P.O. Box 1007
Woodinville, WA 98072
June 14, 2010
Dear Executive Constantine:
We are writing this in the hopes that it will reach you personally, and capture your attention in a way that we were unable to do when we met a few weeks ago. When we asked you during your campaign how you would address animal services issues, you wrote of your “commitment to bring about long-overdue systemic change,” and promised that you would “hit the ground running and create real, rapid, and lasting change.”
We believe that you meant those promises, and still do. We believe that you share our
commitment to an animal care and control system where animals receive humane care,
where all adoptable and treatable animals find loving homes, and where animals in the
community are protected against cruelty and neglect.
However, something has gone tragically wrong in implementing your vision for a better
future for animals in King County – both in the actions that your administration has taken to date, and in the plan that you have presented to the King County Council. We have not seen meaningful signs of “real” and “rapid” change in KCACC in the past six months, and most importantly, your “Roadmap for Reform” does not plan for the kind of “long-overdue systemic change” that we agree is necessary to give county animal services any chance of being successful.
The time for this change is now, or never. If the long-overdue systemic change does not take place now, before the funding for the program is locked in for the next 2.5 years, then we believe that it never will. When we have spoken to Carrie Cihak over the past several months, we have always been told that real reform can wait – that real reform must wait – because “stability” needs to be brought to the system first in the form of guaranteed funding, and that there has been no time to simultaneously make fundamental changes that will help the animals.
But over the past three years, we have worked by your side to create instability in the system, for the very reason that a broken, failing system should not be stable. Until King County animal services can prove its ability to treat animals humanely, to get every healthy and treatable animal out of the shelter alive, to protect King County citizens and animals, and to spend taxpayer money wisely, its future should be in doubt. Like any non-profit organization that depends on donor funds, or any for-profit company that depends on customer satisfaction, county animal services should be required to demonstrate measurable success before it is guaranteed a future of taxpayer funding. It has not done so, and your “Roadmap for Reform” does not set forth the sort of fundamental reform that is required to fix this broken system. (You know, as well as anyone, that small fixes are not going to get the job done.) As a result, we are sending to the council today a 16-point position paper that outlines our reasons for opposing your Regional Plan for Animal Services. As described in detail in our position paper and the attached letter, we believe that your plan is bad for the animals and bad for the taxpayers, and perpetuates a dangerous situation for the citizens of King County.
We want to tell you how difficult the decision to publicly oppose your plan has been for us. We have supported you for years, because we believed that you were the county’s greatest champion for the animals. That is why we resisted taking an active public stance in opposition to your Regional Plan – even after it began to be clear that your plan was headed in the wrong direction, even after it was clear that your advisors were not open to differing opinions, and even after you walked out in the middle of our attempt to communicate these misgivings to you.
We are not naysayers by nature, and we have no desire to be at odds with another King
County executive. We want nothing more than to be able to conscientiously support you
and your vision for animal welfare in King County. We want nothing more than to
abandon our mission to “expose” KCACC, and instead use our time to help you to build a better future for King County’s animals. Our belief in this future has been our motivation to remain dedicated to this effort ever since we served on the KCACC Citizens’ Advisory Committee nearly three years ago. But now, we are not alone among your former supporters in feeling betrayed, disillusioned, and hopeless. At this point, many people who have been the strongest supporters of the animals have simply given up –after years of fighting and seeing so little progress at KCACC, they no longer believe progress is possible. They are tired of speaking out to expose neglect and cruelty at the hands of KCACC – of writing letters, of attending meetings, and of putting themselves and their reputations on the line. They
fought for years believing that they had your firm support, and that with your election, the animals would have a firm ally. Now, they do not know where to turn.
We looked to you for new solutions, and instead your administration is feeding us the
same old lines, supported by the same discredited statistics. We were confident that you would replace the old culture at KCACC (which you frequently described as “corrupt”)with a new culture based on compassion, expertise, and accountability. But instead, we have seen you entrust the future of animals in King County to advisors who have no background in animal sheltering or cruelty issues, and yet who are singularly unwilling to seek out expertise, or listen to ideas that differ from their own.
Now we find ourselves at an unfortunate impasse. Our principles demand that we stand
up for the animals and in opposition to your plan, even though we believe that you mean well, and have inadvertently allowed your policies to be taken in the wrong direction. And so this is our final plea: Please take a few minutes to actually read our position paper and consider it carefully. If we persuade you, please have the humility to admit that you (or your staff) may have made some mistakes, and be open to fresh perspectives. Please consider the possibility that these intractable problems at KCACC may call for a new way of doing things, rather than the “solution” that your advisors have found to bring “stability” to a broken system – by finding more money to fund more government.
We do not pretend that we have all the answers to the complex problems that you face in reforming KCACC. Please be open to the possibility that you, and your inexperienced advisors, do not have all the answers either, and seek to immediately hire and consult people who are proven experts in achieving the kinds of results that you envision for the animals of King County.1
No one is right all the time. With so many urgent problems for you to manage as King
County Executive, it is understandable that you might have allowed your staff to take the wrong path on this issue, with the best of intentions. But the mark of a great leader is his ability to admit mistakes, and make corrections before it is too late. Be bold. Be brave. Be the kind of leader we can follow with pride. And, please,
remember that the animals are counting on you.
Co-chairs, KCACC Exposed
It is worth noting here, for the record, that when we urge you to consult and hire “experts,” we do not mean ourselves. Neither of us has ever sought employment with King County, or compensation from the county of any kind. To the contrary, we have spent hundreds of hours volunteering our time to help the county – sometimes is an official capacity as with the advisory committee or strategic planning committee,
but often in a more unofficial capacity, as when we worked closely with you and your staff when you were a councilmember. And the main advice and assistance that we have attempted to offer to your staff in recent months has been to help them to find the appropriate experts to consult and hire, not by offering ourselves out as the people who have all the answers.