27 March 2005
Drawn and halved
King County, Washington is fairly huge: 2300 square miles (including 180 square miles of inland water) and a population around 1.75 million.
The seat of King County is Seattle, population 570,000, area maybe 90 square miles. But Seattle is tucked into the far western edge of the county, and residents on the eastern side have felt increasingly alienated by what they see as Seattle-centrism on the part of county officials.
Nor is this a new phenomenon: residents of King County south of Seattle envisioned separating themselves into a new county, to be called Cedar, back in the 1990s, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that state law did not permit new counties to be created by popular vote. Rep. Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) offered a bill this year which would leave Seattle and King County as coterminous entities and would create a new county from what was left. Said Nixon:
We've heard the argument that King County is just too big to be managed effectively. And we know people in rural King County are tired of feeling like their lives are dictated by Seattle. But looking at it from the other side, wouldn't Seattle jump at the chance to cut the rest of King County loose? No more hearing us complain about Seattle imposing land-use rules on us, no more of our voting against light rail just think of what Seattle could become if it didn't have us interfering in its plans, holding it back. It could spend its tax money however it likes and make whatever laws suit its priorities.
A heck of a pitch. But it's going nowhere in Olympia, at least not yet. So last week at a grange hall in North Bend, the new Cascade County Committee held its first meeting. They're facing an uphill battle: they must first persuade the legislature to allow the creation of new counties with one initiative, and should that succeed, then collect a second set of signatures to split off Cascade from King. The committee is not working with Rep. Nixon, though it would simplify their task should his bill actually get through the legislature. And they are considering four possible divisions, three of which would leave some other municipalities inside King County.
I don't see this sort of thing happening where I live Oklahoma County is fractious, but in no particular danger of fracturing but I'll be watching the birth (or stillbirth) of Cascade County, Washington with considerable interest.Posted at 7:51 PM to Political Science Fiction