Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fascinating, but very different

Our Cabinet Members' meeting on Monday morning saw a visit from Metropolitan King County Council in Seattle, Washington State.

Councilmember (that's his title as an elected member) Larry Gossett and Auditor Cheryle Broom are spending the week with us in Kent, to learn about the differences in our governance and to share the way they do things in King County.

There are similarities - a population of 1.9m compared to our 1.5m and a similar budget. The interesting thing was that in terms of democratic representation, the whole county, with its urban and rural communities and thirty nine cities, has just nine elected members. It's very different.

We heard about their impressive focus on the green agenda - around 100 of the 1800 council-controlled buses are hybrid, and over the next few years two thirds of the council's 2000 cars will be low emission vehicles.

But on the minus side, only fifteen percent of the population who need social housing actually get it - leaving, as we were told, 85% of the rest "left to hustle".

We talked about the criminal justice system, and I was amazed to hear that 25% of the wordl's jail population are imprisoned in the United States. Of the 2,000,000 in jail in the US, 1,100,000 are African American.

It's a very different place. Fascinating, but very different.

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