Running King County Like A Business…Into the Ground

In their endorsement of Susan Hutchison, the Seattle Times told us that it was important for the county to, “act more like private-sector businesses.” Now, ignore that the county and businesses have fundamentally different jobs, so they should be run differently. Also, ignore the fact that the Times’ advice – hire someone with no experience, don’t look at new ways of finding revenue, and don’t even consider running a deficit – would be terrible advice for a business during a recession.

No, what I’m more concerned about is: who the fuck is the Seattle Times to tell anyone how to run a business? The Seattle Times that’s mired in debt? The Seattle Times that in recent years has lost most of its value. The Seattle Times who rumors are always circulating about their bankruptcy? They’re the ones who want to tell the county how to be more like a business?

I mean shit, if King County was run like The Seattle Times’ business, they’d buy worthless county property in Maine. Maybe hire Kurt Triplett’s kid to head up a major department even if he wasn’t really competent.

Now, you may think this is unfair. After all, there’s a line between the content and business sides of the paper. Normally, I’d think that was a reasonable point, if not necessarily a convincing one. But when the publisher is dictating content, it’s fair to ask how that content lines up with what that publisher does.


  1. 2

    dutch spews:

    Welcome back Carl…hadn’t seen you for a while.
    So if you are so upset about Blethen “dictating” content, why are you then getting your marching orders from the “owner of HA” Mr. Goldstein, and following right along. Same thing…or ?

  2. 3



    Goldy doesn’t pay me, and we sometimes disagree. He’s never dictated content to me except to the extent that I’ll sometimes ask for advice on a post I’m writing. And to my knowledge he’s never dictated content to any other front page writer.

  3. 4

    Tom Foss spews:

    Actually, I thought that what businesses now seem to do is run to the taxpayers to cover them for all their bad decisions. And if I am not mistaken, that is what Jr. Blethen has cautiously advocated in his barely readable Sunday filler when he tried to write on what we need, and the Times needs, for new media business models.

    The other form of growing business models is also similar- take well delivered and relatively cost effective public services and privatize them and hand contracts to your political supporters and cronies. Bloat them, ignore the fraud and waste, and hide them from public sight. Is that we want to trickle down to King Co?

    The Times did once use almost identical logic and even language to endorse another Blethen chosen, untested, not too intelligent, but familiar named candidate for an important office back in 2000. I cancelled my subscription. Now if I want a local paper I don’t have a choice…

    Its a sad state of affairs.

  4. 5

    YellowPup spews:

    The Seattle Times is also asking the government for money to prop it up. How’s that for infinite recursion?

  5. 6

    Andrew spews:

    A-fucking-men. If King County were a business, Susan Hutchison wouldn’t even get an interview. Imagine applying to be CEO of a company with exactly zero relevant experience. It’s insulting.

    What would the run-it-like-a-business crowd say if Hutchison were applying to be CEO of a business they held significant stock in, say Amazon or Microsoft or UPS or Boeing with no relevant experience whatsoever?

  6. 7

    jcricket spews:

    This is the very same philosophy that Mr George W. Bush advocated as he was running for president in 2000. Once installed by the Supreme Court, we had the first MBA president run our country into the ground.

    And the Times wants to repeat this HUGE mistake? Hoping for cronyism, no doubt.

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Given that just last spring Frank Blethen went to Olympia with a tin cup, he’s in no position to tell anyone else how to run a business, a county, or anything else.

  8. 9

    SJ trollpatrol spews:


    Let me add a log to this fire.

    The praise piece for Hutchinson was NOT about private business, it was about her efforts begging money to support the Seattle Symphony!

    And where did MOST of these carefully managed, zero based budgeting dollars come from? Her employer, Charles Simonyi DONATED most of the money needed to close the debt!

    Great going Suzy! Do you think Charley can come up with enough to fund the County too?

    Moreover, Charley was not here only fund raising angel. A major point the ST made was her success getting Mayor Nickles to chip in .. at Seattle Tax Payer expense .. funds that were dure the city for rental of Benaroya Hall!

    I guess that is one view of “private enterprise” folks like the Blethens understand.

  9. 10

    David spews:

    I always tire of this 5th grade like argument that government should be run ‘like a business’. Government is not a business, it’s dedicated services for all, not optional voluntary widgets sold. But regardless of the entirely different structural concepts, there’s nothing freakin ‘magical’ about businesses. Nothing. Many many many governments are run very well. From local towns of 3000 (where I grew up) to cities of millions, counties, and some states even. And many many many business are run badly and are corrupt or make horrible choices (Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, Boeing of late, etc). Bad management, poor financial decisions, greedy or corrupt people exist in both public and private sector. The idea that the ‘cure’ to some problem with someone has with government is to run it like Enron is ridiculous.

    I know, someone well come back with a snitty comment about how we can run a government like a GOOD business, doesn’t have to be a corrupt stupid one like Enron. True. But under that logic, you can run a government like a GOOD government too. Neither is magically always good or bad. They’re just two different types of organizations designed to meet two entirely different types of needs with entirely different requirements.

  10. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 “And where did MOST of these carefully managed, zero based budgeting dollars come from? Her employer, Charles Simonyi DONATED most of the money needed to close the debt!”

    That’s not wholly correct. The City of Seattle donated millions of taxpayer dollars. That’s right, Suzie’s brag is based on her success in panhandling the taxpayers!

    Which should make you wonder what her game plan is for the county budget. Ask the city to bail her out again? Or maybe her rich developer friends will agree to kick in — if she sees things their way on CAO and a couple other issues they’re interested in …

  11. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @10 “Many many many governments are run very well.”

    And 90% of all private businesses fail.

  12. 13

    SJ trollpatrol spews:

    Lessee …..

    David Goldstein vs Susan Hutrchunson for KC Exec?

    Hutchinson … fired from KIRO for not being pretty enough.
    Goldstein … fired from KIRO for not being conservative Dori Monson.

    Hutchinson … lived of the charity of a generous M-softy emeritus.
    Goldstein … made his way creating a small business.

    Hutchinson … begged lotsa tax free bucks from rich folks so they oculd dress up and go to Symphony.
    Goldstein … begged lotsa bucks taxable bucks from ordinary folks hoping to elect a competent Represntative to Congress.

    Hutchinson … sufficiently illiterate in science that she has worked to support a creationist institute.
    Goldstein … smart enough to hold his own with two UW profs who give him a hard time about science.

    Hutchinson … has yet to demonstrate any knowledge of government OR management, much less ideas.
    Goldstein ???? enough said!

    ooops …

    Seems like I should write in Goldy? Oh well, HE recommends Dow. Maybe that is cuz Hutchinson has no visible qualifications other than being a self denying Republican?

  13. 14

    SJ trollpatrol spews:

    Lessee …

    Businesses hiring Govt Types

    Halliburton hirted Dick Haney and it was goooood.

    Govt hiring business types

    We all hired George Bush and it was not so goooood.

  14. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @10 Actually, the differences between running a business and a government are huge — so much so that most business executives who migrate to the public sector fail there.

    About 20-odd years ago I was a matriculated student in Seattle University’s graduate school of public management. I took courses on public management, public finance, etc.

    Nowhere are the differences between business and government more stark than in the financial realm. In business, you commit funding to a product with the goal it will more than pay for itself, i.e., return more revenue than it costs. In government, you’re given a defined objective and a budget to achieve it.

    Say you run a county health program that gets a $50,000 grant to vaccinate children. Let’s say each shot costs $10. You’re not supposed to say, “Hey, if we vaccinate only 2,000 kids, we can return $30,000 to the kitty.” You’re supposed to go out and find 5,000 kids and vaccinate them. If you don’t spend the $50,000 and get 5,000 kids vaccinated, you haven’t done your job — you’ve failed.

    This is what people like Suzie Hutchison and Frank Blethen don’t get about governing.

  15. 20

    Ben Stein's Money spews:

    re 2: “… marching orders….”

    Good one. Right out of Chairman Rove’s Little Red Book.

    What Carl is doing has nothing to do with HA owner Goldy ‘lox’ Goldstein. Oh, no!! It’s a page right out of the Liberal Playbook, Dum-Dum.

  16. 21

    Ben Stein's Money spews:

    re 15: “This is what people like Suzie Hutchison and Frank Blethen don’t get about governing.”

    They also cannot fathom the long-term financial benefit to the body politic of having 5,000 instead of 2,000 kids vaccinated.

    If 107 of the 3,000 kids vacinated get the disease, it would be (in Wingnuttia)because they made the poor life choice of not getting the vaccination.

  17. 22

    Ben Stein's Money spews:

    re 10: “Neither is magically always good or bad. They’re just two different types of organizations designed to meet two entirely different types of needs with entirely different requirements.”

    One of the requirements that the founding fathers made of corporate organization is that the corporation have a specific public purpose for it to exist and that it be dissolved after that purpose was met.

    Otherwise, you end up with monopolies that run the government. The teabaggers of today might do well to find out why the tea was thrown in the harbor.

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    @10 notaboomer worries that “we guys” hate the Symphony.

    No one here said that.

    What we did say is that fundraising from the wealthy is not a rational qualification for Hutchinson’s running the County.

  19. 24

    Chris Stefan spews:

    Maybe Hutchison’s supporters think she’ll close the county budget gap by convincing wealthy patrons to donate to the County?

    Most people seem to not have a clue about what the true size or scope of the job of the King County Executive is. King County has more people and a larger budget than many states. In terms of physical size King County is nearly the size of Rhode Island. Unincorporated King county has a larger population than any city in the state other than Seattle. Metro Transit is one of the 10 largest transit agencies in the country. It is a large and complex job, not something you want to hand over to someone with no qualifications.

  20. 25

    Don spews:

    In a recent debate, Suzie claimed she had the experience to deal with union employees and something about arbitrarily renegotiating contracts. So how many union musician’s salaries were cut or members let go? How many times did she call for negotiations before the symphony budget crisis appeared? If none, then she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth and does not deserve a single vote.

  21. 26

    Ben Stein's Money spews:

    I think we should hire the Mexicans in frint of Home Depot to play in our orchestra.

    Everthing might end up sounding like Vaya con Dios, but it would be cheap, non-union and well within budget constraints.

    We should hire these guys to design our bridges as well.

  22. 27


    you have a point: the seattle times has no credibility.

    you have another point: government is not like business and should not be regarded as such.

    oh, but it would be nice if we ran a balanced budget.

    also, this progressive attitude of “lets eat the rich they’re a bunch of poopy heads” is kind of… weird.

  23. 28

    Brenda Helverson spews:

    Government cannot be run like a business because, unlike any business, the government must serve all customers, many of whom a private business would simply turn away.

    If King County elects Susie Beans, they should budget for a teleprompter. Otherwise, she won’t know what to say.

    Anyone remember KIRO’s “Out of the Box” experiment? Susie couldn’t handle the format and perfected her “deer in the headlights” act. If she is elected, get used to that look.

  24. 29


    Brenda said:

    Government cannot be run like a business because, unlike any business, the government must serve all customers, many of whom a private business would simply turn away.

    I say:

    Government cannot be run like a business because, unlike any business, the government takes money from all people, many of whom would simply not shop with a private business.