Politics County Politics Get Interesting (Really!)
posted by June 19 at 17:39 PMon
As I mentioned in my column this week, King County Executive Ron Sims is facing probable opposition in his bid for reelection from King County Council member Larry Phillips. So as you can imagine, things have been a little tense around the county courthouse. To alleviate some of the pressure, Sims recently hired consultant Heather Andersen to conduct focus groups of county staffers to, according to an email from county council chair Ross Baker, “discuss relations between the King County Council and Executive.” The consultant, the email notes, was a finalist to conduct this year’s council retreat, and “is highly regarded locally.”
Last week, though, the focus group was abruptly canceled after it came to light that the consultant Sims chose was more than just a highly qualified mediator. In fact, Andersen was a donor to Sims’s campaign—and even served as a “table captain” at Sims’s campaign kickoff at the downtown Westin this past Tuesday morning. And Andersen’s relationship with Sims goes back even further—she was the lead plaintiff in the case challenging Washington State’s Defense of Marriage Act, AKA Andersen v. Sims a lawsuit gay-marriage supporter Sims wholeheartedly encouraged.
Speaking of executive-council relations, Sims sent a frosty four-page (!) letter to King County Council members in response to a disparaging statement his likely opponent Phillips made after Sims announced a $68 million county deficit. In 2005, Phillips charged, Sims declared that “the era of big budget deficits is over”—a statement Phillips is likely to use on the campaign trail to portray Sims as asleep at the wheel while the county drove off a cliff. Sims’s letter says Phillips took that statement out of context.
I take great exception to Mr. Phillips’ statement that I have somehow jeopardized public safety funding which I have prioritized each year in my proposed budgets. His press release ignores the very next two sentences in the same speech that warn of the need for diligence. Later in the speech I say the structural deficit has not been permanently solved and highlight the need for annexations of urban unincorporated areas.
The letter goes on to quote several subsequent Sims speeches at length, and concludes,
Given Mr. Phillips’ press release, I have asked Mr. [Budget Director Bob] Cowan to make a follow-up presentation to the County Council … to provide an update on our financial status… and answer any questions councilmembers may have.
Finally, I am disappointed that this letter is even necessary. The Sheriff, the Prosecutor and the Judges did not politicize this problem or point fingers when describing the criminal justice impacts of the cuts faced by King County. Neither did I. …
For your convenience I am also attaching a copy of my full remarks from last Thursday.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Phillips has chosen to make the 2009 budget challenge a political issue as the problem was created by reality, not rhetoric. It can only be solved by creativity and collaboration, not competition and conflict.
Of course the budget is a political issue, and will continue to be so throughout the campaign.
And speaking of Sims’s reelection campaign, his kickoff reportedly featured an (unintentionally?) ironic call-and-response: “There’s a train coming! Get on board!” Sims opposed last year’s roads and transit measure and has been cool to the idea of putting Sound Transit expansion on the ballot in 2008.