Leaders meet in North Bend to discuss new county plan

By: Dean Radford,
Journal Reporter
Snoqualmie Valley Record

February 03, 2005

NORTH BEND - A so-far unnamed group of elected officials and others from rural and suburban areas is working in secret on a plan that eventually could lead to breaking apart King County.

They met in North Bend last week and agreed they would remain anonymous, fearing retribution for the work they're doing, said Kathy Lambert, a King County councilwoman who attended.

They looked at maps, but are not yet ready to divulge the boundaries of a new county.

Officials came from rural and suburban cities from throughout King County and included both Republicans and Democrats.

No one from Bellevue or Sammamish was there, Lambert said, but officials who attended expressed a keen interest in joining a new county.

Lawyers are working on some of the legal issues related to forming a new county, she said. They're figuring out how a new county would pay its bills.
They agreed to support legislation by Republican Toby Nixon of Kirkland that spells out a process for forming a new county.

They want their constituents to e-mail the chairman of the House Local Government Committee, Covington Democrat Geoff Simpson, with demands that he hold a public hearing on Nixon's bill.

The group bonded over a widely-held belief in rural areas that county government isn't responsive to their needs and that the County Council is controlled by Seattle Democrats who don't understand them.

The group, Lambert said, is looking for "some clarity."

"Either this whole county is going to have its needs met, or Seattle isn't going to be able to dictate forever what the restof the county does," said Lambert, a Republican from Redmond.

The group recited parts of the Declaration of Independence, which spells out a duty of all Americans to form a new government if they're being ignored, Lambert said.

The fate of Nixon's legislation is extremely uncertain in this legislative session. Nixon admits as much. But it strikes at the heart of concerns of rural residents in eastern King County who chafe at tough new environmental regulations such as the Critical Areas Ordinance.

Lambert said the ordinance "is the straw that broke the camel's back."

But county officials say they're making headway in explaining how the legislation works and more and more residents are finding they're not as restricted in the use of their land as they thought.

Simpson, whose 47th District includes rural areas in southeast King County, said he knows people are angry and he wants them to have their say.

"It would be nice if we could focus on real solutions, instead of political stunts,'' he said.

Hundreds of e-mails won't change his thinking on the fate of the bill, he said.
He may hold a committee work session on the legislation, but he said that personally he doesn't like the idea.

He would rather spend time trying to figure out how to make a county work, rather than split it apart.

"It just doesn't seem like the right way to resolve our differences,'' Simpson said.
Rhys Sterling, the Hobart attorney who made the case for a break-away Cedar County before the state Supreme Court in the 1990s, also isn't supporting Nixon's legislation, which gives the power to form a new county either to the state Legislature or to the people.

Instead, said Sterling, a statewide initiative from the people is the only way to set up procedures to form new counties, modeled perhaps after legislation proposed in 2001.

"The state Legislature won't do it - attempts in 2001 were stuck in committee," Sterling said.

And someone would counter with a poison pill bill that would ensnare the whole matter in lengthy debate with no resolution, he said.

"The thing is going to work, but it has got to be done the right way,'' he said.
Nixon is committed to getting his bill to the floor of the Legislature. He also attended last week's meeting.

"Everyone is going to have a different opinion about the right course of action,'' he said.

Dean Radford covers King County. He can be reached at dean.radford@kingcountyjournal.com or (253) 872-6719.



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