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Published: Friday, July 29, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

New county council districts shaping up

Bipartisan panel plans to reach consensus next week

If you live in Granite Falls, the Tulalip area or on the outskirts of Everett, you might soon find yourself represented by a different face on the Snohomish County Council.
A bipartisan committee has mapped several options to balance the population among five County Council districts. Ideally, when the job is done, each of the five County Council districts should have slightly more than 142,000 people.
It's a task the county charter requires after each 10-year U.S. Census.
Next Tuesday, committee members expect to endorse a preferred plan -- even if it takes all night to get the committee's three Democrats and two Republicans to agree.
"So bring your knapsack and your pillows," former Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, the chairman, told the other committee members at this week's meeting.
Kendall, of course, made the remark in good humor. He expects the group to reach a consensus next week with "a little bit of compromising and a little bit of work."
Tuesday's meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m at the County Council chambers on the eighth floor of the Robert J. Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. A meeting planned the following week, at the same place at 5 p.m., will allow people to register their opinions about the plan.
One set of boundary changes now on the table would move Granite Falls from District 1, the northern part of the county represented by Councilman John Koster, into the eastern District 5, represented by Council Chairman Dave Somers.
Other choices with widespread impacts involve a northward shift of District 2, represented by Councilman Brian Sullivan. Currently, that district covers the areas of Everett and Mukilteo and ends at Everett's upper edge. Proposed District 2 boundaries could take in the Tulalip Reservation or even go farther north to Stanwood.
Last week, the committee scratched the most radical plan. It would have created an eastern district delineated by a straight north-south line near Highway 9. That would have put Somers and Koster in the same district.
"The remaining plans are still very much in flux and under discussion," county elections manager Garth Fell said.
The committee tries not to draw incumbents or candidates out of their own districts. It's something they can do, though, if necessary. Should that happen, it would have no effect on the current election cycle or the four-year term at stake, only on future ones.
Other guidelines include keeping the districts as compact as possible, respecting natural boundaries and trying to avoid splitting communities of shared interests.
The appointed committee cannot alter the number of seats on the County Council. That would require amending the county charter.
Councilman Dave Gossett's District 4, covering the county's south-central suburbs, currently is the largest with about 153,000 people, so it needs to slim down the most. Koster's district, with its population of about 148,000, also needs to shrink. The other districts need to grow, especially Sullivan's District 2, which is the smallest with about 133,000 people.
The committee has been meeting weekly since April. The Democrats are Robert Chapman of Everett and Greg Pratt of Snohomish. The Republicans are Larry Stickney of Arlington and Jim Donner of Stanwood. Kendall, a Democrat, was mutually agreed to.
They plan to send a recommendation to the County Council before Aug. 22. That should allow the council to schedule a public hearing and finalize the new district boundaries by late September.
Congressional and legislative district lines are undergoing revisions, as well. Those are being handled by the Washington State Redistricting Commission. That includes deciding where to put the state's new 10th Congressional District, which Washington picked up because of population gains relative to other states in the 2010 Census.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.
Upcoming meetings
Tuesday, 6 p.m. -- The districting committee plans to whittle four options down to one, possibly a hybrid of existing choices.
Aug. 9, 5 p.m. -- A public hearing to get feedback on the committee's preferred plan.
Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. -- The committee, with comments from the previous meeting in mind, intends to finalize a plan.
All meetings are at the County Council chambers on the eighth floor of the Robert J. Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett.

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