Second inaugural remarks
King County Executive Dow Constantine
Jan. 13, 2014
Thank you all for being here tonight.
Many of you joined me for my first swearing-in, at a time when King County was struggling with long-term, intractable financial challenges made dramatically worse by the recession. In that moment, we had a choice.
We could simply manage the crisis – muddle through and return to business as usual. Or we could seize the opportunity to reform King County, and create a performance-driven, innovative, and sustainable government that could become a national model.
We chose the latter, and while it has certainly been more challenging, it has also been more rewarding. Tonight is a time to acknowledge our success.
After years of uncertainty, we put King County back on sound financial footing. Even during a challenging financial time, we delivered on our promise to invest in our infrastructure – human, natural, and physical. We formed partnerships to achieve goals that we couldn’t have achieved alone.
When I say we succeeded, you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask the voters in King County – we did last November, and they clearly support the work we’ve done.
So tonight, we look forward to what we want to achieve in the second term, and here is where I start.
When our descendants look back, what will they say of us – about what we did, or failed to do, about the most daunting challenges of our time? About the grotesque inequality of means and opportunity in our society. About the destruction of our planet.
We can and must do better to ensure that King County remains a place where those who study hard and work hard have an opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they started in life. Too many people in our communities – people of color, people born into poverty, people coming here from around the world - aren’t able to access the opportunity all around us.
It’s not just an issue of fairness – we are more competitive in the global economy when everyone is able to contribute. We all benefit from having an equitable and just society. If we’re going to truly make a difference we need more than compassion – we need leadership. And that starts with us.
As for climate change, we can see the impact it’s having right here in King County. To the west, Puget Sound keeps rising. To the east, the snow packs shrink; the glaciers recede.
We can’t wait for congressional action or international consensus. The solutions needed to address this most global issue of our time will have to come from the local level.
I’m not establishing a Department of Climate Change. As I am doing with equity and social justice, we will integrate the solutions into our daily work. We will press ahead on climate-friendly green building, energy efficiency, land use and transportation policy. We will foster a region of innovators, and be the proving ground for the new ideas that can lead the world.
Taking on these intractable challenges – social inequity and climate change – might seem a fool’s errand. But to set our sights lower would be a disservice to those who elected me, and to those who will follow. I believe our region has the will, the capacity, and the great minds to take on the tough issues, while we continue the hard work of making this the best run government anywhere.
The past four years showed we can work together to achieve ambitious, meaningful goals. Tonight, we start our next adventure, together.
Thank you, Justice Gonzalez. Thank you, FareStart. Thank you all for your support.