Monthly Archives: June 2008

Personal transportation: a little planning goes a long way

When my wife and I sent our son off to college with our old car, we took the opportunity to downsize to a more fuel-efficient one. We got a Honda Civic hybrid and it’s been fantastic at cutting our gas costs. But the car’s fuel efficiency is just part of it. We also figured out how to drive less and save even more.

Up until a couple years ago, a good portion of our weekend was spent running errands and handling the household tasks that most of have a hard time fitting in to our schedules during the work week: going to the farmers market or grocery shopping, picking up or dropping off library books or dry cleaning, stopping by the hardware store – you know: the administrative details of family life.

But after our son went off to school, with just one car at home, we had to be a lot more intentional about how and where we traveled so that no one was left stranded and all the household tasks were still taken care of.

So we started planning our ‘to do’ lists so we could travel less. Instead of several small trips out to run a single errand and back, we mapped them out so that we hit each one in succession, making a big loop and ending up back at home. We also use technology to cut down on trips, such as using the library’s online systems to check whether books we’ve reserved are in yet, instead of driving by to check. Little steps add up over time.

This approach takes a little more thought on the front end to plan ahead, but so far, it’s meant a lot less time on the road, less gas used, more money saved, and usually, more time for us to spend together doing the things we really enjoy much more than running errands, like gardening and spending time with family and friends.

Here are some online tools to help you trim your trips too. Happy traveling!

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Rolling up our sleeves on the budget

Over the next few months, you’ll hear more about King County’s budget process as we work to pass the balanced budget required by law. This year, we have to fill the $68 million gap between the revenue the county brings in and the cost of providing the services county residents depend on.

 

Every year, I send a balanced budget to the County Council, which can make its own additions and reductions, as long as the budget balances. Since the 2006 budget, I’ve been warning that the county’s revenue streams could not keep pace with cost growth. This year, we’ve hit the wall we saw looming.

 

As you probably heard on recent news reports, criminal justice, which makes up the bulk of county expenditures (71%), faces significant cuts, as do all county departments.

 

We turned to reserves to balance the shortfall in past years but those are or will be gone in 2008 and 2009. The deficit will only increase if we continue on our current path. So I’m continuing my work with regional partners, the legislature, and county staff to find a creative, long-term solution.

 

In the meantime, county agencies are looking at preliminary reduction options for their 2009 budget requests and considering several county-wide strategies to cut expenses and increase revenue.

 

We’ve run pretty lean operations since the big budget cuts in the period between 2002 and 2005, so this time we’re not cutting the fat; we may have to cut into the heart and soul of the services we provide.

 

While some will use these trying times to criticize, point fingers and distract with rhetoric, at the end of the day, none of that solves the problems at hand.  I will continue reaching out to other governments facing the same challenges and working to come up with real, regionally appropriate solutions for consideration. After all, it’s physically impossible to point fingers and reach out for help at the same time.

 

We are blessed with an economically strong region and no shortage of smart, committed people who want to see King County thrive. We’ll get through this together and I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we learn more and reach more definite conclusions this summer and fall.