Speaker of the House takes Rainier School tour

One of Washington’s most-powerful politicians toured the Rainier School grounds Friday, getting a first-hand look at the Buckley facility that has long served citizens with special needs.

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp had been invited by fellow Democrat Christopher Hurst. Both serve in the House and Hurst represents the 31st Legislative District, which includes Buckley and the surrounding Plateau.

The special tour was called as the state faces yet another huge budget shortfall. The facility, home to more than 350 clients, has been identified for possible closure in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s 2012 budget.

The effort to save Rainier has always been a bipartisan one and Friday was no different. Joining the tour and lending their support were Sen. Pam Roach and Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, the remaining two-thirds of the 31st District legislative contingent.

Also attending was Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson, whose community would face financial hardship if Rainier School was phased out of the picture by the state. More than 850 people work at the facility and many reside in the immediate area.

Roach, in particular, went on the offensive Friday, praising Rainier School while blasting the Department of Social and Health Services, the state agency responsible for the remaining facilities for those with developmental disabilities. She alleged many in leadership position are biased when it comes to centers like Rainier School, instead favoring smaller, community-based care facilities.

Roach has favored expanding the offerings in Buckley, opening the facility for greater uses.

Chopp and his group walked the Rainier School grounds, chatting with employees, meeting clients and visiting some of the facilities. He stopped short of offering a whole-hearted endorsement, but supported the concept of doing more with the on-site facilities.

He said many in the legislature who support closure of Rainier School and similar facilities have never visited one of the sites. On a personal note, Chopp shared that one of his uncles had resided at both Rainier School and a similar facility in Shorecrest.


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