King County Executive’s new idea to help unincorporated areas: Department of Local Services
Annexation doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, but unincorporated North Highline (and other parts of the county) still need services. So King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced this new idea:
Executive Constantine today proposed combining the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) with various other County functions to create a new department focused on the needs of the unincorporated areas, including Redmond Ridge, East Federal Way, Fairwood and East Renton, North Highline, Skyway, White Center, and West Hill.
Along with DPER, the proposed Department of Local Services could include:
• Road Services and Airport Divisions of the Department of Transportation,
• Community Service Area program of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks,
• On-site Septic System and Plumbing & Gas Piping programs from the Environmental Health Division of Public Health-Seattle & King County.
“The quarter-million people who live in Unincorporated King County make up what would be the state’s second-largest city, with its own particular challenges and priorities,” said Executive Constantine. “The Department of Local Services will improve how we provide direct and contracted services, including roads, public safety, clean water, and access to opportunity. The department director will have a seat on my cabinet to ensure we bring a focus on performance and accountability to all that we do for the residents of Unincorporated King County.”
The Executive named Harold Taniguchi, Director of the King County Department of Transportation, to manage the transition to the new organization pending the appointment of a Cabinet-level leader reporting directly to the Executive.
“We will be reaching out to residents of unincorporated King County to get their insights on how we can improve customer service and develop accountability and performance measures to better serve them,” said Taniguchi. “As we navigate our way through this process, we will be working closely with our valued employees and their respective unions to ensure a smooth and positive transition.”
The proposal calls for establishing the new Department effective Jan. 1, 2019, on the same date that the Executive has proposed Metro Transit to become a standalone department. Existing revenues could fund the Department of Local Services.
“I am excited, eager, and proud to see the Executive respond to residents in the unincorporated areas and reform how we deliver the services they need and deserve,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, whose district serves a wide area of urban and rural northeast King County. “I look forward to working with him on the creation of a department that can oversee the quality of services for our urban unincorporated and rural residents, and monitor to ensure their proper delivery.”
King County is the local service provider for roughly 250,000 people in the unincorporated areas of the county; taken together, Unincorporated King County would be the second-largest city in the state.
Senior Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett led an internal initiative that studied ways to improve how the county delivers direct and contracted services, including roads, public safety, clean water, and increased access to opportunities.
More details will be addressed in the formal legislation the Executive plans to send in February to the King County Council, and in the development of the Executive Proposed Budget for the 2019-2020 biennium. The Council has the statutory authority for establishing Executive departments, and for adoption of the County budget.
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January 23rd, 2018 at 11:49 am
I thought Seattle and King Co. were gearing-up to put the annexation of White Center to a vote sometime in the next couple years. Did I miss an update?
January 23rd, 2018 at 10:25 pm
The process is somewhat stalled, last we checked, as it was in queue after the South Park-area annexation was completed, and that one bogged down. That said, we have not yet asked the new mayor post-election whether she intends to pursue it.
January 25th, 2018 at 3:59 pm
With all the stuff the Seattle City Council has
on its plate, we here in North Highline should
just stay quiet.
January 26th, 2018 at 11:21 am
I hope this becomes an opportunity for better engagement between local communities and our local government. On the other hand, we could be in for more clueless treatment from the King County echo chamber.
This development certainly bears watching and involvement to the extent possible to advocate for the community.