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Family petitions voters to save memorial

NORTH BEND — Over the next four months, Tony and Amy

Blount's home will be transformed into campaign headquarters as they

scramble to collect more than 180,000 signatures to get their initiative on the

November ballot.

The couple seeks to lawfully protect memorials on public

rights-of-way from being removed — which includes their son Brandon's cross

on North Bend Way. According to the King County Code, only a few

things are allowed in the county's right-of-way, and the list does not include

memorials.

"When we came home from the hospital there were already

two crosses out there," Amy Blount said. "When you loose a child, there are

a lot of people who don't want to talk to you, they don't know what to

say and how to say it, so they ignore it.

"When I go by the cross, to me it's a sign of the love that other

people have for my child — for the child I gave birth to and loved with all

my heart," she added.

Last year, King County Department of Transportation

officials planned to remove the cross after they received several complaints about

the Blount's memorial. Instead, the county and family agreed to

negotiate an alternate solution; however, nothing has been finalized yet.

"The sides of the roads are public property," Tony Blount said.

"It doesn't belong to the Department of Transportation; it belongs to

the people and the [DOT] are stewards of that property."

With the DOT poised to possibly remove the cross, the Blounts

were faced with the decision of negotiating with the county, going through the

legislative process or taking the vote to the people. The family chose to let

the people decide the fate of memorials in Washington.

"After speaking with Sen. Dino Rossi, [he said] when it goes

through the legislative process, it has a tendency to get changed a great deal

and diluted," Blount said. "So that's

one of the reasons we decided to go through the initiative route."

Now the Blounts are taking their plea across the state and plan to

stop in several major cities to present their cause. Locally, there are petition

clipboards set up at many businesses in the Valley including Safari's

Pizza, Milk Barn and Crystal Rentals. They have also received the OK to set up

a petition booth at the Factory Stores at North Bend through July.

The Blounts will need to collect at least 45,000 signatures of

registered voters a month, which equals 1,600 a day, just to get the initiative on the

ballot. There are 19 other proposals that need voter support this year, and

historically, only one out of seven initiatives will make it to election day.

"There's no doubt in my mind that those signatures will be attained and

I am 100 percent committed to making that a reality," Blount said.

"We've been getting a great deal of help and support from others. We now

have about 20 people volunteering with us, but in reality, we need 100s."

But there is always a possibility that the family cannot generate

enough signatures or that the people might not embrace this petition. If that

happened, Blount said, he would probably take his concerns to Olympia.

"I will take those petitions and say, `Look at this. We did everything

we could, but look at this. Here's 100,000 signatures' and then go through

the legislative process and see if there could be a bill that could pass," he said.

Family and friends have been maintaining a memorial for

Brandon Blount on the corner of North Bend Way and Tanner Road since the

day of the accident in 1997. The Blounts hope that their efforts will not

only protect their son's memorial, but those of other families as well.

"They should vote because none of us is promised a day, and any

day they can lose someone they love in a traffic accident," Blount said. "And

if they vote for it, they will have a choice to place or not place a memorial

where they lost the one they cared and loved for.

"There'll be many people who don't want to place a memorial

there. It should be the choice of the people it happened to and nobody else's."

"And when I see new flowers and balloons, it makes me feel so

happy that my baby has not been forgotten," Amy Blount added.

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