Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Local Politics: Not So Distant Thunder

Last one, then a wrap-up.

One of the final matches is one I cannot vote on, but which affects my neighborhood one block north. Because there is the dividing line between the part of Benson Hill that may be swallowed by Renton, and my chunk, which is supposedly to be injested by Kent (I suppose by osmosis - I haven't heard a peep about it).

The Renton Annexation is no small potatoes. Previously an attempt to make this area, including Fairwood in the east, an independent community failed at the polls. And with this addition, Renton will be a larger city than Bellevue, though not a taller one.

And Renton has been expanding like mad. I joke about the sprawling IKEA that dominates the southern office parks of the city, and express worry about the large tank farm for the Olympic Pipeline that is only a few blocks away, but it has been on an expansion run. The Federal Reserve, King County elections, and even the Seattle Seahawks practice field are all relocating. Add a sprawling attempt at Kent Commons and it is trying to shoulder its way out of its status as the Rodney Dangerfield of the Pacific Northwest.

And the full court press has been on everywhere - three varieties of lawn sides and a web site, the ominously titled [Note: Link removed - site linked to no longer deals with the Renton Expansion - 8/25/15. Meanwhile, the opponents of annexation have been visibly few and far between. So how can this fail?

Inertia. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. As the Fairwood folks found out, it takes a lot to move people out of the traditional routines, and King County swearing that they cannot adequately serve these outflung no-longer-rural communities means little as long as the recycling disappears from the curbside at the proper time. Plus, there's the added fact that Renton already has its Highlands, suffering from what may be called benign neglect - is Renton just after them for their tax base?

Ah yes, and while swearing that taxes should come down for the people making the King County/Renton switch, not too long ago Renton was banging the drum loudly to bring the Oklahoma Sonics to town, building them a very expensive arena in the process.

And Renton itself is in a very nasty mayoral fight between an incumbent and a newspaper owner, which is providing thrills, chills, and concern for those who are looking to these guys for leadership.

So despite the huge press to annex now (before its too late), the measure still has a ways to go. I wish it luck, and am wondering when Kent will get off the dime and start working towards absorbing our neighborhood - are they just waiting until EVERY old farm out here is buried under townhouses?

More later,