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A portrait of King County Executive Dow Constantine

When we ended 2019, we had every reason to be optimistic, hopeful, and prepared for another year of growth in King County. But 2020 proved just how quickly things can change.

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated our focus this year, as we led the response to the nation’s first outbreak of the disease. From setting up our medical command center even before the first confirmed case, to building isolation and quarantine recovery facilities, to distributing millions of masks to county residents, King County employees have been working to help those we serve to beat this disease.

That work was met with a strong, sustained commitment by the people of King County who did all they could to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the disease. An unparalleled public effort to wear masks, keep socially distant, and of course, wash hands, has so far kept our hospitals from being overwhelmed as we await vaccines sufficient to stop this disease.

But the crisis of public health was not the only challenge we took on this year. There was the accompanying economic shock, the stifling smoke of wildfires and, the nation-wide protests following the killings of more black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor - a long-overdue awakening to systemic racism that presents King County an unparalleled opportunity to elevate and accelerate our anti-racism work.

It’s no secret that 2020 has been an immense challenge, but I am so incredibly proud of the work we have done this year. As you read through just some of the highlights of our work, know that my 15,000 fellow King County employees and I will continue to make King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.

Thank you as always for the opportunity to serve, and here’s to 2021 - which can’t get here soon enough.

Sincerely,

Dow_signature

Dow Constantine
King County Executive

1

Metro orders 120 battery electric buses for zero-emission transit fleet

King County Metro is one step closer to an all-electric bus fleet with an order for 120 battery powered buses. These 60-foot articulated buses have the range to serve almost any route in King County. This year, we also retired Metro’s last remaining diesel-powered bus as part of our effort to become a zero-emission transit agency.

2

Ensuring every person in King County counts: 2020 Census participation

King County partnered with community organizations around the region to ensure high participation in the 2020 Census. Despite legal challenges from the federal government, King County was able to break our previous participation records in many communities, ensuring a fair count of our population to be used in redistricting, allocating federal funding, and much more.

3

Reinvesting in the future of Harborview, King County’s public hospital

Executive Constantine proposed and King County voters approved a $1.74 billion bond to invest in health and safety improvements at Harborview Medical Center, the region’s trauma hospital. These investments will ensure Harborview will be the best place in the country to receive emergency medical care and provide needed seismic upgrades to protect the lives of patients, employees, and visitors.

4

Declaring racism a Public Health crisis

Racism is a public health crisis. King County is dedicated to undoing the burdens of systemic racism, and ensuring every person has the opportunity to thrive. King County has rededicated our policy, budget, and resources to ending systemic racism in our community, and committed to being intentionally anti-racist and accountable to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color.

5

Invest, divest, reimagine: Biennial budget passes unanimously

Executive Constantine’s 2021-2022 budget was unanimously passed by the King County Council, creating new policies and investments for the next two years. Along with a significant down payment on our anti-racist agenda, the budget rethinks Metro fare enforcement, invests in regional trails and greenspace, and supports economic recovery in small businesses.

6

Health through Housing: reimagining solutions to homelessness

Executive Constantine’s budget included a plan to invest about $350 million in permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. The “Health Through Housing” initiative expands on our pandemic response which moved residents from homeless shelters to hotel rooms.

7

Successfully planted One Millionth Tree

Five years ago, Executive Constantine set a goal to plant one million trees in King County to help improve air quality and create healthier forests. This year we planted our millionth tree. Now, we’re going even further: Executive Constantine set a new goal of planting three million trees as part of our Strategic Climate Action Plan.

8

Confronting the realities of climate change with 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan

This summer’s wildfire smoke brought ominous orange skies and the most hazardous air quality on record. King County responded by opening smoke shelters to provide a safe place for those who needed it. The dangers of climate change are here, and Executive Constantine’s 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan is part of how we’ll protect our air and water. The plan includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions countywide in half by the end of the decade, a stronger focus on climate justice, and preparing the region for climate impacts.

9

Sound economic footing nets AAA Bond Rating

Three major bond rating agencies recently reaffirmed King County’s AAA bond rating – the highest possible – which allows King County to finance construction, acquire open space and other projects at the lowest possible costs, saving taxpayer dollars. The agencies noted King County’s continued strong fiscal management under Executive Constantine, along with the region’s overall economic vitality.

10

Protecting economic growth and recovery with strategic Convention Center investment

With the pandemic bringing business travel to a halt, the Washington State Convention Center expansion faced financing challenges which threatened the future of the project, and thousands of family-wage jobs. King County proposed a $100 million loan to continue the project, protecting construction jobs today, and ensuring future convention and tourism will have a state-of-the-art facility when the project is completed.

11

Public Health led the fight in the nation’s first COVID-19 outbreak

In February, King County experienced the first COVID outbreak in the United States at a long-term care facility in Kirkland. The team from Public Health - Seattle & King County has worked tirelessly since, deploying resources, setting up public testing sites, answering questions from businesses, and doing everything possible to keep King County residents healthy. Our work on the outbreak is in addition to longstanding priorities of environmental health, food safety, and disease control.

12

Providing rental assistance in pandemic’s unprecedented economic downturn

With unprecedented job loss due to the pandemic, the need for direct assistance for renters and landlords was met with more than $40 million to help bridge the gap for tenants behind on rent. More than 9,000 households will be safe from evictions as they receive this funding provided through the federal CARES Act and dispersed via local community organizations.

13

Preserving arts and culture during the pandemic

Across our region, entertainment and arts venues have been shuttered for most of 2020, putting jobs and cultural icons at risk. King County awarded $2 million in grants to help invest in public safety measures, and reimburse costs for payroll, rent, and other expenses while it remains unsafe to gather indoors.

14

Providing safe places to isolate and recover to anyone who needed it

From the first days of the outbreak, it was clear the community needed safe places for people to isolate if they couldn’t safely quarantine at home, or didn’t have a home. These facilities were stood up quickly and served more than 1,600 residents. They stand ready to ensure a welcome space for those who need it during the pandemic.

15

Distributed more than 18 million free masks and other PPE to residents

King County invested in personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to distribute, both through community organizations and directly to small businesses and residents. Over 18 million masks were distributed – including almost 6 million cloth reusable masks – helping to ensure people can keep themselves and their families safe.

16

Lowering the risk of COVID-19 spread in congregate shelters

Early on it was clear that large homeless shelters with tight living spaces would be dangerous situations for COVID-19. King County partnered with shelter operators to increase space in shelters by moving people to different facilities, including temporary housing in hotels. The success of this effort, as noted by the University of Washington, helped pave the way for the “Health through Housing” proposal passed in the Executive’s budget.

17

Rethinking the way we do business with teleworking

Shifting thousands of employees to telework to keep them safe during the pandemic provided opportunities to change the way we do business. The Department of Natural Resources and Parks quickly pivoted to permanent teleworking for their employees who are able, reducing commute emissions, staying closer to families and green spaces, and keeping people safe. Other county functions are also moving online, providing residents with faster, more convenient options to access services.

18

Keeping Metro operators and riders safe during essential travel

One of the largest transit agencies in the nation, Metro quickly moved to disinfect buses nightly, provide greater personal space on buses, create partitions to keep passengers and operators safe, and offer free masks on hundreds of buses. These efforts keep transit moving for frontline workers throughout the region, and prepare Metro for a fast bounce-back after the crisis.

19

Supporting small businesses with $4 million in direct aid grants

The pandemic’s economic devastation has hit small businesses especially hard. The King County Department of Local Services worked with businesses in unincorporated King County to provide $4 million in grants to more than 630 local businesses, using federal CARES Act funding.

20

Keep it local King County

As the holiday season and 2020 comes to a close, the spread of the virus has made it necessary to restrict personal space in indoor businesses such as gyms and restaurants. Executive Constantine’s “Keep it local King County” campaign promoted innovations like virtual gyms and curbside pickup, and reminded all of us to thank the essential frontline workers who are helping everyone in King County get through the pandemic.

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography