King County Districting Committee proposes changes for Issaquah
July 5, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
The electoral map could look different for Issaquah voters in November 2012.
In January, King County Council members appointed a team of community leaders to update the map for representation in county government. The team delivered a series of proposals late last month to reflect population changes recorded in the 2010 Census.
“It’s very interesting to see the demographics and to see the changes in our county,” said Terrence Carroll, committee chairman and a retired King County judge.
Both County Council districts in the Issaquah-area — 3 and 9 — experienced a population boom in the years since the last districting process and must shrink in order to come closer to other districts’ populations.
The committee could split Issaquah into districts 3 and 9 at Interstate 90 or, in another scenario, shift Issaquah into suburban District 6 alongside Bellevue and Kirkland. The remaining proposals keep Issaquah in District 3 and unincorporated areas to the south in District 9.
“It’s like a mobile. Every time you touch one thing, it affects another part,” committee member and Newcastle resident John Jensen said. “You can’t just move 5,000 people from one district and not have it affect everything else.”
Councilwoman Jane Hague represents District 6, Councilwoman Kathy Lambert represents Issaquah proper and Councilman Reagan Dunn represents unincorporated areas south of city limits in District 9.
The council lineup could change before the next elections. Hague is up for re-election in November. The race for state attorney general in 2012 includes Councilman Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, and Dunn, a Republican.
Each proposed map uses a different approach in order to meet the redistricting requirements in state law and the King County Charter.
The committee held public hearings in Seattle, Kirkland and Kent to gather community input before drafting the proposals.
“I don’t think anybody’s endorsing any one 100 percent like we’re satisfied with it, but we do think there’s enough variety there that we’ll be tickling people to give us some input,” Jensen said.
The county charter grants the authority for adopting a completed districting map to the citizen Districting Committee, not the County Council.
“I think, unless this subject is of interest to a person, it would be hard to see a lot of difference, although there are differences,” Carroll said.
The committee relies on a technical expert — a “districting master” — in order to create proposals. The committee must complete the process and file the final districting plan by January 2012, although members said the group is on track to present a plan months earlier than required, in October. The map is due to take effect next year, but legal challenges could delay its implementation.
State law and the King County Charter require council district boundaries to be reset by using the most recent census data. The statutes require the edges of each district to meet the boundaries of existing municipalities, election precincts, census tracts, recognized natural boundaries, and communities of related and mutual interest as closely as possible.
In North King County, for instance, officials from cities along Lake Washington asked the committee to consider keeping the cities in the same district, because the communities share police resources.
Districts must also be drawn as contiguous areas and to be as nearly equal in population as possible. The population data cannot be used to favor or disadvantage any racial group or political party.
Usually, the districting process occurs after a census, but another districting committee reshaped districts in 2005, after voters reduced the number of council seats from 13 to nine.
Despite the proposals from the committee, the process remains fluid. Members heard input from the public in late June and more information gathering is scheduled.
“If anybody thought that minds are made up on the commission, they would be wrong,” Jensen said.
Meet the committee
The districting committee includes member from across King County and from varied backgrounds.
- Chairman Terrence Carroll is a retired King County Superior Court judge, a respected arbitrator and a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at the Seattle University School of Law.
- Rod Dembowski is a partner at the Seattle-based law firm Foster Pepper, a former policy analyst for then-County Executive Gary Locke and a staff assistant for the U.S. Senate.
- John Jensen is president of Jensen Roofing Co., a past member of the King County Charter Review Commission and a Newcastle resident.
- Sally Nelson is a longtime civic leader in South King County and helped spearhead the effort to incorporate Burien.
- Sally Poliak leads The Poliak Group, a strategic communications and public affairs advocacy firm, as CEO and president, and she served on the 1991 county districting committee.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.