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Thursday, June 19, 2008

County Politics Get Interesting (Really!)

posted by on June 19 at 17:39 PM

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.

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Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | June 19, 2008 5:52 PM

I need to learn more about Phillips. I'm tired of Sims. It would be ironic if the train (light rail) he helped create flattens him. Since I've been here, the county has had many fiscal fiascos occur on his watch: millions of dollars wasted on a now-defunct computer system, Sound Transit cost overruns, huge Brightwater wastewater plant cost overruns, foolish investments, etc. It's time for Sims to go!!!

Posted by Fitz | June 19, 2008 6:05 PM

Ron's slogan should be, "there is a bus a comin'--get on board!"

Posted by i prefer a reality-based commute | June 19, 2008 6:18 PM

That was fascinating.

Posted by w7ngman | June 19, 2008 6:26 PM

I will go with Ron Sims. He is more of a loyal Democrat. Larry Phillips is in bed with the Republicans and developers.

Posted by Richard Pope | June 19, 2008 10:04 PM

(the part about it being actually interesting)

Posted by Tizzle | June 19, 2008 11:40 PM

I'll say this: Larry Phillips will stand up for Seattle's interests more than Ron Sims has.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 20, 2008 12:06 AM

Cool to Sound Transit? Sims is outwardly hostile.

Phillips on the other hand is pro-Sound Transit

Posted by Andrew | June 20, 2008 12:18 AM

"Politicians and babies both need to be changed regularly, and often for the same reasons."

Posted by Greg | June 20, 2008 7:17 AM

Change, fine. Phillips is no change. He thought Proposition 1 was great. Tool.

Posted by wanker | June 20, 2008 9:58 AM

@5: Wow, Ron snagged the coveted Richard Pope endorsement!

Posted by J.R. | June 20, 2008 2:58 PM

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