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King Conservation District Board Elections

Carolyn Beeler
03/15/2010

The King Conservation District is holding elections for one spot on its five–member board of supervisors Tuesday. The agency helps private landowners in King County protect the environment on their own property. But last year, less than one quarter of one percent of King County residents voted in the board's elections.

TRANSCRIPT

The King Conservation District is holding elections for one spot on its five–member board of supervisors Tuesday. The agency helps private landowners in King County protect the environment on their own property. But last year, less than one quarter of one percent of King County residents voted in the board's elections.

The King Conservation District hands out grants for watershed protection and wildlife conservation efforts, among other things. It's a state–authorized agency with a budget of more than $6.5 million a year.

Election ballots don't go out in the mail, and there's only one polling place in all of downtown Seattle. For Brendon Cechovic, that's a problem.

Cechovic: "Last year 2,700 voters cast a ballot. In years past, 1989, only 18 people voted in the entire county in this race. In 1994 the winner received 79 votes."

Cechovic is with Washington Conservation Voters. It's a group that works to get pro–environment officials elected around the state. Cechovic says because few people know about the elections, it's easy for special interest groups to sway the vote.

Cechovic: "It really comes down just a small handful of folks who know about it, and over the years this has really become a pitched battle and a friction point between conservationists and property rights extremists. Because the elections are mostly hidden out of view, if a small interest group like that wants to take over an election, they can."

The small interest group he's talking about is the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights. Steve Hammond is the executive director and a former King County Councilman. He says that divide between environmentalists and property rights advocates doesn't really exist.

Hammond: "It's a false dichotomy. The landowners are also the best conservationists. So to paint it as a property owner versus someone who cares about the environment is just completely false."

The King Conservation Board doesn't make regulations or enforce any type of code or zoning law. So Hammond says even those who want a small government can get behind it.

Hammond: "It's hard to imagine that this agency, King Conservation District, is non–regulatory. They don't walk out and say, you can't do this and you have to do that. They come out and say, tell me what you're trying to accomplish and let me see if I can find a way to help you do that, and do it in a way that makes you a good steward or a better steward."

A spokesperson for the King Conservation District says they'd love to open more polling places, but they just don't have the money.

Seattle residents can vote at the downtown public library until 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

For KUOW News, I'm Carolyn Beeler.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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