With the 2020 presidential election right around the corner, the Enumclaw Courier-Herald (a sister newspaper of the Auburn Reporter) has invited the men and women running for the Legislative District No. 31 seats to participate in an in-paper debate.
In week one (Sept. 9), incumbent Rep. Drew Stokesbary and challenger Katie Young, both running for Position No. 1, introduced themselves and answered some questions. Last week (Sept. 16), candidates rebutted answers from the previous week. This week, the Courier-Herald asked two final questions and asked the candidates to send a closing statement.
You can check out all the debate parts online at www.courierherald.com.
Next edition will be the start of another three-week debate with Legislative District 31 Position No. 2 candidates Eric Robertson and Thomas Clark.
Introduced last session, Senate Bill 6093 would have eliminated the Discover Pass in favor of funding State Parks through the state’s general budget, like it was in years past, and making visiting state parks free. Would you support eliminating the Discover Pass program, keep the current funding measure in place, or find some compromise between these two options?
Rep. Drew Stokesbary: From Flaming Geyser and Kanaskat-Palmer right here in our own backyard to Fort Flagler (my family’s favorite camping spot) across Puget Sound and the breathtaking Palouse Falls in eastern Washington, the Evergreen State is home to an amazing collection of parks.
As state parks, they belong to all the citizens of Washington. Unfortunately, for the past decade, our state parks haven’t been accessible to all the citizens of Washington. That’s because, in the wake of the Great Recession, the Legislature began requiring that most visitors purchase a “Discover Pass” in order to access our state parks.
The Discover Pass requirement is a financial burden for too many Washington families. Indeed, this is reflected in the State Parks’ visitation figures. Before the Discover Pass was introduced, there were 42 million annual visits to Washington state parks. After the Discover Pass became mandatory, visits dropped by nearly 20 percent. A decade into this experiment, visits still haven’t fully recovered—they’re down by about 10 percent, even though the state’s total population has actually increased by 10 percent during the same time period.
The Discover Pass program generates about $20 million in revenue each year (at least, in a “normal” year, not a year like this one). Obviously $20 million is a significant sum of money. But in the context of a $53.7 billion biennial state budget, Discover Pass receipts are just 0.07 percent (that’s 7 hundredths of a percent) of near general fund appropriations. Surely the Legislature can find room for the state budgetary equivalent of one latte a month.
Moreover, by reverting the funding source for state parks back to the general fund, there will be greater pressure on budget-writers to keep up with the growing backlog of parks’ maintenance and upgrades. These projects will help ensure our state parks continue to be incredible natural assets for future generations.
It’s time to eliminate this barrier to our beautiful state parks and to restore the public’s access to the parks they own.
Katie Young: Our State Parks are wonderful resources that give residents space to enjoy nature, learn about stewardship and our history, exercise, and relax. The safety risks of recreating indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the value of our public spaces. As such, we should be investing in our State Parks. These parks still have a backlog of maintenance and improvement projects needing additional funding, so our current system is not doing enough. I also am incredibly supportive of ensuring that anyone who wants to access and enjoy our State Parks can access them, without barriers due to cost.
But the Discover Pass system was created to bolster funding for our State Parks during The Great Recession when our legislature implemented austerity measures that slashed funding from the General Fund for our parks. But revenue from the Discover Pass did not meet expectations and our parks remain in need of additional funding to operate effectively. Seeing as we are once again in a budget crisis with an increase in unemployment, an increase in uninsured residents, multiple public health crises, and one of the highest levels of people experiencing homelessness in this nation, we must ensure that any actions we take in this moment at least maintain our current funding levels for State Parks with commitments to increase that funding overtime.
A lot has changed since December 18, 2019 when this bill was introduced – I think it’s a noble cause but, particularly in light of the crushing challenges placed on our residents in the last 6 months, I don’t know that we will be able to direct resources towards this effort at this time. That does not preclude us from working to improve access to our parks by making residents more aware of resources that already exist, like free parking days, free parking access for low-income residents, discounts for certain populations like disabled veterans, and public libraries that allow residents to check out a Discover Pass.
The 2016 legislature directed several of our agencies to work with the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to develop recommendations that would improve the consistency, equity, and simplicity of accessing our State Parks. That report does advocate for the elimination of the Discover Pass provided that funding from the General Fund is guaranteed from a dedicated and consistent source of revenue. In the future (preferably in the not-too-distant future) I hope our state is able to take action to implement recommendations made through that report, including committed General Funds that allow us to eliminate the Discover Pass without further threatening our State Parks. Short of that, coordinating with Federal agencies to provide access to State and Federal Parks in Washington using a single pass, creating a statewide approach to pass discounts, and increasing education resources around accessing our parks could be interim steps.
Given the protests and riots that have seized our country, what sort of legislative efforts would you propose or support in order to increase accountability in police departments and other law enforcement offices?
Young: These widespread protests and demonstrations calling for a reckoning around racism and its connection to our criminal justice systems are a clear indication that our current system hurts too many of our people. We need to renew our commitment to policing and criminal justice policies that keep people safe – including our officers – while overcoming a history of discrimination in this country. I will speak personally when I say this, but I imagine many of you share my experience. I have been vastly under-educated by formal schooling about the history of ways in which our country has suppressed Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian and other people of color. It should not have taken prolonged national protests (again) for us to see these inadequacies and fix them, but here we are. It is our responsibility, as white folks, to seek out that missing education, do the work to implement anti-racism practices in our lives, and fight for legislation that is actively anti-racist. We also must make space for leaders from these communities to guide these solutions, because for too long they have been excluded from decision-making positions either explicitly through discriminatory laws, or through barriers often resulting from the consequences of discriminatory laws.
We need to implement oversight in order to ensure that I-940, the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act approved by Washington voters in 2018, is functioning as intended and improving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Independent investigations into use-of-force cases must include civilians and not just representatives from other law enforcement agencies. We should also require departments to report disciplinary information and their use-of-force cases to the state so we may better understand how changes in policy are affecting our departments and communities. And we should look at our procedures around decertifying police officers for misconduct. According to an analysis from The Seattle Times, over the past 4 years, less than 33 percent of officers with misconduct serious enough that their supervisors flagged them for decertification were actually decertified.
There is work to be done to build more secure and stable communities that require less police intervention. We should expand support for mental healthcare and start treating addiction for what it is – a disease that requires medical intervention. We can’t criminalize away substance dependency. Our state should thoughtfully invest in restorative justice practices that are designed to rehabilitate formerly incarcerated people and help them to reconcile with their communities. When I was 13 years old, I began volunteering with the Prison Pet Partnership at the Washington Correction Center for Women. This program teaches inmates how to assist in the training of service dogs, groom pets as part of a boarding facility for the public, and rescue, train and rehome stray dogs. Recidivism rates among those who participate in PPP are incredibly low – the women are given a purpose and the skills needed to find stable work once released. I’d love to see our state increase programs with similar values.
Stokesbary: As our nation was painfully reminded again this summer, for many Americans, the pursuit of justice and equality is a long journey that remains far from over. Even one life lost is too many, and such losses are even more painful when they occur at the hands of government officials.
Policymakers, including myself, should do everything we can to eliminate these tragedies from daily life, to eliminate racial disparities in use of force and to continue striving for the American ideal of justice for all.
I have already spent considerable time and energy pursuing these goals in the Legislature. During my first term, for example, I worked across the aisle with a senior Democratic legislator—bringing together prosecutors, law enforcement officers and administrators, civil liberties proponents and other community organizations—to develop groundbreaking legislation that promoted the use of “body cams” by police and sheriff departments across the state. (I was even given the “City Champion” Award by the Association of Washington Cities for my efforts.)
But the tragic episodes witnessed this year have served as a cruel reminder of just how far we have left to go. In my conversations with community organizations and law enforcement officers, I’ve identified a variety of other improvements that the Legislature can and should pursue immediately:
• Reform civil service hiring criteria to provide access for more diverse candidates to join law enforcement agencies
•Increase training, as well as wellness and mental health supports, for law enforcement officers
• Accelerate implementation of the de-escalation and proportionality training required by I-940
• Make the sanctity of human life a centerpiece of use-of-force training
• Incentivize and facilitate continued adoption of body-worn cameras
• Create mechanisms to identify problematic behaviors demonstrated by law enforcement officers and develop programs to intercede with, correct and support officers exhibiting such patterns
• Require law enforcement officers to intervene and report whenever another officer uses excessive force or violates an individual’s rights
Acknowledging where improvement is needed should not come at the expense of support and gratitude for the brave, hard-working men and women who put on a uniform every day and keep our communities safe. The overwhelming majority of police officers are highly-trained and skilled professionals who go out of their way to follow the law and uphold their oaths. They’re not just police officers, they’re also guidance counselors, mental health providers, and substance abuse professionals. And through the course of this work, they’re constantly required to make split-second, life-and-death decisions while danger and uncertainty lurk behind every corner.
That’s why I’m incredibly honored to be endorsed by Washington’s leading law enforcement organizations: COMPAS (which includes the state’s two largest police guilds, representing Seattle Police Department officers and King County Sheriff Deputies), WACOPS (encompassing over a hundred police unions around the state) and the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.
While much remains to be done to avoid more senseless tragedies, rather than defunding the police, I will proudly defend the police officers who keep us safe and treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Stokesbary: As I mentioned on these pages two weeks ago, it is the honor of a lifetime to have the privilege of representing the 31st Legislative District in the State House of Representatives.
I’m excited for the opportunity to return to Olympia next January and resume working toward the policies I’ve been discussing here—like balancing the state’s $8.5 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and continuing to improve Washington’s public schools so that all students have access to a world-class education.
While the operating budget is by far the largest and most complex piece of legislation each year, and while K-12 funding represents over half of the budget, there is plenty of other legislation that deserves attention as well—from solving our region’s homelessness and mental health emergencies to making childcare, college and medicine more accessible and affordable. And as we attempt to recover from both the public health and economic consequences of COVID 19, I’ll do everything I can to fight to safely restore jobs and get our economy back on track as quickly as possible.
During the course of this campaign, I’m humbled by how much support I’ve received for my previous work and my ideas for the future. In addition to the law enforcement groups mentioned above, my campaign has been endorsed by education and children advocates like Stand for Children and Children’s Campaign Fund, business organizations like the Association of Washington Business and National Federation of Independent Businesses, unions like Public School Employees of Washington and Valley Professional Firefighters, and housing advocates like the Washington Affordable Housing Council and Rental Housing Association. I’m so honored that these organizations, and many others (you can see the whole list online at drewstokesbary.com/endorsements), have chosen to support my reelection this year. I hope you will as well.
Young: Thank you to the Courier-Herald for providing this opportunity to directly address you, our voters and residents of the 31st Legislative District. The last six months have given us clear examples of how this country is not serving its people as well as it could, now we in Washington have the opportunity to improve things for our residents. I pledge to fight for policy that lowers costs and increases access to healthcare, with the goal of implementing a single-payer healthcare system. Through this, we can finally realize healthcare as a human right. I pledge to continue pushing our state to improve funding for education, and the outcomes our education system achieves. As wildfires continue to burn and smolder across this state, I pledge to push aggressive climate justice policies and use my position to advocate for climate action on the federal level. This is necessary to protect a future for our next generations. These critical issues should be central to a government that is truly invested in its people. As a candidate and a representative, I pledge to make your government work for you. I will continue to work to earn your vote this November, with every hope and intention of serving you as the next State Representative for the 31st Legislative District.