LIVE from North Bend: A conversation with Dow, Ross, Susan, Fred, Alan, & Larry
Daniel and I are out in picturesque North Bend tonight to watch and listen to six of the candidates for King County Executive talk about the most challenging issues that face our state's largest local government, and how they would solve them if they were in charge. In attendance are Dow Constantine, Ross Hunter, Susan Hutchison, Fred Jarrett, Alan Lobdell, and Larry Phillips.
(Hutchison and Lobdell are Republicans; the other four are Democrats, though as Susan Hutchison repeatedly pointed out in her response to the first question, it's now ostensibly a "nonpartisan" race).
The candidates have been given two minutes to respond to each question, which allows for some depth to the answers. However, it also means that it takes twelve minutes to get through each question, which doesn't really allow for more than half a dozen questions in total. No time has been provided for opening statements, which sort of turned the answers to the first question into opening statements.
I've already had the pleasure of moderating a forum between four of the candidates on the stage, so I'm most interested at this event in listening to Susan Hutchison's and Alan Lobdell's responses, and that's what I'll be focusing on while liveblogging.
So far, Hutchison is about what I expected. In her first chance to speak, rather than offering a critique of the Sims administration with some substance (as her rivals did) she spent her two minutes repeating two or three points:
- This is now a nonpartisan race,
- She is not a partisan (uh huh), and
- She was for many years a television anchor who had the privilege to be invited into many people's living rooms and even bedrooms.
"We need to go back to the drawing board. We need to make sure we have good development, or no development as the case may be," she said, concluding by declaring that we need to restore "property rights".
UPDATE, 7:45 PM: Getting ready to move into the second hour of the forum. I haven't written much about Alan Lobdell yet, but I'd say he's been using his time well. Two words that I think describe his responses are steady and sincere. You can tell that Alan's somebody who has at least given some thought to the issues he's being asked about, even if his "solutions" are nonstarters... like the idea of a new "bypass highway" around Seattle and Bellevue. (There's a reason we haven't built Interstate 605, Alan: We like having farmland and open spaces in our county's rustic eastern valleys, rather than exurban sprawl).
Alan's Democratic rivals are more polished, but that's to be expected - they've all been through campaigns before, and have served in office for many years.
UPDATE, 8:05 PM: What do you know, Susan Hutchison supports the Rice/Stanton transportation governance scheme to create an all powerful board of transportation czars to centralize decisionmaking in the hands of an unaccountable few who would have the power to set transit fares, decide routes, and determine which capital projects the region will build. Yikes. Another reason why King County simply cannot afford Susan Hutchison as its next Executive.
UPDATE, 8:15 PM: Susan Hutchison's "solutions" to invigorate the economy are to ask the state Legislature to cut taxes - particularly the B&O tax - and um, change our attitude about business in this county. Whatever that means.
Oh yeah, there was also something about "onerous regulations"... but she didn't explicitly call for repealing any. And she didn't cite any specific examples.
Taking a cue from Dino Rossi, Hutchison then claimed she knew a woman on Vashon Island who moved out of King County because it is apparently such a terrible, awful place to do business.
(That certainly explains why so many people choose to call King County home; and why the county continues to grow in population).
UPDATE, 8:26 PM: Hutchison jumped on a question about the pay of employees in the county executive's office as an opportunity to disdainfully criticize the way King County has been run. She said she met with Governor Chris Gregoire last week and praised the governor for freezing the salaries of state employees. She also implied the state Legislature's awful 2009-2011 budget - which Gregoire presided over the creation over - is something to be emulated.
UPDATE, 8:40 PM: Responding to a question about the water supply, Hutchison referred to Seattle as an "eight hundred pound gorilla" that controls the decision making process in King County. She contended that we need an executive who will ensure that concerns of residents who live outside of cities get more attention.
UPDATE, 8:49 PM: The candidates are talking about the recently released performance audit conducted by Brian Sonntag and his legion of hired accountants. Hutchison reminded the audience that Ron Sims appointed her to serve on a elections task force following the contested 2004 gubernatorial election.
"What I plan to do is put together a management team that has a totally different view of King County government," Hutchison said, being as non-specific as possible about how she would make the county more effective and transparent.
Alan Lobdell, for his part, correctly pointed out that hired accountants don't necessarily understand the intricacies of providing public services.
CLOSING STATEMENTS: Alright, I'm going to give each candidate his or her due and summarize what they said in their closing statements.
- Ross Hunter: We have many hard decisions to make in the next few years about land use, transportation, and our county's budget. A new regionalism is needed. It's time to bring the cities into the conversation. The cities have more and more of the population. We all need to hang together, or we'll all hang separately. Let's hire an executive who's thoughtful, strategic, and practical, someone with management experience. We need an outside voice that wasn't involved in creating these problems.
- Susan Hutchison: Admits she doesn't find doing forums particularly satisfying. She'd rather listen to what people in the audience have to say. Mentions her decision to step in as Board Chair of the Seattle Symphony, at a time when the organization was facing the possibility of bankruptcy, and says she takes credit for turning the organization around. Says the qualities of leadership are judgment and courage. Is grateful to live here and for the opportunity to serve.
- Fred Jarrett: Appreciates the opportunity to talk about issues at length, rather than in sound bites. The fundamental problem is that we do not have a system in place that holds people accountable for what they do. Instead, we measure effort and we reward effort. The county's permitting process needs to be drastically improved. We need transportation to be integrated. Has many years of private sector management experience.
- Alan Lobdell: Finds it interesting how people say the United States is the most beautiful place to live while we Americans disagree on so much whenever we meet to talk politics. Will fight for a balanced budget as fast as possible. Will streamline departments so they work faster and more efficiently. Wants to improve customer service. Wants better communication with the public and with smaller cities. Smaller cities should not feel ignored or neglected by King County. It's going to take a lot of money and a lot of time and the best engineers we have to solve our toughest problems.
- Larry Phillips: Drew his first breath in King County. Improving quality of life for all is why he ran for office. We need to recover our local economy and ensure that jobs are plentiful. Making basic public services work, and taking care of the most vulnerable among us, is a top priority. Energy needs to be refocused in the exeutive's office. It's time for a leader with a nuts and bolts approach, someone who can set an agenda and execute it. Promises to come back to the public on a regular basis to make sure that everyone is a part of county government and has a voice.
- Dow Constantine: "I'm a Democrat." And a believer in environmental protection. Only candidate supported by the Sierra Club and the Cascade Bicycle Club. A progressive who believes in changing the status quo, abandoning institutions when they no longer work and creating new institutions that do. Would rather work with county employees than force them to hunker down and wait out the clock in a pointless, protracted battle over cutting costs.