VIDEO: West Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s questions for King County Executive candidates

The two West Seattle men running for King County Executive sparred a bit more in a Saturday night faceoff than in another local forum two nights earlier.

This livestreamed event – with incumbent County Executive Dow Constantine and State Senator Joe Nguyen side by side in the Live Oak Audio Visual studio, but the audience online – was presented by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and moderated by its board president, restaurateur Dan Austin.

While the two didn’t exhibit major policy/platform differences – except for the very first question of the night – they swapped some words of criticism. Constantine observed that Nguyen is running for the executive job after three years in elected office, while he and some well-known predecessors had more than a decade of elected experience before moving up. Nguyen could do more good staying in the Legislature, he suggested. Nguyen, meantime, contended he was compelled to run for this because he heard from people who were frustrated about what was, and wasn’t, happening.

The video is above – with the forum starting 12 minutes in. If you’d rather read the details – below is our recap how the Q&A went, after opening statements. As usual with our coverage of events like this, what you see is mostly our paraphrasing/summarizing, not direct quotes unless it’s within quotation marks:

****QUESTION: Austin began with what he said would be the only yes/no question of the night – do you support defunding the police 50 percent?

NGUYEN: “First off, I think that’s a loaded question … generally yes.”


****QUESTION: What does public safety mean to you and what would you do to achieve it?

NGUYEN: Need to make investments that get us to true community safety. A recent Seattle Times article showed that more than 80 percent of police responses were for non-crimes. Public safety means investing in our community. It means a lot of different things to different people.

CONSTANTINE: “Defund the police” has been a popular slogan but it’s at best “a gross oversimplification of what needs to happen.” We need to bring “a broader approach” including behavioral health … Safety doesn’t just mean safety from criminals, but also feeling safe from agents of the state.

NGUYEN: One of my neighbors is an SPD officer and they would agree that we need investments in behavioral health.

****QUESTION: Our community has both a lot of support for and a lot of concern about restructuring law enforcement. Such as, that we are drawing down resources before replacing. What is the appropriate timeline to transfer resources from the King County Sheriff’s Office to a yet-to-be-named entity?

CONSTANTINE: The premise is not in line with what we are doing – “we’re not drawing down officers, we have a lot of vacancies. … The issue is narrowing the scope of things the police are required to respond to, we’ve gotten to the point in this country where an armed officer is responding to almost everything … Now is the time for redefining policing” and there’s a community working group working on that, with police officers, with members of “overpoliced communities,” others

NGUYEN: “It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd … for folks to understand this is a dire need in our communities.” The appropriate timeline? Right now is a great start “but it should have been 10, 20 years ago.” Need to invest to make sure things don’t happen in the first place. New sheriff needs a similar mindset about what should be done.

CONSTANTINE: We’ve been underfunding police for many years. Talks about an arrest he saw earlier in the day in The Triangle, a man who apparently was homeless and experiencing behavioral-health issues, had broken a business window … taking him to jail isn’t going to solve anything BUT the property owner deserves to be protected.

****QUESTION: Police are catch-all but we don’t have the other services up and running yet – how fast can that happen?

CONSTANTINE: “I do think it’s behavioral health, that’s critical … a lot of crime in business districts is related to that.” He mentions two response teams and two more planned to interact with people in such situations. “The gap, the missing piece, is robust behavioral-health service.”

NGUYEN: King County right now spends a lot of money on that and one of the largest providers is the jail. He wants to “mitigate these things up front.” Notes that the county only has two detox facilities. “We don’t have enough services to support” what’s needed. should open up more centers for crisis response.

****QUESTION: Regarding White Center – there are issues on both sides of the city limit line – WC has always been considered “gritty” and embraced that image but what’s been happening lately is not gritty, this is a new level of problems – what can you do to encourage peace, safety, and stability?

NGUYEN: WC is “near and dear to my heart because I am from there and my family had a small business on that street.” He spent time there the previous day with business owners. They need help. They have a list of demands regarding public safety and investment. There are some funds they can access. He agrees with some of the demands – funding a community safety person to patrol in the evenings – when KCSO only has two on patrol – also a request for $2 million rebuilding funds. It’s important to prevent displacement.

CONSTANTINE: Notes the fires were not related, “but they have this cumulative impact on the business community – we’re deeply engaged with the White Center business community – have already allotted almost $110,000 in aid after the fires and $1.3 million in COVID relief … we have been working for years to help the White Center community, including the Conservation Corps, increasing to 400 workers to clean up unincorporated KC.”

NGUYEN: The reason why he’s fighting for areas like WC is that these are persistent issues “and we have to address them.”

****QUESTION: Knowing the closed West Seattle Bridge is a city asset, what can King County do to support additional transit options?

CONSTANTINE: We increased frequency of Water Taxi crossings, will maintain summer schedule (through the winter), also increased bus service fropm COVID-reduced levels … We’re putting county funding into Seattle’s rebuild of the bridge. “King County is very focused on mobility … our efforts in starting up RapidRide H Line is going to continue to make us better.”

NGUYEN: Toured the bridge this past week. It’s on time and scheduled to reopen mid-2022. “One of the most efficient investments … connecting the transit options we have now … sidewalks, curb cuts … The county’s last sales-tax revenue for transit was a bit higher than expected” so we can continue to invest in multimodal efforts.

CONSTANTINE: We keep going back to Legislature to ask for better funding – “when we go to ask for help, often what we end up with is just the opposite, Sound Transit actually lost ground.”

****QUESTION: We’ve exceeded our growth targets in West Seattle, more density on the way … We at the Chamber believe ST3 (light rail) is the next big step in mobility … what would your role as KCE be to help get West Seattle light rail as fast as possible, and on a side note – is the SkyLink gondola proposal a possibility or a distraction?

NGUYEN: We’ve been engaged at state level to find funding and ways to get this done faster. Re: SkyLink, I do think it should be explored … in addition to light rail.

CONSTANTINE: Hopes everyone saw Northgate light-rail opening last weeend – “I made it my job to get ST3″ – worked for a decade to make it happen … got it on the ballot in 2016, and we’re now building it.” He’s asked for a SkyLink study and will bring a motion to the ST board but points out that without light rail to West Seattle, there’s no light rail to points southward.

NGUYEN: We have advocated for more funding at the Legislature.

****QUESTION: Homelessness – frustration continues to escalate – problem getting worse – mental health anhd drug issues on the street – hope you’re upset that this is the “new normal” – we’re doing the same things and expecting different results – what would your role be as KCE and what have you done over your career to address the problem and what would you have done differently?

CONSTANTINE: Put together the regional authority (that is now taking over the homelessness response). For the root causes like income equality and housing market … we re taking on new approaches including buying 1,600 new hotel rooms to move people into … more enhanced shelter … hiring 400 formerly homeless/unemployed people for cleanup … The key for many to get out of homelessness is behavioral-health help – we could really use funding help at the state Legislature with some of these things.

NGUYEN: There have been different names for different homelessness plans, but current leadership hasn’t delivered on these issues. Working as an advocate in this space, I notice it’s cheaper to keep someone from becoming homeless, than to get them housed once that’s happened.

CONSTANTINE: We have been preventing people from becoming homeless. First Best Starts for Kids ballot measure prevented 10,000 kids and their families from becoming homeless. The previous plans did not have the authority and accountability … the new regional effort does.

****QUESTION: Businesses hurt by shutdowns – are now on front lines of enforcement of COVD rules – does KC owe the businesses anything more than a thank you, and uhow can you support them?

NGUYEN: Finite resources all around but we know some industries were hit harder than others – hospitality, arts – need to invest, cut through red tape, and to say thank you for compliance …

CONSTANTINE: “We have put together eight special COVID budgets now” … millions in those areas, now being put out through Reqiuest for Proposals – “hundreds of restaurants petitioned us for a Vaccine Verification program … we have done that, and we have resources available to make that happen.”

NGUYEN: We need to be doing more.

Followup – what about tech support for vaccination verification? As a restaurant/bar owner, he knows people have fake vaccine cards – any databases oming to scan cards to catch fakes?

CONSTANTINE: It’s been a long conversation with the state – they have about 2/3 of the records – now standing up a state system to work toward a single technological solution.

NGUYEN: There is a portal available right now to upload your info.

(Austin says, we’ve seen the upload but aren’t getting the other end.)

****QUESTION: “We have lEarned with the bridge going down and T-5 getting ready to open, how important the port is … Can you tell us about your existing relationship with the port and how you’ll continue to support it? What can we do to support getting more product in?”

NGUYEN: We’re in close contact, allotting money for T-5 tp open, for shore power – specifically re: supply chain issue, working to be sure freight mobility is available.

CONSTANTINE: Port has same geography as county – we work closely on workforce and contracting, worked “to unify our small business rosters so you can sign up once and do business with” multiple entities. “Land transportation is the critical point here” – everything’s backed up, needs to be an east-west transportation investment, regionally – the state needs to step up and help.

NGUYEN: He “calls out” Constantine for repeatedly blaming the state.

CONSTANTINE: Yes, the state is in charge. In charge of all tax authority. “All the things my opponent wants to complain about, he could be having an effect on in the position he was just elected to.”

NGUYEN: Trying to work on what’s been wrong for decades. Running for this because the county level is “where the rubber meets the road.”

****QUESTION: For Nguyen specifically – if unsuccessful in this election, will you try to run for re-election to the Senate?

NGUYEN: I think politics is about people and not careers – it’s about what we can do for people – I never expected to run for state senate but felt … it was necessary. It was not my idea to jump into this but talking to folks who were frustrated, I felt compelled. If the community wants him to run again, he will.

CONSTANTINE: After two years is a pretty quick time to say you want a new job. He put in 12 years before running for county executive, as did predecessors Ron Sims, Gary Locke. “This is a big difficult job, it’s not something to be taken on lightly.”

NGUYEN: Just had a panel about the failures of various systems, all under the executive’s authority … maybe it doesn’t work for the people. I have the private sector experience, lived experience, public sector experience to get things done.’

****QUESTION: Why are you the person to elevate voices? What does representation mean to you?

CONSTANTINE: Representation matters. I’m proud that our district is represented by the first Vietnamese-American state senator, Proud to have been preceded by Ron Sims, but I don’t think my race disqualifies me … Judge him by what he’s done. “I’m proud of the work we’re doing transforming the criminal legal system, economic justice … This is real work we’re doing … upending hundreds of years of entrenched racism.”

NGUYEN: If you ask people of marginalized communities, they care less about the words, more about the actions. Communities of color saw “a huge disparity. … It’s not just talking about this change, but doing it. … I appreciate the now focus …”

CONSTANTINE: “The work we’re doing id region- and nation-leading … our team is among the best you’ll find anywhere …”

Then it was time for closing statements. Constantine described himself as a “person who is pragmatic and can get things done.” Nguyen said he’s running to work toward a “future … that is inclusive, rooted in action, tackling the root causes” of issues.

We covered the candidates’ Thursday forum, during the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s monthly meeting, here (with video and recap).

On Saturday night, the West Seattle Chamber followed the Nguyen-Constantine event with questions for, and answers from, Seattle Mayor candidate Bruce Harrell. It was explained that his opponent Lorena González wasn’t available. We watched the Harrell Q&A and will incorporate highlights into a separate story.

WHAT’S NEXT: King County Elections plans to mail ballots Wednesday – voting begins Thursday and ends at 8 pm November 2nd.

32 Replies to "VIDEO: West Seattle Chamber of Commerce's questions for King County Executive candidates"

  • Derek October 12, 2021 (1:15 am)

    Dow is more of the same. He’s not good at his job and I would like to see change. Nguyen has what seattle is capable and going to be in mind. Love his inclusive and forward thinking plans. Earned my vote. 

    • Pete October 12, 2021 (6:54 am)

      Derek, exactly what part of the job is Dow not good at? Just curious where you think Dow is not effective? And also remember this is not a Seattle centric elected position but rather the Executive of all of King County. 

      • Victoria October 15, 2021 (10:44 am)

        This article explains (at a high level) why King County has spent only 4.5% of $145 million in available federal funding to help struggling renters and landlords – whereas Pierce County has spent about 59% of the $53.4 million in federal and state money and Snohomish county has spent 47% of $57.8 million.  Shouldn’t the candidates debate a) what went wrong – and what the King County Executive (and Council) could do NOW to speed fund dispersals (and avoid the level of fraud that Washington State’s Employment Department tolerated when unemployment claims were expedited in 2020 )? 

  • anonyme October 12, 2021 (6:42 am)

    I’m no fan of Dow, but his comment on Nguyen’s willingness to abandon his very first elected position without having completed a single full term is spot on.  That, with the answers to the first question, have made me decide to vote – neither.  None of the above.  Most of the responses in general were just more blah, blah, blah.  (Thank you Gary Larson and Greta Thunberg).

    • K October 12, 2021 (11:27 am)

      I think it’s a real gross choice for older white guys who had been in leadership for decades to scold the younger generation to essentially wait their turn, while the the old guard have twiddled their thumbs for decades on issues that younger generations will feel the most. 

      • anonyme October 12, 2021 (12:30 pm)

        That’s quite a mischaracterization.   It’s not about “waiting their turn”.  It’s about having enough focus to fulfill one commitment before dumping it for something newer and shinier.  That doesn’t take age, just maturity.  There’s a vast difference between the two, with the latter sadly lacking in today’s society.  As I said, I am NOT a fan of Dow.  But please explain which issues you are referring to that “younger generations will feel the most”?   I’d really like to know, as well as what Joe has planned that would specifically address the issues you refer to.  Lastly, I would point out that a good portion of citizens and voters are not of the younger generation; ALL of us need representation, not just select groups.

    • Kevin on Delridge October 12, 2021 (2:22 pm)

      Yes, observations are generally “spot on,” but you do a disservice to yourself and others by not trying to understand the reason for the pivot. Based on Nguyen’s statements, it seems that he wants to  impact change more quickly which isn’t something you’re going to get at the State level.

      I am sure most of us have started a job/position thinking we’d have a greater impact but the realities of the role or organization are the limiting factor.

      So yes, the observation is “spot on” but it tells you nothing.

  • Pessoa October 12, 2021 (9:39 am)

    The cavalier assault on personal liberty from both, vis a vis vaccine mandates, is breathtaking. On a personal level, Constantine strikes me as a shrewd, risk adverse politician who knows how to exploit the region’s reticence for bold courageous policy. 

    • reed October 12, 2021 (1:30 pm)

      Your personal freedoms end where they start to infringe on the well being of others. Take your libertarian garbage elsewhere.

      • Pessoa October 12, 2021 (8:41 pm)

        Nah. I will be sticking around to remind you what it means to live in a free country, instead of one that operates by imperial edict and coercion. You know, if that is still important in the post Trump presidency. 

      • Pessoa October 13, 2021 (2:20 pm)

        How are the unvaccinated threatening you, Reed? The vaccines and boosters are available for all who want them, except the very young who are at extremely low risk. Masks are readily available for all who want them – wear several if you desire. Social distancing, keeping yourself healthy are up to you, Reed.  Don’t force your lifestyle decisions on others, including your skewed assessment of risk in one the most vaccinated counties in the country.  

  • East Coast Cynic October 12, 2021 (11:23 am)

    Dow fought for West Seattle Link.  With possible future of WS link in a little bit of doubt due to funding shortfalls and disagreements over the alignment, e.g., elevated vs. tunnel, I lean toward a KC executive who will continue to be a strong advocate for insuring that we on the peninsula get link delivered in a timely fashion, if only with minimal delays.

    • Martin October 12, 2021 (1:17 pm)

      I’m glad that both Joe and Dow said they want to study SkyLink gondola. This would be the fastest and least destructive way for West Seattle to connect to Sound Transit’s light rail network – this decade rather than next. Dow pointed out that we need more transit capacity further South, too. I suggest we use the savings from building a gondola to build a light rail line through South Park.

      • Pete October 12, 2021 (1:58 pm)

        Martin if only the gondola folks had some specifics to show us. It is all assumptions and figures on the backside of a napkin it seems. No design work has been, have no idea of how much property will have to be acquired , no idea of how long or how much the permitting process will cost and the EIS process seems to be an afterthought to the proponents.  

        • Wseattleite October 12, 2021 (7:20 pm)

          Pete, you identified the point Martin is making.  There have been no real studies regarding this very valid option.  Sound Transit should rename themselves Sound Light Rail.  I feel that they should focus on actually moving people around and not just laying expensive track for nineteenth century technology.  Seattle has an opportunity to be a leader in innovative application of proven technology.  I have experienced the Gondolas in La Paz and Singapore.  At this point from my perspective the burden of proof is on Sound Transit to show how this is NOT a good idea.  a side by side study is in order.  it is good that both candidates would be open to a real look at this option.  This hasn’t been done to date.

        • Lisa October 21, 2021 (12:14 pm)

          May be helpful to look at the specifics – as a use case on city’s leveraging Gondola’s as a transportation asset by way of Portland,

          OR OHSU Tram >>

          Living in Portland before, during and after this went in – few takeaways to share to spare you all same speedbumps. Costs – were four times higher than original budget and a contentious point throughout the Tram’s construction. As was the beneficiary in Portland’s case – OHSU which leaned heavily onto its “nonprofit” status while being one of the most expensive health care providers in the area. The tram charges $5.15 to travel 3,300 feet in 3 minutes.

          Will be interesting to see how this comes together there. Portland experienced, a different application for a hospital, but a huge outlay and fraught, due to a lack of transparency and fudging of real costs projected for materials, in the build, as well as the maintenance, after the build. How it was funded, also contentious (and by whom, in Portland’s case diverting budget from parks to the Tram’s construction overages did not go over well…)

          While its “cool” to have a gondola in your city, or my home town of West Seattle, there is a lot more to it – beyond the cocktail napkin.

          Dow did a great job if we look at the Water Taxi, getting behind that, and guiding it into a reality. With the bridge closure, the Water Taxi as a mode of transport while with its challenges – has been a huge win. More water taxis around Seattle could be a huge bonus. With that same attention to detail, West Seattle stands a great chance of gaining a new mode to tackle this transportation gap. Setting expectations with reality of complexity and cost, sets up the community for a win.

  • Pessoa October 12, 2021 (1:07 pm)

    With all due respect, light rail for West Seattle has little practicality. It only makes sense in select regions of the country where ridership justifies the enormous costs. Just like LA, it is never the panacea it is heralded as. 

    • anonyme October 12, 2021 (3:26 pm)

      I have to agree.  The cost and the destruction make it unfeasible.  It’s also quite possible that by the time construction is finally ready to begin, the technology will be obsolete.

  • Al King October 12, 2021 (1:41 pm)

    K. Who has stopped you or anyone else in the “younger generation” from running for office??.  Just wondering.  Pessoa. Since you feel government shouldn’t mandate anything does that mean we shouldn’t follow traffic laws? Does that mean we don’t have to pay taxes?? After all these are just a couple of examples of “government mandates”

    • Pessoa October 12, 2021 (4:51 pm)

      And just for the record, its wrong to threaten – bully – fellow Americans with losing their livelihoods and participation in society, if they don’t comply with vaccine mandates. It was wrong yesterday, it is wrong today, and it will be wrong tomorrow. 

      • Auntie October 13, 2021 (10:35 am)

        What about the vaccinations that all children must have in order to attend public school? Did you not get those? All children are entitled to an education, but must get the vaccine in order to go to school. How is this any different?

      • Ivan Weiss October 13, 2021 (10:52 am)

        @ pessoa:The virus is entirely oblivious to what you think is right or wrong. Either you want to stop the virus from killing people or saddling them with lifetime disabilities, or you don’t. If mandates will stop that from happening, then people are responsible to comply. Your personal beliefs and philosophies are entirely irrelevant to a virus. It’s wrong yesterday, wrong today, and wrong tomorrow to enable a virus to sicken and kill your fellow humans.

  • Sixbuck October 12, 2021 (2:41 pm)

    What a great choice!  Bad or worse. The city of Seattle and the county of King are lost causes. 

  • Mj October 12, 2021 (5:59 pm)

    Has anyone else noticed things getting worse as the City and County move further to out of the baselines Left?  What ever happened to the center Left?  

    • Sixbuck October 13, 2021 (6:03 am)

      Whatever happened to freedom?  To liberty?  To free speech?  

    • Jake October 13, 2021 (9:34 am)

      The “center left” is the problem. The center left is just fake progressive ideals masquerading under capitalism. Center left is putting rainbow flags on cop cars instead of fixing police brutality and racial injustice.

  • Jake October 13, 2021 (9:33 am)

    Oliver is far and away the best candidate. I think they stand up for the poor and working class much better. I will vote for them. 

  • Al King October 13, 2021 (12:28 pm)

    Pessoa. Here’s a fun fact for you. My insurance agent(Allstate)told me insurance companies are quietly dealing with anti vaxers. They are DENYING payment for their hospital stay when they have covid. And i have to ask WHY so many of the “anti vaxers” that do end up in the hospital suddenly say they wish they’d gotten vaccinated??? 

    • Pessoa October 13, 2021 (10:56 pm)

      Interesting, though I am not sure why you picked me to be the recipient of this somewhat irrelevant factoid. My position is quite clear: We are no longer living in the same America I once knew when elected officials use their position to pressure companies into firing employees who don’t comply with vaccine mandates and/or refuse them other options to demonstrate they do not pose a threat of infection, either by negative test or proof of natural imunity – and not a whimper of protest from millions of fellow Americans. Alexis DeTocqueville was eerily prescient about America when he noted Americans eagerness to blend in and the lack of a diversity of political opinions. He also warned of the tutelary state that would provide for all wants and needs and in doing so, produce infants, not adults. Seems he was right. 

      • Ivan Weiss October 14, 2021 (7:27 am)

        Look, pal, for the nth time: The virus doesn’t give a s–t what you think. Either we deal with the virus, on the virus’ terms, or the virus will deal with us. When I read statements like “we are no longer living in the same America I once knew,” I harken back to the bad old days of polio, when Dr. Salk’s vaccine was introduced, and I sure didn’t hear many pompous self-imagined “libertarian” blowhards protesting those mandates.

        That was the America *I* knew, fresh from the experience of World War II, when people recognized a common enemy and mobilized to defeat it. Maybe you’d like polio to make a comeback, so you could protest against a vaccine mandate for that? How about smallpox? Diphtheria, anybody?

  • Al King October 14, 2021 (6:32 am)

    Pessoa. Ummmmmm  businesses-union and non union have been suspending and firing people for all sorts of “company/government rule violations” since the begining of time.  Don’t recall  hearing a call for “mass protest” demanding companies give people jobs for life with no rules.  

  • Victoria Holic October 15, 2021 (11:28 am)

    I hope that future debate questions for these candidates will address this article: Read it and weep. Questions are: 1) Epic fail on Dow’s part? 2) What can be done now to speed up payments without attracting “too much” fraud?

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