Ladenburg holds up redistricting maps pending review

County Executive John Ladenburg yesterday directed the Pierce County auditor not to file any redistricting maps submitted by the Pierce County Districting Committee.
Auditor Cathy Pearsall-Stipek was instructed to hold the maps for safekeeping until the Superior Court has had an opportunity to rule on the recently adopted plan’s validity.
Under the County Charter, the auditor is an executive department head responsible to the county executive.
Ladenburg cited numerous plan-related irregularities and public controversy as reasons for holding up the plan implementation process.
“At the very least, our citizens deserve a process that is open and above board,” Ladenburg said.
In addition to questions about due process, the Oct. 15 committee action may violate the County Charter by failing to protect geographic units and natural communities.
Ladenburg received a letter from Puyallup Deputy Mayor Kathy Turner expressing her concern over the plan’s boundaries cutting the city, South Hill and North Hill into three council districts.
“We have come to expect, share and provide services for our citizens and community as a whole, not as competitors,” she said.
Ladenburg said the committee’s action raised other concerns, including the possible division of minority communities and interference with the special master appointed by the Districting Committee.
“It appears the special master was directed to file a map instead of using his independent judgement as required by the County Charter,” the executive said.
The District Committee is authorized by the County Charter and is charged with reviewing County Council district boundaries after each federal census.
The charter requires that boundaries be redrawn following each federal census to produce districts “with compact and contagious territory, composed of geographic units and natural communities, which are approximately equal in population.”
Four members of the committee were appointed this summer to represent the two major political parties, as required by the charter.
Those members are Bill Smitherman of Tacoma and John Thompson of Puyallup, both Democrats, and Republicans Mark Hullinger of Lakewood and Deryl McCarty of South Hill.
The four members selected Kelly Haughton, a Libertarian Party member, as the committee’s fifth member and chair.
Robert Schweitzer of Sammamish Data Systems, Bellevue, was selected by the committee as districting manager.