Hard to Find Love in Rural King County

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There was a strange moment outside the Avondale Bible Church last night--Sheriff Sue Rahr spotted sharing a laugh with budget director Bob Cowan. The executive branch, where Cowan resides, and the Sheriff’s office haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye on this budget process. It’s probably fair to say it’s been downright acrimonious. But tonight neither was in Avondale with prepared remarks; they were just there to listen while residents in unincorporated King County took some time to vent.

It’s no secret that Ron Sims, and really just about anyone in Seattle, isn’t winning popularity contests in the more rural reaches of King County. But just in case that wasn’t clear, state Rep. Roger Goodman, a democrat, approached the mike during a Q and A with the Exec in Avondale last night and reminded him. “You’re not that popular on this side of the lake,” Goodman said.

The relationship between the Seattle-based King County government and the small population of residents living well off the I-5 corridor is being strained even further by that $93 million deficit everyone, including us, has spent so much time discussing. Once a year, Sims meets in a public forum with leaders from the six unincorporated area councils to check in, talk about their priorities and get an earful. It’s a fine line the people filling the church sanctuary want him to walk.

They want better policing service from the Sheriff’s office (something that came up repeatedly from both council leaders and community members) and more protections from things like new tennis courts. But at the same time, people also want to have more autonomy for running their own land, especially the farms. Tom Carpenter is president of the Four Creeks council, which includes May Creek. The small stream has been the subject of a decades-long battle after attempts at preservation led to dramatic flooding in the area. He said there’s been significant progress, including clearing of several thousand feet of weeds that have choked up the stream. But he also suggested Sims give area residents more authority to deal with it on their own—you know, to help save the county money.

The one thing everyone agreed on is the need to get more input from the outlying areas in the King County rule-making process. “The power base is in Seattle. The economic base is in Seattle. So out here in King County, it seems like things can just be shoved down our throats,” Goodman said.

Sims listened to everyone’s concerns, never acting dismissive, but--especially on budget matters--said he faced serious constraints with that giant deficit. Still, he told the group, his trip to Avondale isn’t just a site-seeing jaunt. “We take these meetings very seriously,” he said. “This isn’t an opportunity lost.”

 
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