Group forming to fight county on land issues

The Courier-Herald

More than 100 citizens gathered last week with a single thought on their minds - King County has gone too far when it comes to putting constraints on their property.

They were willing to do more than just complain, however. Challenged to let their money do their talking, with a promise of an organized effort to protect a rural lifestyle many have come to know, they dropped more than $4,500 in a collection box.

Thus begins the Property Rights PAC, a grassroots effort to battle King County and, specifically, the urban influence often at odds with the Plateau's agricultural heritage.

The Feb. 27 meeting was held at the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion, home base for Ron Mariotti, an auctioneer, outspoken critic of county government and one of the Property Rights PAC organizers. Also leading the charge was Steve Hammond, local minister and rural property owner.

Their guest for the evening was King County Councilman Kent Pullen, whose district includes the Plateau. Pullen is regarded by property-rights activists as one of few allies in county government, and told the assembled crowd they have the power to bring change.

The way to see the rules changed, Pullen said, is to elect new county leadership. And the key to bringing lasting change, he added, is to raise and spend money. "The main message I have tonight is how to win elections, how to organize and how to win at politics," Pullen said.

With that, he passed around a couple of fliers: one showed what citizens must do to mount a grassroots campaign, and the other showed how organized the opposition is. Those seeking to expand environmental regulations, he explained, have an effective network of supporters, offices and trained staff.

"What do property owners have?" Pullen asked. "Nothing."

If private citizens band together, instead of acting alone, "it'll send shivers down the backs of the land-grabbers," he said. "You're not going to get anywhere with the county unless you've got some clout."

If those in attendance weren't already distrustful of county government, Pullen's comments cemented that opinion, especially when it comes to current efforts to tighten regulations for those living along waterways. "All those meetings you've been's a sham," the councilman said, adding that King County staff and administrators have already decided a course of action.

From last week's meeting emerged a leadership team, citizens willing to invest time and effort for their cause. Making up that group are Russ Bryant, Pam Sias, Rodney McFarland, Rick Spence, Derek Schroeder and Mike McDougall, along with Mariotti and Hammond. They are scheduled to meet again tomorrow night (Thursday) to begin planning their campaign.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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