Law enforcement is vital to the public’s sense of security, not to mention in those hopefully rare occasions when an individual actually needs an officer at a moment’s notice. And a county fair is important for its own unique reasons.
Those were two of the many budgetary conundrums that King County’s elected officials and their constituents faced when a spending plan for county government in 2009 was being cobbled together the last few months. With a projected $93 million budget deficit looming, County Executive Ron Sims called for deep cuts in funding for the county’s criminal justice system, health services and even the King County Fair.
The fiscal surgery brought cries of anguish across the board, and rightly so. But eventually the reductions of manpower and services in law enforcement were minimized, among other final tweaking of the budget approved by the County Council. That’s some relief for citizens of Covington and Maple Valley, whose cities contract with the county for police protection.
The fair survived, too, despite Sims’ staunch assertion that it should be canceled. He reasoned the county shouldn’t keep subsidizing it (to the tune of $318,000, the amount allocated this year and again for next year) when people stay away from it in droves and the county is struggling to pay for critical public needs such as law enforcement.
It’s questionable if the 145-year-old fair really was in danger of vanishing. In past years’ budget-setting, county officials have drawn a bead on – but spared – other county-funded icons such as the world-class competitive swimming pool in Federal Way. But if the Sheriff Department can suffer budget cuts, nothing is sacred. And as county officials roundly warn, 2009 won’t be the last year that the paring knife will be sharpened.