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King County Executive speaks at WRA annual board retreat

King County Executive speaks at WRA annual board retreat

It was a pleasure to host King County Executive Dow Constantine this week as a guest speaker for the WRA annual summer retreat, held in Seattle.

The board met with Constantine to learn more about emerging issues that persuaded WRA to become active in addressing retail issues in Seattle.

Just over a year ago, the association launched a grassroots initiative – the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle. This work has allowed the association to be a powerful voice for retail at the local level, recognizing that the policies and decisions made by local officials are impacting retailers and their cost of doing business.

Constantine is heading up a coalition of business, government and philanthropic organizations to address homelessness in Seattle and King County. Homelessness is more than a complex social challenge. It affects retailers in downtown Seattle and elsewhere whose customers are discouraged from shopping when the homeless seek shelter outside of stores.

Board members thanked Constantine for opposing a payroll head tax initially approved by the Seattle City Council, then quickly repealed last month, due to opposition from businesses. The council intended to use the revenue to address homelessness.

Constantine is heading up discussions to find other ways to address homelessness including using the county’s bond capacity to build or purchase housing for the homeless.

The board also heard updates from other speakers, including:

  • John Engber, WRA’s Seattle lobbyist heading up the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle. Engber discussed 2019 City Council elections and outlined possible new political issues that could arise at City Hall.
  • Dann Mead Smith, President of the Washington Policy Center, a Seattle-based nonpartisan think tank on various public issues. Smith explained how the national political landscape could change now that the U.S. Supreme Court has given public employees the choice of whether to join labor unions.
  • Principals from the Tacoma firm Rusty George Creative. The firm is in the midst of completing a comprehensive rebranding process for the association updating all WRA external communications. The work is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

The board also heard an update on the September Retail Hiring Month promotion and voted to oppose an initiative campaign to impose a fee on fossil-fuel emissions. This would significantly harm retailers and consumers by driving up transportation and delivery costs.

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