Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Political Desk - King County Measures Twice, Shoots Foot

So, moving down from the state level to the county, we have two proposals. On is the King County Proposition No. 1, Renewal of an existing levy for Medic One – Emergency Medical Services. I'm good with Medic One, though I have to renew it every year, it seems. Yes, let’s go with YES on this on.

The other one is King County Charter Amendment No. 1, which is completely different from King County Proposal No. 1. This is to create an appointed office of county public defender, a department of public defense, and a public defense advisory board. Sounds like a lot, so the question is, why are we doing all this NOW? Don’t we HAVE a public defender for King County?

Well, we do. Well, did. For 44 years, we had four nonprofit corporations providing public defender services for King County. These tended to get high marks for their services than similar public programs in other cities. In the middle of the year, King County chose to end those contracts with the nonprofits and pull the public defender’s fully into the bureaucracy within a Public Defender’s Office. This was because of a court case from a public defender stating that the public defenders were de facto county employees and should be treated as such with regards to benefits.

I’m not so certain about the ruling and the result, as King County was noted for having excellent and progressive results with its non-profit approach, and (for once) I don’t think we are well-served to add another chunk of responsibility at a time when most government is seeking to privatize as much as possible. But that’s not what this measure is about. It is about approving the creation of such a department in a way that maintains much of their previous independence. I have my doubts, but I will go for voting a grudging YES on this.

More later,