Before a backdrop of organ pipes and pews packed with political allies and foes alike, newly sworn-in King County Executive Dow Constantine took the pulpit at the former First United Methodist Church downtown to a standing ovation.
"I would suggest that you sit down because this speech has eight pages to it," he began. Cue audience laughter. But Constantine didn't need eight pages to spell out his ambitious agenda for King County in the next four years. In a minute and a half he rattled seven major goals for his administration, some of which the county has little, if any, jurisdiction over."We must fulfill our promise to voters and expand light rail," Constantine declared. To the "must do" list he added investing in clean energy jobs and green building, and redoubling the county's efforts to compete for aerospace jobs. He also plans to make transit line up more closely with development, clean up Puget Sound, and "tackle climate change."
If he manages to do it all in the next four years, he can run for King of Seattle.
Constantine's inauguration did feel a bit like a coronation. Longtime political establishment types including Congressional Representative Jay Inslee and former County Executive rival Larry Phillips were in the audience. So was champion of the hipsters and political rookies City Attorney-elect Pete Holmes. Even the soon-to-be-former Mayor Greg Nickels and his deputy Tim Ceis came to watch Constantine take the oath of office.
"I'm really proud of him," Nickels said after Constantine's speech. Nickels brought Constantine into the county in the first place when he left the council to become mayor eight years ago. Asked about the rather high bar Constantine was setting for himself, Nickels said: "You need to be ambitious. I have every confidence that he can do it."
While Constantine's agenda for the county may seem a little overly-idealistic what with his plan to save the economy and the environment in four short years, the packed house suggests he'll have at least some help. And he'll need every ally he can get to have even a shot at making progress on any of those fronts, particularly since the county has no direct control over light rail and the primary negotiator with that one big aerospace company (aka Boeing) was the state.
As for the next 100 days, Constantine punted largely to another former rival and his new Deputy Executive, Fred Jarrett, who has long pushed for corporate-inspired performance measures of county programs. Constantine says Jarrett will begin implementing those measures within the government while he will "forge the innovative partnerships needed to address the critical issues immediately before us."
It sounds a lot like Susan Hutchison's campaign pledge of bringing people to the table to solve problems, but with a $60 million deficit on the horizon, there isn't a whole lot else that Constantine can do at the county at the moment. So bringing people to the table and setting lofty, if unrealistic, goals will have to do for now.