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Originally published Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM

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Forget shutdown; vote to impact local government

Few citizens can affect the federal government shutdown, but all Washington state voters can have an impact on their local governments, writes columnist Kate Riley. Vote.


Times editorial page editor

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Every day brings another astonishing example of the childish standoff in Congress: grain shipments held up because of furloughed federal inspectors; commercial crab-fishing permits unissued, tsk-tsking over whether our earthquake sentinels will be able to respond in a timely manner; home loans requiring federal verification of information stuck in limbo.

The effects run deep and wide — and that’s just for starters. Friday, though, it looked like federal negotiators were trying to reach for their senses, if not coming to them.

But let’s put aside the horrors of ineffective Congress and focus on governments that are working: cities, counties, school districts, port districts, hospital and even conservation districts.

Sure, occasionally tense labor relations might postpone the start of school or delay garbage pickup, but these agencies are at your service. And many of them are run by volunteer council or board members who get little more than a per diem for meetings they attend. Bless them, every one.

These odd-year elections are when voters get to weigh in on governments closest to them. This week, voters will receive their mail ballots rife with opportunities not only to elect — or unelect — officials but also to weigh in on matters that determine how government works. SeaTac voters will weigh whether to raise the minimum wage for some airport-related workers to $15 an hour. Seattle voters are considering whether to go to a council district system or to foot most of the campaign bill for council elections.

Are you dissatisfied with a math curriculum decision? Evaluate the school board candidates and cast your votes accordingly. Outraged — or thrilled — about the prospect of an NBA arena plopped near the Port of Seattle’s driveway? Now’s your chance.

Since early summer, Seattle Times editorial board members have been interviewing candidates for selected races in King and Snohomish counties. We’ve also met with proponents and opponents of the statewide initiatives and of some local ballot measures. We have been publishing our recommendations.

On the facing page, we reiterate our support for state Sen. Ed Murray in his effort to unseat incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn. Watch for Seattle City Council recommendations Monday. You can read other recommendations online at seati.ms/nov2013endorsements

Sometimes people criticize the practice of newspaper editorial boards making recommendations for voters about candidates and issues. The point is to provide more context for races too often determined by negative ads rather than civil discussion. We strive to be transparent about our choices and explain the reasons we favor one candidate over another. Readers who disagree with our reasons can vote the other way.

One issue weighing in our Seattle and King County recommendations has to do with the city’s plans for an NBA arena in the Sodo neighborhood. The editorial board has expressed grave concerns about how dismissive many city and county officials are about the challenge this would pose to the Port of Seattle, a major economic driver of the region.

Two weeks ago, our editorial board devoted a full page highlighting the serious competition the Port faces with the widening Panama Canal. While East Coast ports and legislatures invest hundreds of millions of dollars to get ready for ships that now stop at the Seattle port, too many Seattle area officials are indifferent. If you missed it, the project is worth a look. Go to: seati.ms/portfuture

While few of us can do much about the federal government shutdown right now, citizens should vote to improve local government.

Kate Riley's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is kriley@seattletimes.com On Twitter @k8riley



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