The prevailing message at the first public hearing of the King County Districting Committee last night was clear: Rural residents want more representation on the County Council...
The prevailing message at the first public hearing of the King County Districting Committee last night was clear: Rural residents want more representation on the County Council.
“Rural counties already gave it’s called the CAO. Without representation, we don’t have much left,” said May Valley resident Ann-Mary Dahlin, referring to recently passed critical-areas ordinances that limit how rural land can be developed.
Dozens of people attended the Bellevue meeting, the first of four to gather input on how the county should reduce the number of council districts.
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Voters in November approved a county-charter amendment that cuts the Metropolitan King County Council from 13 districts to nine.
Smaller districts mean more people in each. The population of each district will grow to nearly 200,000 from about 138,000. The redistricting must be completed by Jan. 15.
The districting committee of five two Republicans, two Democrats and one nonpartisan chairman will draw up the boundaries. The end result could mean current council members will vie against each other for seats.
Steve Ohlenkamp, the committee’s chairman, said the public hearings will help the committee identify “communities of interest,” which share geographical, political or social concerns. The districts, however, can’t be irregular in shape.
Knowing where those communities are gives the committee some direction on where to draw the lines. Those who spoke last night were more than happy to tell the committee exactly where the new boundaries should be.
More than 30 people testified; most advocated borders that would provide three council seats each to rural, suburban and urban communities. Many speakers drew applause, including Dan T. Griner, who recently moved from Clyde Hill to Carnation.
“You need to know,” he advised the council, “that people living out there feel like they are being run by an occupation government.”
Rural residents weren’t the only ones in attendance. A handful of Seattleites and South King County residents voiced concerns, ranging from keeping Seattle neighborhoods together to grouping Des Moines with other “airport cities” to its north.
Nate Miles, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, requested that the new district boundaries keep communities of color together to strengthen their voting power. Miles was there representing several local African-American organizations.
“This is not about race or saying that we have to have a quota on the council,” he said. “It’s about how having people of color on the council is good for all of King County. It becomes a resource for all of us.”
Ohlenkamp said he was not surprised by the comments, and added that he was pleased to see so many people at the hearing. He said he wouldn’t know if the request for three rural representatives is possible until he sees the first drafts of district maps.
The committee is to release the first batch Jan. 3.
Kelly Kearsley: 206-464-2112