An incumbent and a newcomer are vying to represent Metro King County District 1 after voters approved downsizing the County Council from 13 to nine members
Metro King County Council member Bob Ferguson, who serves District 2, is challenged by newcomer Steve Pyeatt in the General Election. Ferguson recently defeated Metro King County Council member Carolyn Edmonds, who currently serves District 1, in the primary election — an unusual race between two Democrat incumbents.
Before voters approved downsizing the County Council from 13 to nine members, District 1 included Lake City, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Bothell. The redistricting process added a portion of Woodinville and Seattle neighborhoods such as Northgate, Wedgewood, Victory Heights, Licton Springs, Maple Leaf and Haller Lake.
Ferguson, 40, has served District 2 on the County Council for two years. A Seattle resident, he practiced law before running for office and unseating 20-year incumbent and Council chair Cynthia Sullivan by about 480 votes.
This past year Ferguson said he focused heavily on two issues while on the Council: one was election reform, on which he took a lead role with Metro King County Council member Julia Patterson, culminating in asking for an independent audit of the elections division; he also supported a provision on the ballot to better fund human and veteran services.
“We have had a crisis in funding for human services,” Ferguson said. “We have something on the ballot for human services and veteran services to bring in $11 million.”
District 1 is unique, Ferguson said, because it represents six different cities in unincorporated King County, but there are several common issues, such as transportation. Ferguson serves on the Regional Transit and Transportation committees and supports having town meetings to educate citizens about transportation issues and learn their priorities.
He advocates for better bus service and earmarking Sound Transit dollars specifically for Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. He also hopes to serve on the Sound Transit Board next year.
“It is important that someone like myself represent these cities on the Sound Transit Board,” Ferguson said. “I will try to serve in that capacity.”
The challenge to working on transportation issues, he said, is that different entities need to work together. He believes this can be encouraged through the founding of an organization that includes representatives from each entity, he said.
“We have all the different agencies and elected officials, which gets in the way of results,” Ferguson said. “We need to have one body under an umbrella.”
Ferguson supports a Seattle Transit Sounder Commuter Rail station stop in Shoreline, and recently worked with residents in the Roosevelt area to determine where a stop made most sense. The process was successful, due to resident involvement, he said.
The county is a regional body that can coordinate for disaster preparedness, Ferguson said, and as the chair of the regional policy committee, he requested the past two meetings be devoted to emergency preparedness. The county put a plan in place a few years ago, he said, which is important to reevaluate in light of Hurricane Katrina.
“This is an issue that I have already given thought to on the board and have put plans in place,” Ferguson said.
Regarding the city’s budget, Ferguson said King County Executive Ron Sims’ recent budget presentation, which indicated that the deficit was over, was surprising. Ferguson serves on the budget committee and said if the budget is more optimistic this year, he hopes to continue funding human services, courts and jails. He would also like to provide funding for safeguards against bird flu, which he said has the potential to become a pandemic.
“Here in King County we need to do our part to be ready,” Ferguson said. “I think it is important that dollars be used.”
He has taken a lead role in elections reform, Ferguson said, by looking at problems with provisional ballots in 2004, which were improperly fed through a tabulator. After legislation sponsored this year, provisional ballots that are fed through a voter tabulator are rejected. Together with Patterson, he also requested an independent audit of the department.
“The audit was tremendously important,” Ferguson said. “And not just relying on the elections office.”
After serving on the Council for two years, Ferguson said he is at the point in his career where he has enough experience to be effective. He is interested in what people have to say and strives to keep constituents connected.
“The reason why I won the primary and election two years ago is that no one works harder in terms of outreach than myself,” Ferguson said. “I demonstrated that by winning two elections where people said I didn’t have a chance.”
Pyeatt, 47, was born and reared in Shoreline and currently resides in Bothell. He owns a Web hosting company, has been involved in property management and development, and officiates football games.
Transportation is an issue Pyeatt said he has researched in detail. He said innovative, inexpensive solutions need to be evaluated. There are several “choke points” on Bothell Way, he said, and one solution may be Bus Rapid Transit. With the push for biotech companies, and a moving base of workers, he said flexible ideas need to be considered, which may save money.
“We need to be using more state-of-the-art solutions, which saves money and is more flexible,” Ferguson said. “That is key: flexibility.”
The challenge with light rail, Pyeatt said, is having the right number of routes at the right time. A cheaper, faster solution is made by Colorado RailCar, he said, and new self-propelled commuter railcars, which are both a commuter passenger car and a diesel locomotive, would make it possible to have round trips throughout the day.
“Instead of three trains coming back and sitting, we can have some traffic there,” Pyeatt said.
He said it will be important to serve on transportation committees and try to find solutions that are cost effective. A Seattle Transit Sounder Commuter Rail station stop may be viable in Shoreline, he said.
“I wouldn’t have a problem pushing through a stop in Shoreline if I can get something the community thinks is viable,” Pyeatt said. “If there is a stop but no one rides, it is a waste of money.”
Regarding disaster preparedness, Pyeatt said the Council’s biggest role is to provide direction and oversight. The Council needs to provide more education to constituents such as preparedness kits, as well as encourage people to get involved in Community Emergency Response Team training.
“The Council can make sure lines of communication are properly maintained with all these people,” Ferguson said.
King County Executive Sims’ report on a balanced budget is surprising, Pyeatt said, especially since costs have risen due to an increased executive staff, as well as spending money on such things such as postcards that were mailed with election pamphlets. He does not advocate for service cuts, but says the little costs add up.
“I see the little things,” Pyeatt said. “A million dollars here and a million dollars there and pretty soon we are talking big money.”
Elections reform is an issue Pyeatt has paid close attention to, he said, after discovering last year that ballots were sent to the care facilities of his deceased parents. He said there needs to be a clean voter database, which could be accomplished by mailing postcards to voters, who would be required to send them back in order to be registered with a new voter database.
“It looks like 10 percent of the voter database we have now is fraudulent,” Pyeatt said, “With dead, duplicate and fraud voters.”
It is important for the County Council to have a representative who lives in unincorporated King County, Pyeatt said, which is one reason why he should be elected.
“I represent the Council from downtown Woodinville to Richmond Beach,” Pyeatt said. “I am not new to the district; I have lived here my entire life.”