Sister city greetings

December 8, 2009

norway-sister-city-20091100Joan Probala (third from left), of the Issaquah Sister Cities Commission, poses Nov. 17 with the Sunndal, Norway, City Council and Sunndal Mayor Ståle Refstie (holding the newspaper), after a meeting to discuss reinvigorating the sister city relationship that Issaquah and the Scandinavian city began in 1991, but had both let lapse in recent years. Contributed

City, schools elections attracted only 50 percent of voters

December 1, 2009

With few contested races on the ballot, about half of Issaquah city and school district voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, final King County Elections results released last week show. Read more

Issaquah city, schools elections attracted only 50 percent of voters

November 25, 2009

NEW — 6 p.m. Nov. 25, 2009

About half of Issaquah city and school district voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, official King County Elections results released Nov. 24 show.

Turnout in the city races reached 50.27 percent, while in the school district — which includes parts of Sammamish and Renton — turnout was a bit lower: 49.87 percent.

Elections officials mailed 16,351 ballots to city voters; 8,219 were returned. The elections office sent 56,804 ballots to school district voters; 28,329 were postmarked by midnight Election Day.

The contest was the first all-mail general election held in King County, and the elections office forecast 56 percent turnout countywide. But turnout was lower: 53.55 percent. The county Canvassing Board met Nov. 24 to certify the election results, the final step in a quiet campaign season for Issaquah voters.

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Issaquah traveler hopes to thaw Sunndal sister city relationship

November 10, 2009


Joan Probala

Joan Probala

The dormant relationship between Issaquah and Sunndal, Norway — the first sister city partnership forged by Issaquah leaders — could be rekindled next week when longtime Issaquah resident Joan Probala travels to the far-flung corner of Scandinavia.

Issaquah and Sunndal became sister cities in 1991, but the relationship faded and the pact failed to produce more than a handful of visits between the cities’ residents. In the meantime, Issaquah established a second sister city relationship with Chefchaouen, Morocco, in early 2007.

Probala, a member of the Issaquah Sister Cities Commission, hopes her trip to Norway can reinvigorate the partnership with Sunndal. She departed Nov. 9 for Norway and the distant sister city. She plans to spend three weeks in Norway, where her daughter lives. The trip to Sunndal will be a high-profile side trip. Read more

Voters decide city, schools races

November 10, 2009

Issaquah voters elected a pair of political newcomers — including the first Issaquah Highlands representative — to the City Council last week, and returned Maureen McCarry to the council with a landslide victory. Read more

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: Post-election cleanup begins

November 10, 2009

Election Day is done, but the symbols remain: campaign signs planted by candidates and volunteers near busy intersections, along bustling streets and in front lawns from the Issaquah Highlands to Squak Mountain.

sign-cleanup-election-20091

Several campaign signs remained uncollected the evening of Nov. 6 on West Sunset Way, and were still there Nov. 9. By Greg Farrar

Candidates realize residents tolerate the signs during campaign season, but after Election Day, the placards become visual pollution.

A few candidates mobilized volunteers to yank signs from the ground before midnight Election Day. City Council candidate Nathan Perea started uprooting his signs Election Day afternoon. Councilman-elect Tola Marts left a victory party and gathered his signs in the election night chill.

Perea said he empathized with residents tired of the signs. The compact campaign ads sprouted en masse during the summer.

“I appreciate the clutter being gone as soon as possible,” he said.

Perea blanketed Issaquah with distinctive green-and-orange signs emblazoned with a pine tree logo. In the end, however, Perea said the signs had little effect. Marts won the Position 7 council contest by a landslide.

Marnie Maraldo, a successful school board candidate, said she understood why the signs must come down soon after Election Day.

“I do sympathize with the public who has had to look at them since April or May,” she said.

Maraldo bested Wright Noel in the race for the school board Director District No. 2 seat.

The candidates’ cleanup effort means less work for city Code Compliance Officer Michele Forkner, who keeps a careful watch on campaign signs in the months before Election Day. Forkner did not receive any complaints from residents about the signs. Just after the election, she said she hoped candidates and volunteers had cleaned up after themselves.

Besides City Council candidates, contenders for county executive and assessor posts, and even Sammamish City Council hopefuls, planted signs around Issaquah. Hotspots included the cluttered intersections at either end of Northwest Gilman Boulevard: Front Street North and state Route 900.

Forkner said volunteers or residents usually pluck signs for out-of-town candidates after the election wraps.

Although candidates would doubtless relish the opportunity to turn the Northwest Gilman Boulevard median into a thicket of campaign signs, city code prohibits signs there.

The state Department of Transportation also prohibits signs on state-owned rights of way.

City rules call for campaign signs to be removed within a week of the election. Forkner begins rounding up rogue signs after the deadline passes.

“I do not touch those signs until the eighth day,” she said.

Forkner seldom fines candidates whose signs linger too long after Election Day. Instead, she gathers leftover signs, and collects wooden stakes for future candidates and people who need the poles for signs to announce garage sales and other events. The signs themselves head to the landfill.

“Signs don’t talk back; they just lay there or stick in the ground,” Forkner said.

The medium is expensive. Perea dropped $1,095 on campaign signs; Marts spent $683. Maraldo — who planted signs across the school district, from Newcastle to Sammamish — paid $1,774 for signs.

Marts and campaign volunteers sprinkled 200 signs around Issaquah.

“I wound up putting out the right number of signs,” Marts said.

After the signs were deployed, candidates found ways to augment the placards to deliver more information to voters.

City Council President Maureen McCarry affixed sheets touting her endorsements to her campaign signs as she worked to defeat challenger Joan Probala in the Position 5 contest. McCarry won the race by a wide margin.

Marts said where candidates placed signs — and how many signs candidates placed in proximity to opponents’ signs — was the most antagonistic act in the otherwise cordial campaign.

“The sign wars were more aggressive than the forum wars were,” Marts said.

Triumphant candidates said leftover signs would be stowed in garages until the next election. Maraldo and Marts looked toward 2013, when candidates elected last week will face voters again.

Maraldo said the designer of her blue-and-white campaign signs said a simple sticker could be added to change the message from elect to re-elect.

Marts said reusing his signs — adorned with a mountain backdrop and a salmon silhouette — would be a money-saver when he runs for a second term.

“I plan on using those signs for my re-election campaign in four years,” he said.

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

Leading city, schools candidates solidify margins as elections office updates tally

November 4, 2009

NEW — 4:45 p.m. Nov. 4, 2009

City Council candidates Tola Marts and Maureen McCarry, and school board hopeful Marnie Maraldo, strengthened leads in unofficial election returns released 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Marts led opponent Nathan Perea by 915 votes in the latest batch of returns released by King County Elections. Incumbent McCarry widened the gap between challenger Joan Probala to 1,588 votes. In the school board contest, 2,371 votes separated Maraldo from opponent Wright Noel.

King County Elections released the first unofficial returns at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, and more tallies will be posted Thursday afternoon. Though additional ballots could still shift the results, Perea, Probala and Noel would need to see stunning reversals to prevail.

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Tola Marts, Maureen McCarry lead in City Council races

November 3, 2009

NEW — 9:50 p.m. Nov. 3, 2009

City Council candidates Tola Marts and Maureen McCarry led by wide margins as Election Day wrapped.

King County Elections released unofficial returns at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. The next update from the elections office will be 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Additional ballots could still shift results in the contested races.

The elections office predicted 56 percent of King County voters would cast ballots. Officials sent 16,428 ballots to Issaquah voters; 5,818 ballots— or 35 percent — had been returned to the elections office and tallied by Tuesday night. The election marks the first city contest since King County switched to all-mail voting.

Newcomer Marts led opponent Nathan Perea by 726 votes — 60 percent to 39 percent — while incumbent McCarry bested challenger Joan Probala by 1,353 votes — 69 percent to 31 percent.

“The candidates who talked about specific, concrete issues” reached voters, Marts said after the elections office released unofficial returns.

Tola Marts (right) talks to campaign supporters during an election night party at Stan's Bar-B-Q on Front Street in downtown Issaquah. He leads in the race for the City Council seat being vacated by 18-year veteran David Kappler (left). — Photo by Greg Farrar

Tola Marts (right) talks to campaign supporters during an election night party at Stan's Bar-B-Q on Front Street in downtown Issaquah. He leads in the race for the City Council seat being vacated by 18-year veteran David Kappler (left). — Photo by Greg Farrar

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Candidates fill coffers despite down economy

November 3, 2009

With phone calls, e-mail blasts and old-fashioned glad-handing, Issaquah city and schools candidates tapped a wide network of donors for cash to keep campaigns cruising ahead.

Despite a tough economy and the number of unopposed races on the city ballot, candidates had outpaced the amount spent on city races in 2007. During the last election cycle — when nine candidates appeared on the ballot in the August primary and seven candidates went on to the general election — challengers raised $32,505. Contrast the total with 2009, when no primary election was needed and eight candidates pulled in more than $58,000 by the last week in October, according to filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Despite the economic downturn, most candidates said the recession had not limited donors’ ability to give.

“The economy has put a ding in a lot of races,” City Council candidate Joan Probala said.

But Probala, who faced incumbent Maureen McCarry, said she had no trouble fundraising. Probala said she was pleased with the amount raised by her campaign: $17,752 by the end of October.

McCarry had raised more by the end of October — $11,509 — than the $10,230 she mustered four years ago, when she was locked in a tight race with Bill Conley. But the City Council incumbent said asking for money had become difficult amid the recession.

“There are higher priorities in people’s lives right now, and I respect that,” McCarry said.

Candidate Nathan Perea tapped into a broad group of donors because he “reached out to so many families and close friends,” he said. He had raised $8,273 by the end of last month.

Perea squared off against another newcomer, Tola Marts, for the Position 7 council seat. Marts said he employed a similar strategy to rake in $5,461 by the end of October, according to campaign filings.

“I have a really strong set of supporters,” Marts said.

Dash for cash

City candidates also worked to secure more donations to reach big numbers, due to a new campaign finance rule — the first limit to campaign contributions in Issaquah history.

With the start of campaign season two weeks away, the City Council voted in mid-May to limit Issaquah campaign contributions. The cap limits donations to $500 from a single party and includes both cash and in-kind donations in the total. Enforcement fell to city Code Compliance Officer Michele Forkner.

She said no complaints have been filed under the new ordinance. But several donors skirted the cap by giving to candidates already in the race before June 1, when the limit went into effect.

Mayor Ava Frisinger, who will be re-elected unopposed, netted $7,795 in cash and in-kind donations. Most of the contributions to the Frisinger campaign poured in before the filing period closed in June without a candidate challenging the mayor.

Unopposed City Council candidates, incumbent Eileen Barber and newcomer Mark Mullet, also pulled in donations. Barber pulled in $1,998 before the candidate-filing period ended. Mullet has raised $5,445, according to campaign filings.

Probala, who entered the race in late February, pulled in $1,000 from the Seattle King County Association of Realtors before the contribution limit went into effect.

Probala, a real estate agent, also received contributions from a political action committee, the Realtors Quality of Life PAC, a real estate organization based in Olympia. Her campaign drew $5,936 worth of independent support last month from organizations. The contributions were used for campaign mailers and newspaper ads, according to campaign filings.

Outside spending from the Affordable Housing Council was used to support Perea and Probala. The organization — the political arm of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties — spent $1,600 each on the Perea and Probala campaigns to call voters.

City candidates each hosted a few receptions to raise money, and made pitches for campaign dollars through the Web. Candidates shelled out for big-ticket items, such as hundreds of yard signs, Web site design services and campaign mailers.

Probala, who raised more than any other city candidate, also spent the most: $14,191. Her campaign spent $1,731.23 for mailers, $1,138.20 for yard signs and $954 for newspaper advertising.

McCarry directed $7,241 to her re-election bid. She spent $2,727 for newspaper ads, $4,621.15 for campaign mailers and $1,215 for her campaign Web site.

Perea dropped $7,654 in the Position 7 contest. He outspent opponent Marts, who funneled $3,684 to his campaign.

Perea splurged on $1,095 for campaign signs, $1,000 for campaign consulting and Web site design, and $877.10 to print campaign materials.

Marts spent a total of $1,078.61 for campaign mailers and another $683.28 for yard signs. The largest single expense for the Marts campaign was $715 for a newspaper ad.

Mini-campaigns, big bills

Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel, vying for the school board Director District No. 2 seat, opted for a different tactic: the so-called mini-campaign, a pact to limit fundraising and spending to $5,000.

The total includes loans from a candidate to his or her campaign. Contributions from a single donor cannot exceed $500. If a candidate breaks the mini-campaign rules, he or she must file a weekly disclosure report with the PDC. Maraldo and Noel did not break the $5,000 limit.

The schools candidates said the format allowed them more time to focus on issues.

“I’ve spent most of my time talking about the issues, rather than going out and trying to get money from people,” Noel said. “So, it has been nice, in that sense, since I haven’t had to be concerned about raising a lot of money.”

Maraldo said she and her husband, Tony, loaned the campaign about $2,500 at the beginning. Since she started fundraising during the summer, about $2,200 has flowed to the campaign, she said.

Maraldo estimated half of the donations were made through her campaign Web site. The other half, she said, was made through mailed contributions.

Major donors to the Maraldo campaign included local unions, education advocate Leigh Stokes and state Rep. Marcie Maxwell, a Renton Democrat who represents Newcastle, where Maraldo lives. The largest donations were about $200 each, Maraldo said.

Maraldo said most of money, $1,773.90, went toward campaign signs. Maraldo also had a campaign manager for a short stint, a $750 expense.

The campaign had about $1,500 less than two weeks before Election Day, and Maraldo said she would likely be able to reimburse about $1,000 of her loan to her campaign.

Noel said he has raised $1,455 in outside contributions for his campaign, using the same formula as Maraldo. He loaned the campaign about $1,000 to launch the effort. About half of the donations he collected were funneled through his Web site, and the other half was sent via mail.

“Even $10 is a huge statement of their support,” Noel said. “Does it make a difference? Yes. I wouldn’t have been able to get the signs out.”

Noel had spent $1,274 with less than two weeks until the election, with campaign signs as the largest expense. The campaign also paid for materials to make stress balls — flour and balloons with Noel’s name on them — and campaign buttons, and ingredients to bake homemade cookies.

After Noel reimburses the original loan, the campaign account will have a balance of about $200, Noel said.

Noel said the largest contribution to his campaign was about $200. Most of the donations, however, were between $10 and $50, he said.

“There has been a lot of little donations, which has been hugely appreciated,” he said.

Despite a tough economy and a new $500 cap in city races, City Council candidates raised impressive amounts in the sprint toward Election Day. Here are some of the top donors in Issaquah races:

City Council, Position 5

Maureen McCarry

Connie Marsh: $500

Chris Hysom: $500

Washington Conservation Voters: $450

Joan Probala

Seattle King County Association of Realtors: $1,000

Bill Conley: $501

Eastside Business Alliance: $500

Donations above the $500 limit were made before the cap went into effect June 1.

City Council, Position 7

Nathan Perea

Eastside Business Alliance: $500

Rowley Properties: $500

Washington Association of Realtors: $500

Tola Marts

Councilman John Rittenhouse: $350

Council President Maureen McCarry: $250

41st District Democrats: $250

School Board, Director District No. 2

Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel opted to use so-called mini-campaigns, which limit the total raised and spent on a campaign to $5,000. Candidates who chose mini-campaigns do not have to file a weekly report with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Source: Public Disclosure Commission

By Warren Kagarise and Chantelle Lusebrink

Pre-election robocalls puzzle City Council candidates

November 3, 2009

City Council candidates want to know who paid for robocalls — pre-recorded, automated phone messages — made on behalf of contenders Nathan Perea and Joan Probala a week before Election Day. Read more

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