Opinion

Annexation irony for unincorporated King County | Andy Hobbs

A committee pushing to form Peasley Canyon Township says the effort is a pre-emptive strike against annexation by Federal Way, should the city choose to do so.

The irony is that with annexation, unincorporated county residents win.

The township proposal in South King County re-ignites a worthwhile debate. Voters in the unincorporated land east of Interstate 5 rejected a 2007 annexation effort by Federal Way. There is a difference today because there is no more state-backed financial incentive for Federal Way to annex the land. Federal Way can barely take care of nearly 90,000 citizens. Why add another 21,000 mouths with hardly any extra tax revenue to feed them?

For years, King County has pushed for the remaining unincorporated areas to join neighboring cities via annexation. County services like law enforcement struggle to meet demand. The unincorporated areas drain the county by taking more than they give, all while piggybacking on established tax-generating cities.

It should be noted that South King County’s unincorporated area lacks a local layer of representation. King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer represents the Federal Way and Auburn areas, including the Peasley Canyon area. However, Federal Way and Auburn also have municipal governments. Elsewhere in King County, six areas benefit from an Unincorporated Area Council, which acts as a citizen liaison to the county.

If a public leadership vacuum exists for the unincorporated area east of Federal Way, at least one resident is trying to fill the void. In strictly public terms, Jerry Galland is the most visible figure from the so-called Peasley Canyon Township. Galland led a successful grass-roots effort against the 2007 annexation attempt. He resurfaced in 2010 with a campaign for District 30 state representative. At the same time, he worked to defeat a proposed service charge from South King Fire and Rescue. In 2011, Galland is running for South King fire commissioner while spearheading the movement to create Peasley Canyon Township.

Over the past year, Galland has found himself in the middle of a few public controversies involving the fire commissioners. While attending commissioner meetings, Galland nudged the board into revising policies to allow videotaping at public meetings and guns on fire district property.

This column neither supports nor opposes Galland and his public efforts. However, it is worth noting a willingness to get involved and influence public issues — regardless of how welcome or antagonistic that influence is perceived.

For residents who choose to care, living in unincorporated King County may mean freedom from city codes and regulation. But the longer the area stays unincorporated, and the more that area’s infrastructure deteriorates, the harder it will be to financially justify an unincorporated existence.

If these 21,000 residents want a higher quality of life and more representation, then annexation to Federal Way or Auburn is not the problem. It’s a solution.

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