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Building equity and confronting climate change frame Executive Constantine’s second-term agenda


King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Building equity and confronting climate change frame Executive Constantine’s second-term agenda


Building equity and opportunity and confronting climate change are the great generational challenges of our time, and the framework for King County Executive Dow Constantine’s agenda for his second term in office.


Building equity and opportunity and confronting climate change are the great generational challenges of our time, and the framework for King County Executive Dow Constantine’s agenda for his second term in office.

“A growing body of evidence shows that places with greater social and economic equity have greater economic growth and overall prosperity. We are all better off, when all of us are better off,” said Executive Constantine. “Our resolve on equity must be matched by our willingness to protect the environment, and to confront the changes in climate that already threaten our planet and our community.”

Speaking at White Center Heights Elementary School, the Executive presented the first State of the County address ever delivered from an unincorporated area of King County.

Building equity and opportunity

While King County enjoys one of the highest qualities of life in the world, it also shares, with the rest of the nation, disturbing inequalities of opportunity. The Executive said building equity will mean creating access to opportunity, through access to early learning and good education; affordable housing and healthcare; safe streets and safe communities; job opportunity; and transportation choices.

“By building equity and opportunity, we set the stage for a thriving community with higher on-time graduation rates, wage equity, lower rates of crime and incarceration, and a workforce ready to fill abundant high-skill jobs,” he said, in citing initiatives to address the factors that determine equity.

Closing the Kindergarten Gap: Saying children must be ready to learn when they arrive at schools like White Center Heights, the Executive outlined a regional plan to help knit a cohesive system of support around young families.

  • In partnership with the University of Washington School of Education, King County will map existing childhood development and learning readiness pilots. That inventory will be used to identify gaps and tee up a later discussion of how the region can support the development of children birth to five and start them on a life-long path to opportunity.

  • The Executive will visit every school district in King County over the next two years, to hear what’s working and develop a countywide plan to link early childhood efforts with success in school.

Homelessness and affordable housing: Children cannot study without a settled home. In partnership with non-profits and philanthropists who share a commitment to equity, King County will work to make homelessness relatively rare, short in duration, and easily resolved.

  • Through the Rapid Re-Housing program, work will be done to get or keep 350 families off the streets, out of shelters, and into their own homes this year.

  • In partnership with the Council, the Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Initiative will seek to intervene before kids become homeless – to break the cycle early so they do not grow to become homeless adults. 

  • In partnership with cities, the Executive will promote construction of affordable housing around future transit centers.

Transforming Health and Human Services: Just as the Executive’s reform agenda brought new efficiencies to County government, the County is embarking on a countywide Health and Human Services Transformation Plan to remove barriers, wring out inefficiencies, and align efforts to enable delivery of the most value to people, and make the most of investments in health and human services.

Community Reentry from Detention: In 2013, more than 35,000 individuals –

disproportionately people of color – were returned to the community from King County jails and state prison.

  • The Executive will coordinate reentry projects aimed at reducing recidivism and getting people’s lives back on track.

  • King County is also partnering with the state Department of Corrections to develop a strategy to better connect individuals on community supervision to services in the community that will support their successful reentry.

Strengthening Prosperity and Economic Development. Building equity means growing a competitive regional economy that creates job opportunities for all. In April, King County will co-host the Brookings Institution as part of their Global Cities Initiative, for a robust discussion of how to strengthen the metropolitan economy and create more jobs here. 

Transportation: Building equity means having a functioning transportation system, and access to it.

  • At the Council’s request, the Executive has proposed a reduced-fare program, to ensure a bus ride remains affordable for those of limited means who need to get to school or their jobs.

  • The Executive also thanked the Council for working with him on a ballot measure in April, to give voters the chance to save Metro Transit and repair crumbling roads.  

Confronting climate change

The direct local impacts of climate change are already being felt. The Executive noted that Puget Sound has risen 8 inches over the last century, while the Cascade snowpack has shrunk by 25 percent since 1950. Studies point to an increase in chronic health problems and an increase in household costs of $1,250 a year by 2020.

“We can no longer wait for international consensus or a dysfunctional Congress,” said Executive Constantine. “King County will expand on our climate change agenda with specific commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – countywide.”

Among his climate actions: 

  • Establishment of a King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, with support from the New Energy Cities Program, to chart a specific package of joint commitments to meet state and local targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Building on the successful model of the King County Aerospace Alliance, establishment of a business-focused King County Climate Alliance of clean-tech businesses, non-profits, universities and environmental groups to elevate King County as a nationally-recognized center for clean technology innovation, training, and jobs.

  • A directive to Department of Natural Resources and Parks to become King County’s first carbon-neutral agency.

  • Leadership to bring together cities and concerned people from throughout the Northwest to stop the export of coal to Asia.

Climate change also threatens the supply of safe food and clean water. To secure the local food supply, and to address both equity and climate concerns, the Executive today launched a Local Food Initiative to expand the supply of healthy foods and access to them, while helping make farmlands profitable and protecting them from development.

  • To lead this work, the Executive named Lilly Simmering as the County’s first food economy manager. Besides her credentials with the USDA and The Boeing Company, Simmering is also the daughter of Hmong farmers who grew strawberries and owned a restaurant, and knows what it means to think “farm-to-table.”

The Executive also updated three initiatives he launched in last February’s State of the County address:

Connecting military veterans to services: in response to the Executive’s call to make sure there is no wrong door for a vet seeking help, the Regional Veterans Initiative has successfully mapped the system of services and brought providers together. To manage this outreach, the Executive today named Lieutenant Colonel Dana Sawyers as the County’s first regional veteran’s services coordinator. Col. Sawyers is a retired Air Force commander who has counseled injured vets, and developed a Wounded Warrior project in the Republic of Georgia.

Reducing gun violence: In response to an Executive Order to develop data-driven strategies to reduce gun violence, Public Health – Seattle & King County found that children in King County are nine times more likely to die from gun violence in homes where a firearm is stored unlocked. To avert future tragedies, King County partnered with a dozen retailers and two dozen police agencies, including the King County Sheriff, on a campaign for safe storage of guns. One retailer reports a one-third increase in sales of lockboxes and gun safes.

Healthcare enrollment: In response to the Executive’s goal of full enrollment in affordable healthcare, the regional “all-hands-on-deck” campaign that followed enabled the Executive to announce today that 100,000 people in King County are now signed up for healthcare coverage.

“With a record of accomplishment and a plan for the future, the state of King County is strong and we keep it strong by facing our inevitable challenges squarely, and united,” said Executive Constantine at White Center Heights. “We have the will and the capacity to nurture and unlock the great minds that will solve the greatest challenges of our generation. The best ideas may come, not from us in this room, but from those in classrooms down the hall. When they look back, I hope they will say that we believed in their potential, and provided them with the same opportunities to succeed that we have enjoyed.”

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography