Issaquah Councilman Mark Mullet enters state Senate race against Cheryl Pflug

January 10, 2012

Issaquah Councilman Mark Mullet is embarking on a campaign for the state Senate against incumbent Cheryl Pflug, Issaquah’s representative in the chamber.

Mullet, a Democrat and the proprietor of Zeeks Pizza and Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in the Issaquah Highlands, became the latest local candidate to enter a race for state office in recent days.

Pflug, a registered nurse and Maple Valley Republican, intends to run for re-election to the seat.

Mark Mullet

Mullet focused on education and the economy in a pre-announcement interview. He also said the 5th Legislative District needs closer ties among the state senator and city leaders throughout the sprawling district.

In 2004, Pflug, then a state representative, succeeded Dino Rossi in the state Senate; she has been subsequently re-elected.

The field also includes Republican Brad Toft, a Snoqualmie businessman. More candidates could enter the race before the May filing deadline.

Issaquah and other local voters pick the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, Aug. 7 in the all-mail primary election.

The former 5th Legislative District posed a challenge to Democrats. The redrawn district debuting in the 2012 election sheds some Issaquah neighborhoods for a more rural — and conservative — character.

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State Supreme Court again rules basic education is state duty

January 10, 2012

“Cautiously optimistic” was the response of Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen to Jan. 5’s state Supreme Court ruling regarding school funding.

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the Legislature is not living up to its constitutional mandate to fund basic education.

The ruling came in the so-called NEWS lawsuit, filed in 2007 and named for the coalition of school districts, teachers unions and education advocates that led the suit. The Issaquah district supported the suit through an amicus brief filed with the court.

That group is known as the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools. It was asking the court to help enforce a 1978 ruling that also said the state was not living up to its paramount duty to pay for basic kindergarten through 12th-grade education.

In the conclusion of its ruling, the court majority opinion stated that Article IX, Section 1 of the state Constitution makes it the “paramount duty of the state to amply provide for the education of all children within its borders.”

“The state has failed to meet its duty under Article IX, Section 1 by consistently providing school districts with a level of resources that falls short of the actual costs of the basic education program,” the opinion further states.

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Merry Christmas Issaquah donations set record

January 10, 2012

End of the year donations to Merry Christmas Issaquah sent the fund drive well beyond its $65,000 goal. With $77,362 total donations, the fund drive set a new record, 16 percent ahead of last year. There were 231 donors, also a new record.

The donations ranged from a few dollars to dual donations of $10,000. The proceeds will ensure that Issaquah Community Services has adequate funding to meet the growing needs for emergency financial assistance. During 2011, more than $88,000 in assistance was provided to local families facing eviction or utility shut-off, or just needing a bus ticket.

Merry Christmas Issaquah was first initiated by The Issaquah Press in 1981 when about $1,000 was donated. Over the past three decades, more than $785,000 has been collected to fund ICS in the nonprofit organization’s mission of providing emergency financial aid.

The fund drive is closed for the year, but donations can be sent any time to ICS, P.O. Box 669, Issaquah, WA 98027. ICS is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Learn more or volunteer by emailing info@issaquahcommunityservices.com.

Issaquah School Board is unanimous in support for coming bond issue

January 10, 2012

Probably to no one’s surprise, at its last meeting of 2011 on Dec. 14, the Issaquah School Board unanimously passed a resolution supporting a $219 million capital bond issue that will go before voters in April.

The board voted in October to put the question on the ballot. At that point, board member Chad Magendanz voted against the issue.

Magendanz, elected board president Dec. 14, said despite his earlier vote, the bond issue has his total support. Magendanz said his earlier “no” vote was the result of a procedural issue, that he felt the board should have put off the final vote on floating the bond until a later meeting.

A campaign to promote the bond barely has left the starting blocks. Still, board member Suzanne Weaver said she has received many questions about the proposed rebuilding of Tiger Mountain Community High School.

In the original bond proposal put forth by Superintendent Steve Rasmussen, rebuilding Tiger Mountain High was interconnected with rebuilding Issaquah Middle School and Clark Elementary School. The total cost of the interrelated Tiger Mountain projects was $86 million.

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State parks commission announces 2012 free days for visitors

January 10, 2012

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday three-day weekend Jan. 14-16 will be the first of 10 free days in 2012 when the Discover Pass will not be required of visitors venturing out to enjoy their state parks.

Most of the free days are in alignment with 2012 free days offered by the National Park Service, according to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Discover Pass legislation provided that Washington State Parks could designate up to 12 free days when the pass would not be required to visit state parks. The free days only apply at state parks. A Discover Pass will still be required to access Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources lands.

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King County Sheriff’s Office deputies receive defibrillators

January 10, 2012

Local public health officials said equipment and training for King County Sheriff’s Office deputies to respond to cardiac arrest could mean the difference between life and death.

King County Emergency Medical Services, a division of Public Health – Seattle & King County, plans to distribute 53 automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, to deputies interested in the training. Trained deputies can then be dispatched to a cardiac arrest call alongside emergency medical responders.

Equipped deputies arriving first at the scene of a cardiac arrest can start resuscitation and deliver the initial defibrillator shocks and, as soon as emergency medical responders arrive on the scene, they can take over resuscitation duties.

Officials announced the initiative Jan. 4.

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Lawmakers face familiar choices as Legislature girds for budget cuts

January 10, 2012

Local lawmakers returned to Olympia — and a familiar problem — as the Legislature reconvened Jan. 9, less than a month after a budget-cutting special session.

The sluggish economy means lower-than-expected revenues — and a $1.4 billion hole in the 2011-13 budget lawmakers crafted last year. The budget gap could reach $2 billion if lawmakers heed Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call to preserve state reserve dollars.

Legislators chipped almost $480 million from the total in December by cutting budgets at the state education agency — the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction — and the Department of Ecology. Officials also delayed payments to counties and school districts.

“All the easy stuff — if there was any easy stuff in the first place — has already been done,” said Rep. Larry Springer, a 45th Legislative District Democrat. “We’re cutting services that people are going to notice and miss.”

Local lawmakers — Springer’s district includes part of Sammamish — said residents could feel the latest cuts more keenly than past efforts to trim state spending.

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State Route 520 bridge tolls alter Interstate 90 commutes

January 10, 2012

State transportation planners said local traffic patterns shifted as motorists adjusted to tolls on the state Route 520 bridge.

Though motorists on the bridge across Lake Washington between Seattle and Medina experience shorter commutes, drivers elsewhere noticed changes in traffic congestion and longer travel times.

The morning commute on Interstate 90, for instance, started sooner, almost 30 minutes earlier than normal.

Data from the Jan. 4 morning commute indicates state Route 520 bridge experienced 30 percent less eastbound traffic and 35 percent less westbound traffic during the 7-9 a.m. peak morning commute compared to normal. On the other bridge across Lake Washington, however, the peak commute started 30 minutes earlier than historical averages and commuters experienced travel times near the high end of the normal range.

Planners said as motorists use I-90 as the alternative to state Route 520, traffic volumes increased slightly and travel times increased up to five minutes more than normal. The state recorded the typical westbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. at 11-20 minutes.

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Press Editorial

January 10, 2012

Governor’s bold move is good for all

We applaud Gov. Chris Gregoire’s move to pass state legislation that would allow same-sex marriage in Washington state.

It has been nearly 20 years since the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples would be presumed unconstitutional. In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court held that same-sex couples must receive the same benefits as married couples. Subsequent court decisions have held that “civil union” laws would not suffice, calling instead for marriage equality.

Many countries — including all of the Canadian provinces — now allow gay marriage. In the United States, six states and the District of Columbia now accept gay marriages.

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Off the Press

January 10, 2012

Eatin’ away heartache — Issaquah style

Christina Lords Press reporter

This isn’t something I’d wish on a worst enemy — even you, Celine Dion.

It creeps up on me when I wake up in the morning. That instant thought of … something really bad happened, didn’t it? And then I remember. And it hits me with shock and awe, like a pie to the face.

I’ve cried, sure. I’ve also rotated through the five stages of grief. Why is it that the whole denial phase always seems so much more attractive than, say, that … wait, what is that last one? Acceptance?

Yeah. Acceptance. I’ve been dumped.

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