Getting closer? Citizen plan backers not satisfied with latest Snoqualmie school board boundary proposal

Snoqualmie Valley School District's latest plan to revise director districts reshaped the school board's electoral map. As requested by citizens, Snoqualmie and North Bend got two board members each, Fall City one. But two key backers of the citizen-led proposal that fired the revision—a change to the home districts of local school board members that's required by growth—say the new plan doesn't quite meet their vision.

Speaking at a Wednesday, May 18, public hearing on the latest version, citizen plan developers Laurie Gibbs and Carolyn Simpson of Snoqualmie urged the board to rethink several details.

The new proposal divides the district into five population centers that parallel I-90 and the Snoqualmie River, with two districts in North Bend, one each in Snoqualmie and Fall City, and one district shared between the two. The two-two-one split was among the ideas promoted in the citizen plan.

But sticking points appeared in Wednesday's meeting—among them, Lake Alice combined with Snoqualmie Ridge and the division of North Bend—with the board defending the newest proposal.

Part of that contention centered on the Snoqualmie Ridge director district, which trades a finger of land—a 600-resident chunk north of Snoqualmie Parkway from the Ridge marketplace to the Snoqualmie Ridge TPC golf course—to the neighboring district, roughly encompassing the rest of Snoqualmie. The Ridge district also includes Lake Alice. Simpson questioned whether that was an appropriate grouping.

"Why would you dig into a well defined area to make room for residents who are divided by a waterfall and a forest?" she asked.

Simpson was also concerned that a new board member would not be elected for another two years. She said Snoqualmie residents have waited for several years for direct representation. The importance of direct representation was echoed by Gibbs.

"You guys wake up in the morning, and you know where your kids are going to school," she told board members. Gibbs argued that Ridge parents face annual uncertainty over elementary boundary revisions and now, over the loss of one district middle school—which means more busing.

"Unless you've lived it, you can't talk about it," she said.

Director districts are supposed to be nearly equal in population and compact, to not discriminate against racial or political populations, and to respect communities of common interest. All residents in the district vote in each race.

The citizen plan had proposed extending the Snoqualmie district north into the Tolt Hill area. Board members and citizen plan backers disagreed over whether that made better sense than a Lake Alice-area inclusion into the continuous Ridge district.

To board member Craig Husa, population numbers required one shared seat between Snoqualmie and Fall City.

"This is the closest to a 2-2-1 we'll ever get, because Snoqualmie keeps growing," he said.

"This is as clean as you can get it," said board member Scott Hodgins, who will have to run against board member Marci Busby in 2013 under the latest proposal.

North Bend resident Stephen Kangas commented on the district's plan diverging from the citizens' one on the boundary between North Bend districts. He favored the citizens' I-90 boundary over the more east-west division.

Ignoring citizen proposals, he said, "is going to continue to feed this perception that you are not honoring what they're asking you to do."

In contrast, Fall City resident Bill Blakely commended the board on being positive and responsive.

"You've demonstrated... that things can be adjusted," he said. "Carry on."

Board president Dan Popp aired his belief that the exchanges between citizens and the board have not been acrimonious. Fellow board members nodded when he told Simpson that board did seriously consider the grassroots proposal. Popp said he found many of the ideas in the citizen plan to be brilliant, adding that others did not suit him.

"This is not a challenge of wills," he added.

Simpson noted that the board had taken some steps to integrate citizen concerns. But she urged the board to work with citizens to improve the plan.

"I agree, this is better," she said. "We're starting to come closer. Bring us in."

• The Snoqualmie Valley School District board is scheduled to take action on the director district boundary revision at its Thursday, May 26, meeting.

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