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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Issaquah superintendent is ‘cautiously optimistic’ after Supreme Court education ruling

January 5, 2012

NEW — 4:45 p.m. Jan. 5, 2012

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

Steve Rasmussen

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. They were 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 K-12 education.

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Dave Reichert’s district retains Issaquah under redrawn congressional map

January 3, 2012

Dave Reichert

Issaquah remains in U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s 8th Congressional District but some Issaquah School District communities shift to another district as the state panel responsible for a redrawn political map shifts boundaries to create a new congressional district centered in Olympia.

In a plan unveiled Dec. 28, Washington State Redistricting Commission members Tim Ceis and Slade Gorton proposed a 10th Congressional District based in the capital city and a 9th Congressional District stretching from Tacoma to Bellevue.

The redrawn 8th District — confined to King and Pierce counties in the existing arrangement — is stretched from South King County to Wenatchee in Chelan County. The current and future district includes Issaquah.

Under the redrawn map, Issaquah remains in a redrawn 8th District alongside other cities contained inside existing district boundaries — North Bend, Sammamish and Snoqualmie — plus Pierce, Chelan and Kittitas counties.

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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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Press Editorial

September 20, 2011

Redistricting matters to Issaquah area

Washington is in the midst of a once-a-decade chance to re-evaluate the lines on a map that create our congressional and legislative districts. Unfortunately, redistricting has become a politically partisan activity.

Please, powers-that-be, draw the lines based on logical groups of people, not on how best to achieve a legislative majority.

Logic does not divide small cities. Logic does not have a district that encompasses large portions of both sides of the Cascades. Logic does not base district boundaries on today’s representation without acknowledging that elected officials and political leanings will change dramatically over the next decade.

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Redrawn political maps could shift Issaquah into different districts

September 13, 2011

NEW — 4:45 p.m. Sept. 13, 2011

Issaquah could shift into a redrawn congressional district under plans released Tuesday from the panel responsible for redrawing Washington’s political map.

The bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission unveiled four proposals — one from each commissioner — to reshape the state’s congressional districts. The task for commissioners is made more complicated by the addition of a 10th district to account for population growth since 2000.

Commissioners now start negotiating to set the boundaries for the 2012 election. If the commission fails to create a final map before Jan. 1, the state Supreme Court is responsible for redrawing the districts.

Residents can comment on the proposals at a series of meetings in Olympia.

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Department of Ecology authority is upheld for shoreline rules

August 30, 2011

In a recent ruling, the state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the state’s authority to sign off on shoreline management plans and regulations.

The decision came just before the state Department of Ecology approved the Sammamish shoreline regulations, or shoreline master program. Meanwhile, Issaquah is updating a 20-year-old shoreline master program.

The efforts establish shoreline rules in Issaquah and Sammamish aimed to determine appropriate creek and lakeside areas for construction, plus offer more clarity to landowners along creeks and Lake Sammamish.

Washington voters approved the Shoreline Management Act in 1972 to help minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas, reserve areas for water-oriented uses, and protect public lands and waters. The act grants local governments flexibility to tailor shoreline programs to respond to local conditions and needs.

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Teachers challenge supermajority rule

August 9, 2011

As part of the Washington Education Association, unionized Issaquah school teachers are parties to the suit filed late last month challenging the requirement that a positive vote by a supermajority of state legislators is needed to approve future tax increases.

Imposed by voters in November as part of Initiative 1053, the rule resulted from one of the latest initiatives launched by well-known political activist Tim Eyman. The supermajority requirement applies to both houses of the state legislature.

“The state of Washington is not following through on their paramount duty to fully fund education,” said Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union. “The state has not fully funded education for years, but with the current economic situation, the funding situation has worsened.”

The state already has some of the largest class sizes in the nation along with some of the lowest per-pupil funding, Runyon added.

“Eyman’s initiative that calls for a two-thirds majority to pass legislation to raise taxes makes the situation far worse,” Runyon continued. “Without new revenue, the state will undoubtedly continue to cut education.”

Opponents specifically argue the rule violates the state constitution, unlawfully impairing the ability of lawmakers to fund public schools.

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City Council mulls 10 percent water rate hike

August 2, 2011

Issaquah customers could start paying more for water by early next year.

The city is proposing 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.

The average residential customer should pay about $2.91 more per month, if the City Council approves the hike. Plans call for the increase to take effect starting with the December billing cycle.

The city last increased water rates in 2009. However, last year the city cut water rates and adopted a dollar-for-dollar utility tax in order to pay for municipal fire hydrants. The change came after a state Supreme Court decision regarding hydrants.

The proposal will be discussed by the Council Utilities, Environment & Technology Committee. The proposal is expected to return to the full council by mid-September.

Councilman Reagan Dunn urges protection for crime victims

February 1, 2011

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn has introduced a measure to urge state legislators to shield the victims of sex crimes in the courtroom.

The measure Dunn introduced aims to generate King County Council support for a bill in the Legislature. The bill is meant to protect sex crime victims from defendants representing themselves in court, or pro se defendants.

“It is an extremely scary prospect for victims to tell their story in court,” Dunn said in a statement released Jan. 27. “Imagine how much more difficult it is to be questioned by an attacker directly. To get victims to come forward, the criminal justice system must offer them some protection, while balancing the rights of the accused.”

Dunn represents the rural area near Issaquah, plus Newcastle, Maple Valley and areas inside Bellevue and Renton. Read more

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