With 2020 ushered in, we would like to continue our annual tradition of looking back on the news of the past year.
This past year, 2019, there seemed to be no lack of news. The city struggled with finances, racism was on display in the community and in the schools, and tragedy struck as a national illness outbreak hit the community.
“Council approves funding plan for Bergsma property purchase,” published Jan. 11, 2019. The first of several stories throughout 2019 sets up the process by which the city of Issaquah — in partnership with other agencies and organizations — purchased the Cougar Mountain land to preserve it. The 46-acre property likely would have been developed without the city stepping in to preserve the property. Under the city’s purview, the land is open space and connects to the trail system.
Snow, snow and more snow. In February 2019, one snow storm followed the other. Cities throughout the Eastside and Puget Sound struggled to keep up with their snow clearing duties, and residents struggled to dig out. Trash services were hampered as well. For the next several weeks, schools would debate how to make up the missed time. All that said, the snow made for some great photos, including a pair of tigers dashing through the snow at Cougar Mountain Zoo.
“Why can’t the city complete an audit?” published March 22, 2019. Four audits, and four findings. The city, according to the state auditor’s office, had significant errors in the last four audits. “Due to employee turnover and staffing shortage at the finance department, a thorough review of the financial statements and required schedules was not completed,” the 2017 audit read. “The employee who was temporarily assigned this task was unable to dedicate sufficient time and resources to ensure the underlining accounting records to be included in the final reported numbers were accurate and complete.” The city has since hired an outside agency to help prepare for state audits.
“Racially insensitive sign sparks investigation,” published April 5, 2019. Two Issaquah high school students found themselves at the center of a school investigation when a racially insensitive photo surfaced. The next week, students rallied to protest the photo and insensitivity, and to support diversity.
“High school employee confirmed with measles,” published May 24, 2019. While the public health department worked to educate the public and lawmakers worked to revise vaccination requirement laws, the recent measles outbreak hit home. The school closed for a day while the district worked to verify immunization records, and public health released a list of potential exposure sites.
“Issaquah considers new funding method for transportation improvement projects,” published June 28, 2019. Every community on the Eastside — without exception — is struggling to deal with traffic issues. Solving traffic problems requires funding. In an effort to secure additional funding for transportation projects, the Issaquah City Council assumed the powers of the Transportation Benefit District (TBD). As a TBD, the city could collect license tab fees or an additional tax to fund additional transportation projects in the future.
“Opposition and supporters of Drag Queen Story Hour make showing in Issaquah,” published July 5, 2019. When the King County Library System held a series of story hour events led by drag queens, emotions flared. Those emotions were both in support and opposition of the events, and those emotions were on display at the KCLS board meeting in Issaquah on June 26. The event became a spectacle at the Renton Library story hour the following night.
“Issaquah names new city administrator,” published Aug. 16, 2019. Following the resignation of former city administrator Emily Moon (announced in March), the city launched a recruiting and candidate interviewing effort for a replacement. Following a public meet and greet, Wally Bobkiewicz was hired as the new city administrator.
“Issaquah school bus driver arrested for child rape,” published Sept. 27, 2019. Police arrested the 47-year-old male suspect for child rape in the first degree earlier in the month. The suspect also had been employed as a school bus driver for the Issaquah School District. Though he’s not believed to have any victims associated with the school bus route, the district released his route and informed parents of the charges. The suspect later pleaded not guilty.
“Two Skyline High School students die from fentanyl overdoes,” published Oct. 11, 2019. The two local deaths occurred on Aug. 11 and Sept. 30 prompting local officials, the school district, and the county to team together in October in an effort to prevent additional deaths.
“Issaquah council adopts final 2020 budget,” published Nov. 29, 2019. With a $5.2 million projected gap, and taxes and rate increases on the table, the city council sharpened its pencils to hammer out a final budget. The final budget still included rate increases, but many were halved. In total, six budget sessions were held.
“Appeal denied, ISD project progressing,” published Dec. 13, 2019. The Providence Heights properties which could become new schools and school facilities if the city approves rezoning, overcame a hurdle when the city rejected an appeal of the SEPA determination of non significance. While the Providence Heights plans no longer are held up by the SEPA process (or appeals to that process), the city council at its next meeting delayed rezoning until January to allow for further council review.