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Korich-Vega elected to Snoqualmie council

Snoqualmie Valley voters had a veritable smorgasbord of political

candidates and issues to choose from in last week's general election,

and marked the occasion with a somewhat higher turnout than expected.

While the statewide focus of the proceedings concentrated on the

passage of Initiative 695, several local races were also up for grabs and

drew their own level of attention. Their results could set the tone for

several Valley issues over the coming years, ranging from development, to the

environment, to fire protection services.

In a tight race for position four on the Snoqualmie City Council,

Marcia Korich-Vega defeated Carol Peterson by a margin of 43 votes, 252-223.

Incumbent councilman Richard Kirby, running unopposed for his

position two seat, garnered 380 votes.

Peterson, a 35-year Valley resident and wife of former Snoqualmie

mayor and council member Charles Peterson, ran a campaign calling for closer

ties with the homeowners in Snoqualmie Ridge. She also focused on

monitoring the city's budget, with particular emphasis on expenditures for

city capital improvements.

Notably, in the final weeks of the campaign Snoqualmie Mayor

R. "Fuzzy" Fletcher and council members Frank Lonergan and

Colleen Johnson publicly endorsed Peterson's opponent, Korich-Vega. The

candidate, current chair of the Shoreline Hearings Board, concentrated

on flooding and development issues and promised a voice in government

for all of the city's residents. She is well known for her long-standing

opposition to the proposed Falls Crossing mixed-use development.

In the Fire District 38 race for Jerry Prior's vacated seat,

Bellevue firefighter Ronald Pedee garnered 1,114 votes, defeating

former Snoqualmie mayor Darwin Sukut. Sukut received 1,025 _ or 47.32

percent _ of the vote.

Obviously, there were no surprises in the uncontested Upper Valley

races. Mayor Joan Simpson and council members Mark Sollitto,

Elaine Webber and Ed Carlson all retained their positions in North Bend's

government, while Fritz Ribary and Joan Young were reelected to the

King County Hospital District No. 4 commission.

The one big election issue that polarized voters not just in the

Valley but throughout the state was I-695. With the exception of King,

Whatcom and Whitman Counties, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved

the measure, which cuts annual car tabs to $30 while also requiring voter

approval of all tax and fee increases.

Massive spending and a media blitz marked the campaign. A

coalition of groups - including labor and professional unions, several large

corporations, local and state elected officials, and a wide range of

"concerned citizen" organizations _ fought

hard against the measure, but it all came to naught. Pending the release of the

official certified results on Wednesday, Nov. 18, I-695 passed handily,

taking 57.8 percent of the vote.

Response to the overwhelming passage of Initiative 695 was

varied but predictable. State Senator Don Benton, the ranking Republican on

the Senate Transportation Committee, described the passage as bringing

both "opportunity and a wake-up call for the legislature." During a

subsequent press conference, Governor Gary Locke stated he would attempt to

use roughly half of the state's $1 billion cash reserve to continue funding

of several programs that he categorized as "essential."

In King County, County Executive Ron Sims _ who was a vocal

opponent of the initiative - issued a release stating he would do all he could

to protect critical regional services, but he had grave concerns about the

impacts.

"This measure decimates critical services that were dependent on

the motor Vehicle Excise Tax for funding, such as our transit system,

public health services and criminal justice programs," Sims stated.

According to figures released by the Council, the county stands to

lose $50.7 million in revenues during 2000 and $127.7 million in 2001.

Sims' budget, submitted to the council Thursday, Nov. 4, calls for cuts in

transit starting in February, culminating in a roughly one-third reduction in

total hours of service by June 2001. Criminal Justice reductions will be

spread between the King County District Court system, Superior Court

system, King County Sheriff's Office and the Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Public health impacts include reductions in funding for uncompensated and

community health care, as well as cuts in county health education, family

planning and AIDS prevention services, among others.

The initiative is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2000, but

several groups have already announced they will pursue legal action to forestall

or prevent its implementation. Questions are being asked about the

initiative's constitutionality and its impact on I-601, the 1993 measure that

capped government spending. Conversely, some I-695 supporters are now

turning their attention to similar measures against other fees.

In the meantime, several Valley governments are coming to terms

with the impacts of I-695 on their annual budgets. The effects will be

varied, although most local governments developed parallel budgets in the

event that I-695 passed.

"The initial hit is about $70,000, which we won't receive in

criminal justice funding," said North Bend

City Manager Phil Messina. "We did a budget based on not having that money.

"We were talking with King County about a part-time

storefront community service officer and that's going away. We were looking at

the DARE Program, but we won't be doing that. What little service we

already get in buses will be cut back.

Messina added North Bend doesn't rely on the state's sales

tax equalization funding due to the city's reasonably strong commercial

base, and it puts the community in much better shape than several other locales.

"Some cities are looking at losing 25 to 30 percent of their general

fund," he concluded.

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