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Cascade County group to meet in North Bend

NORTH BEND - A group of citizens committed to making Cascade County a reality will meet next week in North Bend.

Cascade County is the working name for a new county made up of parts of King County and the Cascade County Committee is the working name for a group of people fed up with being under the rule of King County.

"It's not an anti-Seattle thing," said John Hearing, interim director of the committee. "It's more an assertion of who we are out here."

Hearing said his title is a working name, as well. There is no public voice or leader to the group yet because of its infancy and Hearing said he will probably end up being "a worker bee." The group had an initial gathering in Maple Valley last month to see what kind of support the cause would have. Now the group wants to get more public involvement and see who would not only support a new county, but who would actually get involved in the process of making it happen.

Such a move is not a new idea. In the 1990s, some residents rallied around the idea of Cedar County, the name given to a new county made up areas of like-minded people who were sick of King County. That effort made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, where it was shot down in 1998 on the basis that there is no law allowing the state to create a new county.

While Hearing said this committee is not "Cedar County II," it will be learning from that earlier new county attempt. One of the supporters Hearing is working to get involved is Lois Gustafson, a Redmond resident who chaired the committee that pushed for Cedar County. Gustafson said she is more than willing to lend a hand and sees the modern way of layman politicking as a little easier than it was just a decade ago.

"I'm in awe of how easy it will be to communicate now," she said. "Now you can just write an e-mail and send it to everyone in a couple of minutes."

The group has four preliminary maps to work off of, including one that makes all of King County outside of Seattle Cascade County. The other three include one that would have all areas east of Lake Washington and Interstate 5 to the north and south. One resembles the proposed boundaries of Cedar County, which includes the areas east of Seattle and Bellevue, but as well as Sammamish and Issaquah. A fourth option excludes Sammamish and Issaquah and only includes the eastern periphery of the county.

One of the ways the committee hopes to make one of those maps a reality is through citizen initiative. Legislation proposed by State Rep. Toby Nixon that would help form a new county is stalled, Hearing said, and one way to get something done is go around the state Legislature.

The numbers needed to make that happen are daunting but not impossible, Hearing said. To get an initiative on the ballot that would allow the formation of a new county, supporters would have to get enough signatures to equal 8 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial race. That race had more ballots cast than any other in the state's history and Hearing estimated they would need anywhere from 260,000-300,000 signatures. To actually form the new county, supporters would have to get signatures from 50 percent of those who would live in the new county. Hearing said that number could be up to 300,000, depending on where the new county lines are drawn.

Daunting, yes, but Hearing believes the support is there. He believes there are those like himself who think something needs to change in King County, a place he said has changed a lot since he was born. He said there was a time when people in the rural and outlying areas were left alone, but that has now changed with Seattle trying to manage what people do outside the city.

It appears he is not the only one to think so.

* The next meeting of the Cascade County Committee will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, at the Sallal Grange Hall, 12912 432nd Ave. S.E. in North Bend. For more information on the group, visit its Web site at www.cascadecounty.kendra.com/default.htm.

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