A Week in Regional Policy

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Councilmembers have a lot of responsibilities at City Hall – serving on and Chairing Committees, writing legislation, responding to constituents and handling complaints, thinking, writing, and talking with each other about major issues, and so forth.  But we also have specific responsibilities in the region – most of us serve on several regional entities, and sometimes we Chair these groups.  Here’s a sample of what I did one week in September in my regional role:

Sound Transit.  Managing this regional transit system is a huge responsibility, and I have served as the Council representative on the Sound Transit Board since 2008.  I am Vice-Chair of the Capital Committee, and this week the Committee approved and sent to the Board a $182 million contract to construct the light rail line from SeaTac Airport to S. 200th Street.  We also reviewed possible sites for a new light rail vehicle maintenance base to serve East Link, and agreed that staff should proceed with the next stage of environmental review on alternate locations.  I am also one of three Board members on a special task force working with the City of Bellevue Councilmembers to optimize the light rail route and stations and reduce costs on East Link, and we met to review the latest staff work on possible cost saving measures.

Regional Food Policy Council.  I initiated this policy committee, which reports to the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC).  We have been meeting since the fall of 2010 and generate policy recommendations for local governments and other entities in the four-county region.  This week we reviewed a set of proposed Comprehensive Plan policies developed under a contract from the Seattle City Council, and agreed to forward them to Seattle and other cities for consideration and possible adoption.  We also accepted a grant from the State Department of Health to develop new public policies around food and health.

King County Growth Management Policy Council.  This is a regional body responsible for making recommendations on changes to the Growth Management Boundary and other growth management policies.  I have been one of three City of Seattle representatives since I was first elected to the City Council.  This week we approved a set of technical adjustments to the boundary, agreed to further discussions between the County and the City of North Bend on a possible boundary adjustment, refused to consider a request from a Renton private school (opposed by the City of Renton) to be added to the urban area, and voted down a proposal from the City of Woodinville to expand its urban area into designated farmland.  The vote on that one was 5 to 5, with Seattle joining County Executive Dow Constantine and Councilmember Larry Phillips in opposition to suburban cities and their King County representatives.  Two suburban city representatives told us that they opposed the proposal, but under the rules of the Suburban Cities Association (SCA) had to vote for it (SCA uses the archaic unit rule binding all of its representatives to vote the SCA majority position, and threatens representatives with being removed from regional bodies if they break ranks.)

I also met with state legislators and with staff to King County Executive Dow Constantine on the SR 520 project.  And, I continued my work as a member of the King County Board of Health on developing a proposal for a take back program for medicines and pharmaceuticals.

Councilmember’s roles in regional work make a difference for Seattle, working on policies and projects that directly affect the City.  It is also part of our ongoing task of building relationships so that we can work together most effectively, and of helping to make the region work.  Rarely recognized in the media, and not well-known to most of our constituents!