JULIA PATTERSON: Nov. 3 election marks a new day for county

Over the past year local governments faced some of the biggest challenges of our lifetime – the recession, pandemic flu, preparing for a potential flood and devastating budget shortfalls. This makes it clear how relevant elections are in determining our community’s and country’s futures. Elected officials are often the “who,” in determining “how” key decisions are made and “what” outcomes are reached.

On Nov. 3, King County voters weighed in on an election shaping the future of our region by electing Dow Constantine to serve as the next county executive. Results from the election also mean changes for residents in Renton. I think this election marks a new day for King County and I want to share what I think the recent elections results mean for you and other residents of south area cities.

Executive-elect Constantine will take over as King County faces some of the most difficult issues we have seen in recent decades. South King County is dealing with the possibility for the biggest flood the area has seen in more than 40 years. The recession will continue to impact the county’s budget negatively, meaning we will have to continue to deliver basic services with fewer and fewer resources. Public health challenges, such as H1N1 (swine flu), will put our government’s preparedness plans to the test.

The executive’s biggest test in the coming years will be addressing the county’s budget. He will need to find a way to have King County continue to provide core services, like public safety, public health and criminal justice, all on shoestring budget.

I’ve known Dow Constantine for many years. We served in the state Legislature together before both of us became King County Council members. The districts we represent are next to each other and many of our constituents, like yourselves, share similar issues. We have stood side-by-side to advocate for light rail as members of the Sound Transit board. We’ve also disagreed at times, but we have always worked together to find solutions.

Representatives from South King County are shaping the direction of the Constantine Administration. Renton’s Chief Administrative Officer Jay Covington is serving on Constantine’s transition team.

King County government is led by both the executive and the nine-member County Council. The executive is responsible for the daily administration of the County. As the legislative branch, the council oversees policies, enacts laws, and adopts the annual county budget. The council also helps the 1.8 million constituents of King County with their concerns.

Residents of South King County will also see changes closer to home as a result of the election.

Panther Lake area voters approved the annexation of their community into the City of Kent. On July 1, 2010, approximately 24,000 people will join Kent – growing the city’s population from 88,380 to 112,380 and making Kent the sixth-largest city in the state!

However, voters in the unincorporated area of Fairwood declined the opportunity to form their own city. Moving forward, Fairwood and its roughly 26,000 residents will now consider whether to annex to Renton, a process that could take about two years, or remain in unincorporated King County.

I’m excited for the future of King County. As the populations of our cities continue to grow, elected leaders will help guide the development and identity of these communities. However, government works best when everyone is involved. I encourage you stay civically engaged and connect with your elected representative year-round to make King County a great place to live, work and play.

Julia Patterson of Seatac represents the King County Council’s Fifth District, which includes part of Renton. E-mail her at julia.patterson@kingcounty.gov.

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