Redistricting panel OKs reshaped King County Council districts

November 17, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 17, 2011

King County’s reshaped political map keeps Issaquah in the same County Council district, even as the citizen panel responsible for the updated map made significant changes elsewhere.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the council-appointed  King County Districting Committee approved the updated boundaries. The reshaped map is effective immediately, although the impact of the changes might not be evident until after the 2012 elections.

Issaquah remains in Councilwoman Kathy Lambert’s District 3. The committee kept the rural communities south of city limits in Councilman Reagan Dunn’s District 9.

The committee’s decision followed a 10-month process, after members collected ideas and input from the public in a meetings throughout the county.

Reshaped King County Council districts keep Issaquah inside District 3 and rural communities south of the city inside District 9. Contributed

Overall, more than 80 people testified and more than 160 offered written comments during the once-in-a-decade process. The committee also reached out to elected officials in the county’s 39 cities and state legislators for insight into communities.

(The county is carved into nine districts, each represented by a single council member.)

“The committee reached unanimous agreement on this plan thanks to the members’ commitment to work together, follow an open process, and truly listen to the communities of King County,” committee Chairman Terrence Carroll, a retired King County Superior Court judge, said in a statement. “Public testimony was a cornerstone of our process: it raised new ideas, helped us better understand communities of interest, and enabled us to come together around common principles.”

In response to input, committee members revised early drafts to keep suburban cities in North King County in a single district and Snoqualmie Valley communities in a single district.

Both council districts in the Issaquah-area experienced a population boom in the years since the last districting process and needed to slim down to come closer to other districts’ populations.

The political map is redrawn after each U.S. Census to reflect changes in population and make each district as equal in population as possible. Under the plan approved Tuesday, all districts fall within one quarter of 1 percent of the target population for each district — 214,583 people.

The updated District 3 claims 214.325 residents; District 9 contains 214,863 people.

State law and the King County Charter require the edges of each district to meet the boundaries of existing municipalities, election precincts, census tracts, natural boundaries — such as rivers — and communities of related and mutual interest as closely as possible.

In the last decade, the minority population boomed in King County. Under the updated plan, each district is more diverse than the last plan. District 2 in Seattle and along Lake Washington is comprised of 50 percent people of color, and District 5 — a South King County district including Des Moines, Kent and SeaTac — is 49 percent.

In January, the council appointed a team of community leaders to update the map for representation in county government.

The committee also adopted rules to encourage transparency in the redistricting process. Members had to disclose at a public committee meeting if they had any contact with council members, County Executive Dow Constantine, or any county staffers or representatives.

The process earned praise from the Municipal League of King County, a nonpartisan watchdog organization.

“No districting plan can be perfect, but the committee made every effort to conduct its business openly, to listen to the public and use their ideas when possible, and to draw districts that truly serve the people of King County,” Carroll said.

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