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Districting committee prepares final county map for review
SEATTLE - The final draft of a map that shrinks the number of King County Council districts from 13 to nine met with mixed reviews.
Even a member of the five-person Redistricting Committee that drafted the plan was less than excited about the final product.
"I'm going to vote in favor of it, but I'm holding my nose," said Skip Rowley. "I think we lowered the representation of the people [in the rural areas] that needed it most."
Government officials and citizens who sounded off at a public hearing the morning of Jan. 8 in the County Council chambers will have another opportunity to do so on Jan. 12.
The Redistricting Committee has been creating the map for several weeks, and worked right up to the Jan. 8 deadline to get it done.
The committee's task was set in motion when voters approved an amendment to the county's charter reducing the council's size to save money.
While the committee met the requests of many citizens and government leaders, others were disappointed about an array of issues.
A Bellevue official didn't like that the cities of Bellevue and Redmond were put into two different council districts. Another person said that while Seattle represents a third of the county's population, it is significantly represented in four of the nine council districts.
Others, including County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert and redistricting committee member Steve Dennis, were concerned that the rural districts on the eastern side of the county are too large.
About the new District 9, Dennis said, "It's the size of Kansas and probably in two time zones." He added, "We've got to live with it and move on."
Lambert said she already works 18 hours a day, six days a week to stay in touch with her constituents in District 3, which covers much of northeast King County.
With so much additional unincorporated area to represent, Lambert said she'll need a larger budget and a bigger staff.
"I am their only representation," Lambert said. "They don't have a City Council to go to."
Lambert also suggested the county look into leasing a helicopter to get her to meetings in her enormous district.
"This is the 'Kill Kathy Lambert' map," the councilwoman joked. "It's either going to kill me or make me real skinny."
The bottom-line effect of increasing the size of the districts is that fewer concerns will be heard, Lambert said.
No one thought the map was perfect, and most admitted the task of compressing the council was both trying and politically charged.
"It's a great compilation and effort to address as many of those concerns as we could," said committee member J. Michael Mann, who said the concerns of more than 1,000 people were heard.
A geographic and demographic breakdown of the final draft of the nine districts is described as follows:
* District 1: Pop. 193,718. For the most part keeps the northern cities of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Woodinville together - as the cities requested. Also includes north Seattle. The district is 79-percent white, 21-percent minority.
* District 2: Pop. 193,008. The city of Seattle is the only municipality represented in this district made up of the eastern half of the city. The district is 60-percent white, 40-percent minority.
* District 3: Pop. 193,272. One of the two enormous rural districts, which includes a vast area of unincorporated east King County and the Eastside cities of Redmond, Sammamish, Issaquah, Duvall, Carnation, Snoqualmie and North Bend. This district is 87-percent white, 13-percent minority.
* District 4: Pop. 193,103. The northwest Seattle district. No other municipality is represented. This district is 82-percent white, 18-percent minority.
* District 5: Pop. 192,594. A South County district that includes Des Moines, SeaTac, about half of Renton and most of Kent. This district is 66-percent white, 34-percent minority.
* District 6: Pop. 192,894. An Eastside district that consists of Mercer Island, Kirkland and most of Bellevue, as well as Yarrow Bay, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Medina and Beaux Arts. This district is 81-percent white, 19-percent minority.
* District 7: Pop. 192,892. The Redistricting Committee met the requests of officials in the cities of Federal Way and Auburn to keep these two cities in the same district, which also includes Algona, Pacific and a large unincorporated area to the east. This district is 78-percent white, 22- percent minority.
* District 8: Pop. 192,841. West Seattle, Vashon Island, Burien and Normandy Park. This district is 67-percent white, 33-percent minority.
* District 9: Pop. 192,712. The largest district, geographically speaking. Includes south Bellevue, Newcastle, north Renton, a small eastern section of Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Enumclaw and a large southeast section of unincorporated King County. This district is 83-percent white, 17-percent minority.
Public hearings are scheduled for:
* Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 9 a.m. in the Southwest Room, King County Courthouse, 12th floor - review of public testimony and work toward adoption of the final districting plan.
* Saturday, Jan. 15, at 10 a.m. in the King County Council chambers, King County Courthouse, 10th floor - adoption of final districting plan.
For information on the redistricting plan, go to www.metrokc.gov/council/districting/.