King County Executive – Dow Constantine

Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Dow Constantine
  • Position Sought: King County Executive (Incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 34
  • Democrat: Yes

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I was raised by public school teachers in West Seattle, and now I’m raising my daughter here, too. I graduated from West Seattle High School and the University of Washington, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Master’s Degree in Urban Planning, and Law Degree. I’m a former member of the Alaska Fisherman’s Union.
I’ve been a licensed attorney for 30 years and was a PCO and Chair of the 34th Democrats before winning election to Washington’s House of Representatives in 1996 and the Senate in 2000. I joined the King County Council in 2002, and in 2009 defeated future Republican state chair Susan Hutchison for the office of King County Executive.
As Executive, I have made our progressive values and Democratic ideals real, in policy and practice, creating a forward-thinking, responsive government in pursuit of our True North: To make King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive.
And so, I have led the COVID-19 response, based on science; created Health through Housing; established the Regional Homelessness Authority; created the Land Conservation Initiative, the Clean Water Healthy Habitat Initiative, and a nation-leading Climate Action Plan; elevated Equity and Social Justice and an ESJ Plan that leads with racial justice; bolstered Metro service, launched full fleet electrification, and led creation of Sound Transit 3; and created Best Starts for Kids.

2. What prompted you to run for this office? What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?

The past year has been largely focused on our public health approach to COVID, and I’m proud and relieved that as a community and a government we had a strong response. The New York Times recently reported that if the nation had followed King County’s lead, we could have saved an additional 300,000 lives.
This year I’ve also been working on a new Strategic Climate Action Plan, an expanded Best Starts for Kids levy program, our Zero Youth Detention Plan and criminal legal system reform, and a $600 million American Rescue Plan to tackle the health and economic impacts of COVID. My Rescue Plan proposal includes funding for rental assistance, food security, and grants for the arts economy, job training programs, and BIPOC-led businesses. I want to see those programs through to implementation, and so I’m asking for your vote again.

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I’m excited by our campaign. We have a great team with diverse perspectives and experience. The outpouring of public support and encouragement has been phenomenal. We have over $300,000 cash on hand, and have earned the early endorsements of MLK Labor; SEIU 6, 775, 925, and 1199NW, Teamsters 117 and 174, and Laborers 242; Governors Inslee, Gregoire and Locke; over 40 Democratic current and former state legislators – including the vast majority of King County’s delegation; the majority of the County Council; and mayors representing over two-thirds of King County’s city residents.

Our path to victory includes highlighting our unprecedented accomplishments – but more importantly showing the remarkable opportunities presented by this moment to drive rapid transformation and advance our vision for a better community and nation – through significant outreach to voters.

Part II – Local Issues

1. Would you support the establishment of a safe injection site in your district?


Addiction and public health experts on our Opioid Task Force included this as one of a dozen or more recommendations to reduce harm from opioids. They proposed that a site, monitored by health professionals, could both prevent deaths from overdose and present opportunities for education, intervention and treatment. The County’s policy is not to place one of these sites in a city unless there’s local support. Predictably, safe consumption sites have been vehemently opposed by many, who view substance addiction as primarily a moral failing – a belief unsupported by science.

2. Would you support the administration and police force in your jurisdiction adopting a sanctuary policy, forbidding the sharing of local resources and labor with ICE?


Yes (unless required by state or federal law). It is the policy and law of King County that government agents do not inquire into immigration status when providing services or otherwise interacting with the public. When it was uncovered that ICE was using Boeing Field (a county-owned air field) to deport undocumented immigrants, I signed an executive order aimed at eliminating the practice. The Trump Administration sued me for this, but we stood strong in our values.

3. Do you support raising revenue at the city level to expand transit service?


As Board Chair of Sound Transit, I led the creation of the $54 billion investment for Sound Transit 3 which will add 62 miles of light rail, as well as new bus and heavy rail service. This was a regional level tax (through motor vehicle excise, property, and sales) that the voters approved overwhelmingly in King County.
When the countywide measure to increase Metro funding and service failed, amid misinformation and strong opposition from our local newspaper, I worked with the City of Seattle to allow those voters to approve a local city transit measure. While I strongly support cities stepping up to fund transit locally, I remain committed to working toward ultimately returning to a county-wide measure so that we can ensure robust transit in all communities, not just in Seattle.

4. Should transportation policy discourage the use of private automobiles and encourage the use of public-transit?


Yes. The best way to encourage the use of public transit is to make it accessible and affordable! I’ve been working on this issue my entire time in office, and we’ve made dramatic progress. Ranked the best large transit system in North America in 2018, King County Metro ridership grew while other systems nationally were shrinking, and Sound Transit ridership has increased extraordinarily – with Northgate link opening in October. Our area has led the nation in ridership growth among the largest US metro areas. I led the creation of ORCA Lift, or reduced fare card for low income residents (five million rides so far), and we have just introduced a free fare card for those who need it.

5. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction?


6. Do you support requiring police officers in your jurisdiction to wear body cameras?


My office recently took over the negotiations with law enforcement unions that were previously done by the Sheriff so that we could push on issues exactly like body cameras. We are currently in negotiations on this topic, and I do strongly support requiring every officer to wear them.

7. Do you support repealing Tim Eyman’s I-747, which artificially limits property tax increases to 1% per year, regardless of population growth, inflation, and need?


This is at the top of our legislative agenda every year.

8. Should government assist individuals, and families who are without sufficient food, shelter, or basic necessities through no fault of their own?


I was elected during a global financial crisis, when the world learned the hard way that austerity is exactly the wrong approach for governments during an economic downturn. When the economy slumps, government needs to step up. As the pandemic and recession have unfolded, I’ve maintained critical county services and jobs, explored new revenue options, and used the county’s credit to keep workers working. I have also introduced a $600 million recovery plan that includes major funding infusions for rental assistance, food security, jobs and job training, and BIPOC-led business success.

9. Should the wages paid to workers in Washington State be raised incrementally towards the goal of living wages?


10. Will you seek opportunities to mitigate the human activities that are contributing to disastrous climate change?


Part III – Free Response

1. Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I am a life-long Democrat. My parents were public school teachers and they showed me the importance of worker solidarity, that every person has value, and that compassion should be at the heart of every action. These are Democratic values. I’ve been a Democratic PCO, District Chair, County and State Committee Member, elected leader, and non-stop volunteer, and I will continue to champion our values and priorities. Some aspects of our platform that are most dear to me are civil rights (my multiracial family would have been illegal in many parts of the US not too many years ago, and my wife and I waited to get married until we *all* could) and curbing climate change (my first foray into politics was when my brother and I fought to protect a wooded ravine near our childhood home).

2. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the media?

The push to move investments upstream, particularly in regards to child care and early childhood development. I led the development of Best Starts for Kids – the most comprehensive child development program in the nation – so kids reach kindergarten healthy and ready to learn, and youth reach young adulthood prepared to succeed. In the first years of BSK, we opened three new school clinics that provide students with free medical, dental, and mental health services. We’ve worked with 500 community-based organizations, and provided grants to 17 non-profits specializing in working with low-income communities across King County that had established relationships serving immigrants; Hispanic, Somali, and Asian families; LGBTQ; and children with disabilities. This year I’m proposing expanding BSK to include subsidized, quality child care for 3,000 children whose families can’t afford it. The renewal levy will add in more for child and family homelessness prevention and after school programs, as well as a pilot program to supplement the pay of caregivers and retain qualified workers.

3. Please list up to three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis.

The economic boom of our region has been great for some — but for many others it has combined with our racist zoning laws, gentrification, and lack of progressive revenue streams for human services to leave folks with no home and no safety net.
As County Executive I led the creation of the Regional Homelessness Authority to align the emergency response work of King County and the City of Seattle, to regionalize it by bringing in the other 38 King County cities, and to inform it with the authentic voices of those with lived experience.
Bringing folks experiencing homelessness inside: My Health through Housing initiative includes $350 million to purchase some 1600 hotel rooms and other single room settings, and funding for the services to bring people in from chronic homelessness, keep them housed, and help them begin to reclaim their lives. We will also fund services in City of Seattle-provided apartments.

Using federal funds, I also recently announced the creation of hundreds of enhanced, 24-hour shelter units, with onsite services, restroom facilities, and security, as a first step inside for those living in tents and encampments. We will also provide parking with security, electricity and sewer service for at least 50 people living in RVs, some bricks-and-mortar new construction apartments, and dozens of manufactured cottages. In addition, I have proposed 300 housing vouchers to accompany several hundred jobs for those who have been experiencing homelessness. I am also creating a 24/7 behavioral health street team for the Pioneer Square area.

Preventing homelessness through affordable housing: Fundamentally, homelessness is caused by a lack of housing. We need to permit more housing in urban areas, which are mostly within incorporated cities, with more housing styles and, where necessary, subsidy to provide for a range of incomes. Redlining, exclusionary zoning, and lending practices in a racially biased economy have all, by design and effect, resulted in still-largely segregated neighborhoods. To secure housing, people – and disproportionately people of color – are pushed farther from jobs. Black, Indigenous and Latinx residents are overrepresented in the unsheltered population. Excessive limits on density, especially near transit, prevent responding to the affordable housing crisis, exacerbate transportation costs, reduce economic opportunity and are, in operation and result, racist. I will continue to expand affordable housing and housing options and insist our 39 cities in King County do the same.

Fighting for progressive revenue options: Unfortunately, so many of our current options for generating revenue are regressive in nature. I will continue to push the Legislature to upend and replace our tax system with one that is adequate, stable, good for jobs and, most of all, fair – meaning everyone pays their share based on how much they have. With such a system, our region and state could provide all the infrastructure and services people need to thrive without anyone being overburdened.

4. What are the barriers to economic prosperity faced by residents in your jurisdiction, and how do you plan to address them?

We know that not everyone starts in the same place. Many of our youth begin taking on debt in early adulthood (in particular, taking out loans to get a college education or a vehicle) while others who come from financially well-off families are able to go debt-free and immediately begin saving for the future. For many families, a lack of generational wealth comes from decades of racist financial policy and bank practices. I’m dedicated to creating opportunities for every King County resident to achieve economic security and prosperity.
Good jobs and living wages: In 2014 I signed into law a living wage ordinance, which covers our public works contractors and 15,000 employees — and in 2015, King County became one of the first public employers in the United States to offer up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. While we know folks working in tech and marketing at prosperous local companies are paid adequately, we need to ensure that the same can be said for janitors, food court staff, and warehouse workers. A large part of backing up workers is supporting their unions and right to organize — I’m proud to be endorsed by MLK Labor Council and unions representing grocery workers, carpenters, construction workers, nurses, home care workers, janitors, and many more.
Child care: Washington State has the 6th-most expensive child care in the country. For many families it is cheaper to have a parent stay home and out of the workforce (even if they want and need to be in it) than to pay for child care. This year I’ve proposed to voters that the Best Starts for Kids levy include funding for 3,000 subsidized, quality childcare slots, with additional funding to help recruit and retain dedicated childcare workers.
Affordable housing: Details in previous answer!

5. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face this jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does rail play in your proposed solutions?

Ranked the best large transit system in North America in 2018, King County Metro ridership grew while other systems nationally were shrinking, and Sound Transit ridership has increased extraordinarily – with Northgate link opening in October. Our area has led the nation in ridership growth among the largest US metro areas.
But of course, there’s always more to do. Some of our biggest challenges are creating equitable transit-oriented development so folks can live conveniently close to transit, the race against the clock as we continue increasing in population and transit needs, and mitigating carbon emissions from individual vehicles and our public transportation systems. I am moving aggressively to electrify the entire Metro bus fleet.

Rail plays a large part in my plan for our region. I am proud that as chair of Sound Transit I led the creation of Sound Transit 3 — a $54 billion investment in truly regional rail. I have also fought to protect and expand Metro service to all communities, and maintain service throughout the pandemic. I also made transit fares match the riders’ ability to pay: The ORCA LIFT card which provides reduced fare for those who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Five million ORCA LIFT rides have already been used. And we have introduced a new assistance program with free fares for those with very low incomes – up to 80% of the federal poverty level. I am also working extensively on partnering with responsible housing builders to create energy efficient transit oriented development – mixed use housing and retail near transit facilities and stations, further reducing the impacts of where we live and work, and how we get around.

6. What are your jurisdiction’s environmental issues, which ones are urgent and what will you do to address them?

Just this week the County Council approved my new five-year Strategic Climate Action Plan update (SCAP) that serves as a roadmap to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half in this decade, prepare the region for climate impacts, and elevate climate equity through the voices of frontline communities.
Carbon emissions:
Transportation emissions are the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in WA state. Over the past decade I have been the region’s strongest, most passionate, and most effective voice for transit expansion and access, replacing tens of thousands of cars on our roadways and millions of auto-dependent trips with clean, affordable light rail and buses. In 2018, I was recognized as a national leader in the transition to 100% electric fleets. And I initiated the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, which helped precipitate PSE’s Green Direct portfolio, and I made King County a founding subscriber to Green Direct, helping shift PSE off two Montana coal-fired units. I also launched the King County Regional Code Collaboration, to green the built environment, and led the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, battling coal and oil ports and rail up and down the West Coast.

Climate Impacts:
The SCAP includes the launch of the 3 Million Trees initiative, increasing tree canopy, accelerating land conservation, and preparing forests for climate impacts. Our 30-year Forest Plan seeks to make forests healthier and more resilient to climate change.

Climate justice:
As we break down racist structures and policies in King County, we have pursued policies and projects that quite literally build access and equity, improve connectivity, and address issues of land use and pollution that have perpetuated disparate environmental impacts. My Land Conservation Initiative seeks to protect additional forest lands while also creating accessible green space in underserved communities.

7. Does your district have a taxing authority or propose levies and what changes, if any, would you seek?

Yes. King County has limited authority to propose levies.
This year I have proposed and the County Council has placed on the ballot a renewal and expansion of our Best Starts for Kids levy. Over the last six years, this levy has prevented family homelessness, kept kids healthy and in school, and reduced juvenile interactions with law enforcement and detention. With approval this year, we will also meet the urgent need for quality, affordable childcare for families desperately in need of assistance and recovery.
Unfortunately, State law limits the County’s funding sources so we must primarily rely on property taxes. While I’m pleased to finally see some progress on capital gains, Washington’s tax code remains terribly unfair to lower income and working people, while also inadequate to the public need for services and infrastructure. I will continue fighting for tax reform based on the principle that everyone should contribute based on their ability to pay.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name: Dow Constantine

Date: 05/05/2021

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