Northwest NEWS

January 24, 2000

Local News

Miller surrenders Council chair

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   SEATTLE--County Councilmember Louise Miller (R-Woodinville) stepped down from two years as Council Chair to resume the Vice-Chair post she previously held for four years.

   The Council named Pete von Reichbauer (R-Federal Way) as their new Chair in an 11-2 vote. The shift was part of a greater plan to approve a new committee structure, by a 12-1 vote, to consolidate and meet changing demands, said von Reichbauer.

   King County, like all the other 39 counties in the state except Whatcom, are elected by party affiliation, said Miller. Other than the state budget, King County manages the largest budget in the state.

   "This restructure reflects a strategy of about seven of us," said Miller. "Our main goal was to involve more councilmembers in areas of their individual expertise, and create a more bi-partisan organization. To effect that, it was necessary to make compromises within certain committee assignments. We might have cases where a new committee chair is less experienced, but we have the more experienced member as vice-chair. That helps get business done, when the chair is unavailable."

   Von Reichbauer served as Council Vice-Chair in 1999, and chaired three of the Council's most powerful committees in recent years: Budget and Fiscal Management; Growth Management; and Utilities and Natural Resources. As Budget Committee chair, he successfully negotiated three challenging budgets, two of which were unanimously adopted.

   "It is critical that we work to regain the public's confidence in government by improving public accessibility and regional cooperation," said von Reichbauer. "There is no such thing as an urban or suburban transportation system. Building our regional transportation network will take regional cooperation. This new structure reflects a balanced approach that utilizes the strengths of each councilmember and enables them to make significant contributions to the council and the region. It is incumbent on each councilmember to forge compromises that will work for everyone."

   Of the Council's 14 committees, Miller will chair the Regional Water Quality and Employment committees, and will be vice-chair of the Legislative Steering Committee and the Natural Resources, Parks, and Open Space Committee. That makes her the busiest councilmember.

   All other members hold a total of 1-2 chair or vice-chair positions, except for Chris Vance with one chair and two vice-chairs. Kenmore's Maggi Fimia chairs the Regional Transit Committee and is vice-chair of the Transportation Committee.

   "I'll probably work harder than before, in back-filling while our new Council Chair gets up to speed," said Miller. "And also because the Vice-Chair is assigned to more committees, by the rules. When the Republicans took over the majority in 1994, we gave more power to the Vice-Chair as a bi-partisan move. As far as I know, I'm the only person to be Chair or Vice-Chair for seven straight years. Seven councilmembers wanted me as chair again, but we didn't think it would make our bi-partisan plan work as well."

   Miller said her Council position switch had nothing to do with the fact she will not seek re-election when her current term ends at the end of 2001.

   The restructure will reduce the number of committees from 16 to 14. The Committee on Unincorporated Areas and the Policy Planning Committee were dissolved into the Growth Management and Unincorporated Areas Committee. Cynthia Sullivan (D-Seattle) will chair that committee.

   New councilmember David Irons (R-Sammamish) will chair the new Utilities and Technology Committee. The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, chaired by Rob McKenna (R-Bellevue), will add two sub-committees: Budget Development and Analysis; and Capital Projects.