King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed creating a new department to improve the delivery of county services to residents in both urban and rural unincorporated areas, including Vashon.
The effort is only recently underway and is based on the work that Senior Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett led, which evaluated how King County could improve a range of services, including those related to roads, public safety, clean water and economic opportunity. King County’s Alan Painter, who manages the county’s Community Service Area Program, said relevant issues for the department would be broad and relevant to the island as a whole. For example, the controversy over the rumble strips, from some years ago, would have been a good one for the department, he said, as would potential concerns about the development of K2.
Painter noted the head of the proposed Department of Local Services would be a cabinet-level position and would report directly to Constantine.
“It would be a great place for issues for Vashon or any unincorporated area to be raised more quickly and at the highest level,” he said.
Harold Taniguchi, the director of King County’s Department of Transportation, is overseeing the transition. He noted that county officials will visit the island in the coming months to hear about what issues islanders believe are important. He added that each of the unincorporated areas has different needs and priorities, and county officials are mindful of that.
“If we do not do this very well, we will come across as being tone deaf to communities’ priorities,” he said, adding, “The key is to really listen and better understand and have more of the local presence … come forward.”
In the meantime, he noted that the county has set up a designated email address for gathering input: asklocalservices@king
“We welcome suggestions for the new department, issues in your community you wish us to think about and general questions you may have as we plan the transition to the new department,” he said.
This email option is not intended to replace communication channels for individual issues, such as reporting potholes, but if those types of requests are sent, they will be forwarded appropriately.
Constantine’s proposal for the new department, which must be approved by the King County Council, calls for it to be established effective Jan. 1 of next year.