Local candidates, including familiar personalities who occupy seats in the state House of Representatives, agreed on many issues during a two-hour forum Oct. 19 at Kent Commons.
They want equitable, strong funding for public schools. They want an affordable transportation system that relieves gridlock. They want to improve dialogue with and opportunities for ethnic communities. They want to do more to ease the plight of others, embracing diversity and emphasizing that all lives matter.
The debate, put on by the Kent Black Action Commission, produced little drama but some engaging talk as candidates prepare for the final stretch to the Nov. 8 general election. KBAC extended invitations to candidates in legislative and state races, with more incumbents than challengers appearing.
Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, who is seeking a fourth term in the District 47 House of Representatives, Position 1, and his challenger, Brooke Valentine, D-Covington, agreed on many points but voiced their differences on other topics, notably the proposed $54 billion Sound Transit 3 measure that would expand light and commuter rail and bus service to connecting population and growth centers.
Hargove said the measure, which appears as Proposition 1 on the ballot, is too costly and comes too little, too late to alleviate congestion.
“ST3 is absolutely the wrong solution,” he said. “$54 billion … that’s $1 billion per mile. Think how many lanes and highways you can go for that?”
Valentine, the only challenger to attend the forum, supports the plan but with reservations.
“I believe we should be proactive rather than reactive. The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be,” she said. “(Traffic) is not going to get better. We need to start making improvements to our transportation system. There are issues with it. … I’m not a transportation specialist. I’ve got to learn more … but something needs to be done.”
Incumbent Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, who faces challenger Barry Knowles, R-Covington, for the other District 47 House seat, added that the measure is bold but ill timed. The measure would authorize Sound Transit to levy or impose additional sales and use, motor-vehicle excise and property taxes at a time when school districts, such as Kent and Auburn, are asking voters on the same ballot to approve critical bond measures to improve and build more schools.
Sullivan said the state should have invested in major transportation projects much sooner.
“That being said, we have to move forward,” he said. “I’m a little concerned about the timing, given the fact property tax is a conversation around schools and how we fund them.”
Incumbent Mia Su-Ling Gregerson, D-SeaTac, who faces Pamela Pollock, R-Des Moines, for the District 33 House race, Position 2, said light rail expansion has its benefits. The recently opened Angle Lake Station in SeaTac, for example, promises to economically enhance the neighborhood. Housing and property values stand to grow, and commercial space is going up around the station, she pointed out.
Hargrove and Valentine expressed different opinions regarding the management of the state’s fledgling and controversial industry – retail marijuana.
“I’m really sore we’ve gone this way. We need to slow things down,” he said of the industry’s legal and regulatory challenges. “… It’s just an ill in our society. We are going to be suffering for it.”
Added Valentine: “Like a lot of initiatives to the people, they are not perfect. There’s more work to be done. I think it was the right direction to go. We need to decriminalize marijuana. … I do think we need to be smart in our regulations. We need to be comprehensive in how we look at the industry. We need to work with other states that have legalized it and even (look at) other countries that have decriminalized marijuana. … We should never rush to create policy.”
Hargrove was adamant about the topic as the Legislature works to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, which mandates the state adequately fund basic education by 2018.
“We need to fund it properly, not to satisfy the court,” he said.
Sullivan added: “We’re a progressive state. We should be near the top (in funding support). I’m not satisfied until we get there. So this isn’t about the (state high) court, this is about our obligation to actually give our children opportunities. …. It absolutely has to happen. We need to make those investments.”
Valentine, who recently served as Washington State PTA’s legislative director, said educators need more resources and help.
“We have put many requirements on our education system without funding them,” she said. “We have unfunded mandates that burden schools and our teachers. We’re asking them to do more with less.”
State Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, also participated in the forum. She faces Republican challenger John Potter, of Burien, for the District 33, Position 1 seat.