Off the Press

December 21, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Forget 2012 election; real action is in 2011

December is a lifetime removed from the rough and tumble of election season.

Warren Kagarise Press Reporter

Right?

Nope.

Though the mid-term election is more than a month in the past — and a recount ended the last local race in early December — attention has already started to turn to 2011.

Issaquah has City Council and school board elections in November and, depending on the number of candidates, a possible August primary election.

Pundits starting peering into the crystal ball in the direction of 2012 before Dino Rossi had drafted a concession speech, but the races on the ballot next year could carry just as much impact for city and Issaquah School District residents.

OK, so City Council and Issaquah School Board contests lack the intrigue of the 2012 races — the battle royale for the Governor’s Mansion, another U.S. Senate race, and the redrawn congressional and legislative map — but local leaders decide all sorts of important issues, too.

The largest slice of property tax rates falls to City Council and school board members, for instance. So do the choices about the textbooks used in local classrooms. Not to mention the decisions to build parks and roads.

Despite the significance of the outcomes, elections in odd-numbered years seldom attract much attention, because in all likelihood, no marquee races sit atop the ballot to drive turnout.

(The year 2009 at least featured the King County executive smack down between Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison.)

The races on the 2011 ballot present many opportunities for community leaders, citizen activists, and untested Joes and Janes to enter the political arena as candidates.

Councilmen Fred Butler, Joshua Schaer and John Traeger could face voters, if some or all of the officials decide to run for re-election.

The ballot also contains a trio of Issaquah School Board seats.

The terms for Suzanne Weaver, Brian Deagle and Jan Woldseth Colbrese expire in November.

I hope some qualified candidates decide to step into the fray — not because the incumbents lack the qualifications to serve, but because contested races could force a robust discussion about priorities.

Issaquah residents should see a rush before the June 10 filing cutoff, not something like the crickets heard on the Friday afternoon deadline in June 2009.

The somnolent 2009 election attracted participation from just about half of the Issaquah electorate — nothing to boast about considering the issues.

The council debate centered on the perennial questions related to the environment, economic development and transportation.

Yawn.

Mayor Ava Frisinger, Councilwoman Eileen Barber and Mark Mullet, then a political neophyte, needed little more than a rubber stamp from voters.

Chad Magendanz, another newcomer to the electoral process, faced no opposition in the race for a school board seat.

Ironically, Issaquah has a history of close elections. In the recent past, candidates eked to victory based on dozens of ballots in City Council and mayoral contests.

So, yes, even a little-noticed local race can generate some excitement.

Forget the 2012 election for at least another 11 months. The real action happens next year.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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