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Official portrait of King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, 2015

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Good Government is Good 4Culture

Like many of you, I love arts and culture.

The arts and heritage unite us as human beings. They span borders, cultures, and class. They inspire children. They spark intellectual discourse. They are a weapon in the war against racial and cultural intolerance. And they are a part of the very fabric of what makes our region the best place to live in America.

That’s why I’m proud to support 4Culture, an organization created by the very council I am so proud to serve on each and every day. It’s also why I’m now one of six councilmembers (3 Democrats, 3 Republicans) who have sponsored legislation to strengthen our arts and heritage community as we prepare for an influx of more than $13 million more dollars per year for 4Culture to continue doing a great job for the people of King County.

Needless to say, when I saw a misleading headline from a website saying "King County Council Moves to Dissolve 4Culture" I was shocked. That kind of hyperbole is ridiculous, untruthful, and counterproductive. It’s disservice to those of us who reject DC-style, 140 character attempts to destroy meaningful, honest dialogue. I think you deserve better than that.

So before we get into the details of our proposal let’s start with a little background info.

4Culture was created by the King County Council and is funded entirely (100%) with public dollars administered by King County. Soon, the amount of public funds the agency will receive is slated to increase by more than $13 million per year. This is great news. But it also means it’s time to consider providing a very modest amount of public oversight for this enormous pool of taxpayer money.

Our legislation to do this is reasonable, measured, and fair. Here’s how it works.

Under the terms of the legislation the 4Culture Board will still develop and approve the annual budget and manage all of the grant programs. Nothing at all will change for anyone receiving funds from 4Culture. But, before the county transfers millions of dollars of public funds each year, the elected officials (who are accountable to you) will have the ability to approve or reject the budget.

We cannot (I repeat: CANNOT) amend their proposed budget. There will be no appropriations, pork spending, etc. It’s an up or down vote. That’s it. It simply means elected officials accountable to voters will review and authorize the use of these millions upon millions of dollars of public funds.

The second element of the legislation has the county council confirming the 4Culture Board's nominee for Executive Director. The 4Culture Board will still manage the recruitment and selection process and nominate someone for the County Executive to appoint and the Council to confirm. The impact of this change will be to make sure that the person who will be running this publicly funded agency has the support and confidence of the public officials ultimately responsible for the organization. The ability for elected officials to be able to remove someone whose salary is paid entirely by public tax dollars is an important element of oversight and good government.

Finally, the current rule that only allows the County Executive to appoint board members who have been pre-selected by the existing board is going to be removed. The 4Culture Board will still be able (and encouraged) to help recruit and suggest board members, but the Executive and Councilmembers will have more flexibility in the appointment process. There will continue to be open public hearings on all nominees for the board. Importantly, the changes to the board appointment process won't impact any current board members-- as the process only takes effect as people's terms on the board expire.

These are modest accountability measures. None of the changes in this proposal will disrupt or alter the good work of 4Culture—and won't even be felt or seen by the many great organizations that receive funding and support. But what these changes will do is simply provide appropriate accountability and oversight for this county-created authority which will soon be spending tens of millions of tax dollars every year.

If you have concerns, ideas, or suggestions on how to improve this effort, I and the other five sponsors of the legislation would absolutely love to hear from you.

Council Approves Midyear Budget

As Chair of the Budget Committee, I am pleased to report that the King County Council has unanimously approved our midyear budget. The midyear budget is an opportunity to make adjustments to our adopted two-year budget, and is a collaborative budget built on a foundation of financial responsibility and restraint.

Read the full newsletter here

Support for Oil Train Moratorium in Washington

In a letter to the members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation, Councilmember Dave Upthegrove asked for support to suspend all oil train traffic in Washington State in light of recent and ongoing safety concerns. 

Read the full letter here.

Concerns about regional impacts of the Millennium Bulk Terminals proposal

In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Cowlitz County, Councilmember Dave Upthegrove expressed concerns about the long-term regional impacts of the proposal by Millennium Bulk Terminals to construct and operate a coal export terminal on 190-acre site located at the former Reynolds Metals Company facility in unincorporated Cowlitz County. 

Read the full letter here.

Priorities in Upthegrove budget proposal

The King County Council Budget Committee has approved the 2016 supplemental county budget, including funds to increase voter access to election drop boxes and materials, and support a host of youth violence prevention and juvenile justice programs.

“Increasing voter access, reducing youth violence, and addressing the racial disparities in the juvenile justice system are long-standing Council priorities,” said Dave Upthegrove, Chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “It was important to me to ensure that these Council priorities were funded when I drafted this proposal and I was pleased to see it receive unanimous support.”

Read more about increased voter access and juvenile justice here

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