas, all candidates agreed, including a resounding "no" on the question of whether cities should annex unincorporated residents without their vote. All six candidates said they did not sign Referendum 71, a controversial petition seeking to overturn the expansion of domestic partnership rights in Washington state.

Below is a recap of their statements during the forum. Check out the Twitter feed of the forum at twitter.com/fwmirror.


Susan Hutchison

• Hutchison was a longtime news anchor for KIRO-TV.

• Hutchison said King County has been arrogant and imperial to those living outside of Seattle. The forum marked her fourth trip to Federal Way since entering the race: "This area needs to have a place at the table."

• "I'm the only outsider. I'm not in government and I'm not a politician."

• She said unions are a problem in county affairs, and that former executive Ron Sims should have stood more firmly.

• If elected executive, she would like to see the county behave like a business as well as implement a hiring freeze and cut waste.

• Hutchison would like the county to enhance its roles of safety and protection through human services.

• Hutchison has been on both sides of the table in regards to unions. She blames past King County executives for caving to unions and has called on candidates not to accept money from unions.

• She said low-income housing distribution is a premier issue, especially in South King County, which bears the brunt of issues and urban problems more typical of downtown Seattle.

• She likes light rail, but said the county is behind schedule and over cost after "we dawdled away the money."

• Opposes a utility tax, which she calls regressive. "We are always dealing with another new tax."

• She promises to lobby in Olympia on behalf of small businesses to change the threshold of the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax.

• She would like to appoint a transportation czar to address traffic issues in King County.

• Web site: www.susanhutchison.com


Ross Hunter

• Hunter is a state representative (D-48th District)

• Hunter repeatedly stressed his desire for King County government to focus on being a regional provider, not a local provider. He advocated for reducing cost overhead while strengthening Metro transit.

• Hunter touted his experience in the Legislature, specifically in regards to education reform, as an example of his leadership. He spent 17 years at Microsoft, logging significant management experience. "King County is kind of broken right now. We need someone to bring the cities together." • He would rebuild relationships between the county and its cities.

• Among short-term solutions to fixing the county's finances, Hunter said he would like to resolve annexation problems.

• Hunter said the county needs to eliminate foot ferries. He also agrees with the gist of interim executive Kurt Triplett's plan for the county's priorities.

• Hunter said that as executive, he would have a freer hand in negotiating with unions because he has yet to win any endorsements or contributions from unions.

• In regards to low-income housing distribution: He said growth management policies drive up the cost of housing in the county. Jobs need to be in the same city as housing, he said.

• Hunter would like to see a continued focus on light rail and eventual expansion. "We need to combine Metro and Sound Transit," he said.

• Opposes a countywide utility tax, but advocates that unincorporated areas share the same tax burden for public services as incorporated areas.

• "I'm running for King County executive, not King County Olympia lobbyist," he said in response to Hutchison's promise to lobby on behalf of small businesses.

• Web site: www.rosshunter.com


Fred Jarrett

• Jarrett is a state senator (D-41st District).

• Priorities for the county should include cutting costs for health care premiums as well as passenger-only ferries, which he called a poor decision.

• Jarrett said his blend of experience in both the public and private sectors is an asset. He logged 35 years in management at Boeing. His 30 years of public service include the Legislature as a state senator, along with stints as a mayor and city council member in Mercer Island.

• In response to a question about saying no to special interest groups, Jarrett said he stood up to the Washington Education Association over his recent involvement with refining education at the Legislature level.

• "Passenger ferries don't make sense when you need bus service." Jarrett said the county does not need any new programs, and must address the cost burden of passenger-only ferries.

• Jarrett said he would like to cut the county's office of strategic planning, and overall would like to see a leaner organization.

• Stressed the importance of teamwork in all aspects of the county government, including negotiations with labor unions. "If you treat labor as a team, they become part of a team."

• In regards to low-income housing distribution, Jarrett is an advocate of growth measurement.

• Jarrett called light rail a good idea that he helped make a reality.

• "Counties were not designed to provide municipal services."

• County has a spending problem, and it is critical to solve management problems before cutting taxes, then make it work for less money.

• Web site: www.vote4fred.com


Larry Phillips

• Phillips is a current King County Council member who has served on the Sound Transit board. He has also served as a chief of staff for the county executive.

• Phillips said the county must consider the ferry district as extra spending, and instead send that money toward Metro transit, which has a greater need for funding.

• Phillips has worked with labor unions to reduce costs for benefits and health care, then helped put the savings into transit.

• In regards to low-income housing distribution, Phillips said the county has done its best with the tools available.

• Phillips was a behind-the-scenes player in the light rail's development, also serving as construction oversight chairman. "Light rail is a good idea," he said, noting that the county is digging its way out of the hole. "It's our future."

• Opposes a countywide utility tax.

• Now is not the time to reduce taxes if the county expects to maintain its current level of safety while facing a $100 million shortfall, he said. He wants to end the tax subsidy from ferries to boats, and the general fund must face up to mandates set by state, he said.

• What distinguishes him from other candidates? He's been in the room when big decisions have been made, he said. He also noted effective experience as a business executive.

• He directed the forum audience to his Web site, which has a program laid out to fix the local economy. His JobsNOW plan is aimed at attracting businesses and creating more jobs in King County. He said he is prepared to move the county to the next level.

• Web site: www.larryphillips.com


Dow Constantine

• Constantine is a current King County Council member who represents the area encompassing West Seattle, Burien and Vashon Island. He has also served in the state House and Senate.

• Constantine proposed "strong performance measures" as "short-term tools" for strengthening financial accountability at the county level, including a hiring freeze he sponsored. He said he helped cut the budget by $875,000.

• He proposed a long time ago that those making more than average should pay back some of the money the people pay for my medical insurance, he said.

• Constantine supports light rail through Federal Way, noting the impact light rail could have on an up-and-coming urban center such as Federal Way.

• He supports potential cuts to health and safety. "Our B&O (Business and Occupation) tax is a job killer."

• Opposes a countywide utility tax, but advocates that unincorporated areas share the same tax burden for public services as incorporated areas.

• In regards to low-income housing distribution: The key to stability is a mixed-income community, he said.

• What to eliminate or stop in King County? "We need to save the transit that's working right now." Constantine also wants to end animal shelter services and turn to private partnerships that offer humane care.

• "The status quo is dead. We can't afford for county government to go on as it has."

• Web site: www.dowconstantine.com


Alan Lobdell

• Lobdell has served as an engineer and consultant for cities regarding budgets and management. He was a project manager for the West Valley Highway and served as interim public works director for Snoqualmie.

• He has never held public office, but asserted at the forum that "you need a professional administrator. That's what I do."

• He said he knows the ins and outs of project management.

• Lodbell said he would be willing to "cut the fluff" in King County by measures ranging from reducing wages for county employees to drastic layoffs: "This is something I do and I'm nasty about it."

• Lodbell has been in labor unions with negotiation experience, but vows to maintain an independent stance.

• He said light rail is a late and expensive idea. "We're choking on the money it costs to do it," he said regarding the county's effort to fix transit problems.

• Opposes a countywide utility tax. His goal is no new taxes: "The county is in a hole, a big hole."

• What distinguishes him from other candidates? "I come from the inside."

• He would like to bring an NBA team back to the region.

• In regards to low-income housing distribution, Lodbell would like to see developers set aside property for low-income residents in a countywide push.

• Web site: www.alanlobdell.com

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