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Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor

Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

October 14, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Just Fix It: King County

Posted by Letters editor

We don’t need a navy

Editor, The Times:

I find it difficult to believe there is a budget crisis in King County. Not because of the numbers, but because of what has not been cut.

As long as King County is running a ferry district and those silly little Alki passenger-only ferry boats with a subsidy of more than $375,000 per month, we don’t have a budget crisis.

Until [County Executive] Dow Constantine is willing to close down King County’s navy and put his toy boats away, there is no “crisis.” The only financial difficulty in King County is prioritization of resources.

— Art Valla, Kirkland

Unincorporated areas ignored

King County has one problem: Metro King County government. This fact has a tendency to bring about negative political and economical problems for all county citizens. With the majority of the council and citizen power in Metro King County’s pocket, the unincorporated King County citizens have absolutely no say in the county’s destiny.

If I hadn’t lived in King County for 42 years I would say the economy has caused this negativity. However, in that time the county government economic ups and downs had no affect on it, slowly pushing the unincorporated portions further from their thoughts except to blame them for land overcrowding and not paying enough taxes.

Disregarding the obviously unwanted Cedar Hills Landfill and the Cedar Grove composting odors, there still is the removal of transit availability, poor maintenance of roads, the putting off sewage and liquid waste removal and almost no council representation.

These problems will not go away without equalization of voter power within county. Unincorporated King County citizens should have the power to determine their destiny.

— Jim Morris, Renton

Let park volunteers use power tools

My recommendation is for King County to create a better mechanism to allow community volunteers to help out in local parks.

As a volunteer park ambassador for Ring Hill Forest near Duvall, I know firsthand that all park maintenance work performed by volunteers in our park — from cutting away overgrown brush to removing giant logs from trails — must be done with hand saws and clippers, according to the rules for park volunteers.

The result of that is wildly overgrown trails — in our local park and others all over the county — that county residents can’t use without getting stung by nettles and scratched by sticker bushes. If my neighbors and I could maintain our local trail with a weed-whacker and lawnmower, it would take a tenth the time it takes by hand, or less.

Officials are quick to explain that there are safety concerns with power equipment. I suggest that King County officials create a mechanism to train and permit a core of key, accountable, responsible volunteers who could sign liability waivers and be able to use power tools. There are many people who want to take up the slack and help out. But we can’t keep all these trails in walkable shape with a few pairs of clippers.

Let’s be clear: Volunteers would not be taking over good jobs from paid county employees. But doesn’t it make sense to use all these ready volunteers to expand the reach of what King County already does? Isn’t now a good time for us to help take up the slack? Use us! We want to help.

— Lilette Player, Woodinville

Creative new revenue and accountability

Revenue:

— Create trust funds for roads, health and welfare, safety, schools and other specified government services. Allow revenue-enhancing tax deductible contributions and lottery purchase to be used solely for specified funds.

— Establish a bipartisan committee of scholars, business and government to:

a) study governmental entities that have been successful in attracting businesses. Recommend findings and offer new programs.

b) Review and eliminate unnecessary and injurious business regulations.

— Increase incentives to attract business, tourist and convention operations. E.g., upon guaranteed minimum employment or attendance, offer subsidies, lower tax, increased services, advertising, etc.

— Establish patents and copyrights to publications, inventions and discoveries developed by public employees at public schools, universities and other government operations.

— Establish contests for innovations with rights to be given to the county and sold to private bidders.

Expenses:

— Eliminate collective bargaining and arbitration for public employees except on issues of working conditions.

— Subject all increases in public employee wages to public referendum.

— Establish a program to reward employees for approved and implemented cost-cutting recommendations.

— Create a permanent, preferably independent private oversight department to monitor government programs for issues of waste and inefficiency. Submit quarterly reports on revenues, expenditures and appropriate recommendations.

— Open all county projects to public bidding and outlaw any requirement to pay union or other baseline amounts.

— Elliott Alhadeff, Sammamish

Cut patrol boats

Right now the King County Sheriff’s Office operates marine patrol boats on Lake Washington. Why?

The boating season runs from July 5th till Labor Day weekend. But the kids go back to school in late August. After Aug. 25, there is no one to patrol on Lake Washington.

Lake Washington is active less than eight weeks a year, but the King County sheriff’s expenses go on for 52 weeks a year.

The King County Sheriff’s Office has two patrol boats both with three 100-horsepower-plus outboard engines and another $250,000 worth of electronics. To do what? Arrest all the drug runners between Mercer Island and Seattle? Hassle the boat raft ups in Andrews Bay and Juanita Bay? Why does a King County patrol boat need three outboards on each boat? Why does King County have over $1 million in boats, equipment and marina storage costs, plus salaries, disability insurance, pensions and health care? So two sheriff deputies can spend the day on the water in the sunshine looking at boaters in bikinis?

This is a luxury cherry-picking marine patrol job that King County can no longer afford.

— Bill Wassmer, Kirkland

Prioritize the budget

The problem with King County and every other government is that they are trying to do everything for everyone.

In every budget, you have to go from the most important to the least important. The county should go back to the charter and see what is mandated.

Things like fire, police and Medic One should be fully funded! The things that should be cut are things like food for the council members at their meetings or mileage paid for them to go to the meetings.

Start looking at the pennies and where they are going. Go back to the basics. Live within your budget and only do what you are mandated to do, no more.

— Steven Lindstrom, Auburn

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Good ideas but it takes guts to implement. Do we have any in public service who have the guts to move forward?  Posted on October 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM by Reader Kirkland. Jump to comment

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