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Pierce County Districting: Even more on the debate over the boundaries of Summit

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on June 24, 2011 at 10:52 am with 13 Comments »
June 24, 2011 12:18 pm

I never thought I would spend so much time ruminating on the actual boundaries of Summit.

But then I never thought the question would turn out to be so pivotal in the final days of the Pierce County Districting Committee.

As appointed districting master Steven Garrett continues to put together his final plan for redividing the county into seven “approximately equal” districts, he must also respond to this geographically small but politically huge issue: Does 2nd District Councilmember Joyce McDonald live in Summit?

If she does, then it would be difficult to adjust his most recent map to move her from the 5th District back to her own 2nd. That’s because it would either require him to carve out a tiny piece of Summit or move the entire thing. But moving just a piece would violate a charter requirement that communities be kept together. And moving the whole thing would throw off the population numbers and require wholesale changes.

But if she doesn’t live in Summit and is instead in a strip of land between Puyallup and Summit then the line could be adjusted without implicating communities.

So is she or isn’t she? That simple question lacks a simple answer. She is in Summit based on Census Designated Places. She is not based on the county’s planning maps and is instead within Puyallup’s urban growth area.

Here is an e-mail exchange on the topic between Deputy Pierce County Prosecutor Denise Greer and Garrett:

Hello, Mr. Garrett –

As you may have seen in yesterday’s TNT posting, the County’s Planning Department (PALS) has been contacted by Peter Callahan with questions regarding the Summit/Waller plan area, which you’ve cited in some of the meetings. According to the Planning Dept, there is no such community planning area. There is a Mid County Community Plan, but it does not reach entirely to the western border of Puyallup.

I see from the posting that you are instead relying on the census bureau’s boundaries, but would you please talk to Sean Gaffney at PALS about this issue to ensure you have all the information?

And Garrett’s response:

Sean is correct that there is no community planning area called Summit-Waller. I never said there was. However, there is a community of Summit-Waller. My main interest is with communities, rather than planning areas, since communities are often smaller and thus easier to move around (except it was made clear to me that I can’t bust up Summit from Waller).

Here is a quote from the Mid-County Community Plan: “…this unincorporated planning sub-area includes the communities of Summit-Waller, North Clover Creek Collins, and Summit View.” I have GIS data from PALS which provides the borders for each community in the Mid-County Planning Area. Moreover, I have GIS data from the Census Bureau for these “Census Designated Places (CDPs)” (which they developed from Pierce County data). These two datasets are identical for the Mid-County Planning Area. They both delineate the borders for the communities of Summit, Waller, Summit View, and Clover Creek.

While the community planning area borders are defined by ordinance, the communities within them are not, so I recognize that their borders are often not well defined. Shawn Phelps from PALS, who provided the community datasets to the Census Bureau (via the Puget Sound Regional Council), said they needed to make judgement calls on some community borders. However I did not expect there to be differences between the community planning area borders and what I received from PALS.

Looking at the Mid-County Community Plan map on the Pierce County web site, I see that the eastern border of Summit-Waller is different than what I have been using from PALS and the Census Bureau. Instead of Fruitland, the border in the Mid-County Plan is Woodland Ave. The upshot of this difference is that this community plan puts Joyce McDonald into unincorporated Puyallup – and not in Summit-Waller.

Now that I know there are differences not only between the community borders I received from PALS and the Census Bureau, but also the community planning areas (as defined by ordinance), I will go through each community plan to reconcile the borders that I am using.

Only Garrett knows what he might do. And he is under no obligation to accommodate McDonald. Once he submits his final map on June 28, the five-member committee must accept the result unless it can muster four votes to amend it. Since there are two county council appointed Democrats, two appointed Republicans and the chairwoman they agreed to, amendment requires some degree of bipartisanship. That means if the two Democrats lock up against any change to help McDonald they could block it.

Previous blog posts have generated a lot of comment with many opposed to exercising “incumbent protection” in a plan that is supposed to be about numbers and communities and not politics. Some remind McDonald of her quote in March when Democrats though the council’s Republican majority was being unfair in how it was appointing Democratic committee members.

“The reality is that those who have the votes, win,” she said then.

Since every post on districting must include some sort of map, here’s a pdf of the boundaries of the Mid County Community Plan.

And here is the Slide Garrett presented to the committee Wednesday showing the notch in question and how the line is drawn now (on the left) and how it could be drawn (on the right) to accommodate McDonald.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. jimkingjr says:

    I think we have a districting master who has given himself enough rope to hang himself, and is proving he does not have the wisdom for the job. In past redistrictings, no one was so hung up on the boundaries of “communities”- nor did we let the Census Bureau dictate any such thing. A line has to be drawn somewheree, and unless it is along a legal jurisdiction boundary or a natural geographic feature, inevitably some “community” is divided.

    The charter does not define “community”- nor does it provide common sense, which this process seems to be sorely lacking.

  2. Tacomalover says:

    Thank god you are not in charge jimkingjr,

    Clearly you could care less what the graham or Summit-Waller think who all came and testified with passion and vigor for their community. Or do you not care what those folks think?

  3. Tacoma_Bourne says:

    The districting master is incredibly qualified and professional. I am pleased that we are all openly discussing what a community is and are incorporating public comment. It was great to have feedback from Graham etc…

  4. Joyce McDonald says:

    I don’t have any problem with the votes – the Democrats don’t have to vote to keep me in my district. I just like the truth to be told! It is evident that I do not live in the Mid County Community Plan area. My driveway lets out into the city of Puyallup, I am in the city’s urban growth area. If necessary, I will do what Calvin did and move. I’ve heard he and Amy are much happier on Vickery than they ever were on South Hill. These things have a strange way of working out!

  5. Tacomalover says:

    Ms. McDonald,

    If this was a concern for you why wait until the bitter end to bring it up? These maps have been followed all along. Why wait? Why wait to the end to dramatize it. It is clear the County was mis informing Mr. Garrett.

    And according to what we saw in the last meeting your driveway does not go into the city. You must cross Fruitland to get into the city limits.

  6. Dick Muri says:

    If Joyce McDonald is moved out of her district, she should run for Pierce County Assessor – Treasurer. We need her excellent character and highest levels of integrity to get that department back on course.

    Also, Councilman Stan Flemming should run for Pierce County Executive. A retired Brigadier General and medical doctor, he has the leadership and management skills to run our county. Though Flemming is elected until the end of 2014 in District Seven, he will not be able to run again unless he moves.

    And I do believe Mayor Doug Richardson will be running for election in district six!!

  7. Tacomalover says:

    I like Mr. Flemming,

    He is not a crazy conservative radical like other leaders!

    As for that other stuff mentioned, we will see what Tacoma has to say about all this :)

    “Those who have the votes, have the votes” Joyce McDonald

  8. If this is supposed to be a fair positioning of equal districts, why do we care what Joyce McDonald wants? I’m really having a hard time thinking of even one positive thing she has ever done for her constituents. Enough with the protecting of political careers at the expense of the taxpayers.

  9. Weyland Duir says:

    If Councilmember McDonald were truly concerned with representative boundaries she would be advocating agressively to have Northeast Tacoma aligned with the City of Tacoma and out of her District. All I’ve heard from her, Muri and Fleming is how the proposed district boundaries affect them personnally.

  10. Tacoma_Bourne says:

    Stan Flemming should flip to a Democrat. Win over the appointment in 7 to a D and beat Doug Richardson in the 6th in a Democratically favorable district.

    Heck, he could be Chair almost over night.

    Why lose against McCarthy and be a sacrificial lamb? You don’t beat incumbents. Ever.

  11. Tacoma_Bourne says:

    P.S. No mayor would poll with more than a 15% name ID including Richardson. Voters do not know who their mayor is. Flemming would have a strong advantage with a profile to win District 6 as a Democrat.

  12. SPanaway1 says:

    I was born in Summit, 101st & Canyon and am following this redistricting. School District boundaries usually help define these unincorporated communities. Franklin Pierce’s boundary is 62nd Ave. E. Eastof that is Puyallup School District. That tells me Joyce is more Puyallup than Summit.
    Here’s the map for FP SD: http://www.fp.k12.wa.us/Section.aspx?SectionID=46&ContentID=0
    That was the reason Parkland & Spanaway could be separated, different school district identities.

  13. Tacomalover says:


    It appears the County themselves had their own boundaries wrong and I believe that the Urban Growth Area for Puyallup has been sufficiently defined for which Ms. McDonald can now have her 2nd District.

    And again, we need to stop trying to defend elected. This is not “their district” this is our districts and it should be defined by the process not by the people.

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