Upper Bear Creek Council to lose county funding

  • Written by Don Mann
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert spoke to UBCC members at Woodinville Water District on Tuesday. Photo by Don Mann.
"The revenue is just not there," King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert told the members of the Upper Bear Creek Community Council, in defense of the county’s proposal to eliminate funding for the six Unincorporated Area Councils, or UACs, as of July 1.

Since 1999 the UBCC has served the more than 20,000 people in unincorporated Woodinville with the purpose of informing, assisting and representing the community in dealing with King County government.

The UBCC has received an annual $10,000 from the county — much of which is spent on insurance — but those days appear to be over because of county budget woes.

"When I was in the Legislature, there was an expression called ‘budget dust,’" Lambert said, "meaning anything so small it’s almost not worth talking about. Well, there is no budget dust in the King County budget anymore."

Lambert said $59 million have already been cut from the General Fund this year, with $20 million more to come. "I have no idea at this point exactly where that will come from," she said. "People say cut the waste but there is no waste."

Of the $623 million in the general fund, she said, 76 percent pays for law and justice — the sheriff’s office and the courts, two budget areas the council deemed untouchable.

Other programs, like the UACs, fell victim to the scalpel. The county will no longer fund school resource officers, food banks, boys and girls clubs or filing for felony drug cases, Lambert said.

Elimination of the UACs will save $392,000, she added.

"Did I want to cut any of these things?" Lambert asked. "Absolutely not, but the choices were not good."

She said she hoped the UACs continued to meet on a volunteer basis, and that the county proposed to designate a coordinator to bring back community information and concerns to its representatives.

Lambert represents District 3, which includes 45 percent of the county’s unincorporated areas.

"We don’t want you to stop meeting as UACs," she said. "There are a number of groups that meet as community groups and there are some benefits there because you don’t have to have the insurance, financial disclosure forms or public records retention."

(Any public meeting funded by federal, state or local government is required by law to carry liability insurance.)

Lambert said the new arrangement would be more focused, cheaper and include more people.

UBCC member Rich Lund wasn’t buying it, pointing out that funding the UACs came from merely .01 percent of the general fund, and he believed it was money well spent.

"Is it wise to destroy what we have now that has a 10-year history behind it?" he asked.

"We’re not an interest group, not an advocacy group. We’re actually trying to help the county in a good government kind of way. To be told we have to fund raise if we want to continue to have the privilege of coming to these county meetings ... is insulting to people who are volunteering their time to help."

Megan DeSantis said she was concerned that the unincorporated areas would go unnoticed and was critical of Lambert: "It’s a little scary. Lambert’s office in the past has not been there for us, and this will make things worse. She’s supposed to be our voice but to me there is no voice."

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