Tag: King County

Redistricting: Western Washington Legislative Map Will Offer Balanced Political Landscape

The Washington State Redistricting Commission will unveil its proposals for Western Washington’s legislative districts during a public meeting in Olympia scheduled for 10:30am this morning, new maps that are expected to receive approval from the four commissioners and allow the process to move on to creating the maps for congressional districts and legislative districts in Eastern Washington, a source on the commission tells NW Daily Marker.

Early indications are that the bipartisan commissioners will propose a political landscape on which both parties can see reasonable opportunities to compete, an outcome that could allow Republicans to expand on growing support in the Democrat-dominated western half of the state.

Because the commissioners divided into two teams working the western half of the state in this first phase – one working from King County north, the other focusing on the southwest quadrant – it is likely some rough edges along the Pierce and King County border will need smoothing. Nevertheless, having successfully hacked through negotiations on the thornier areas on the eastside of King County and in Southwestern Washington, the air of optimism on the commission earlier this week appears to have been well-founded. Expect to see key districts in those areas shift from strongly favoring Democratic candidates to becoming swing districts in which Republicans will have opportunities to win by running strong issue-oriented races.

Did the Democrats blink in Southwestern Washington? Perhaps.

Though the 19th legislative district should still be reliably Democratic for the 2012 election, it will significantly change shape for the first time in almost 30 years, pushing deep into Republican areas in the west portion of Lewis County and forcing Democratic incumbents to rub elbows with new voters who may or may not roll out the welcome wagon.

Resolving differences on the political lines of legislative districts in Western Washington moves the commission one step forward to the main event—redrawing the boundaries for the state’s congressional districts and finding space to squeeze in the new 10th congressional seat.


[photo credit: most uncool]

Constantine’s Nonpartisan Mask Falls as He Suggests Boycott of Bellevue Square

The personality makeover King County Executive Dow Constantine underwent to run for the office in 2009, a veneer of pragmatic rhetoric that successfully hid the aggressive progressive side of his political persona, has begun to wear thin.

Constantine has arguably been an adequate fiscal manager during a difficult time in King County government, chopping budgets in response to slacking revenues, but his most notable achievement has been restraining his own tendencies to incite partisan bickering when pursuing ideological objectives. That all changed last Thursday when a personal animus for Bellevue businessman and light-rail opponent Kemper Freeman, Jr. overcame Constantine’s self-control.

Freeman spent in excess of $1 million to ensure that voters would have an opportunity to cast a ballot on how revenues gas taxes and road tolls can be spent – Initiative 1152 – he also owns the Bellevue Square shopping mall. Constantine implied to KUOW “Weekday” host Steve Scher last Thursday that spending at Bellevue Square was tantamount to financing the effort to kill light-rail.

“If you shop at Bellevue Square, you are contributing to that campaign,” Constantine said.

When Constantine’s inner liberal starts screaming after being suppressed for so long, it appears to deafen him to hypocrisy. The jab at Freeman came after a Constantine and Scher had already riffed on how the “extremist Tea Party/Tim Eyman gang nattering at” the Council in opposition to his proposed $20 car tab fee might necessitate implementing cuts to Metro that Scher characterized as “scary.”

Bellevue Square has long been an engine of the Eastside economy and a virtual fountain of sales tax revenue. Constantine estimates the revenues of his $20 car tab fee would be $25 million per year over the next two years, but appears not to care much about the impact on sales tax revenues from a boycott of Bellevue Square. Then there is the resultant underemployment following a decline in sales and the trickle-down effect of lost wages.

Constantine’s comments caught the attention of Washington State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur. In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Wilbur remarked on the tone-deafness of Constantine’s suggestion that residents should punish any business in a time of economic hardship.

“Dow Constantine’s pettiness is showing. His encouragement of King County residents to not shop at Bellevue Square because of his personal issues with Kemper Freeman is not what King County residents need, especially in this recession.

“Mr. Constantine should be more concerned with ensuring King County’s money is spent properly – not trying to micromanage people’s pocketbooks.”

A politician of Constantine’s caliber must also be aware of the egregious conflation underpinning his basic contention. I-1125 only seeks to reinforce the state’s existing law, underscoring the principle that revenues derived from gas taxes and tolls are to be spent on roads, not transit. Passage of I-1125 may indirectly doom fantasies of a shiny light-rail system crowding the downtown Bellevue corridor, but only if proponents of such a system fail to envision a legally viable funding mechanism.

Détente is in the wind, however. Wilbur invited Constantine to sit down and break bread with he and Freeman at Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Bellevue Square Wednesday night.

“If Dow will meet me for dinner I will buy him a steak,” Wilbur said. “Call me, Dow.”

There is no word yet on whether Constantine will be joining the Wilbur party this evening.


[hat tip: Freedom Foundation’s Brett Davis; photo credit: flickr]

King County’s New Life Vest Law: Unfair to the Poor?

Planning to take a dip in any of King County’s many rivers to cool off once the summer heat arrives? For the many who do each year, a new ordinance passed by a 5-4 vote of the King County Council will require those enjoying any of King County’s rivers to strap on a life vest before swimming, wading, or floating in public waters, regardless of age.

As reported Tuesday by Seattlepi.com, supporters of the law that will impose an $86 fine for violators suggested the measure was needed for rivers for reasons of preventing tragedy:

The new rule was prompted by safety concerns because excessive mountain snowpack could make area waterways particularly dangerous this summer.

“We are looking at a potentially deadly situation,” Phillips said.

Authorities say there were 17 drowning deaths on major county rivers between 2005 and 2009.

But rivers are not the only waterways available for aquatic recreation in King County. Lakes Washington and Sammamish and dozens of smaller bodies of water exist within county boundaries, many of which are venues for a wide range of boating activity. The NW Daily Marker has requested localized U.S. Coast Guard statistics of boating-related fatalities in King County in which the deceased was not wearing a life vest, but the national death count in such cases was 485 in 2010. The county’s inviting and numerous waterways of hosts a large share of the nation’s recreational boating traffic but the county’s ordinance did not seek to increase life vest usage for boaters on its fresh water lakes. Why not?

Some might suggest that the council’s decision to crack down on rivergoers has more to do with politics than public safety.

On any given summertime Saturday, pluck a random person from the banks of the White River and one from a pleasure boat on Lake Sammamish. The difference will be clear. While King County’s higher earners water ski and cruise, the lower strata float and paddle.

The state life vest law dictates flotation devices must be worn only by children and on boats less than 19 feet in length, and still exempts swimmers and floaters at public beaches. But for those river-bound residents unable to swing the cost of a Chris-Craft 22 to stay out of the reach of the nanny state, the cost of enjoying a day on the river just went up by $25 to $50 per person, the average range for an approved life vest.

The council’s vote broke along familiar lines with Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, Jane Hague, and Pete von Reichbauer voting against the measure. The ‘Flotation Five’—Larry Phillips, Joe McDermott, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson, and Larry Gosset—voted “yes,” to push it through.

The “yes” votes came from members whose districts have few to no recreationally available river property; the district territories of those voting “no” encompass the bulk of county rivers.

The ordnance received full support from County Executive Dow Constantine and Sheriff Sue Rahr and will go into effect on October 1st.


[photo credit: flickr]

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