Dow Constantine emphasizes partnerships, prosperity in State of the County address

February 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

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NEW — 10:25 a.m. Feb. 7, 2012

King County is akin to the Oakland A’s depicted in the film “Moneyball” — nimble and unconventional — County Executive Dow Constantine declared Monday.

Constantine, in the annual State of the County address, used the baseball team to illustrate a recent effort to streamline county government.

“The county used to be a little like the New York Yankees. Its first response to a problem was to throw money at it,” he said. “Now we’re more like the 2002 Oakland A’s depicted in ‘Moneyball’ – smart and scrappy. Finding inefficiencies in the established system – seeking out the highest performance at the lowest-possible cost. Getting the best value.”

The top elected official in the county emphasized partnerships and prosperity as steps to reshape local government. Some changes resulted from a performance-based management program modeled on a system at Toyota.

“The state of county government can be found in this simple fact: King County is back on sound financial footing,” he said.

Officials did not need to make deep cuts to services last year in order to craft a 2012 budget. Constantine used the “Moneyball” example to highlight efficiencies in county government.

“By reexamining everything we do, by questioning the old, conventional ways of doing business and seeking the most efficient and effective ways to reach our goals, we can help put our region in a position to compete, and win, in a rapidly changing world,” he continued.

Constantine said county government borrowed some practices from business — including a performance-based management program called Lean — in order to improve services.

“King County is not a business, but we can and should be business-like — knowing our customers, working to meet their needs,” he said.

Constantine announced plans to relocate the Department of Development and Environmental Services main office from Renton to Snoqualmie to shift services closer to customers. Plans call for the office to feature a customer assistance center to provide drop-in services at a single counter. Moreover, customers can apply for most permits online.

Earlier in Constantine’s term, officials adopted flat fees for county permits — eliminating a frequent headache for rural and unincorporated landowners.

“Streamlining customer service with a single point of contact will need to benefit the rural as much as the urban areas as we work toward one King County,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert said in a statement.

Even the setting aimed to reflect the unity theme. Constantine crossed Lake Washington to Bellevue City Hall for the address.

“Bringing this speech out of the courthouse and into the cities of King County is more than symbolic,” he said. “It reflects our determination to bring government — at all levels — closer to the people we serve.”

King County, Constantine noted, is home to more people — about 2 million — than 14 states and Washington, D.C. The population and size create challenges and opportunities.

“Ours is a growing region, and within our reach is a unified, prosperous future,” he said. “In the civic landscape, boundaries are starting to matter less, but the effectiveness of our public institutions in a changing and dynamic environment matters even more.”

Partnerships among the county and cities is a long-term focus for the executive. (Constantine traveled to all 39 cities in the months after assuming office in November 2009.)

“So my job — our job — is to ensure that government works, and that it works for all the people — to support safe communities, accessible justice, a clean environment, the ability to get around and a chance for everyone to thrive and succeed regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the ZIP code in which they live,” he said.

County Council members applauded the executive’s focus on partnerships and prosperity.

“I appreciate the emphasis on support for transportation options and renewable energy as essential to our sustainable, shared economic prosperity,” Lambert said.

Reagan Dunn, who represents Newcastle on the council, lauded Constantine for seeking input from the council to shape policy.

“I’ve appreciated Executive Constantine’s ongoing collaborative approach in working with the council,” Dunn said in a statement. “As we move forward into the new year, it’s important that we find new ways to reform government in order to best serve our citizens.”

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