Saturday, October 29, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Election 2005

Kenmore City Council contests deal with cardroom

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Position 2

Laurie Sperry, 45

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Part-time teacher; former respiratory therapist

Personal: Married; three children

Background: Member of the steering committee to open a Life Choices Pregnancy Clinic in Kenmore; contributor to Kenmore Heritage Society book project

Top three endorsements: Kenmore Mayor Steve Colwell; city councilmen Jack Crawford and Glenn Rogers; Citizens for a Better Kenmore

Campaign Web site:

Patrick O'Brien, 50

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Auctioneer; real-estate agent

Personal: Single

Background: Member of Solar Washington, an organization devoted to the effective use of solar and renewable energy

Top endorsements: None listed

Campaign Web site:

Position 4

Randy Eastwood, 36

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Real-estate agent

Personal: Married; four children

Background: Appointed by the City Council as first alternate on Downtown Task Force; Republican Party nominee for Congress in 2004

Top three endorsements: state Attorney General Rob McKenna; Kenmore Mayor Steve Colwell; city councilmen Glenn Rogers, Jack Crawford and John Hendrickson

Campaign Web site:

Mark Eaton, 53

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Retired foreign-service officer

Personal: Married; three children

Background: Retired diplomat for U.S. Department of State's Foreign Service; citizen adviser on Kenmore Planning Commission, 2001-2003; vice president/chair of Kenmore Citizens for Good Government; member of Kenmore incorporation committee

Top three endorsements: Kenmore city councilman and former Mayor Jack Crawford; former City Councilwoman Marcia Schwendiman

Campaign Web site:

Position 6

Clyde Merriwether, 57

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Retired architect

Personal: Married; three children

Background: Kenmore planning commissioner, 1998-2003; helped write comprehensive plan, downtown plan, zoning code; member of Downtown Task Force

Top endorsements: None listed

Campaign Web site:

Allan Van Ness, 64

Residence: Kenmore

Occupation: Orthodontist

Personal: Married; three children

Background: 30-year Kenmore resident; a founder of Citizens for Better Kenmore

Top three endorsements: Mayor Steve Colwell; councilmen Jack Crawford and John Hendrickson

Campaign Web site: .

On a map, Kenmore looks great.

Situated on a south-facing hillside looking down the length of Lake Washington, there's even a state highway and river running through it.

But looks aren't everything, and up-close Kenmore is beset by traffic jams and a lack of retail shops.

And in the middle of the muddle is a cardroom.

All of the candidates for three positions on the City Council agree that questions over that single smoke-filled cardroom have to be resolved before the city can move on to anything else.

A 2004 court decision ruled the city can't continue a seven-year moratorium on cardroom applications — it either has to ban all cardrooms or let others in.

Ban proponents have a vivid image to explain why they want them gone: Shoreline's Highway 99, filled with casinos and other adult-entertainment venues.

Other candidates point out that nearly 10 percent of Kenmore's revenue comes from the existing cardroom and wonder how the city budget could survive such a cut.

Here's a look at the races, which will be decided Nov. 8:

Position 2

Patrick O'Brien vs. Laurie Sperry

Sperry would vote for a ban.

O'Brien says he would, too, with qualifications. He says he's not in favor of new cardrooms, but would like to keep the present cardroom open, saying his major concern is finances.

Sperry is a teacher with a wide variety of concerns about the city, but says the cardroom question must be answered first.

"We have to resolve this issue so we can move on to all these other issues," she said.

"State law says we can't be exclusive," she said, meaning that if one cardroom is allowed, they all have to be allowed, and that effect would be catastrophic.

"Clearly, the citizens of Kenmore do not want what has happened in Shoreline," she said. "Forty percent of Shoreline's budget comes from cardrooms."

Sperry has a list of things she thinks are more important, including resolving traffic problems, preserving parks, devising a workable downtown plan and creating a place people want to go.

O'Brien is an auctioneer who grew up in the Denny Park area, works in real estate and alternative energy sources, and says he's mostly concerned about city finances.

"I don't want to make the cardroom the big issue," he said, "but something needs to be done here, because without the revenue, we're not looking as prosperous as we once were."

O'Brien says the city stands to lose about $1.3 million from its $8.7 million budget if the cardroom is closed.

"I just want to send the message that we're going to have to cut something," he said. "Just be aware that you're approaching the threshold where you're in the red."

O'Brien said he's in favor of keeping the present cardroom open but isn't in favor of having more cardrooms. He suggests a letter could be written to the court seeking a clarification.

After that, "I would vote to ban gambling," he said, if it came to an all-or-nothing vote.

O'Brien lists traffic improvements, fiscal responsibility and opposition to building an expensive City Hall as among his top concerns.

Position 4

Randy Eastwood vs. Mark Eaton

Both say they'd vote to ban.

Eastwood is from Denver and a real-estate agent, and also cites the question of Kenmore's image.

"Do we want to be a lakeside city or Aurora Avenue?" he asks. "We need to ban completely. To be sure of a ban, we need three new candidates who would ban."

Like other candidates, Eastwood says the important thing is to deal with gambling and then move on to other issues.

"It's something that can be done in one evening," he said. "Our choice is between a row of casinos or waterfront development."

Eastwood also says he's not particularly worried the city will face fiscal chaos without cardrooms, noting the city has had as much as a $3.5 million budget surplus and closing the cardroom would attract replacement businesses.

"Remove it, and it will bring in large grocery stores and anchor tenants," he said.

Eastwood also says his real concerns lie in improving traffic flow, promoting responsible growth and developing parks.

Eaton is a retired foreign-service officer who grew up in South Dakota, graduated from Stanford University and moved to Kenmore in 1997 because his wife is from the Seattle area.

Eaton became involved in community activities, unsuccessfully tried to find other candidates to run last summer and finally decided to file himself.

Eaton also says a key factor in resolving Kenmore's future centers on the cardroom.

"This community has just been tied into knots over the cardroom issue for five years," he said. "It was just tearing this community apart. It's very divisive, hurtful to the community. We never envisioned a Kenmore that looked like Highway 99.

"I will vote to ban," he said.

Eaton also lists improving traffic, revitalizing the downtown, exercising fiscal restraint, improving neighborhood communication and promoting waterfront access as his top issues.

Position 6

Clyde Merriwether vs. Allan Van Ness

Merriwether says he's seeking a middle ground in opposing Van Ness, who says cardrooms have to go.

Merriwether says the present cardroom should stay, arguing there's a possible compromise.

"There's a way to work around it," he said. But in a yes-or-no vote, he says he'd vote for a ban.

Van Ness has no ambivalence in saying cardrooms should be banned.

"The cardroom issue is something that's been around for years," he said. "The King County Superior Court clearly said you don't have any middle ground."

Merriwether, who grew up in Seattle and Kirkland, has lived in Kenmore for 20 years and has degrees from the University of Washington and Dartmouth College, says there are subtleties.

"The anti-gambling people are pretty single-minded," said Merriwether. "I'm running on the platform of trying to unify the city. I have a desire to turn Kenmore into something that makes it the jewel of Lake Washington."

Merriwether says the city needs the money from the Kenmore Lanes cardroom to do that. "I do care — that's $1.3 million of the city budget," he said.

Merriwether says a strategy to allow that revenue to continue would involve voting to ban cardrooms, with an effective date of Dec. 31, 2006.

Such a delay would give Kenmore and 17 other cities with gambling issues a year to lobby a bill through the Legislature allowing zoning changes, in effect "grandfathering" the existing cardroom in while keeping other cardrooms out, he said.

Once in office, Merriwether, a retired architect, says he would work for a thriving retail core and promoting business opportunities.

Van Ness, an orthodontist with offices in Bothell and a 30-year Kenmore resident, sees no such middle ground.

"We need to decide whether we're going to be an adult-entertainment strip," he said.

Van Ness also questioned whether grandfathering is possible. "It's never made it out of committee," he said.

Van Ness also doubts losing the cardroom would be a fiscal disaster, arguing a proposed state smoking ban would help entice the 80 percent of the population that doesn't smoke to go to Kenmore Lanes.

"I think that bowling alley will thrive," said Van Ness.

Van Ness has positions on a variety of other Kenmore concerns, including opposing private development of a brewpub at St. Edward Park, supporting building a new City Hall and revitalizing the downtown by improving Highway 522 and the city's appearance.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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