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County Council downsizing may take longer

Mirror staff

The remaking of the Metropolitan King County Council, provided that voters approve it, may take longer than originally planned.

Citing what they termed procedural flaws in a proposed county charter amendment on this November’s ballot, a majority of the council members are backing a proposal to extend a council downsizing by two years.

The amendment asks voters if the council should be reduced from its current 13 members to nine. The amendment was drafted by backers of Initiative 18, which the council decided last September to place in this year’s general election. In its current form, the initiative requires the appointment of a redistricting committee and the completion of new council district boundaries to be finished this year, even though by law, no redistricting process may begin until the election results are certified on Nov. 17. That would limit the redistricting effort to about six weeks, a process which normally takes up to a full year.

The county charter also requires that council elections be held in odd-numbered years.The amendment that was proposed Monday would change the implementation date of a reduced council from 2005 to 2007, the next odd-numbered year in which council elections could occur.

The nine council members who support the amendment said it would create a more reasonable timeline and resolve inconsistencies in the council’s regional committees.

The council knew last fall, when it approved Initiative 18 for the ballot, “that there were practical and legal problems that needed to be addressed. This is what we were talking about,” said Councilman Larry Phillips, a co-sponsor of the amendment. “We now need to act with due diligence to ensure that voters can have full confidence in the district boundaries that are drawn and in the process for drawing those boundaries.”

Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, another co-sponsor and whose district includes Federal Way, said the “painstaking process” of redistricting should maximize public input.

“The public deserves a process that allows sufficient time for creating a districting committee, and for that committee to complete the process required by state law and county charter. It would be irresponsible to rush this project,” von Reichbauer said.

The council’s three regional committees have 12 members apiece. They include members of the County Council and elected representatives from Seattle, suburban cities and sewer districts. Officials from the latter serve with the Regional Water Quality Committee. The committees were created in 1991-92 to give cities a direct role in key county issues.

In responsse to the proposed reduction of County Council, the proposed amendment would shrink the committees from 12 members to six and make proportional reductions in the membership of Seattle, suburban cities and sewer districts. For the revised Regional Policy and Regional Transit committee, this would mean three County Council members and three members from cities, and for the revised Water Quality Committee, two members from the County Council, two from cities Seattle and one from sewer districts.

would have one member instead of two.

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