Former Councilwoman Maureen McCarry dies

July 10, 2012

Maureen McCarry, a former City Council president and longtime community leader, died early July 4 after a battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, 18 months after resigning from the council.

Maureen McCarry

McCarry, 62, served on the council amid a period of expansion in Issaquah, as council members addressed long-term issues related to transportation, economic development and the environment — a hallmark for McCarry.

In separate stints on the council in the 1990s and 2000s, she made the environment a priority.

The commitment earned McCarry the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community early last year. The top environmental honor in the city recognized McCarry for tireless efforts to forge agreements outlining construction in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus, preserve forested Park Pointe on Tiger Mountain and strengthen tree-protection rules.

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City adds Economic Vitality Commission, but could shrink other boards

May 1, 2012

City leaders appointed a group of civic-minded citizens to boards and commissions April 16, although the number of positions could shrink in the months ahead.

In a unanimous decision, City Council members appointed applicants to openings on 12 boards and commissions. The groups advise the council on issues related to the arts, cable TV, development, parks and, in more specialized realms, city cemetery operations and sister-city relationships.

The decision included the inaugural appointees to the municipal Economic Vitality Commission, a key piece in a renewed focus on attracting and retaining businesses.

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Mountains to Sound Greenway seeks federal recognition

February 21, 2012

The greenway, shown above, runs parallel to Interstate 90 from the Seattle waterfront, through Issaquah and across the Cascades. The greenbelt encompasses 1.5 million acres in conservation lands, recreation areas, farms, working forests and cities. By Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Greg Farrar

National Heritage Area is meant to highlight environment, history

The 100-mile-long Mountains to Sound Greenway — greenbelt stretched along Interstate 90 from the Seattle waterfront and across the Cascades — is often heralded as a national model for conservation and land use.

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City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 17, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

Fred Butler

In unanimous decisions Jan. 3, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include running semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

Marts joined the council in January 2010 and succeeded longtime Councilman David Kappler. Butler joined the council a dozen years ago.

The shift represents the only change in council leadership since 2009, after former Councilman John Traeger succeeded then-Council President Maureen McCarry in the top spot. (Both officials have since left the council.)

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City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 5, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 5, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

In unanimous decisions Tuesday, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include leading semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

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2012 city budget clears crucial hurdle

December 13, 2011

City Council members inched closer to approval for a 2012 municipal budget Dec. 5, as the document cleared a crucial hurdle.

In a unanimous decision, council members directed staffers to prepare a 2012 spending plan. The council is due to adopt the plan Dec. 19.

“I think this is a fairly conservative budget,” Council President John Traeger said.

In October, Mayor Ava Frisinger sent to the council a $32 million general fund budget — dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

The process to form a 2012 budget started earlier, at a council goal-setting retreat in May. Officials outlined priorities for the year ahead and helped shape department chiefs’ spending proposals.

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Council recommends study for pool financing

December 6, 2011

The city intends to survey Issaquah School District residents about support for financing a pool and other parks amenities next year.

City Council members included the pool proposal and others on a list of changes to the 2012 city budget.

In October, Mayor Ava Frisinger sent to the council a $32 million general fund budget — dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

Overall, the council’s recommended changes amount to $4.1 million. The change to the general fund is $469,784.

The total proposed city budget — including dollars for capital expenses and from other accounts — is $85.7 million after the council’s recommended changes.

The budget adjustment is routine. The council offers changes to the mayor’s proposed budget each year to produce a concrete spending plan.

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City Council candidates, unopposed in election, outline goals for future

November 29, 2011

Though most City Council seats appeared on the November ballot, voters faced a choice in a lone race — the contest between incumbent Joshua Schaer and challenger TJ Filley. (Schaer claimed a second term in a landslide.)

The other seats up for election did not attract challengers, so incumbents Fred Butler and Stacy Goodman, plus newcomer Paul Winterstein, coasted through campaign season. The next council is due to settle into office in early January.

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City Council hikes water rate 9 percent to offset conservation-related decline

November 15, 2011

Issaquah customers should start paying more for water soon, after city leaders increased rates to offset conservation-related declines in usage.

In a unanimous decision Nov. 7, City Council members OK’d a 9 percent increase in the municipal water rate. The average residential customer should pay about $3 more per month after the updated water rate goes into effect Dec. 1.

“What we end up paying and the revenues that the city brings in are due to reductions in revenue and usage,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said before the decision. “I find it interestingly perverse that the more we conserve, the more we have to pay.”

The council, although reluctant to increase the rate, said the increase is essential to shore up funding for the municipal water utility. The city provides water to more than 6,500 businesses and homes.

“This will keep our water fund — maybe not as healthy as it could be — but certainly from dipping below zero,” Schaer said.

Officials initially proposed a 10 percent rate increase to replace aging pump stations and water mains, address increased operating costs related to increased charges from Cascade Water Alliance and provide debt service coverage required in bond agreements. Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee members reduced the proposed increase to 9 percent.

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City Council decides against property tax increase for 2012

November 15, 2011

The still-struggling economy prompted the City Council to decline to increase the property tax rate for 2012.

In a Nov. 7 decision, council members decided against a possible increase and directed city staffers to prepare legislation to set the rate for next year. The council last increased the property tax rate in 2007 amid a stronger economy.

The unanimous decision is meant to hold the property tax rate at the 2008 level — $1.38 per $1,000 in assessed value. The council is poised to set the property tax rate at a Nov. 21 meeting.

The council adhered to a recommendation from Mayor Ava Frisinger not to increase the property tax rate for 2012.

“The fact that the council has not raised property tax for what — if this motion passes — for five years is a reflection of the fact that we understand that a lot of our citizens are having a lot of difficult times during the economic downturn,” Councilman Fred Butler said before the decision.

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