Costco joins push to privatize liquor sales

May 24, 2011

Issaquah-based Costco and a group of retailers and restaurants ordered another round May 20 in the push to privatize liquor sales and distribution in Washington.

The group filed a ballot initiative to allow a limited number of retail stores to sell liquor. If the initiative passes, eligible stores must have at least 10,000 square feet of fully enclosed retail space within a single structure or, in areas without larger stores, meet Washington State Liquor Control Board requirements.

In addition to Costco, the group includes the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Restaurant Association.

“This initiative will modernize the wholesale distribution and retail sales of liquor in a way that increases consumer choice and convenience, and increases state and local revenues, while continuing to protect public safety and strictly regulate the distribution and sale of liquor,” Northwest Grocery Association President Joe Gilliam said in a release.

“Under the initiative, an estimated 1,500 grocery and retail stores would be eligible to apply for a license to sell liquor. The initiative would prohibit liquor from being sold at gas stations and small convenience stores,” Gilliam said.

Costco led a push last year to privatize liquor sales through Initiative 1100, but 53 percent of voters rejected the measure. The company employs 2,700 people in Issaquah, more than any other business.

The initiative must go through the state process to establish a ballot title before petitions can be printed. Supporters expect signature gathering to begin in about a month. If supporters gather enough signatures, the measure could appear on the November ballot.

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

State removes hurdle for cities in need of disaster assistance

May 24, 2011

Floodwaters inundated Snoqualmie in January 2009 and, even as nearby Issaquah dried out from a major flood, officials sent equipment to the other flood-plagued city.

Issaquah and other local governments previously needed to negotiate a patchwork of interlocal agreements among local governments, law enforcement agencies and emergency service providers in order to receive aid from other jurisdictions during a disaster.

Under legislation signed last month, asking for help from other agencies in Washington is simpler for Issaquah and other local governments.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said the measure allows local governments to request aid from other jurisdictions in Washington, even if the parties do not have interlocal agreements in place.

“Prior to this, it was easier to bring resources in from out of state than it was from other counties,” he said.

The measure could serve a crucial need during a regional disaster, such as a major earthquake.

“Typically, during those types of emergencies, all of the jurisdictions in King County are in the same boat, if you will,” Heath said. “We’re not in a position where we can share resources with each other, because we’re all maxed out. So, we need to bring resources in from outside.”

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Issaquah Relay for Life raises $240,000

May 24, 2011

About 900 people walked around the track at Skyline High School on May 21-22, honoring friends and family at the Relay for Life of Issaquah.

In spite of rainy weather, 78 teams and more than 50 cancer survivors spent the night at the track, raising money for the American Cancer Society.

As of May 23, participants had raised a gross amount of $240,000. The event’s organizers hope to raise another $10,000 in tax-deductible donations by the Aug. 31 deadline through the website www.issaquahrelayforlife.org.

Though it rained on the luminaria ceremony, which invited participants to light tea candles in bags decorated with the names of people who lived with cancer, the atmosphere was still empowering, American Cancer Society community relations manager Aimee Martin said.

“I think it was symbolic of that somber moment,” she said. “There was something to be said about the rain and having it come down, because it is a sad time.”

The images on the luminaria bags looked like watercolor paintings, making them all the more beautiful, she said.

“The rain continued throughout the night, but people were troopers and they pushed through,” she said. “It goes to show the strong community that Issaquah has and the support people have for the American Cancer Society every year.”

County adopts plan to prevent offenders from returning to jail

May 24, 2011

King County leaders accepted a plan May 9 to prevent offenders from returning to jail, and to help former offenders transition from incarceration to society.

The decision enables the county to access funds through the federal Second Chance Act, a measure meant to provide social services to prevent recidivism among former offenders.

The legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing and other services.

“I was pleased to put together a motion calling for the plan in July, and I am more pleased that we have adopted that plan,” Councilman Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor and Issaquah-area representative, said in a statement. “During these times of seriously declining resources, we need to do everything we can to position ourselves to compete for resources.”

Congress recently authorized $83 million for Second Chance Act programs. The federal government awards grants to local and state governments for the implementation of re-entry programs for released prison and jail inmates. In order to be eligible for the funds, local governments must put a re-entry program in place.

The program adopted focuses on coordinating human services and criminal justice activities.

“This plan puts King County in the position to seek federal funding for programs and services aimed at reducing recidivism,” Councilman Bob Ferguson, the council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee chairman, said in a statement. “Setting people up for success after being released from jail improves public safety, and improves outcomes for those individuals and their families.”

The decision burnishes both councilmen’s records on crime fighting in the race for state attorney general.

Ferguson, a Democrat, entered the race in February. Dunn, a Republican, is considering a bid for the office.

Observers expect current Attorney General Rob McKenna to enter the race for governor in the months ahead.

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

Council approves transportation plan

May 24, 2011

Proposal outlines repairs to weakened retaining wall

City Council members laid out a roadmap for Issaquah transportation projects May 2.

The council adopted the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, a guide to short- and long-term planning for road, transit and pedestrian projects. The document outlines possible transportation projects for 2012-17.

“Having a project on the TIP makes it eligible for certain types of funding, but more broadly, it signals to the community what improvements we’re considering for the future,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said before the unanimous decision.

The city Public Works Engineering Department lists transportation projects in the TIP, and then prioritizes the projects through a separate process to fund capital improvements.

Transportation planners outlined possible improvements to the timber retaining wall along Southeast Black Nugget Road behind Fred Meyer and The Home Depot.

Some timbers started to dislodge, rot is prevalent, pressure distorted some pilings and the fence atop the wall is failing. The city attributes the problems to shoddy construction. The timber was cut too short and too thin for the area. In addition, the structure was not properly treated.

King County could provide some funding to offset the estimated $496,000 repair cost.

“We’ve been talking with King County for a couple of years now, and we’re very close to reaching an agreement with them whereby we can receive some funds fairly quickly, with the possibility of additional funds over an undetermined period of time,” Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock told the council.

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City Council, school board to discuss shared issues

May 24, 2011

City Council and Issaquah School Board members face a substantial docket May 26, as the elected groups meet for dinner and a wide-ranging discussion.

Many issues overlap into both municipal and Issaquah School District spheres and, although no action is to be taken at the meeting, participants expect a productive meeting. City officials plan to update board members about ongoing city projects and vice versa.

“I think that it is clear that the success of the school district and the success of the city are intertwined,” Councilman Tola Marts said. “I’ve said many times, no one moves to Issaquah for the weather. They move to Issaquah for the Issaquah jewels, but they also move because it’s one of the few places in Washington state that’s somewhat affordable that also has outstanding education.”

Marts and Councilman Mark Mullet both have children in the Issaquah school system.

“I think it’s a good meeting, because I don’t think we do enough overlap to make sure that we know what’s going on with each other,” Mullet said.

Participants plan to discuss the school district’s $228.6 million bond proposal. The still-evolving proposal suggests for the district to raze Tiger Mountain Community High School and Clark Elementary School, and move campuses for the schools to a remodeled Issaquah Middle School. Such a proposal could affect downtown Issaquah traffic — a subject of intense focus from city leaders.

In the same vein, officials plan to discuss busy Second Avenue Southeast — a corridor bordered by Issaquah High School and other campuses.

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Press Editorial

May 24, 2011

Thank you for the winning opportunities

A big journalism award like Best Nondaily Newspaper in the Northwest gets our adrenaline pumping — and gives us pause to say thank you.

Let’s just start with the special section inside today’s paper, our second year to publish Lest We Forget. It’s a labor of love, and a labor of respect. It’s also a lot of hard work. But we couldn’t do it at all without the community neighbors and businesses who step up to cover the minimal costs. Thank you.

Thank you to all of the businesses that advertise with us year after year. Part of our commitment to excellent journalism is our commitment to advertisers to keep readership high. Quid pro quo. Your success is our success.

Thank you to our readers, who inspire us with their contributions of service to the community. Thank you for submitting your story ideas and photos. Thank you to the thousands for following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you to the owners of The Issaquah Press and its three sister newspapers. The Blethen family encourages us, and then gives us the resources to do great work.

We are often asked whether newspapers will survive the test of a changing time. We’re glad to say our crystal ball is rosy and bright. We’re not in the business of making predictions, but with a commitment to strong journalism and a strong community, we have a formula that will keep us around for many years. Heck, 111 years is just the beginning!

Thank you, Issaquah. We’re proud to be your award-winning newspaper.

Bellevue College leader, advocate for Issaquah campus, resigns

May 24, 2011

Bellevue College President Jean Floten, a strong advocate for adding a college campus to the Issaquah Highlands, is resigning from the institution to serve as chancellor of WGU Washington, the state’s online university.

Floten arrived at Bellevue College in 1989 and helped build the Eastside institution into a college serving about 39,000 students each year. Only the University of Washington and Washington State University outrank Bellevue College in size.

“Having the honor of serving as president of Bellevue College for over two decades has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said in a statement.

The college announced the resignation May 23.

In recent years, Floten focused on adding a satellite campus in a fast-growing Eastside community. The college announced plans last year to build a campus in the highlands, as a complicated land-preservation process neared completion.

The college purchased land for a highlands campus last year, but no construction timeline has been finalized.

The college’s board of trustees plans to launch a national search for a successor to Floten.

WGU Washington is a partnership between the state and Western Governors University.

Troopers confront slowpoke ‘left-lane campers’

May 24, 2011

State troopers cracked down last month on “left-lane campers” — people clogging traffic by traveling too slowly in the left lane.

Troopers stopped 223 motorists and issued 199 warnings during King County patrols. Washington State Patrol leaders conducted the exercise to educate drivers about the importance of the left-lane travel law.

Under state law, slower traffic should travel in the right lane in order to keep traffic flowing in a safe and orderly fashion. Motorists violate the law if they remain continuously in the left lane and impede the flow of other traffic. (The left lane does not include high-occupancy vehicle lanes.)

Slowpokes face a $124 fine if caught.

Motorists stopped for continually driving in the left lane often frequently state, “I didn’t realize it was against the law.”

Slow vehicles traveling in the left lane create unsafe conditions as other motorists grow frustrated and start to pass on the right side. The problem causes traffic congestion as motorists follow a slow-moving vehicle too closely.

School district awards Maywood contract

May 24, 2011

Six contractors submitted bids for the Maywood Middle School addition and modernization; M.J. Takisaki Inc. was awarded the project.

The Seattle company gave the lowest base bid at $11.8 million in a range of base bids that went as high as $13.2 million.

After accepting the base bid, district staff members agreed to several more construction projects at the school, including a new elevator and fire alarm system, as well as new partitions and music storage rooms, bringing the bid to about $12.2 million. Finally, the district agreed to a Washington state sales tax of about $1 million, bringing the final bid to $13.2 million.

The Issaquah School Board approved the bid at its April 28 meeting. Maywood’s modernization and expansion is slated for completion by August 2012.

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