County adopts new district map

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - The King County Districting Committee unanimously approved a new county district map last week that would place the Snoqualmie Valley in one of two, large rural districts.

The 5-0 vote on Jan. 16 came after two months of meetings and public comment. In November, voters approved a plan that would reduce the number of districts in the county to nine from 13. The County Council appointed a bi-partisan districting committee, which was responsible for eliciting public comment, drawing the maps and ultimately approving the new districts.

"If we do our job, most everyone will be unhappy," said districting committee chair Steve Ohlenkamp. "I think we have achieved that."

The Snoqualmie Valley will remain in District 3, which currently includes parts of Woodinville, Redmond and all of the Snoqualmie Valley before extending east to encompass the whole northeastern part of King County.

The new District 3 will be similar but will also include the cities of Sammamish and Issaquah. The new districts had to add about 30,000 people to bring each one up to a target population of 193,000, based on 2000 U.S. Census numbers.

Rural residents and representatives had lobbied to maintain its three-district representation. There are currently three districts that cover the eastern, rural areas of King County and some council members suggested a three-way split between the county's rural, suburban and urban areas would be best.

Districting committee members Skip Rowley said he heard many complaints from rural residents in the county's unincorporated areas who said the county is their one level of local government. He said he would personally assist the county in trying to improve representation with the rural districts.

"Those areas are really suffering," he said.

Maintaining that representation was a challenge, Ohlenkamp said, especially since the county had to reduce the number of districts it had. Most of the support for council reduction came from the rural districts, Ohlenkamp noted. Seattle's District 2 voted against the redistricting move with a 55-percent rejection, while the mostly-rural District 12 voted 65 percent in favor of the move.

The new District 3 will have the highest number of rural residents, with 13,466. The new District 9, which will include the rural areas south of the current District 3, will have 11, 241 rural residents.

All council positions will be up for election this fall. Council members Kathy Lambert and Dave Irons currently reside in the new District 3. Lambert currently represents District 3 and Irons represents District 12, which was basically split between the new District 3 and new District 9.

"It was quite a balancing act," Ohlenkamp said. "None of us got exactly what we wanted, but it's a fair balance."

The county will redraw the district lines again after the 2010 U.S. Census is taken.

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