Dow Constantine is the only choice for King County executive, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have room for improvement.
For the King County executive seat, there is only one choice.
The Times recommends:
King County executive
Strengths: After two terms, King County Executive Dow Constantine presents a credible case for re-election.
Under Constantine, the county is focused on reducing homelessness, and improving efficiencies and delivery of services. But there is room for improvement: As a continuing member of the Sound Transit board, Constantine should be vigilant in ensuring accountability for the agency. And the catastrophic failure at the West Point wastewater treatment plant happened under his watch."
Voters should re-elect incumbent Dow Constantine to a third term. His challenger, Bill Hirt, is a perennial, one-issue candidate — that is, against Eastside light rail. Hirt also ran unsuccessfully for Bellevue City Council and the state Legislature.
Constantine was chair of the Sound Transit board when it put the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 measure on the 2016 ballot. Though this editorial board supported the local option tax authority, it did not support the measure after the proposal mushroomed from $16 billion, as it was billed in the Legislature.
As a continuing member of the ST board, Constantine should be vigilant in ensuring accountability for the agency, which now may not have to go back to voters for decades.
Drawing only one fringe challenger is likely a testament to improvements Constantine has made in King County government with a respected team that includes former state Rep. Fred Jarrett. Under Constantine, the county is focused on reducing homelessness and improving efficiencies and delivery of services.
Constantine presides over one of the largest local governments in the nation, challenged by the restraint of a 1 percent cap on raising property-tax revenues. As a result, he — like other local-government officials — has turned to a la carte tax measures on the ballot. The Veterans and Human Services levy on the November ballot is worthy. The Access for All levy on the August ballot, which had the goal of expanding money for arts, was not.
Given the deep cuts the county’s justice system has had to take, it’s hard to fathom how Constantine and the majority of the Metropolitan King County Council thought the arts levy was a good idea. On the other hand, the Best Starts for Kids measure, championed by Constantine and approved by voters in 2015, is a smart public investment that will get the county’s youngest residents ready for successful schooling and lives.
Constantine must demonstrate his effectiveness as a leader if he should choose to compete to succeed Jay Inslee as Washington’s next governor. And part of being a good leader is accepting responsibility when things go wrong. Most recently, the Feb. 9 catastrophic failure at the West Point wastewater treatment plant happened on his watch, dumping 30 million gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound and threatening workers lives. Experts hired by Metropolitan King County Council found there was no standard operating procedure in place for when to use the emergency bypass system that could have avoided flooding the plant.
Constantine studiously distanced himself from the fiasco. The editorial board asked if he takes any personal responsibility for the spill and policies that may have been a factor. Constantine said no.
Constantine has successes he can point to. And in the November election, he is the only credible choice for King County executive.