Opinion

Reflections on I-1033, Ref. 71 and King County executive

Washington voters spoke loud and clear in the Nov. 3 general election.

Across the state, Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033 is failing (by big margins) and Referendum 71, which extends rights of domestic partners, is passing. In King County, voters overwhelmingly backed Dow Constantine, who ran on his years of experience as a King County Council member and a legislator.

If there’s a common theme to these outcomes, protecting quality of life would seem to be it.

Initiative 1033, the latest scheme by Tim Eyman to wreck government, was badly failing in most of the state’s counties. Even Benton County, home to the Tri-Cities, which usually votes for Eyman’s initiative, was saying no to Initiative 1033. So were voters in Yakima and Spokane.

The message was sent and received: Gutting essential public services won’t improve anyone’s lives. It will only make it harder for us to recover from this recession. I-1033’s one-size-fits-all scheme, which would have slapped fiscal handcuffs on cities, simply made no sense.

With the failure of Initiative 1033, we have avoided a future in which we might have become known as The Evergreen Chaos, and we have defeated a Tim Eyman initiative for a second consecutive year, which is unprecedented.

Referendum 71, meanwhile, is passing throughout the whole northwestern part of the state, not just King County. It is the first time in American history that an entire state has voted to expand civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. And though civil rights advocates have a lot of work to do to reach out to people in Eastern Washington, which was united in its opposition to the referendum, the results show we’ve made a lot of progress.

The expanded domestic partnership law is not full marriage equality. But it does extend the rights the state had previously granted for married couples to registered domestic partners. That is why it has been called the “everything but marriage” law. Couples who will gain from the passage of Referendum 71 can be heartened that a majority of the people of Washington have taken a stand in favor of expanding civil rights, rather than rolling them back.

Here in King County, we have given our blessing to Dow Constantine to be our next executive. Dow promises to be a tenacious leader who will strengthen county government and make it more effective. Supporters of Dow’s opponent, Susan Hutchison, question how he can deliver given that he served on the county council for several years. They forget that Dow was not the incumbent. Ron Sims is no longer serving as county executive, but Kurt Triplett, his former chief of staff, is serving out most of the remainder of his third term.

Dow brings with him a new administration and a new approach for the changing times.

He faces tremendous challenges, along with the rest of the state’s elected leaders. The next legislative session looks to be brutal. Lawmakers and the governor will have to figure out how to close a gaping budget deficit that will be between $1 billion and $2 billion.

King County has its own budget problems that Dow and the county council will need to solve. (Dow’s departure from the legislative branch incidentally, will allow for some fresh blood on the Council, which will otherwise look unchanged because voters re-elected all of the incumbent councilmembers who stood for election by huge margins).

Dow received strong support in the election, in part because voters could see who he is and what he stands for. Susan Hutchison tried to define herself as vaguely as possible, calling herself a “nonpartisan nonpolitician” (what does that mean?) and promising “a new kind of leadership” (what kind?). Dow has the experience in local and state government to get to work right away, tackling our tough problems. Hutchison would have had to learn on the job, and she didn’t demonstrate the firm command of the issues she would have needed to make up for that lack of experience.

It’s hard to know what the future holds for our region. But what we have done in this election — by rejecting Initiative 1033, approving Referendum 71, and electing Dow Constantine — is say very clearly that we want Washington and King County to be a great place to live, work and play.

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