Editor's Note: The following is a transcription of Susan Hutchison's entire remarks at the King County Executive candidate forum organized by Gary and Jennifer Fancher this past Thursday evening (and held in North Bend), which we liveblogged here on The Advocate and on Twitter.
We decided to transcribe Hutchison's remarks because so far she has chosen not to appear at almost any of the many public forums on this race that have been held across the county since the beginning of May, and attendees of those events have thus not had an opportunity to learn her views on the issues.
The following transcription is exact and provided without commentary... we'll let others critique and parse it in detail. The transcription was produced not from notes, but of the complete audio recording we made of the forum, so what you'll read is precisely what Susan Hutchison said.
Faithfully transcribing Hutchison's answers was often difficult, as I had go back over and over again to accurately capture Hutchison's stammers and faltering sentences. It's much, much easier to transcribe something that is smoothly spoken, but that's not how Hutchison's responses were delivered, so as a result, it took extra time to type it all out and verify its accuracy.
What sets you apart from the other Executive candidates?HUTCHISON:
Thank you. Good evening, everyone. What sets me apart from my opponents... I would first like to say, that, as you know, for the first time ever, this race is nonpartisan.
The voters decided in November that that's what they wanted. Because they decided that the county issues did not have a D or an R next to them. And so I am a nonpartisan. I have never been part of the political process.
And uh... And I believe through the work I have done serving the people of this region for almost thirty years that the best way to get things done is not in a partisan way, but together, bringing people together, and working together to solve our complex problems. Since I am not a politician, I don't, uh, operate from the point of view of, uh, partisan politics.
And many of you know me from my years as a TV newscaster. And in those days, for twenty five years, I was invited into many of your living rooms. And... I delivered the news and the issues of this region to you... every night. Some people said I was invited into their bedrooms, and uh, I put them to sleep at night.
And uh... I don't quite know how to take that, but, uh...
Uh... For the last six years I've been the Executive Director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. And we provide grants for arts, science, and education programs. And in that world, I have been deeply involved with so many of the not for profit organizations in this region. And it's been a tremendous privilege to be part of the social fabric of what matters to the people here.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to run for King County Executive. I make executive decisions every day. And uh... And I look forward to bringing the changes that an only an outsider can bring. Because I am not deeply entrenched in the problems that this county faces. Thank you.QUESTION:
Our current job seekers are competing with a global marketplace of highly educated individuals. Washington State's third largest institution of higher education, Bellevue College, has become a crowded four year school serving thirty five [thousand] students annually.
Do you agree with the need for a two year college here in East King County, and if so, what steps would you propose to take as Executive to encourage a community college campus development in this area?HUTCHISON:
I really am in favor of the community college system. I served on an advisory board for South Seattle Community College for several years. I took a course at North Seattle Community College in economics, uh, some years ago and I found that it was tremendously beneficial.
Uh... We get more value for, um, our education dollars in our community college systems and the ratios of student teachers are so much better, uh, for this, uh, entry level, uh, student, than you'd find at the University of Washington, for example. Um... This is... This is a great question and I think probably a number of the questions we're going to answer tonight will have a lot to do with both local and state, uh, jurisdiction. And... Hunter is right. The college system in... in this region is controlled by the state.
[Ross Hunter looks up at the audience, puzzled, mouths his last name, "Hunter", as if to ask, What's the deal with using my last name
There are other alternatives to setting up a new college. We could have satellite, uh, campuses. The Green River system... uh, community college... has put in a few satellite campuses. And uh... One of the things that's so outstanding about our community colleges is they are so agile and quick to respond to market forces.
For example, when we had a nurses shortage, uh, both Highline Community College and South Seattle were able to put in nurses programs very quickly to respond to the need. So as we look at our economic crisis, uh, there's nothing like education, to help build, uh, skilled people with skills that can be used in the marketplace right now. So, uh, if it means adding another campus here on the Eastside somewhere that's convenient to uh, a large number of students, I'm all in favor of it, and as I've said before at other forums, I see the King County Executive as someone who advocates for the citizens of this region. 1.8 million people have a voice in the Legislature through the King County Executive. QUESTION:
What changes would you propose to King County's Critical Areas Ordinance to permit long term sustainability over stagnation of areas such as Snoqulamie, Fall City, and North Bend?HUTCHISON:
Since I announced that I was running for King County Executive, I've spent a lot of time, uh, out in the county, uh, not talking, but listening. And that's what I prefer to do. And... And I've learned a great deal. And one of the things that comes out over and over again is... the way that our outer cities and, uh, and individual... citizens, feel toward county government.
Uh... there's tremendous animosity towards the county government, and for good reason. Uh... I am told by the citizens that the county is arrogant and disdainful, does not respect them, doesn't value their opinion, and moves in, in an arbitrary fashion. And... the Critical Areas Ordinance is, uh, a classic example of that.
Now, there are two things that I believe about all of you who live... out here. One is that you live out here because you love the natural beauty and uh, and resources, that you enjoy, every morning when you wake up, the... the hills, and the valleys, and the streams, and the mountains, and the fresh air, and everything that a rural environment gives you. And then the other thing that I believe about you is that if you own property here, you believe you own that property, and, uh, and you have some say over how you're going to use that property.
What has happened with the Critical Areas Ordinance is... it's a... it's a... a... a blanket ordinance that does not take individual, uh... properties into... in... as it analy... it doesn't even analyze at all.
Uh... it's... it's been arbitrarily, uh, enforced, and so many of you have spent a great deal of your time and energy fighting it that we've had critical sections of the ordinance shot down by the courts. So, uh... we need to go back to the drawing board. We need to ensure that we have good development... and it... or no development, as the case may be, in some places. But we also need to make sure that property rights are restored.QUESTION:
Under the current transportation system, the Eastside is unconnected, and left dependent on their own private vehicles, or face an hour and half, thirty five mile bus trip from North Bend to Seattle. It's not fun; I've done it. Under the current system, light rail, roads, and mass transit... bus authority... each have their own management and funding, and do not execute a plan for 5th District residents that includes light rail and mass transit support until the year 2020. Investing in infrastructure takes political courage. What specifically do you propose to solve our transportation needs to make sure these efforts are coordinated, strategic, and serve the East King County areas?HUTCHISON:
There is no more significant issue in this county than transportation, period. Uh... Last week, at, uh, our campaign launch, at a jobs fair, we had a fellow show up and hold signs with us who's a... who's a Metro bus driver.
And he said to me afterwards... the Metro bus drivers can't stand the traffic. We're so tired of the congestion.
And... I quickly got his phone number. I said, I need to talk to you some more, I want to hear more of, uh, of uh, what you have to say and how you want to solve the problem. The people who live further out from the city have this long commute on our highways and then they have this excruciating commute on the byways. The... they sit in traffic for a half hour over a two mile stretch.
And, uh... and that takes time away from their families, their children, and it certainly affects their quality of life.
The Regional Transportation Commission that was set up by the governor with a bipartisan leadership - Norm Rice and John Stanton - presented a two... uh, a... a study... and, I've read it, it's about a half an inch thick. And in it, after they conducted their study, they made this recommendation, that all of our transportation agencies needed to fall under one authority.
That information then went back to Olympia... and no one did a thing. Nothing has changed. And everyone in our region is so frustrated with the gridlock on the highways and the gridlock in the political arena when it comes to transportation that they voted an exorbitant tax increase for Sound Transit in our last election. And it has all the policymakers scratching their head.
And the reason why they don't understand is that the voters finally said, Do something
. And if it has to be Sound Transit, that's what it'll be.
This is a subject we could talk about all night, and I just want to tell you, that we have some initiatives planned from my campaign, and we'll be announcing those in the next few weeks. QUESTION:
Small business is the backbone of our local economy; however, many of our businesses are moving out of King County to other lower cost areas in the region and the state.
What will you do as King County Executive, specifically, to help retain the existing business in King County plus attract new business to our area? HUTCHISON:
We are in a recession, we don't know how deep it's going to go, we're certainly not on the up-tick, and, uh, our citizens are suffering. People have lost their jobs and businesses are closing. This is a profoundly important issue. The best way to invigorate an economy is to grow jobs. And the best way to grow jobs is to help our small businesses thrive.
Last week I proposed a number of initiatives to help our small businesses thrive. One of them would involve spending time in Olympia and working with our Legislature to increase the threshold of the B&O tax on our small businesses. This is a gross income tax. It is gross, but it is also on gross revenues.
And uh... And it hurts small business because they have to pay taxes even sometimes before they've made a profit.
It's not fair to them and it's certainly is something that we as a, as a county of 1.8 million people can go to Olympia and, uh, and lobby for. If it will help turn around our small business climate, I will do everything I can to ensure that this state works with this county to change the small business environment.
It's time for us to hang up the Open for Business sign on the county, for all business, not just small business, but also businesses such as Boeing and Microsoft and others that are so integral to our economy.
You know, there are such onerous, uh, regulations that are on our businesses today in the county. A woman on Vashon Island recently said that she was going to have to move out of the county - Vashon happens to be in King County - and she was going to move because she couldn't conduct her business there.
It's a problem that's so severe we have to have to have a total change in attitude about business in this county. QUESTION:
Many businesses have laid off workers, frozen salary increases, and some have even reduced employee pay in order to retain jobs and meet company expenses. Going forward, all levels of government, like as at home, must live within our means. Yet, the King County Executive office positions received four percent raises over each of the last two years - 2008 and 2009. If you were the King County Executive, how will you change the county budget priorities and the process to prevent the budget shortfalls that we're currently having? HUTCHISON:
Well, the question was specifically about the Executive office and the Executive office pay raises. And I'll tell you who's, uh, madder than the citizens about it: it's a couple of the departments in, uh, in county government who bore the burden of the pay... of the cuts, the budget cuts, in 2008. And that's the prosecutor's office and the sheriff's department.
Uh... They had to make the cuts in their people, while the Executive office continued... uh, and the Council office as well... uh, continued to operate, uh, business as usual, at the status quo. And so, it is time, uh, as everyone has done in their companies and in ther homes, to tighten up the spending in, uh, county government. This is the way you get through an economic downturn.
Uh... the governor... I made a couple trips to Olympia since I announced that I was running and I've, I had some time with the governor last week. And, uh, she talked about the hard decisions she made in January to, uh, freeze salaries. There were no pay increases. And uh... that earned her the ire of unions and Democrats... people who had been her traditional supporters. And I believe it was a statesmanlike thing that she did, and uh, and a good thing.
And... and we are going to have to make some tough decisions in county government. And we are going to have to make them countywide.
We're going to consi... we have to, uh... have to make this part of a shared sacrifice, that all departments are going to have to... to give up, not just the prosecutor's office, and not just the sheriff's office. And uh... and there are, uh, excess people in the Executive office after twelve years, with one Executive, who has provided jobs to support his purposes, and, uh, I am very willing to trade some of those jobs for sheriff's deputies any day. QUESTION:
Water resources are becoming scarce, [as] competing municipalities such as the City of Seattle and other interests seek out additional capacity. What is your long term plan to protect the watter resources of the upper and lower Snoqualmie Valley watershed for the residents of this area?HUTCHISON:
Water is a very complex issue, and uh, I know it matters to those of you who live here because you know you're sitting on a gigantic aquifer, and it's important to you. And I think that part of the intention of the question is, uh, is the eight hundred pound gorilla of Seattle going to, um, demand our water?
And uh.. And I just want to assure you, that uh, even though county government is located right downtown and tends to be Seattle centric... um... I want county government to be very receptive to the entire county, to all of our residents. And uh... And to pay attention particularly to the needs of those of you for whom, uh, county government is your government.
Uh... that's the premier job of the county at this point, is to be the government of the, uh, of the unincorporated areas.
And so those of you who live in that area have to turn to King County for your governmental needs. And I want to assure you that I will be committed to you as your King County Executive, to make sure that, uh, we serve you.
On the issue of, uh, of water... and there are probably many good ideas that will come out of this panel tonight... but I do think that conservation is the key. Conservation is very important to, uh, uh, protecting our water. Uh... There's some very creative things going on now with water reclamation, and using non-potable water for watering golf courses, and... and other such uses.
Uh... There's a new facility in Carnation that's been built for water reclamation, uh, which is, uh, one of those creative new ideas that, uh, we need to embrace.
And uh... And we need to involve all stakeholders in all decisions. Um... As I said earlier, I want to bring people together. We need to bring all the people to the table and let everyone be heard, so that the people who have a stake in these sorts of issues have something to say and are heard by our county government. QUESTION:
In light of the recent report from the State Auditor in regards to King County performance... The results reported that county officials should improve oversight and safeguards over its cash receipts, expenditures, and its assets. In many instances, oversight and safeguards were impaired by lack of sufficient monitoring to ensure policies are complete, followed, and the county staff is adequately trained to operate within those policies.
And the question, the two part question is this: The fiscal accountability Of King County is the ultimate responsibility of the Executive.
If elected, how do you propose going about overhauling King County government's fiscal practices and its culture? And what specific changes are you willing to make in how King County operates?
That's question one, sort of. And the next one, to wrap it up, is, what also will you do to make sure that King County government is in touch and responsive to the needs of the East King County residents?HUTCHISON:
Well, there is no question that the performance, or the accountability, audit report, uh, was dismal. And, you know, basically, the report was that an audit was attempted, but could not be completed because the different divisions and departments could not provide the information that was needed.
So, um... Taxpayers should very dismayed about this. But... I will say that I was not surprised, because a few years ago, Ron Sims appointed me to the King County Elections Task Force, and our job was to take a look at the Elections Division.
Uh... This was right after the 2004 gubernatorial election that was so disputed here in King County. Take a look at the Elections Division, and figure out what to do in the future, to restore public trust in elections.
And what we found, when I served on that task force, is exactly what this audit reported: there was no oversight, there was no accountability, there was no transparency, there were no safeguards.
And so we made a series of recommendations, uh, to the King County Executive, and uh, to, improve the situation in the Elections Division. None of them was acted on for six months. And so, our chair and our vice chair had to go back to the Executive, and demand that he make some changes. And fortunately, one of them, uh, in fact, a number of them, have gone into effect.
But one of them, uh, you know very well, because this year, we elected for the first time, our King County, uh, Elections Director. And now we are like all the other counties in the state, with an elected elections director.
So, the issues in the county, are um... everything appears to be in disarray. I don't think there are any exaggerations up here, as we've discussed, uh, the situation in county government. And, uh... things need to change.
And what I plan to do is put together a management team that has a totally different view of county government.
And we're going to make the changes that are necessary to be accountable, and transparent, and... and, uh... accountable to you, as the taxpayers.CONCLUDING STATEMENT:
Thank you very much. We're now going to go to three minutes for each candidate to make their closing statements. HUTCHISON:
I want to thank the Fanchers for their hard work putting this together, thank you, and to everyone else who was involved. Uh... the hour is late, so thanks to our audience for hanging in there with us.
Um... I will admit to you that I, uh, don't find this particularly satisfying, that we sit up here, for an hour and a half, and talk to you. I would much prefer to be down with you and listening to what you have to say. And uh... and I... that's because I think what you have to say is really important to our county government, and certainly leadership should be listening to you.
One of the things that I've done in the last two and a half years is I stepped into, uh, into a position at the Seattle Symphony as Chairman of that institution. And uh... They were close to bankruptcy. In fact, at our executive committees, it was discussed almost at every meeting, what we were going to do, and we were looking at the bankruptcy option. So they asked me to step in as Board Chair, and we began the process of turning that organization around.
And it required, first of all, doing an analysis and research as to what the real issues were, and then we began to work with all of our stakeholders. We had a union of players that we had to, uh, work with, bring together, the issues that they were struggling with, with union and management.
We went to the city, because the city owns Benaroya Hall, and we needed to work with our, our closest family member for, for, uh, obvious purposes.
And we, um, began to work with corporations and citizens throughout the area, our ticket buyers, and our staff. We built a leadership team and we began to turn that organization around. And uh... We balanced the budget the first year, and the second year, we made up another structural deficit and balanced the budget the second year. And that experience was beneficial for all of us at the Seattle Symphony, but it was also a real good, uh, opportunity for me to work with some great people and bring terrific leadership to bear on a problem of, of a, of a budget and a, uh, organization, that was disintegrating.
So... uh... we've got that situation in the county now, in a... in a very big way, as we've discussed today. And I just want you to know that my approach to this problem solving is... is what I consider leadership.
And it is, uh, judgment and courage. It's the ability to make good decisions by bringing together great people and making those decisions together, but it takes the courage to implement them, and that's the hard work, because you always are are criticized, and you're always going to get push back.
And... As I close tonight, I just... just want to share with you that one of my heroes is in the audience. And he came in a little bit later, and it's Joe, one of the local residents here. And the reason I know Joe is because he was in my dad's fire squadron in Vietnam, back in the, uh, sixties, and Joe was shot down, uh, and, was in the Hanoi Hilton for five and half years.
And so, uh, I always consider it a great privilege when I see Joe, because of what he represents, and, uh... we have something in common, because both have us have lived all over, but we chose to come to this region to settle down.
And so, uh... for that, I am grateful for this beautiful place we live, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you.