Press Editorial

March 1, 2011

Downtown Issaquah has opportunity ahead

The DownTown Issaquah Association has a new director. That announcement may seem insignificant, but at second glance, the association is important to everyone who lives here.

Newcomers repeatedly say it is the historic downtown along Front Street that is a prime factor is choosing Issaquah. It’s that last vestige of bygone Norman Rockwell-like days that lure people here.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that doing business in this central core is easy. The downtown has its problems — like traffic, lack of adequate parking and lack of a destination store. But it has its pluses — at the heart of the civic area, lower rents and it’s pedestrian friendly.

When Village Theatre expanded to its Mainstage theater, it was predicted that the downtown would become a cultural district. It took years to do that, but over time came the opening of the new Issaquah Library, the monthly ArtWalks and weekly Music on the Streets, the founding of artEAST and its Up Front gallery, and other businesses rounding out the scene with art and music classes. More restaurants followed, some with live music of their own.

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Teenager reports sexual assault near Issaquah

March 1, 2011

UPDATED — 6 p.m. March 1, 2011

Investigators seek information and witnesses after a teenage girl reported sexual assault near Issaquah late Monday afternoon.

Police said a man in a truck picked up the Issaquah girl at about 5:30 p.m. as she walked along state Route 900 near Issaquah, assaulted her and preceded to drive around the area. The girl told police he held her against her will and released her after about 30 minutes.

Investigators described the suspect as a Hispanic man between 19 and 25 years old, and about 5-feet 6-inches tall. Police said he had a strong accent, and wore jeans, a dark blue sweatshirt and a hat. Sideburns could be seen from beneath the hat.

Investigators described the truck as a dark blue, midsize pickup. The truck bed contained a blue metal toolbox with white writing.

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Residents dig out from February snowstorm

March 1, 2011

Camden Jeske (left), 9, and his brother Mason, 6, try different strategies for a successful snowball fight with their dad Terry on Feb. 24 at their home south of downtown Issaquah. By Greg Farrar

Snowflakes, egged on by a relentless drumbeat from TV meteorologists, started to fall in Issaquah just as the afternoon commute started in earnest Feb. 22.

Unlike the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm responsible for gridlock on roads and mass transit in Issaquah and throughout the region, planners said the late February snowfall did not cause quite so many headaches.

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Census: Issaquah is home to more than 30,000 people

March 1, 2011

City is more diverse and 170 percent larger than a decade ago

Issaquah is 170 percent larger and more diverse than a decade ago.

The city ballooned to 30,434 people — the result of a population boom fueled by annexations and housing construction. Information from the 2010 Census released Feb. 23 ranks Issaquah as No. 6 on the list of fastest-growing cities in the state during the past decade.

Furniture and belongings are unloaded from a moving truck Feb. 26 for a new resident of Estates on Cougar Mountain at Talus. By Greg Farrar

The population data also depicts Issaquah as a more diverse place than a decade ago.

The city claimed 11,212 residents after the 2000 Census. In the decade since the last decennial count, housing construction boomed in the hillside Issaquah Highlands and Talus neighborhoods. Issaquah also absorbed unincorporated King County communities in large annexations.

The population remains overwhelmingly Caucasian — 75 percent, although the percentage dipped from the 88 percent recorded in the 2000 Census — as more Asian and Latino residents settled in the city.

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DownTown Issaquah Association replaces longtime director

March 1, 2011

Downtown Issaquah booster Greg Spranger — nicknamed “Captain Downtown” — is out at the DownTown Issaquah Association after leading the organization for more than a decade.

DownTown Issaquah Association President David Irons said the organization is pursuing a different approach to boosting businesses and programs in the historic downtown. So, the board scrapped the executive director position Spranger held, and created a community relations manager post as a replacement.

Greg Spranger

The board hired Issaquah resident Tanya Alter for the post. Irons announced the appointment Feb. 28, the same day Alter started in the part-time position.

“When looking at her résumé, she had the attributes we were looking for in a candidate,” Irons said.

The organization put out a call for applicants in January; 42 people applied for the position, including Spranger.

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Lawmakers host Issaquah town hall meeting

March 1, 2011

Issaquah residents can meet 5th Legislative District lawmakers at a town hall meeting March 12.

GOP state Sen. Cheryl Pflug, and Republican state Reps. Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson, invite residents to roundtable discussions at Issaquah City Hall.

Citizens can receive updates about the ongoing legislative session, and share questions, comments and concerns about legislation, state government and issues affecting the district.

“I’m eager to hear from constituents — please bring all your questions and ideas. Even though the Legislature is struggling with an almost $5 billion deficit, I have hope for this session,” Pflug said in a statement. “There is more bipartisan work searching for solutions, although it remains a challenge to get legislators to think outside of the historical box.”

The state faces a $4.6 billion hole in the budget for 2011-13. Residents could face increased fees and reduced services from state agencies, and larger class sizes in schools as a result of widespread cuts.

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Executive offers bold plan in State of the County address

March 1, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine reflected on milestones from 15 months in office and outlined a bold agenda for the months ahead in the State of County address Feb. 28.

The top elected official in the county offered a plan to shore up aging infrastructure and the social safety net amid drastic budget cuts. The address to County Council representatives and community members also emphasized regional partnerships.

Dow Constantine

“The choices we make will have a lasting and profound impact. As our parents and grandparents did, we too owe it to those who come after us to be responsible, thoughtful and smart,” Constantine said. “If we do our jobs right — building on the commitment to partnership and collaboration that have created the many successes of the past year — we can translate our internal reforms to external results.”

The executive delivered the speech at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, in part to highlight efforts to shore up the aging Howard Hanson Dam. The dam, upstream from Kent along the Green River, required local, county and federal agencies to join together to secure funds for long-term repairs.

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King County leaders reflect on Nisqually earthquake

March 1, 2011

Leaders said King County has undertaken projects designed to protect life and property in the 10 years since the Nisqually earthquake.

The magnitude-6.8 tremor struck the region at 10:54 a.m. Feb. 28, 2001.

“I was a state senator serving in Olympia when the Nisqually quake struck, and it sounded like the Capitol building dome was going to collapse on top of us,” County Executive Dow Constantine recalled in a statement. “Particularly after that experience, I take emergency preparation very seriously. I am pleased to see the progress we have made in the past decade to make us better able to withstand the next substantial earthquake in our region.”

The earthquake cracked the Capitol dome and caused widespread damage across the Puget Sound region, injured hundreds of people and left billions of dollars in property damage.

“As many residents may recall, the King County Courthouse was one of the hardest-hit buildings in the quake,” county Facilities Management Director Kathy Brown said. “Inspectors found cracked plaster, broken windows and failed clay tile walls. Fortunately, though, the primary structure escaped damage.”

In the aftermath, the county acted quickly to retrofit the courthouse to current seismic standards. The improvements included pouring a new foundation and shear walls, adding shock absorbers and installing carbon fiber reinforcing wrap on support columns. The seismic retrofit, plus safety improvements to the building, cost $105 million. Crews completed the project on time and under budget.

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Costco adopts sustainable seafood policy after Greenpeace campaign

March 1, 2011

Costco agreed to pull 12 fish species from display cases after Greenpeace targeted the company for seafood policies and sent a blimp to Issaquah to attract attention to the issue.

The Greenpeace airship A.E. Bates flies the banner ‘Costco: Wholesale Ocean Destruction’ over Costco corporate headquarters on June 30, 2010. File

Greenpeace called on Issaquah-based Costco to discontinue selling the fish — including Atlantic halibut, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy and shark — threatened by overfishing.

Costco — the largest wholesale club in the United States and the largest employer in Issaquah — also pledged to pursue sound practices for farmed salmon and shrimp. The chain also has plans to focus on the environmental impact related to canned tuna.

“It is important that the items we offer our customers are those that we can continue to provide well into the future and to provide responsibly,” Jeff Lyons, Costco senior vice president for fresh foods, said in a statement. “Our policy will help us to continue to meet the demands of our customers, who look to us for high quality items at great value.”

The decision concludes a campaign launched last spring by Greenpeace to prod Costco to adopt a sustainable seafood policy.

Greenpeace sent a rainbow-patterned blimp to hover above Costco corporate headquarters and the flagship warehouse last June.

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Error disqualifies Issaquah Special Olympics team from state competition

March 1, 2011

The Issaquah Lions, a youth Special Olympics basketball team, played their hearts out on the court Feb. 13, beating both Tahoma and Enumclaw — wins that secured the Lions a place at the state championships in Wenatchee.

“The kids were so thrilled, some of them cried with tears of joy at their accomplishment,” coach Jeff Powers said.

One player, a 3-foot tall boy with Down syndrome, spent most of the game running up and down the court. During one game, “he threw up a shot and this was the thrill of his life,” Powers said.

The Issaquah Lions gather with their coaches for a photo of their medals after winning the regional games. The team was later disqualified and barred from the Special Olympics state championships because it had 11 athletes instead of 10. By Marc Levy

The next day, the coaches received a message from the Special Olympics Washington office: Basketball teams can have up to 10 players on a team, and the Lions had played with 11 athletes, disqualifying them from the state competition.

Tahoma, the runner-up team that had placed second at the regional games, would be going in its place.

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