Monthly Archives: July 2008

Honor at last for victims of Fort Lawton court martial

This week, our community will help heal an injustice after 60 long years. I will have the pleasure of joining other local and federal elected officials in honoring 43 African American soldiers who were unjustly accused of rioting and manslaughter at Fort Lawton in Seattle during World War II.

The U.S. Army accused the men of lynching an Italian prisoner of war, then prosecutors failed to reveal information that would have exonerated them. After worldwide publicity and the longest and largest Army court martial of the war, the court convicted 28 of the 43 men of rioting and two of manslaughter. The arrests, prosecutions, convictions, incarcerations and dishonorable discharges impacted the men and their families for 60 years, until October 26, 2007 when the U.S. Army’s Court of Appeal ruled that the court-martial had been fundamentally unfair. All 28 convictions were eventually reversed.

Mr. Samuel Snow, one of the original soldiers who faced this injustice, his family and the families of seven of the other soldiers who are no longer alive are scheduled to attend several events and activities in their honor over the coming week.

Why does this matter after all this time? Because it shows we can help make right a forgotten and terrible chapter in our community’s history and because the soldiers lived their lives carrying the burden of a court martial knowing they were punished for something they did not do. That had an impact on who they became, how they lived and how their families lived. Although they left here rightfully bitter and angry, we have a chance to erase some of the shame of the court’s decision so long ago and welcome back the lone surviving solider and the families of the others to celebrate their honorable service to this country.

For more information on the tribute events for the veterans of the Fort Lawton court martial, click here.


Summer sun, parks fun and budgets

I heard someone use the phrase “lazy days of summer” recently and realized this summer hasn’t really been leisurely at all for King County. In fact, it’s busier than ever!

Besides the diverse entertainment line up in King County Parks, we are also moving ahead with our budget process and finding the opportunities in this big challenge we face.

A couple weeks ago, all King County departments turned in their preliminary budget documents for Executive and Budget office review. Because of the magnitude of the deficit, every single department director in King County has been asked for targeted reductions in the 2009 budget. But criminal justice is both our largest expense and highest priority, so cuts in that area are significantly less than those being taken in other areas.

Still, a preliminary look at the budget submittals has already turned up some innovative proposals and partnerships that preserve services while reducing costs, increasing efficiencies, and in some cases, increasing revenue – all of which will help us close the $68 million gap we’re facing. At least for this year.

We are working closely with our department directors, separately elected officials, and labor unions in King County to create a countywide budget that takes into account all of the services we provide to county residents and employees, rather than looking at each department as a silo.

But as I’ve mentioned every time I discuss the budget, we are not alone in dealing with this challenge and the gaps will grow in years to come because for decades county governments have been given a very limited list of options for funding their services. In recent years, those options have been further limited by growth management decisions (which have rightly funneled growth to urban areas rather than sprawl) and tax limiting measures. Basically, times have changed but our funding mechanisms have not kept pace. Now many counties in the state are facing a major budget gap or looming one – only the magnitude is different.

Like rowing a boat, all oars must pull in the same direction to make progress. So we are reaching out to other county leaders in the same boat with budget gaps and enlisting their support in Olympia from the legislature to give all counties more tools for funding county services.

For now though, I turn my attention to reviewing the budgets submitted by county department directors. We’ll work them over throughout the summer to create a balanced budget for submission to the county council.

It won’t be a lazy summer, but it will be a productive one that yields a workable budget in the fall.

Why King County will appeal the Court of Appeals ruling on part of the CAO

The week started off with a major ruling from the Court of Appeals striking down the clearing limits provisions of King County’s Critical Areas Ordinance.   


After consulting with the Prosecutor, I’ve decided to appeal the decision to the Washington Supreme Court.  This decision undermines long-standing local government authority to regulate land use and zoning.  It’s important to note that the court didn’t dispute the science we use in making the determinations on properties or dispute the link between the amount of native trees and vegetation on a property and the health of nearby streams.


What’s interesting is that despite all the rhetoric criticizing the CAO, the fact is people can do whatever the zoning allows for their property.  The regulations also allow folks to clear their land to make productive use of it for forestry or agriculture.


This law has not proved to be the burden its opponents would have you believe.  The additional flexibility it provided has allowed property owners to avoid the expensive variance process.  It has not prevented folks from building on or making use of their property.


What we want to prevent is massive removal of trees that harms people’s well water and increases stormwater runoff into streams and neighboring property.  The rules protect everyone’s property rights as well as the environment. We hope the Washington Supreme Court agrees.


Read more here.



Fuel increase means fare increase

Earlier today I briefed the media on my proposal for a 25-cent increase in Metro Transit bus fares to offset the huge jump in the cost of diesel fuel that runs our buses. This was a very difficult choice because we are seeing record ridership each month. But I will not cut service when we need it most.

Some transit agencies have been forced to reduce service, but I believe this modest fare increase will help us maintain current service levels and roll out some additional service to meet the increased ridership demand while we see where gas prices are going.

We’ve looked for other options, like reducing other transit costs, but the increase in fuel prices is dramatic and unprecedented in our recent history as shown below.

Per gallon price of diesel fuel has been increasing since 2003

Per gallon price of diesel fuel has been increasing since 2003

Interestingly, former Labor Secretary of Labor Robert Reich recently blogged about the need for more transit as gas prices rise. I wholeheartedly agree.

We are not the only ones facing this difficult choice. Transit agencies across our region and across the country are all grappling with the same problem: how to pay for fuel that has increased in cost far beyond even expanded projections, just as we’re seeing unprecedented demand for transit. King County-Metro Transit surpassed 400,000 average daily boardings recently for the first time and we expect that trend to continue.

We are already starting Transit Now service expansions and will have another service increase in the fall, which will help reduce crowding on some routes.

If approved by the King County Council, the fare increase would take effect in October. By then, we hope to have a better idea of whether the gas price increases are here to stay and what other options we may have for dealing with them. You can read more about the proposed increase here.

Meantime, have a wonderful Independence Day and weekend.

Parading out loud

Executive Sims at PrideOn Sunday I walked in Seattle’s Pride Parade in downtown with some friends and it was fantastic! The parade was electric, people were in a celebratory mood, they were having a great time, the sun was shining, and the LGBTQ community truly was in its finest form. People were out, openly expressing their pride in their community.

This is a pivotal moment in time where we’re beginning to see the transition from one generation that wanted people to restrain from coming out and celebrating like this, to one that’s accepting of people coming out. Look at what the State of California did for LGBT rights this month. Seattle’s Pride Parade was just a great time, a great celebration and as important an event as ever.

Executive Sims at PrideThis parade has gotten bigger and bigger every year. It used to be on Capitol Hill, where an impressive 10,000 or 20,000 people would participate and celebrate. This year’s parade downtown had close to 400,000 people! It’s almost as big as the Seafair parade, which has a half million people. It was an honor for me to parade out loud with our LGBT community from near and far. It was ja great time as the pictures show.