FW officials don't want city split in redistricting

Since incorporating in 1990, the City of Federal Way has been contained in Washington’s 30th legislative district.

City officials say they want that status quo for the next decade as well.

With Washington state’s redistricting process drawing to a close next month, the Federal Way City Council is sending a message to state redistricting commissioners. It says they want the city to stay within the state’s 30th legislative district, which presently includes Federal Way and portions of Northeast Tacoma, Algona and Redondo.

A memorandum signed by councilors stating that Federal Way and its Proposed Annexation Area should remain in one district “to maintain the city’s cohesiveness” was approved at council’s Nov. 6 meeting.

But the city’s continued growth coupled with South King County population shifts have made the prospect uncertain.

Under the plan, each of the state’s 49 legislative districts would have an ideal population of 120,288 constituents. But Federal Way and its Proposed Annexation Area are home to 112,136 people, according to 2000 U.S. Census figures. Trying to tie them all into one district could be improbable.

A five-member panel runs the state redistricting process, with two members each being named by the two major political parties. The fifth is a non-voting independent chair of the commission. Last month, four proposals for new legislative and congressional districts were released. Since that time, the redistricting commissioners have awaited public comment and, on Nov. 5, began the first in a series of meetings in Olympia to hammer out a final proposal that will be submitted to the Legislature, said Filiz Satir, a state Redistricting Commission spokeswoman.

“We have received hundreds of comments ... for how boundary lines should be drawn in the districts,” Satir said.

Two of the four redistricting proposals keep the city and most of the PAA in the 30th District while dropping the northeast corner of Tacoma. But two other proposals slice off the northeast corner of Federal Way and move it in to the 33rd legislative district.

In the Puget Sound area, it’s unique for an entire city the size of Federal Way to fit in only one district, Assistant City Manager Derek Matheson told councilors at a recent city committee meeting.

That scenario of splitting the city would be acceptable to some councilors, including recently re-elected Eric Faison. But Deputy Mayor Linda Kochmar voiced her disapproval of losing residents in the northeast edge of the city to the 33rd legislative district.

State Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, said he has gotten little comment from the public about redistricting, but he has watched the process unfold, also hoping that Federal Way won’t be fragmented.

The worst-case scenario, Miloscia said, would be for the city to be split up like Renton, which has neighborhoods that stretch into six legislative districts.

State Rep. Maryanne Mitchell, R-Federal Way, did not return phone messages left at her home requesting comment.

While there was some anxiety in past months, the state commission’s four draft plans actually came as a relief to many community leaders. There were some rumors that Vashon Island would be added to the 30th District, a placement that would have been unpopular on both sides of Puget Sound’s East Passage. And in committee meetings, councilwoman Mary Gates said she did not want a major portion of another city – most likely Auburn – added to the 30th District because it could segregate Federal Way neighborhoods and erode the city’s influence in state government.

Meanwhile, redistricting for both county and congressional districts has been less dicey where Federal Way is concerned. The city remains in the state’s 9th Congressional District, presently represented by Democrat Adam Smith, in the plans.

The King County Council also is moving forward with its redistricting process in Seattle. A public hearing is slated for 7 p.m. tonight at the King County Courthouse, Room 1001, 516 Third Ave. in Seattle. Committee members will review the proposed final redistricting plan. The proposal keeps the Federal Way and its PAA all within the county’s 7th District. The final county plan could be adopted the commission’s 9 a.m. meeting on Nov. 21.

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