By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Susan Hutchison and Dow Constantine are vying for the position of King County Executive this November.
Hutchison, known by many locals for her time as a KIRO 7 News anchor, currently serves as executive director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, a philanthropic foundation based in Seattle that provides grants to art, science, and education programs.
Constantine currently serves on the King County Council. He started his career as an attorney, and then moved on to serve in the Washington state House of Representatives and Senate.
Recently, in a telephone interview, Hutchison and Constantine were asked several questions related to issues pertaining to the Asian American Community.
Northwest Asian Weekly: Many Asian Americans are small business owners. What is your plan for helping small businesses?
Constantine: “Small business is key. We need to build an infrastructure to serve businesses so that goods can move around transit facilities. We need to invest in cleaning up chokepoints so that products can get to where they need to be.
“We need to streamline tax and permitting policies. We have made a lot of progress in creating uniform policies in cities.
“We need to simplify the B&O (Business and Organization) tax rates and the square footage tax (a tax on the amount of square feet used to conduct business activities). King County can provide (small businesses) a regional office.”
Hutchison: “It’s so important to help small businesses succeed because small businesses are engines of our economy.
“The King County Executive must help improve counties’ attitudes to small businesses.
“I believe in a plan focusing on the ability of small businesses to have access to credit and capital, tax and regulatory reform, better transportation, and crime prevention.”
Hutchison will seek to provide small business with access to credit and capital. “[I] will convene the top five lenders to help them reach solutions with us to provide more loans and credit to small businesses.
“I am in favor of a change in the B&O tax. I have been an advocate in Olympia for reform of the B&O tax. We should be fair to small businesses that pay B&O taxes before they make a profit.
“We need to overhaul DDES (Department of Development and Environmental Services.” DDES is the agency that issues business licenses and permits.
“We going to put transportation dollars in congestion relief so that people and freight can move freely throughout the region.
“We need to be very serious about blight and crime.”
How will you address gang activity within King County?
Constantine: “The first priority is to keep police officers on the street. We need to make sure that basic public safety needs are met. We need to restart the King County Gang Unit.
“I am in favor of programs that wrap around public schools.” As an example, Constantine points to the “New Futures” program, which provides youths with alternatives to gangs.
According to the New Futures website, its mission is to partner with families to create communities where children thrive. This program helps low-income families where poverty and school failure are prevalent.
“[New Futures] helps reengage families and engage parents including households where English is not the original language spoken in the home. The programs help families better understand what associations kids may have at school and what pressures they face.
“The county has a critically important role to play in driving down jail space.”
Constantine has supported mental health and drug courts as alternatives to incarceration. “Special courts are clearly a high priority. These alternatives get to the root of the problem. I have supported county funding although they [the mental health and drug courts] have faced budget cuts.”
Hutchison: “[I] believe in a comprehensive youth violence plan based upon prevention and intervention. Funds spent on this would be money well spent in the long run.
“We must reinforce efforts to stop gang violence at its root. I have met with the King County Sheriff several times to discuss issues of gang activity. I will work with Asian communities to address areas most concerned with gang activity.”
Do you believe in county-funded programs that would provide youths an alternative to the lure of drugs and/or criminal activity?
Constantine: Yes. “The New Futures Program is an example of a program that assists at-risk youths.”
Hutchison: Yes. “It is important that we invest now before problems become more serious.”
Would you support outreach programs to immigrants and naturalized citizens?
Constantine: “I have worked to cut county council and administration costs. This has created funding for programs such as the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), Consejo (a Latin/Hispanic behavioral health agency), and Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA).”
These nonprofits are funded in part by the county, through other governmental agencies, and by private donations.
Hutchison: “Yes. I would work with the [Asian] communities to help provide the proper education and human services outreach that the county can provide.”
How has your prior experience prepared you to work with people with different viewpoints and different backgrounds?
Constantine: “[I] will work collaboratively, productively, and respectively with people from different cultures.”
Constantine spoke about his time in the Washington state House of Representatives, the state Senate, and the King County Council as examples of working with people with opposing views and differing backgrounds.
He also refers to the “richness of culture” and the dozens of different languages spoken in homes in the legislative district he represented.
Hutchison: “In my time in television news, I had the opportunity to work on a documentary focusing on the Chinese community (‘Son of Heaven’). This experience gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Chinatown.
“I patronized a number of Asian businesses and felt the experience gave me tremendous appreciation for Chinese American citizens.”
Do you believe in the importance of a diverse staff? Will you seek diversity within your staff?
Constantine: “There is a wealth of talent within the Asian American community. I seek rising stars and will hire qualified people from different communities. The doors are open for those wanting to contribute.”
Hutchison: “Absolutely. I feel strongly about this. There is tremendous intellect, skill, and experience in our Asian community. [I] look forward to hiring and promoting Asian Americans within the administration.” ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.