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Let's Get Political 

Washington adds a new congressional bundle of joy, a city budget vote and a little bit of the nepotis'.

click to enlarge Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed - TAMMY MARSHALL
  • Tammy Marshall
  • Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed

And Then There Were 10

As Washington’s population grows, so does its clout in D.C. With the Census information in this Tuesday, the political map of the United States will change, adding congressional seats to the West and South while stripping them (mainly) from the Northeast.

Washington, with 6.7 million people, saw a population growth of 14 percent, which means a gain of one seat in the House of Representatives. Of the eight states that will gain congressional members, Washington is only one of two states that appoints committee members to figure where the new district will go.

Usually, reapportionment allows political parties to draw lines favoring their members. But state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown told The Inlander recently that Washington is great precisely because it doesn’t allow that.

“Washington has a relatively balanced, not a very partisan process compared to some states, where whoever’s in the majority sets the boundaries,” she said, adding that, as a legislative leader, she gets to choose one of the five people who will sit on the commission to redraw our political borders. We’re still waiting to see whom she chooses.

But where will the district go? According to an analysis by The Stranger, a Seattle alt weekly, it won’t be over here.

Due to where the population is growing the fastest, and where the densest population centers are located, the article says the new district will most likely be on the Puget Sound. And, it seems, Eastern Washington’s power will again dwindle compared to our powerful cousins to the west. (Nicholas Deshais)

Less Money, Mo’ Problems

This Monday, the Spokane City Council approved the 2011 budget by a vote of 5-2. Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Bob Apple voted against the budget.

The approved budget closely matches the one presented by Mayor Mary Verner, which is unsurprising because the council worked closely with the mayor throughout the year.

As part of the budget, the council did vote to raise sewer rates by 17 percent next year, higher than the 15 percent recommended by the mayor. Wastewater rates were also raised for the coming year.

About $147,000 of unappropriated funds were put into a rainy-day reserve, and the city faces the 2012 budget with a deficit already expected to be $4 million. (Nicholas Deshais)

Valley Nepotism?

In the last year, votes at the Spokane Valley City Council have fallen along stark partisan lines. The “Positive Change” coalition — Mayor Tom Towey, Dean Grafos, Brenda Grassel, Gary Schimmels and Bob McCaslin — votes for something, while outliers Bill Gothmann and Rose Dempsey vote against it.

That split has been revealed on several issues, mostly on whether appointing the mayor’s half-brother to the Planning Commission is appropriate.

There’s no debate that Bill Bates is qualified to be on the planning commission. As Grafos points out, he’s lived in the city for 45 years and has run 26 stores. He understands finances acutely.

But since Bates is the mayor’s half-brother, Gothmann has a problem with it. “It’s just flat-out nepotism,” Gothmann says. “There could be undue influence from the mayor to the Planning Commission. It gives you the appearance of some sort of collusion.”

Under current rules, city lawyers say appointing Bates is perfectly legal. And ultimately, the vote — like so many before it — ended with Dempsey and Gothmann against it, and the rest of the council for it. (Daniel Walters)

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