Dec. 17, 2007
Gossett: Civic engagement and bipartisanship charted Council’s course in 2007
Public involvement played major role in mental health, flood control, responsible policy
Increased civic engagement helped guide improvements to King County’s mental health treatment system, flood control protection, and County budgeting, under the leadership of Councilmember Larry Gossett
who ends his term as Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council today.
“We set an ambitious agenda for 2007, and I want to congratulate everyone involved with the Council and the County,” said Gossett. “It was their work that made this agenda a reality.”
Gossett set increased public involvement and bipartisan participation as his primary goals when he began his term last January, and as 2007 comes to a close he observed that several of this year’s major Council accomplishments were indeed shaped by public input and cooperation of Councilmembers across party lines.
“The Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Action Plan
was shaped by more than a year of community dialogue that included a standing-room only Town Hall meeting and hundreds who turned out at our public hearings on the budget,” said Gossett. “The recently adopted 2008 budget as a whole was shaped by the input we received through our Citizen Engagement Initiative, with the public letting us know what their spending priorities are. Both the action plan and the budget were the result of our goal of engaging county residents in their communities so that they can provide more meaningful input into the operations of our government.”
Under Gossett’s leadership this year, a record number of citizens attended Council Town Hall meetings. More than 1,600 people, nearly 60 percent more than ever before, had an opportunity to meet Councilmembers and voice their opinion at meetings in Maple Valley, Shoreline, Seattle, Redmond, Renton, West Seattle, Carnation, and Auburn. These Town Hall meetings covered regional issues important to all residents of King County, including winter storm readiness, transportation, the mental health system, juvenile justice issues, preservation of historic landmarks, and a discussion of rural issues.
Gossett implemented a plan for shared leadership, with an emphasis on bipartisan involvement. “I have the highest regard for the commitment of our members to share power and meaningful leadership positions across party lines,” said Gossett. “Having Councilmember Julia Patterson, a Democrat, as Vice Chair of Public Policy and Councilmember Jane Hague, a Republican, as my Vice Chair of Employment and Administration gave me the benefit of wise counsel from the southern and eastern parts of King County as well as from both sides of the aisle.
“I am also proud that Republican members of our Council chaired three committees that developed major polices and programs adopted by the full Council. The Law, Justice & Human Services Committee was chaired by Councilmember Kathy Lambert; the Transportation Committee by Councilmember Reagan Dunn; and the Regional Policy Committee by Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer,” added Gossett.
That bipartisan approach helped guide improvements to some of the county’s most pressing regional issues. In 2007, the Council unanimously adopted legislation ensuring that all children in King County receive medical and dental insurance; that property owners be provided with detailed breakdowns of their property taxes; and that the public pay lower fees to the Department of Development and Environmental Services while increasing transparency within the agency. Gossett said the commitment to bipartisan cooperation will continue under the leadership of newly-elected chair Julia Patterson.
One of the highlights of 2007 for Gossett was also the result of community input and outreach – the Council’s unanimous adoption of a new official King County logo in the image of the county’s namesake, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “It was a dream first proposed by the people of King County, who nurtured the dream for eight years when it would have been very easy to give up,” said Gossett. “The new logo design won the national Savvy Award from 3CMA (the City-County Communications & Marketing Association), which is the nation’s leading organization for improving local government communications with their constituents.”
For 2008, Gossett sees even greater opportunities for public involvement through the new Countywide Community Forums – a network of citizen volunteers created by the Council to organize small, community-based discussion forums to communicate, discuss, and provide feedback on public policy issues affecting the County. He also expects the second year of the Citizen Engagement Initiative to help shape the 2009 King County Budget.
Handing over the gavel to a new Council leadership team, Gossett said he is grateful for the support that made 2007 a successful year. “Without the support of the public, my colleagues, and Council staff, much of what we achieved this year would not have happened.”