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West Hill faces uncertain future | Commentary
This commentary was co-authored by Dian Ferguson and Sonja Bowden, with West Hill Yes Committee Cheryl Scheuerman, Suzann Lombard, Nina Thornsburg, Jana Gustafson, Jon Ault, Steve Holman, Rich Sweeney, Marc Nordland, Wally Adams, Kathleen Sidwell, Monica Moberly
Two groups organized to inform the public about the annexation to Renton, the West Hill Yes (WHY) Committee and the No on Annexation individuals.
The No on Annexation individuals turned it into a campaign about “outsiders,” big money, and losing the volunteer firefighters.
The Yes Committee included 10 local residents and two members of the West Hill Business Association and focused on 20 years of deterioration in the area, the loss of businesses and the erosion of services. WHY contrasted this deterioration with the benefits of annexation to Renton, including greater representation and access to elected officials, new services offered by Renton for young people and seniors, enhanced police and safety protection, economic development opportunities in the business corridor; all while maintaining and matching what Fire District No. 20 provides to residents and businesses.
Those in favor of annexation realized that Skyway needed a lifeline. Because unincorporated urban areas have borne the brunt of King County budget cuts, we have had to fight to keep our park open, restore and retain our storefront deputy, and also maintain overnight police service. The City of Renton worked tirelessly in our favor; investing considerable time, effort and finances, and offering viable solutions for most of the challenges King County could not.
Now we can no longer say that we didn’t have the opportunity to choose city-level services to replace the rural-level services the county provides. We therefore should no longer complain about:
• Lack of businesses
• A financially challenged fire department
• A park needing renovation
• Lack of a community center
• Lack of traffic speed control
• Unmaintained roads, especially in wintertime
• Lack of response to power outages when roads are icy
• An escalating crime rate and declining property values
• New fees for rural roads
• Lax code enforcement (Mount Anderson)
• Lack of infrastructure improvements
• Defunding and removal of recognition for our West Hill Community Association
• Lax animal control
• Rising garbage rates
• Lack of influence in state and county government
• Lack of sufficient law enforcement resources
There is anger, disappointment and depression on the hill since the election. The NO group has nothing to offer us as a viable alternative to annexation. Will the City of Renton keep us in their PAA? Will another city hand us a lifeline? That is doubtful. We are in a worse position than before. This was a very bad choice for the West Hill/Skyway community.
With the failure of annexation, who will take up the mantle to fight for services that will be diminished further in the future? Will the No on Annexation individuals formally organize as a group and provide the leadership for the future that the West Hill deserves? Do they recognize the magnitude of their responsibility to provide leadership that offers solutions to the loss of services and opportunities on the hill? What will their victory really mean to our community?
WHY is grateful for all who supported our efforts with their time, contributions and vote. We thank the legislators who fought for tax credits and the individuals and elected officials for their endorsement. We thank the Renton City Council for providing us with this opportunity to vote on annexation. Mayor Denis Law and City staff are appreciated for their time and information.