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Irons proposes reducing County Council

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - If King County officials are asking their staff to do more with less to help make up a projected $50 million shortfall next year, then it's only fitting they do the same.

At least, that's what Metropolitan King County Councilman David Irons thinks. He, along with fellow Republican Councilman Kent Pullen, is proposing the County Council be reduced from 13 to nine members, which he said would conservatively save about $1.5 million to $2 million a year.

With the recent round of park closures and calls for more cuts to parks and county-provided social services, Irons, who represents part of the Snoqualmie Valley in District 12, said King County residents want to know whether the council is looking at all departments as it tries to reduce its budget for 2003.

"People have said are we looking at cuts in all forms of government? I've been hearing this for months," Irons said.

If Irons' and Pullen's proposed ordinance is approved by the County Council, it would go before voters. Irons hopes that vote comes during the November general election - and if it does, he predicts at least 70 percent of King County residents would side with him.

"It would be a landslide," he said.

Should it be passed, the County Council would begin redistricting in 2004 to reduce the number of seats from 13 to nine. The following year, all nine seats would be up for election, some for a two-year term and others for a four-year term to ensure the terms are staggered.

Before 1992, the County Council was made up of nine members. But that changed when the King County Council merged with the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, which provided transportation and sewage services, and the newly formed Metropolitan King County Council increased to 13 members.

Irons said 13 is not a magic number, and the County Council could continue to do its job with less members.

"For 25 years we had nine and it seemed to work OK," he said, referring to when the County Council expanded from three to nine members in 1968.

Coming from a business background, Irons said as King County looks for ways to save money - in all, it may be forced to cut a total of $150 million by 2005 - management should be asked to make the same sacrifice as lower-level employees.

"It's suicide to ask the line staff to take a cut if management doesn't take a cut," he said.

Not only would the reduction save on council members' approximately $100,000 salaries and other benefits, it would eliminate the need for support staff. County departments would save, too, since each are required to fund part of the County Council's costs.

While popular opinion may favor the proposed ordinance, Irons knows he and Pullen, who represents District 9, will have a tougher time convincing their counterparts to possible give up their seats. The two count as their supporters District 3 Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, who represents most of the Snoqualmie Valley, and District 6 Councilman Rob McKenna, both Republicans.

"It's a major uphill battle. I know that," Irons said. He and Pullen need seven members of the Democrat-controlled County Council to approve the proposed ordinance before it can be voted upon.

"I'm hoping that with support from the public that wants parks to stay open and want services to be maintained, that it will bring about some votes for me," Irons said of getting other council members to support the ordinance.

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