Jun 23, 2021
This week Crystal talks with King County Executive Dow Constantine about his decision to run for a fourth term as County Executive. They discuss the path to Covid-19 recovery, persisting inequality in King County, the comparatively low rate of vaccination in BIPoC communities in South King County, the role of government in bailing out large private projects, campaign finance, public safety, and more.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Joe Nguyen challenging Dow Constantine for King County executive” by Melissa Santos: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/04/joe-nguyen-challenging-dow-constantine-king-county-executive
“Seattle Elections 2021: Digging deeper into voters’ top priorities” by Anne Christnovich: https://crosscut.com/inside-crosscut/2021/06/seattle-elections-2021-digging-deeper-voters-top-priorities
“King County passes $631M rescue plan for COVID recovery; Seattle unveils its $128M proposal” by Daniel Beekman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/king-county-passes-rescue-plan-spending-for-covid-19-recovery-seattle-unveils-its-proposal/
“Community Health Centers Work to Address COVID-19 Vaccine Inequity” by Sally James: https://southseattleemerald.com/2021/03/02/community-health-centers-work-to-address-covid-19-vaccine-inequity/
“Elders of Color Face Major Hurdles Getting COVID Vaccine” by Carolyn Bick: https://southseattleemerald.com/2021/03/04/elders-of-color-face-major-hurdles-getting-covid-vaccine/
“Seattle’s COVID relief money to focus on direct aid, housing” by David Kroman: https://crosscut.com/news/2021/05/seattles-covid-relief-money-focus-direct-aid-housing
“Despite criticism, King County Council gives Mariners $135M” by Manola Secaira: https://crosscut.com/2018/09/despite-criticism-king-county-council-gives-mariners-135m
“No bailout needed for Washington State Convention Center expansion, as private financing presumes economic rebound” by David Gutman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/washington-state-convention-center-expansion-secures-financing-no-longer-needs-a-bailout/
“County Exec Candidates Spar Over PACs, City Finally Funds Street Sinks” from Publicola: https://publicola.com/2021/05/25/county-exec-candidates-spar-over-pacs-city-finally-funds-street-sinks/
“A guide to political money: campaigns, PACs, super PACs” by Philip Elliott: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/a-guide-to-political-money-campaigns-pacs-super-pacs
“Police Accountability and Inquests in King County: Representing families calling for a fair and transparent process” by Leslie Brown: https://www.aclu-wa.org/story/police-accountability-and-inquests-king-county-representing-families-calling-fair-and
“King County voters have spoken: Police reform and a new sheriff are coming” by Dow Constantine: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/king-county-voters-have-spoken-police-reform-and-a-new-sheriff-are-coming/
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk to political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight in the local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and provide behind the scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Well, today we are very happy to have Dow Constantine, King County Executive, and a candidate running for reelection this year. Thanks so much for joining us Dow.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:01:02] No, thanks for inviting me on Crystal. I appreciate it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:01:05] So now you are in a competitive race. You've drawn a competitor in Senator Joe Nguyen in this case. So just starting off, why are you one running for a fourth term? Is it a fourth term this time? A fourth term and why do you feel you're up for the challenges that we're facing today?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:01:26] Well, it's an exciting moment for us. I mean, we're coming out of this sort of constellation of crises. And I think that the very fact of COVID and the economic collapse and the civil rights awakening and realization about climate change that people are coming to and many other sort of disruptions in society has created an environment where we can make a lot more progress on the issues that we've been dutifully pushing forward over the course of the last four years on equity and social justice and anti-racism on climate, on transformation in the criminal legal system and a lot more and homelessness, I guess I would say.
And so it's an exciting moment. We've made enormous strides since I've been in office, but there are these difficult issues that it was very hard to get traction on. And now we have a chance to really run the open field on them. And that is in a nutshell why I'm excited about running for another term. What was your other question?
Crystal Fincher: [00:02:42] And why you feel you're up for addressing the challenges that we're facing today? You talked about these crises. I mean, certainly with the pandemic, our economy, facing the climate, we're in a world of hurt at the moment. I mean, I guess some people are, some people have been having a great time through this pandemic.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:03:01] Yeah. Some people made out this time.
Crystal Fincher: [00:03:02] But why do you feel you're the person to take on these challenges in the next four years?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:03:08] Well, I think because I've shown that I and my team are the people who have been able to solve the tough challenges, to take on the big issues, not to simply kick the can, but to be able to create a high capacity transit system for three counties or the nation's leading early childhood development program, or tackle the COVID crisis and do a better job than just about anybody in the country, even though it landed here first.
So we are I think an arguably very good at this work and that doesn't mean the challenges are easy to stand up and knock down. But it does mean that we have the team that has proven that we can take on the tough challenges and ultimately defeat them.
Crystal Fincher: [00:03:57] So you mentioned the COVID recovery and certainly doing better than many counties across the country. On the overall rate, I guess, how would you grade yourself on your response and your leadership throughout this recovery and how do you think it's going?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:04:14] Yeah, well, there's the question of the public health response. And I think we've been in the upper tier in terms of our ability to respond to the health crisis, to keep people from contracting the virus, to get people through this. For much of this, we were, I think the top county out of the 3000 largest counties. Right now I think we're number 94 or five out of 97 in terms of the high quality of our response.
We've got San Francisco and Honolulu doing slightly better than we are in infection rate right now. But this is a real accomplishment and it's put us in a strong position for recovery. But recovery means a lot more than simply people getting physically healthy, although that's important. And we're working to make sure that we get the vaccines out to as many people as possible.
It also means rebuilding the economy in a way that is both robust and more equitable than it was before, taking on directly the issue of not just income inequality, though that's critically important, but also of creating opportunity for those who have been historically marginalized, historically left behind. And we have here in this region, the ability to connect everyone to economic opportunity that puts them in a position to do what we were all told we were going to be able to do, which is do better than our parents and our grandparents did.
And I had a really fascinating meeting about this yesterday with a group that's working to stand up a program to train and up-skill people to be able to take specific jobs in the new economy at Amazon, at Microsoft, at Google and other companies, technology jobs that will allow them a ladder to greater and greater success. That is the kind of thing that living in King county and in Central Puget Sound , that's the kind of opportunity it provides. But we've got to make the connections for people to be able to get across that divide and into those careers.
Crystal Fincher: [00:06:29] Absolutely. And talking about the public health response, I mean, certainly overall the vaccination rates are great. Right now slightly less than half of African-Americans are fully vaccinated, right at half, 50.7% of the Hispanic and Latino community are vaccinated, in South King county, only 56% of people are vaccinated. Why do you think that is? And what should you be doing to increase those numbers?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:07:03] Yeah. Well, we should be doing what we are doing and what we have been doing. Our public health department has been extremely aggressive in getting into communities that are underserved by the healthcare system and providing access to vaccines, extremely aggressive and creating partnerships with trusted community-based organizations to reach those who either are not well connected to a traditional systems, or do not trust traditional providers to give them the vaccine and to convince people to come and get the vaccine that's going to allow them to be healthy.
And we're going to continue doing that work in different modalities. It was first the mass vaccine sites that we set up in Auburn and Kent. We have a clinic with Kaiser Permanente in Federal Way and we're networking with partner organizations to bring people to that clinic, but also partnering to set up pop-ups with community-based organizations.
And we have a partnership of over 50 community-based organizations around King County helping with this, so that whether you're a community organization or a church or any kind of organization, you can have the vaccines there available for your constituency, invite people to an event. I went to a great one in Redmond with the Latinx community on the east side. And it was set up to appeal to what they themselves viewed as their constituency that was being vaccine resistant to come to be with trusted partners, to be with people they knew, to be in familiar surroundings and to have a sort of mutually supportive environment in order to take this step across into something that's a little bit unknown or about which people were weary.
I think that has got to be the approach we take in this as we move toward trying to get past those sort of disparities that have plagued this rollout nationally. And we've narrowed the disparities in King County to much, much less than they are nationally, but they still exist and they persist, and we're going to keep fighting to make sure that we're meeting people where they are and offering them information and the healthcare they need to be able to get through this thing.
Crystal Fincher: [00:09:26] So you were making a great point about the inequities that currently exist, and you have been the incumbent for the past 12 years. And as a lot of people, have observed and I think rightly that the pandemic laid bare the inequities and disparities that already existed and just really exacerbated them. And so, as someone who has been in charge of King county and King county's public health apparatus over the past 12 years, that those inequities and disparities existed on your watch and languished on your watch, do you think you own that? Do you think that you have acted sufficiently to address the inequality that we've seen in the health system that has resulted in such a hard time throughout this pandemic for so many?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:10:15] Well, it is a fact that King County has not managed to solve 400 years of racism in America yet. But we have seized from the very day I took office mantle of equity and social justice and built it from a mere idea to a commitment to an office that's actually seen in my executive office to a strategic plan and an implementation plan and the creation of our internal anti-racism core team and their production of anti-racism budget and policy agendas that we have adopted.
And this work is both internal to the county and it's 15,000 employees in our programs and external, and about all the institutions of the community. So the fact is that we have been working very vigorously and diligently toward transforming this community. And I would remind you of what we just discussed earlier, which is the notion of this moment as a breakthrough moment, a moment when we can take this work we have been doing and with a suddenly enthusiastic public broadly make rapid progress.
That is what is exciting about this moment that we've been beating our head against a wall, we've been charging into the defensive line over and over and over. And finally we see in front of us the open field we needed to run with this transformation. And so I'm very excited about it. And I really want folks to be able to better see, and hopefully this campaign will allow them the remarkable work that we have been doing over the course of my administration in equity, social justice and anti-racism.
Crystal Fincher: [00:12:09] So do you think the... I mean, I certainly think that the public is more aware and enthusiastic about addressing some of the inequities that we now see the consequences that come from letting them languish. Do you think that's the difference and being able to accomplish more than was accomplished in your prior terms is having public buy-in? Is that the big difference that you're seeing?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:12:34] Yeah. We've accomplished quite a lot in terms of building in an equity lens in everything we do and all the work that we set about to do in community. But yes, that's what matters on anti-racism, that's what matters on climate and clean water, that's what matters on criminal legal system transformation. That is what matters is getting the public to focus on the progress that we're working to make and to join in it. And this public now is really ready for it. And it is unfortunate but predictable that it takes the kinds of crises we lived through over the course of the last 15 months to make that so. But it was very clear even last summer that the public mood had changed dramatically. And I said very clearly and publicly, even at that time, this was our moment.
The door had been kicked open, that progress was possible, and we can't let it close like it did 50 years ago. For example in the, in the 1960s, when change was in the air and the opportunity to transform America and make it live up to its ideals was possible. And then Richard Nixon and his Southern strategy took everything in reverse. And that reverse lasted really for a half century. We made halting forward progress. But having the public be galvanized around the kinds of transformation this nation needs is something that's rare indeed. And we have to keep that door kicked open and put our shoulder to it and drive through.
Crystal Fincher: [00:14:11] Certainly have to drive through. Do you think that there is the possibility of heading off, I guess, a crisis that comes from the convergence of these problems and them lasting for so long? Do you think that there's a way to galvanize the public without requiring a crisis?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:14:34] There should be, but is often been repeated that with crisis comes opportunity and the opportunity of this crisis is to refocus people on the failings of our nation, the way in which our reality is so misaligned with our ideals and the story we've always told about ourselves. And I think that... I mean, just to be perfectly frank, having white America suddenly wake up to the reality, to have the scales dropped from their eyes and to see what's going on is a critical turn of events and is a chance to drive kind of real change that we have been struggling to create at King county over the course of years with our equity and social justice work.
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:23] Absolutely. Well, and you mentioned that there's an opportunity now, and there certainly is an opportunity with a lot of renewed or just new public enthusiasm to build a new normal. I mean, we touched on the recovery before, economically a lot of people who already had a lot have done spectacularly financially through this pandemic and headed where they started. [crosstalk] But we still have a lot, particularly women, particularly women of color who have lost their jobs and those jobs haven't come back, who are suffering from not having childcare that disappeared during the pandemic, people struggling still to make bills, people still who are impacted by this eviction moratorium and afraid that the past due rent that's going to come due here real soon is going to make it impossible to stay into their homes. What should you be doing? What can you do? What are you doing and what will you do to help the people who need it the most?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:16:30] Well, we are focusing all the funds that we can get from the federal government, from the state government money that we're able to scrape up locally and into a recovery package. And the council has just passed our seventh COVID supplemental, emergency supplemental measure, and I'm putting together the eighth. And the one that the council just passed, included my proposal for a $25 million for economic recovery for BIPoC and, sorry for using that generic term, and women-owned businesses that have been particularly disadvantaged during the crisis and because, and for rental assistance, the amount of between this budget, one a few weeks before to $150 million in additional rental assistance for people who are behind on the rent in King County and there will need to be more because it is humanitarian challenge to be sure if people lose their homes.
And it's also enormously more expensive to get people out of homelessness and back into a home than to keep them housed where they are. It is going to require more help from the federal government or the state government or at least more authority from the state government to the local government, which we do not have to be able to raise the funds to get people through the rest of this.
But I got to say that the key for us is having our economy functioning and functioning for everyone, rather than just those who are fortunate enough to have come here with the skills to land the kinds of jobs as economy is now offering. One of the ways in which we are responding in King County I several weeks ago signed a pro equity contracting executive order. And that is designed to give Black and Latino and Asian and Indigenous owned businesses better access to government contracts.
For example, construction contracts. We have over $100 billion of public contracts in the pipeline in King County over the course of the next couple of decades, including sound transit. And that is enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs, for skilled trades people, for generations who have been left out of the economic story of this region to be able to build a secure economic future for themselves and their families.
And as I mentioned before, these high-tech businesses just to give an example, are going to keep hiring, they're going to keep growing and we need to not simply settle for people moving here from elsewhere to take those jobs, and then squeezing people out of the housing market. We need to be much more purposeful about connecting people to the training they need, the skills they need to be able to get those jobs and to have specific jobs targeted for people who are getting skilled up right here in King County.
So it's exciting. Eddie Rye and others are helping create this organization that is going to be providing this training and making the connections to the big employers and having them figure out how to move people from where they are economically stuck across this gulf into a place of expanding economic opportunity in the businesses that are growing here in King county.
Crystal Fincher: [00:20:17] That is certainly important. And making sure people have jobs in that opportunity. I've heard your opponent mention and other people mention, in this climate where there certainly has been a significant amount that you and the King County council have authorized to go for a variety of different types of help and assistance throughout this pandemic, there were some other things that popped up that people question. Certainly before the pandemic looking at the, what was it, $135 million that wound up going to Safeco Field and people including Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said, hey, that can be going to affordable housing and should be, or the proposal to bail out the convention center with $100 million of county dollars that I think they ultimately found public (Crystal meant to say private) financing which I think a lot of people were advocating for them to do from the beginning.
With those during that time, it was certainly talked about, I'm sure you heard, hey, should we be spending it here? Is this the priority? Or should we be giving it more directly to the people who are impacted? How did you work through that? How did you rationalize that?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:21:32] So the visitor taxes, the hotel, motel taxes, the tourist taxes are supposed to go to pay for things that keep the tourism industry, the visitor industry going and creates thousands of jobs, livelihoods for people throughout the county. And baseball is about the biggest tourism thing we have. And it is a public building that has to be kept standing. But what is never said by the critics is that, back then all of this tourism business allowed us to spend some 600, I believe, $660 million on affordable housing.
It is the goose that laid the golden egg, and we need to continue to foster it because there are direct jobs in the visitor industry. And it also produces a lot more revenue that can go to the important social programs, including housing that we fund.
The Convention Center is also an enormous economic engine and employer, high quality family wage jobs, building that building. Well, over 1000 of them that were in jeopardy of ending in the middle of a pandemic. But more than that, all of the jobs operating that and the restaurants and all of the services that visitors here, thousands of visitors pay for. And that is going to keep an awful lot of people employed, allow them to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
We cannot allow these important industries to just go by the wayside and Washington state has needed a larger Convention Center for a very long time. I had to go to Olympia. I had to work the legislature over years to try to get them to allow us to expand the Convention Center. When they fail, they finally gave up and handed over control of the entire thing to the county, and we chartered a new organization.
And then we constructed a very complex real estate transaction to get that block of downtown Seattle, which was becoming obsolete as a bus depot because of the light rail taking over entirely the downtown tunnel. And then work to get the convention center construction started only to have COVID hit and have it be threatened with being shut down.
I mean, this is the work that people need to build a better life. If you go to that Convention Center and you talk with the contractors, many, many, or the laborers and the carpenters many, many of them are People of Color from marginalized communities who have been recruited into apprenticeships and then journey positions where they're able to build a better life than their parents had, where they're able to provide for their kids to buy a house, to build a secure retirement. That's what we need. That is what we need for us to really have economic justice in this county, not just very wealthy people and then a whole bunch of people scraping by. We need to have kinds of jobs that allow people to earn a solid living.
Crystal Fincher: [00:25:03] And certainly, I don't think you'll find anyone who disagrees with the need to make sure that we are protecting workers and protecting the industries that serve Seattle a lot. And you are endorsed by quite a few labor unions. So they have been seemingly very happy with how you have proceeded in your activities. I guess the question that I have would be, does the fact that they ultimately ended up finding private financing mean that maybe we should push harder on, especially entities who their backers may have more resources than the average person, to try and find private solutions for bailouts, as opposed to the public need to bail them out? How do you think about that?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:25:55] I think it is an appropriate role for government to keep important economic activity happening. And during the pandemic, the credit for projects that were funded by tourism taxes dried up because the tourism economy collapsed. But what the market learned ultimately was that that was not going to be a permanent circumstance, that visitors were going to come back and that they needed to get the Convention Center done and it was a good investment.
But there was a period when they needed the guarantee of money in order to be able to keep people employed and not have to mothball the project. So this is where, I guess this is sort of taking a step back here, this is where you find the difference between sort of ideology and the reality in which we have to work. And the reality in which I have to work is real people with real jobs and real hard choices.
Yeah, sure. I would, of course love to be able to just pursue a sort of utopian vision. But the fact is that we have real-world constraints that we have to figure out how to deal with. And the trick has been to figure out how to keep our values front and center to have our budgeting and our policy follow those values. And we've been I think unarguably very successful at that.
Crystal Fincher: [00:27:16] Well, I think in that vein, there's another issue about values and practicality that has popped up in this campaign about campaign finance and whether it is good and okay. Your opponent made a pledge to not accept PAC dollars or corporate PAC dollars, I think he termed it. And you made the point in a forum, I think it was, hey, it looks like you have accepted PAC donations, which led to a conversation about while it was a different kind of pack or an association.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:27:57] Yeah, it's splitting hairs. It is posturing and splitting hairs.
Crystal Fincher: [00:28:04] So how do you view who donates to you and what that says about where you stand and the influence that they have?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:28:15] Well, I think my record is absolute proof of where I stand and you may agree with it, you may disagree with it, but it is very clear, well-documented and I think my record shows that I am pro environment that I'm pro labor, that I'm pro equity, that I'm pro transit mobility. And I've not just said those things out loud, I've actually done the heavy lifting to make them real. And so if he is afraid that he will be influenced by PAC donations then fine by me, if he doesn't want to accept donations, I know who I am. I know what I stand for. I know the work I've done. And I do think that if he is going to say, he's not going to accept PAC donations or corporate PAC donations or corporate association PAC donation or whatever it is, he should at least be consistent. And I don't think he has been.
Crystal Fincher: [00:29:21] Consistency is key. We were looking back and we've also interviewed Senator Nguyen and he mentioned as we were talking about this, because I asked him, and we had a conversation about, hey, is it really different? Are they special interests ultimately? It does seem like splitting hairs.
But he brought up, hey, this is after $750,000 of expenditures in this race. And I actually thought he misspoke, but looking back at it, you received over $300,000 in contributions in 2018, over $400,000 almost $400,000, $398,000, in 2019, $142,000 in 2020, $479,000 in 2021. Now first, fundraisers are just excited about this and yours has done an excellent work.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:30:15] $175,000 last month.
Crystal Fincher: [00:30:16] You are a fundraising juggernaut, but you've also spent in 2018, $233,000, in 2019, $312,000, 2020, $77,000. Before you ever drew an opponent, you are comfortable and lots of people would argue, you are a comfortable incumbent. What do you think that says about the state of campaign finance? What are you spending that on in the campaign in the first place? And do you think that is a healthy ecosystem when you're not, I guess in essence, publicly campaigning, in the sense when you look at a lot of the other local elected officials who run campaigns in the years or maybe the year before they run a campaign, but spending multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars on off years? Does that just seem it's kind of a campaign industrial complex? Do you feel like that's healthy?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:31:15] Well, I mean, there definitely is a campaign industrial complex, there are all these consultants out there, including my opponents consultants who are building a living figuring out how to make money off of campaigning.
Crystal Fincher: [00:31:29] I mean hey, I'm a consultant too. I'm not knocking it all, but man, those are eye popping numbers.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:31:34] Stuff costs money. I had an amusing conversation just before we started this podcast where the very leftist political candidate who was calling me, asking for my help in raising money and about the fact that no matter how pure your beliefs, everything costs. People who do work need to be able to keep a roof over their heads. People who have expertise deserve to be paid for it. People who contribute their time should be fairly compensated and they don't deliver mail for free and they don't carry your video for free. None of that stuff's free, nothing's free. And this is a county of 2.3 million people. So this is larger than 15 states. So it is an expensive proposition, is also a very big job with over 15,000 employees and over $12 billion budget.
And as I said 2.3 million people to account for. It is painting on a very large canvas, so it does end up costing money. Yeah. And I don't like having to raise money, I find it painful. I'm sort of by nature an introvert, the act of having to pick up the telephone and ask someone to donate is excruciating. I don't like going to events, I find it exhausting. But the fact is that that's what you have to do. That is what you need to do in order to be able to serve. And if you're not willing to do it, then you can't build a three county light rail system or create the nation's leading early childhood development program. So is it worth it? I don't know. But it is what you got to do in order to be able to do the good work.
Crystal Fincher: [00:33:29] Sure. And speaking of the hard work and the tough work, public safety has certainly been an issue that a lot of different jurisdictions have been tackling in a variety of different ways or not tackling for some jurisdictions. King County recently voted to stop electing the Sheriff and making it appointed. There have been a number of high profile incidences within the King County Sheriff's department and calls very vocally recently from a broad swath of the public. And looking at the vote for those charter amendments, it looks like the majority of King county wants to see some substantive reform. In looking at that, do you one, agree that there's a need for substantive reform? What are your plans for that reform and why do you think that was not as urgent a need to act on before in the prior 12 years?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:34:30] Well, I mean, I don't know that anybody thought it wasn't an urgent need. So long before the Sheriff's issue was on the ballot, it was long before this sudden awakening in America, around the reality of police violence and Black Lives Matter that we undertook to completely upend and rewrite the system of inquests in officer involved deaths in King County. I did that sitting at the table with the bereaved families of those who died at the hands of police.
And when we did that, we did it to remove this situation where we got to the end of the process and the police officer was asked, well, did you fear for your life? And that police officer inevitably said, yes, I feared for my life, that's why I shot. And then it was used as some sort of exoneration, subjective fear, and we turned it into a process that would reveal whether that officer followed their training. And if so, whether their training was in fact flawed, whether the policies and the procedures, the equipping of those officers has to be changed by the responsible agency, whichever agency it is.
And when we did that with these families, I think we created a really enlightened and forward looking process. One that is directed at figuring out how we can change the use of force, the use of force by police officers. And we were immediately sued by the Seattle Police Department by my own King County Sheriff's office, by police agencies all around the county, who said they shouldn't be forced to comply with this. And it's before the Supreme Court now.
I'm really pleased that we did such good work, but it's only the beginning and getting those charter amendments passed to allow me to take control of the Sheriff's Office is an important step forward.
We've even panel the community group that is going to be the core of our community co-creation of the new duties and structure of the Sheriff's Office, and will help me identify the person who will be the next Sheriff accountable to me and to the Council and to the people. And we will be taking over as well the hiring, the firing the discipline in the Sheriff's office. But there's a lot more than that, and we can talk about this forever.
I'm very convinced that as a society and certainly within King County we need to narrow the scope of problems. Of course, the police are called and broaden the availability of public health and human service interventions to help unwind conflict and communities to help individuals who are having behavioral health challenges. And I've deployed in the courthouse area, a 24 hour days, seven day a week team, behavioral health team to do just that, to go out, to engage those who are having behavioral health challenges on the streets, to get them inside, to get them to treatment, the help they need to keep them from being in harm's way and to help them make halting steps forward on the road to recovery. That's possible to do in other communities too.
Crystal Fincher: [00:37:59] I think that's positive. I guess the thing is, with the inquest process, it doesn't actually have any accountability at the end of it. It's a fact finding exercise. Knowing the facts is absolutely necessary, but what's the connection between finding out those facts and actual accountability. And in a way, go ahead.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:38:19] The authority rests with the agency that employs the police. So if it was a King County Sheriff's deputy involved, that exercise where we found out whether or not they follow their training or whether it was the training and procedures themselves that were flawed, would then land back in the lap of the person in this case right now, the Sheriff, these separately elected Sheriff, but later the appointed Sheriff and the Executive to fix.
And the same thing is true if it is a city police department like Kent or Seattle. But the county does not have the ability to go sanction the city of Kent for their officer's actions. However, the prosecuting attorney, if he finds that a crime has been committed can bring criminal charges as our prosecutor has in the case of the city of Auburn.
Crystal Fincher: [00:39:11] Well, and I guess the ultimate question is with King County Sheriff's deputies in your capacity as King County Executive what responsibility do you have to ensure that there is actual accountability and what are your plans for that?
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:39:28] Well, I'm excited about having the opportunity to create that accountability starting January 1st. So I'm excited that we are now finally going to be able to move forward on the pilot for body-worn cameras, but I want to make them permanent and ubiquitous. I want all officers to have cameras on them, and I want the cameras to be on whether they're in the unincorporated area or in the many cities that contract with King county, because I don't think anybody should be afraid of the truth.
I am wanting us to get through, and I wish that the current sheriff would get through the huge backlog of disciplinary actions. I want us to be able to negotiate, which they have not succeeded in doing, the ability for the office of law enforcement oversight to have real teeth so that we have an agency that can independently not the internal investigations, one that can independently assess what has happened in police use of force and take corrective action.
There are a whole bunch of opportunities that come with the public's embrace of these charter amendments. And I do not think that before George Floyd, before last year, the public would have been ready to make this change, but it is one that I've been advocating a long time, and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to move forward on. And now these, I talked earlier about the big difficult issues transforming the criminal legal system, which is fundamentally flawed all across this country is an opportunity for King County not just to fix things here, but to provide models that can be followed by other jurisdictions to begin to create the change we want to see in our nation.
And that is as you can tell, I'm talking excitedly about this. That is the reason I want to run for reelection, that we have the chance to do things that weren't possible even a year and a half ago or that were going to happen very slowly, haltingly, at a great glacial pace. We have the chance to run the field and I want to do it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:34] Well, this is certainly an interesting and exciting race. It is great to be able to hear in detail your plans and the progress that you've been able to make, and your stance on, on all of these issues that are pressing. And we thank you for spending the time with us today. Thank you so much.
Executive Dow Constantine: [00:41:55] Thanks for having me.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:57] Thank you for listening to Hacks and Wonks. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled, F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. And now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in Hacks and Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced during the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.