Baker, a member of several political advocacy groups who sits on a slew of state, county and local committees, was there representing the Suburban Cities Association, though his presence and words evoked the casual quality of one neighbor chatting across a picket fence to another.
The SCA is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to lead King County cities with populations less than 150,000 to act locally and partner regionally to create livable, vital communities through advocacy, education, leadership, mutual support and networking. SCA members represent over 953,000 citizens in King County, or about 56 percent of the county’s incorporated population.
Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville are among the association’s 35 city members.
Baker, a two-term SCA board member, was in Bothell to provide an update on the organization’s recent and future activities, mostly to keep lines of communication open and maintain unity.
“SCA is an advocacy group, a lobbyist group that works collectively with cities at the county level,” he said. “A board member from the area tries to come by at least twice a year to give an update on what’s going on.”
Baker began his talk by thanking Bothell councilmember Tom Agnew for his work on the SCA’s Public Issues Committee. “The importance of his involvement,” he told the council, “is to make sure Bothell’s voice is heard in the public policy work of SCA with King County and the region.” He noted the group had some success in mitigating potential impacts of budget cuts proposed by the county’s Regional Transit Committee, and said the focus now will be to define and interpret the methodologies of the plan.
“In looking it over, I know one (bus) route is getting cut in Kenmore and there will be some effect in Bothell,” he said. “The county’s implementation of the $20 car tab fee will lessen the amount of cuts, but it’s still going to hit us. The important role of the Public Issues Committee is to hold those (county) representatives accountable to the direction of the members of the SCA, and we’ll continue to do this with regular updates to the committees and by recommending specific policy positions.”
Then there were some housekeeping items: In order to avoid an increase in SCA membership dues, all mayors of member cities were asked to sign a joint letter to accompany a marketing brochure to potential associate members; there’s an opportunity to meet Governor Gregoire at the annual networking dinner on September 21; and final interviews are being conducted to find a replacement for SCA Executive Director Karen Goroski who will retire on October 31.
Baker thanked Bothell City manager Bob Stowe for his willingness to sit on the search committee for Goroski’s replacement and “for the commitment of his time and expertise.”
Baker then switched hats, as he is also a board member of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), an advocacy group that deals with state issues, to talk about SR522 road improvements as well as the local effect of the 520 bridge tolling.
“The city of Kenmore has treated the 522 corridor as a corridor,” he said, “and at the last session in Olympia we put forward legislation seeking money for Bothell as well as Kenmore and that’s the way we’re lobbying back in (Washington), D.C.”
Regarding tolling, he said: “There’s been lots of discussion about traffic diversion (via Bothell and Kenmore) and some numbers floating around I don’t think anyone of us agreed with. So Kenmore bought its own traffic counters, to measure before and after, and we have some very good counts we’re happy to share with you guys.”
The idea is to seek state mitigation money to counter the local traffic problems tolling will cause.
“We’d be very interested in that,” Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb said. “I want to reiterate what Mayor Baker said in that as we’ve lobbied in Olympia we’ve taken a regional view of 522 as a corridor because when that thing’s jammed up we’re both affected. I think Kenmore and Bothell have made some real progress on trying to improve 522’s mobility.”
Baker was later asked about the benefits of being a member of SCA.
“It’s strength in numbers,” he said, “having other cities alongside fighting for the same issues. It’s circling the wagons and firing inward. We want to make sure that our cities get our fair share and the treatment we deserve because we are taxpaying residents of this county. So we speak together as one voice.”