Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Larry Phillips to explore run for King County Executive in 2009

Councilmember Larry Phillips, who represents the 4th District on the King County Council, announced recently that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider a bid for Executive in 2009.

In a letter to supporters this weekend, Phillips writes that people all over the county have been asking him if he's running, hopeful that a progressive with serious clout will emerge to take on Ron Sims, who is already preparing to seek an unprecedented fourth term. Phillips says they're getting an answer:
I am announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to consider a run for King County Executive. This committee will provide me with an organized structure to not just talk with citizens, but to hear what they have to say about how King County can best serve their needs.

Running for County Executive is a big undertaking and one I do not take lightly. I have a deep respect for the incumbent, as he's done many good things in King County, and I realize that it's hard to move on.

But thirteen years in office - with an unprecedented fourth term on the horizon - is a long time. The times are changing, the problems are changing, and too often they are left unattended and without effective Executive leadership.
Phillips is correct about that. Much to our dismay, since winning a third term in 2005, Ron Sims has somehow managed to turn himself into an undiplomatic, unpredictable contrarian.

On transportation (the topic where we're most disappointed in him) he has been nothing but an obstacle. Last year he reneged on his support of Roads & Transit (or Proposition 1) late in the campaign, claiming he came to his senses about the folly of road expansion. And so far this year, Sims has been critical and unhelpful as the Sound Transit Board contemplates the idea of going to the ballot in 2008 with a transit only package. He routinely misses board meetings and colleagues consider him to be a near-certain "no" vote on a 2008 proposal.

Additionally, Sims is obsessed with unrealistic congestion pricing schemes that punish Washingtonians for driving. Instead of building a great public transportation system that relies on a rail backbone to increase mobility, or tackling sprawl by placing a moratorium on new exurban mazes of cul-de-sacs and McMansions in the unincorporated Cascade foothills, Sims wants to make commuting even more painful than it already is. Yeah, that'll work.

Sims has also become increasingly defensive, rejecting even constructive criticism of his plans or policies from the county council or citizens' groups.

We're in the midst of a pivotal election year, with several strong Democrats running for statewide or federal office (Chris Gregoire, Darcy Burner, John Ladenburg, Peter Goldmark, Jim McIntire, to name a few). Fielding a competitive team is all-important, and that's why Democrats who aren't on the ballot are lending a hand to help those that are - especially in the quest for campaign dollars.

For example, State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz graciously hosted an excellent, well attended event earlier this month to benefit Peter Goldmark's campaign.

Ron Sims, as it turns out, has been busy raising money too...for himself.

And his reelection effort so far has largely been propelled by county staff, Sims' subordinates who depend on county government to make a living:
This morning [last Tuesday] Sims holds a $75-a-plate breakfast at the Seattle Westin Hotel that is expected to draw a crowd of more than 1,400. Attendance at the breakfast was promoted largely by "table captains" who included environmentalists, labor organizers, current and former public officials, and the largest single group — county employees including Sims' personal staff and agency administrators.
Now, there's nothing wrong with county staff backing a candidate - they're entitled to participate in the process like anyone else, provided they don't use government resources for electioneering.

But this looks an awful lot like machine politics at work, and it's all too easy for a political machine to end up strangling democracy and impeding progress.

Ron Sims has now been at the helm of King County for thirteen years. In that time, he's successfully navigated the county through some very stormy seas. But lately, his effectiveness as a leader seems to have gone downhill. It's time for a fresh start and a new infusion of energy into the Executive's office.

We are confident that Larry Phillips, if elected, could provide both.


Post a Comment

<< Home