King County executive delivers State of the County address with plans to build community

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County Executive Dow Constantine delivered the 2022 State of the County address on Tuesday.

Constantine talked about 2021′s victories and what the future holds in terms of homelessness, public safety and much more as the county begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county executive started with homelessness and called the issue “vexing.”

“This crisis is the most visible, vexing, heartbreaking problem we face as a region. We must act with resolve, purpose, and compassion. In the face of this crisis, we stepped in with a clear plan, resources, and implementation that is working — and we are well on our way to acquiring housing and shelter to bring over 2,000 chronically homeless people off our streets and into a safe place, with more to come,” Constantine said.

One of the housing projects that Constantine spoke about was the one that broke ground in January at Eastgate in Bellevue, which will offer 360 units of affordable housing.

He even spoke about a former extended-stay hotel that was purchased by the county and opened in April, welcoming 97 residents.

In an effort to take the burden off the behavioral health system, Constantine talked about investing more in housing by creating more bed space for those in need.

“We can’t let decades of state and federal underfunding define our response. I’m looking forward to working with Councilmembers Zahilay and Perry to chart a new course forward to deliver the behavioral health system our community needs,” Constantine said.

He also talked about safety and what it means for every community member to feel safe. Constantine said in part: “We must utilize the full might of county government, not just our police and courts, to address inequities and systemic failures and craft a new approach to public safety.”

Constantine plans to introduce funding this fall that will build better infrastructure and buy equipment such as body cameras for the sheriff’s office.

“Let’s make sure we, our officers and the public can always have access to the objective facts,” Constantine said. “Accountability is at the core of public safety. People who break that compact — who violate the law, who do harm to others — must be accountable for their actions. We can embrace that notion while remaking historical practices and old systems to reflect today’s values.”

Constantine also targeted gun violence, as it is up in the county.

“Our teams are intervening with high-risk individuals, connecting with community-based supports to prevent shootings and seeking to repair the damage done by guns in our community.”

Another issue that was at the forefront was equity and anti-racism.

“We declared racism a public health crisis, and now we are working with the Gathering Collaborative, to take our commitment and make it real. Residents are working together to determine how to invest $25 million in federal funds to begin unwinding the harms of racism compounded by the pandemic.”

While talking about public safety, Constantine mentioned Patti Cole-Tindall, who was confirmed as the county’s new sheriff.

She is the first person of color to serve as sheriff in King County’s history, and the first appointed sheriff since the position was changed from an elected to an appointed position in 2020.

Constantine also hit on climate change, saying “cutting carbon is job one.”

One way he said emissions can be cut in the county is through the conversion of public transit buses to an all-electric fleet, reaching zero emissions by 2035.

“This spring we took delivery of the first 60-foot articulated battery-electric buses, and inaugurated our new battery bus charging facility at Metro’s South Base in Tukwila.”

Constantine ended his address by summoning the strength, the vision and purpose to deliver for all, as he said it has been a two-and-a-half-year battle with the pandemic, saying he understands people are “weary” but it is no time to give up.

To see the county executive’s address in full, click here.