Commentary: Undeterred by election results, I will continue fighting for a truly non-partisan King County Council

Diana Toledo

By Diana Toledo
For Northwest Asian Weekly

In 2010, I ran for the King County Council on a non-partisan platform of responsible reform, government accountability, and job growth. I was supported by grass-roots groups, concerned citizens, friends, and neighbors. I was honored to have made it past the primary and have earned the endorsements of two of my former opponents who understood that we must fight against the status quo. Unfortunately, I was outspent 10 to one, and my grass roots effort was unable to secure the number of votes necessary to take a seat on the King County Council. However, in conceding to my opponent, I think it is important to express my closing thoughts and to share with you my plans for the future.

First, I must stress how important it is that we come together to help and support our leadership for the good of our communities. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen it happen on both sides. When the war dragged on under Bush, some Democrats rejoiced in his failure. When unemployment went up under Obama, some Republicans did the same. We must realize that it is wrong to celebrate the opposition’s failure when it comes at the cost of people’s lives, jobs, and homes.

Our county is facing a $60 million dollar budget deficit. The county executive has negotiated with unions to freeze the cost-of-living increases, has cut many county programs and services, and has supported new taxes. We must support Executive Constantine in these areas, while at the same time challenging him and the County Council to use common sense and a measure of empathy to write responsible legislation that will minimize the impact that this recession is having on our ability to provide critical services.

Recently, voters struck down the proposed sales tax and proposed state income tax because the legislation was seen as flawed, with no safeguards for low and middle-income earners. As citizens, it is our duty to pay taxes, which provide essential services, strengthen our communities, and provide for those struggling in this time of economic hardship. When I see my taxes going to something that helps to improve my community and the lives of those around me, I feel good about it, as should we all.

But it is the duty of our leaders to ensure that those taxes are used responsibly. In today’s economy, where there is almost 17% functional unemployment, the prospect of an extra few cents for snacks and soda, plus a few more cents to the sales tax, and a possible state income tax was a crushing weight. When those same taxpayers see their taxes going to a broken system, and an elite few prospering, it is morally devastating.

During my campaign, I spoke about bloated salaries of political appointees in King County government, about unqualified management put into place because of who they know and not what they know, and about how incompetence at the top have acted [together] as a cancer affecting entire departments and costing the county millions each year in lost time, low morale, lawsuit settlements, ineffective programs and services, and overall customer dissatisfaction.

King County leadership needs to “clean up our own backyard” with responsible reform.

Throughout my campaign, I focused on two areas. Firstly, to target and eliminate wasteful spending ad ineffective and duplicate programs, demand accountability, remove incompetent management, and identify political slush funds. Secondly, to renegotiate facilities and vendor contracts to be more cost effective and to redirect that money into strengthening programs with a proven track record of success.

And in the end, we need to recognize that the greatest challenge facing us right now is how to get the economy on its feet and our friends and family back to work. We need to come together as one in order to do this. We must stop throwing stones at each other because someone wears an R or a D, or refuses to wear a label at all.

From the beginning, I refused to declare a party affiliation, choosing rather to work with the best minds from both sides to find real solutions to King County problems.

In my 15 years in King County, I have come to realize that there are strong, honest men and women of integrity on both sides of the isle. These men and women have new and innovative ideas to solve the problems we are facing in King County.

Yet during my campaign, I received harsh criticism from some on the left who refused to even meet with me because I received an endorsement from conservative talk-show host John Carlson. At the same time, I was attacked from the right because I was endorsed by liberal Seattle Councilman (former) and community leader David Della.

Back and forth this went on. Every time a well-known conservative or liberal backed me, the rival political machine would attempt to paint me as belonging to the other party, even though my background and list of endorsements from both sides clearly established me as non-partisan.

It is a serious mistake to alienate, stonewall, or attempt to silence someone without first listening to their ideas. We cannot continue to cut off the nose to spite the face. Our citizen’s are suffering, our families are suffering.

Some fear that if I continue to meet with one party or the other, it will cause me to be pulled too far to the left or right.  However, in my 15 years of working as a non-partisan in King County, I have experience in pulling both sides to the center, where we can meet to find answers to the problems we are all facing.

I ran for a non-partisan office, yet partisan politics continues to separate us. We know both sides will not always agree on partisan issues. However, King County decisions regarding regional services such as sewage treatment facilities, metro bus service, and road repair are not Republican or Democrat issues. This is the reason I choose to respect the will of the people and stay truly non-partisan. This is why I must remain as a fair and impartial facilitator, open to hearing both sides of the issue, and working to find the solution that best serves the people of King County, not the political parties that are set on dividing us.

Already, I am receiving support for another run in 2011. Already, I am being asked if I will declare a party this time around. I will run, and I will run as a non-partisan. I ask you to run with me. ♦

For more information, visit www.VoteTOLEDO.com or call David Toledo at 206-333-8118.

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