LETTER: Did Oct. 4 NHUAC Annexation Forum Violate PDC Guidelines?
Dear B-Town Blog:
The October 4, 2012 supposed informational forum sponsored by the NHUAC, struck me as a political rally put on by the King County Executive’s Office to promote the annexation on Area Y/White Center/North Highline to Burien.
The letter (download PDF here) from Dow Constantine /King County Executive read by Joe McDermott, that supposedly was sent out to every North Highline resident, was clearly a campaign effort at an informational meeting in a manner that makes the agency appear to be supporting a ballot measure. According to the Public Discloure Commission’s (PDC) Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns, page 6 this activity is not allowed.
Also, I had questions about who was really sponsoring the production and payment for the mailing of this letter. Even though the letter supposedly was written and mailed to North Highline residents on October 1, 2012, none of my friends have still received this letter through the U.S. mail as of yet. So the question still remains who is paying for the production and mailing of this campaign material?
Additionally the according to PDC Guidelines, The King County Executive shall not use public resources to operate a speakers’ bureau in a manner that may be viewed as promoting a ballot measure. Karen Freeman’s presentation joined with that of Joe McDermott’s presentation – both from King County – appeared to be promoting a ballot measure.
Other things that bothered me about the Oct. 4, 2012 supposedly informational meeting were:
1. The letter and the way it was presented did not seem to be consistent with the normal practices of the agency (such as newsletters, websites, or some other format)? – This violates the PDC’s requirement.
2. Was the information provided in an objective and fair presentation of the facts? This is a requirement of the PDC. I did not feel it was. Is King County going out to all of the 6 areas that have not annexed to cities and delivering the same type of presentation and facts right now or is this presentation solely being used to promote a ballot measure to the residents of North Highline? Is the King County Executive personally sending to all of those residents of the six areas a letter telling them to annex up right now or even sending a letter telling them that their roads were going to be ground to dust? The message that most people took away from this meeting was that if North Highline did not annex now everything was going to immediately fall apart-roads ground to gravel. I saw no figures or future projection sheets or models of King County’s budget situation or no revenue in vs. expenses out sheet presented.
3. Do the materials accurately present the costs and other anticipated impacts of the ballot measure?-This is another requirement of the PDC. I did not see any budget sheets, spread sheets or cost analysis presented by the County on this ballot issue. What I did hear was a lot of scare stories about what was going to happen to Tier 5 roads.
I wrote to the County about who was paying for and sponsoring this letter that came from the King County Executive and was told this:
“Thank you for your email to the King County Executive’s Office.
State law prohibits the use of public facilities or public money for campaign purposes. However, public employees-including public officials-have the same right as any citizen to endorse, donate to, or volunteer for political campaigns. I have pasted the relevant state law at the bottom of this email. RCW 42.17A.555.
The letter from Executive Constantine that you cite was his own opinion and was produced outside of work, using his own time and materials.
– James Bush, Communications Specialist for King County Executive Dow Constantine “
To me, as a citizen, this did not seem to be just a letter produced by just Executive Constantine on his own private time because for one thing he signed it Dow Constantine, King County Executive. It appeared to be a concerted effort by all of the representatives of King County at what was a supposed informational meeting to try to scare the residents of Area Y/White Center/ North Highline and the media into believing that annexation must happen right now. Eric Mathison of the Highline Times appears to have reported it that way from what he heard at the forum.
Its also interesting to note ALL the players in this dog and pony show were either former staffers or employees of Dow Constantine, like Sharon Nelson and Karen Freeman or Staffers of Staffers like Fitzgibbons and beholding to Dow Constantine politically like Joe McDermott. It looks like he put political pressure on these folks to help him convince the residents to vote for annexation so he could clear the big red ink off of the Counties balance sheet.
I am inclined to see this as a cheap media trick by the County Executive to influence this election. I also believe that what happened at that forum violates the rules of the PDC.
I also do not understand why the city of Burien did not attach some strings to this annexation so that if it did result in fiscal disaster that the county would be responsible for helping make up the shortfall. This IMO is a deal breaker and Mr Martin did ill served the current residents of Burien and the residents of Area Y by failing to negotiate this with Dow when in fact Burien is holding a very strong position from which to negotiate. Sharon Nelson’s consolation that if it doesn’t work out the city can lobby the state emphasizes this fact. Even if you support annexation its a no-brainer that the residents of Area Y should turn down the current annexation proposal and hold out for a better deal from the County.
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