Transportation was the main topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Redmond Rousers Rotary meeting as the group hosted a community forum at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center to gather citizen input for the King County Council.
Countywide Community Forums (CCF) is an independent public-engagement program that has partnered with King County to give the public the opportunity to provide input and feedback to the council on county issues. CCF is overseen by the county auditor to ensure the information collected — through in-person and online surveys — is accurate.
For more information about CCF, visit www.communityforums.org.
CCF’s current round of forums focuses on county budget sustainability.
King County’s total budget for 2011 is $5 billion, with $628 million in the general fund. In the past two years, 2009 and 2010, King County has cut about $150 million from its general fund.
These cuts were made for various reasons including a decline in tax revenue. Declines in property and gas taxes in particular have prompted cuts to the county’s road fund. This means road maintenance in rural and unincorporated areas of the county, including around Redmond, could take a major hit, according to a proposal King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled last month to maintain the county’s 1,600 miles of roads.
Declining sales tax revenue has meant a decline in the county’s public transportation fund, which funds King County Metro Transit. The drop in funds has caused an annual shortfall of $60 million for Metro and decreased bus service on the Eastside, which was the main topic of concern at Tuesday’s Rousers meeting.
“It’s a huge impact on some of our residents,” said rotary president Kelly Kyle.
Attendees — a number of which live in unincorporated and rural areas of east King County — said they have grown frustrated with dealing with traffic around Redmond and other areas of the Eastside, but have no other transportation options because bus services have been cut. They added that this can be especially difficult for people who are homeless, living with disabilities or have other special needs.
Suzanne Pak, a Rotarian and partner and social media strategist for CCF, said for these under-served populations who are trying to get back on their feet, public transportation plays a big role in their livelihood.
Pak serves as a public face with CCF and meets and runs community forums with various groups and organizations throughout the county.
CCF began in 2007 and Pak said transportation has become an emerging topic of concern among citizens as people are becoming more dependent on public transportation.
She said the forums — which include a 10-minute video, group discussion and survey for people to fill out — are one way for county citizens to let the council know what types of concerns they have. She said public hearings and council meetings can be daunting for some people so CCF partners with groups such as local rotary clubs, nonprofits and businesses to host these forums and give people a chance to voice their thoughts in an environment where they are comfortable.
“We get to be an information channel,” Pak said about CCF’s role.
Kyle said she appreciates the opportunity to let the county know what is important to her.
“I think this is an excellent way for citizens to help the council get real answers to hard questions,” she said about CCF.
At the Rousers meeting, Kelly told her fellow Rotarians that it has been these hard questions about the budget that has led the council to reach out in this forum format.
“Things are changing,” she said. “That’s why they want our input.”