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A portrait of King County Executive Dow Constantine

As 2021 comes to a close, let's think back a year. Four years of division and chaos in Washington D.C. seemed to be drawing to an end. New vaccines gave hope that the darkest days of the pandemic would soon be behind us. There was a palpable sense of optimism. And yet, our challenges were, and are, far from over.

The pandemic waxes and wanes but shows no sign of ending quite yet. We are, however, getting better and better at managing through it. With the continued fallout from the insurrection at the Capitol, political dividing lines feel deeper than ever. But, despite these extraordinary circumstances and more, I'm pleased to be able to highlight some of the remarkable achievements made possible by the hard work of this community, and to be reminded what's possible when we work together.

Last year at this time we were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to sign up for the brand new COVID-19 vaccines and had just begun vaccinating our most vulnerable populations toward the end of December. Today, 85% of our residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated, with thousands of booster doses being administered every day. And because we built an equitable vaccination strategy, we have a higher than 70% vaccination rate across every racial and age group. All of this is thanks to the tireless work of Public Health and our community partners.

We implemented innovative solutions to chronic homelessness with Health Through Housing. The program quickly went from an idea born of the COVID emergency, to legislative changes at the state and county levels, to our purchase of eight properties and 850 emergency housing units - providing rest, security, and dignity for those experiencing chronic homelessness.

We welcomed trusted community leaders to guide the way on our anti-racism work in response to declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis in 2020. We announced a multi-faceted strategic plan, and a suite of bold steps to combat the greatest threat we have ever faced - climate change - by cutting greenhouse emissions in half in the next five years.

These accomplishments are possible only through the hard work of thousands of public servants and community partners in the non-profit and private sectors. The work is challenging. Daunting. But building fundamental change is the only way we can meet the unprecedented moment before us.

As we consider this list of 21 accomplishments for 2021, let's remember to give grace to ourselves and others as we prepare to enter the third year of this pandemic. Let us be grateful for what we, together, have been able to achieve this past year, and join in looking forward to even greater accomplishments in the new year.

Sincerely,

Dow_signature

Dow Constantine
King County Executive

1

Farmland Preservation – Investments in local food economy with a plan to protect 13,500 acres of farmland

King County is one of the few large urban counties in the nation with a farmland preservation program, helping bridge farmers to their local customers. King County’s new goal is to protect 13,500 acres of farmland to strengthen the local food economy, in addition to the 16,000 acres that the county has preserved over the past 40 years.

2

Enhanced Shelter in Sodo – American Rescue Plan homelessness strategies

With $100 million from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, King County provided shelter, housing, jobs, and rental subsidies to 500 people experiencing homelessness in downtown Seattle, Sodo, and nearby unincorporated areas with a new enhanced shelter.

3

Combating Climate Change – Reducing carbon emissions in King County with a multi-level strategic action plan

Our Strategic Climate Action Plan, announced in 2020 and passed by the King County Council in May, integrates climate change into all areas of County operations. This year – working with cities, partners, communities, and residents – we began implementing this next phase of battling the climate crisis. From establishing new green building codes, to launching a new loan program that will make it easier to retrofit existing buildings, to new heat mapping studies and heat pump pilot programs, King County has started preparing the region for climate impacts and working to reduce countywide greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030.

4

COVID Vaccines Partnerships – King County funds community COVID-19 vaccination programs to speed health and economic recovery

We know the best tool to end the pandemic are the free, safe, effective vaccines. King County is leading the way with one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, and our equitable approach has ensured every racial and age group is more than 70% fully vaccinated.

5

Light Rail Expansion – Sound Transit Link light rail expanded to Northgate with three new stations in the U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate

King County Metro launched updated connections to three new Sound Transit Link light rail stations in Seattle, providing riders with more access and faster commutes. Metro also restored 36 previously suspended bus routes across King County, added hundreds of bus trips, and revised and improved other services in partnership with the City of Seattle.

6

Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance – 16,000 households saved from eviction with $179 million in rental assistance distributed by King County so far this year

King County continued to accelerate rental assistance payments, collaborating with local property owners and community-based partners to distribute $179 million so far this year providing housing stability to more than 16,000 households through the Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP).

7

Racism is a Public Health Crisis Grants – A new community oversight committee and $25 million community fund

King County is dedicated to undoing the burdens of systemic racism, and ensuring every person has the opportunity to thrive. To show that commitment, a budget of $25 million was allocated in August for King County’s Racism is a Public Health Crisis (RPHC) community oversight committee, called the Gathering Collaborative. Funding will support the economic recovery of communities most negatively impacted by systemic racism and COVID-19.

8

Health Through Housing – First residents moved in at North Seattle Health Through Housing hotel

King County purchased eight hotels and apartment buildings to add immediate permanent, supportive housing in partnership with cities around the region in a program called Health Through Housing. The first residents moved into a former Seattle hotel this fall.

9

Veterans Housing – King County launched first in the nation pilot program to house homeless Veterans

The Collaborative Case Management (CCM) Pilot Program, the first of its kind in the nation, blends federal Veteran housing vouchers with King County Veterans Program supportive services to make stable housing possible for more than 140 local Veterans.

10

Community Investments - $10 million in investments in urban unincorporated areas

King County launched a participatory budgeting process for a $10 million investment in urban unincorporated areas centered on racial equity. The process builds on community strengths and addresses specific priorities that these communities have identified, and community members will directly decide how to spend this budget with investments in capital projects or services.

11

Metro Policy Updates – Equity and sustainability built into Metro’s future planning

Groundbreaking transit legislation co-created with community advocates will direct future investments upstream by intentionally weaving together King County Metro’s policies and the Metro Connects long-range plan.

12

Sheriff’s Office Transition – Public Safety Advisory Committee identifies priorities for improving public safety in King County and hiring a new Sheriff

The Public Safety Advisory Committee, appointed in March 2021, shared with the King County Executive and Council its recommendations and guidance on next steps for the King County Sheriff’s Office, including core values and priority outcomes for improving public safety and a recruitment process for the next Sheriff.

Executive Constantine appointed Patti Cole-Tindall to serve as Interim King County Sheriff while the County conducts a nationwide recruitment process for a new Sheriff to be appointed in mid-2022. Cole-Tindall will be the first person of color to serve as Sheriff in King County’s history.

13

Expanding the Creative Economy – New film production facility at the former Fisher Flour Mill on Harbor Island.

King County crews and contractors re-wired and built interior sound-proof walls in the former Fisher Flour Mill, purchased by King County 18 years ago to potentially ship solid waste. The work, which cost about $1.5 million, has already attracted a creative economy tenant.

14

Best Starts for Kids – Voters approved renewal for six more years

The Best Starts for Kids initiative is a nation-leading investment in the youth of King County, supporting upstream solutions for the health and well-being of the entire community. Voters approved a six-year renewal of the levy in August, and the new program will include more than 3,000 childcare slots for families in King County.

15

Pandemic Recovery – Passage of $630 million COVID emergency supplemental budget

The supplemental budget, funded largely by the American Rescue Plan Act, was the seventh round of emergency funding in response to COVID-19, totaling more than $631 million - larger than all previous King County COVID budgets combined. It provided support for a variety of services as King County looks toward recovery from the pandemic and its many collateral impacts. These investments align with the Council’s set priorities around housing stability and homelessness services, food security and access, mental and behavioral health, economic recovery and workforce support, childcare, and access to justice.

16

Conducting Inquests – Executive order to restart delayed inquests and reviews of officer-involved deaths

After a unanimous decision in the Washington State Supreme Court upholding King County's process for conducting inquests, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued an executive order that further refines the proceedings, setting the stage for restarting delayed inquests and reviewing dozens of other officer-involved deaths, helping bring accountability and justice to families.

17

Faster Bus Service – Metro broke ground on two new Rapid Ride lines

From Burien and White Center to Madison Valley, more Rapid Ride lines are coming from King County Metro, bringing faster and more frequent service to riders.

18

Vaccine Verification – King County required proof of vaccination or negative test for many outdoor and indoor events and establishments to address COVID-19 spread

With vaccine verification requirements, King County has helped restaurants, gyms, venues, and stadiums stay open while keeping staff and patrons safe and hospital capacity preserved.

19

Afghan Refugees – Welcoming Afghan refugees resettling in King County at county-owned former hotel

Using a recently purchased former hotel, King County welcomed Afghan refugees in Federal Way as they resettled in the United States after the fall of the Afghan government. Executive Constantine visited with several refugees at the former hotel, to hear directly how King County can support them, and brought grocery store gift cards and children’s toys to the residents.

20

Women and Minority-Owned Contracting – Strengthening pro-equity contracting for minority- and women-owned businesses

Under an Executive Order, King County will remove barriers, implement innovative contracting methods, and take other actions to make it easier for minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) to contract with King County. The County also made an agreement to make it easier for those businesses to get state contracts as well.

21

Regional Animal Services – A 93% Save Rate for Animals in King County

More than nine out of ten animals that come under the care of Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) are adopted, placed with foster families/pet adoption partners, or returned to their owners after going astray.

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography