Candidates Address Local Concerns at KP Civic Center Forum


Ted Olinger, KP News

Spectators stood outside to hear candidates through open windows of the Whitmore Room for a chance to learn more about the people running for elected office. Forum moderator, Chuck West, president of the KP Community Council used timers to keep moving (down) the line. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Candidates running for county, state and national offices answered questions from a standing room only crowd in the Whitmore Room at the Key Peninsula Civic Center Oct. 9. The audience of some 130 or more spilled out into the hallway and parking lot, with spectators leaning in through open windows.

Key Peninsula Community Council President Chuck West moderated, posing written questions collected from the audience by members of the KP Youth Council.

Candidates included:

  • Douglas Dightman (R) running for the 6th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D). A representative for Kilmer read a statement in his absence but took no questions.
  • Marty McClendon (R) and Emily Randall (D), running for state senator, Legislative District 26;
  • Connie FitzPatrick (D) and State Rep. Jesse Young (R), running for state representative, Legislative District 26, Position 1;
  • State Rep. Michelle Caldier (R) and Joy Stanford (D), running for state representative, Legislative District 26, Position 2;
  • Peninsula School Board Member David Olson (R) and Pierce County Council Member Derek Young (D), running for Pierce County Council Member, District 7; and
  • Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist (R) and Assistant State Attorney General Mary Robnett (NP), running for Pierce County prosecuting attorney.
  • Below are excerpts from some candidate answers. Since not all questions were relevant to all candidates, answers are arranged by subject and appear in the order they were delivered.

Pierce County has predicted that the population of the Key Peninsula is expected to nearly double in the next 20 to 25 years. What steps will you take to secure funding to complete studies and move forward with improving the State Route 302 corridor?

Derek Young: Pierce County neither expects nor wants to double the population of the Key Peninsula. However, you are currently in dire need of a replacement for the Purdy Bridge and realignment of 302. That’s why I’m really happy to report that in our recent Highway 16 congestion study, sponsored by our legislators, we were able to include a recommendation that we complete the environmental impact statement to come up with a preferred alignment, and that will give us the go ahead on the next project cycle to try to get that (new) highway built.

Olson: We would have to build a new bridge… or perhaps extend 144th that comes down from the high school, straight through the power line (easement). A lot of people on the Key Peninsula that I talk to just want to be left alone; they like it the way it is. But we know that bridge is dangerous. We need to get it fixed.

Stanford: Folks want something done, but I think we need to wait for that report and take that analysis and … bring everybody to the table. You need to hear those recommendations, hear those solutions, ideas, and work together.

Caldier: When I first got to Olympia, the Pierce County lobbyist said, “You should be voting for the gas tax.” I looked at her list (of projects), and there was nothing (west of the Narrows Bridge) but a little bit of funding for congestion relief in Gig Harbor. I said “What about the Purdy Spit?” and she said, “What’s the Purdy Spit?” This is part of the reason why we have not received what we are supposed to be getting—because of the history of the Key Peninsula not being adequately represented.

FitzPatrick: I believe that we need to wait until we get the results of the environmental impact studies and I would fight for the funding for that project to relieve that pressure off the Purdy Spit. I also believe in creating 144th as a thoroughfare as a major intersection to relieve the pressure that occurs in that area.

Jesse Young: I am the only representative on the entire Olympic Peninsula from here to the coast that serves on (the) transportation (committee) and I am going to suggest that if you want traffic taken care of out here you’re going to want to put me back in because I will be in leadership on transportation next session.

One of the solutions for fixing access to the Key Peninsula (is) to go through Pine Street; that is the most economical, it is the most environmentally friendly and the one that would also … preserve your rural lifestyle. You’ll tie into the project that’s already funded for the Belfair bypass on the south end of Highway 3 and then you put a tie-in along 118th that comes down to the Key Peninsula.

Randall: What we need are investments in traffic solutions that don’t dramatically change the landscape here. One of the problems is our community isn’t getting its fair share. We’re seeing huge investments in King County projects … while our projects are unfunded. I also look forward to increasing our ability to invest in infrastructure by closing out of date corporate tax loopholes and creating jobs here at home for all of us.

McClendon: This is one of the major concerns for congestion relief in the entire district. Now it’s been studied multiple times and we’re waiting on more studies? No, the complete process was done several years ago, providing several plan options for a new bridge. I would go back and make sure which one of those works best and advocate and make sure we get the money.

Dightman: We’re not going to solve problems like this in Washington, D.C. I’m going to try to cut our taxes as much as we humanly can so that we have money to take care of these problems here in Washington state.

What are you proposing to do about the opioid crisis?

Dightman: One of the things that we can do on a national level is build a border wall. I know we like to think of a border wall as all about immigration, but the reality is that it would make it more difficult to get drugs across the border, and then we have an opportunity to actually protect our citizens better. The next thing is we need to recognize that it’s an addiction and it’s a health problem, and we don’t want to go ahead and facilitate the health problem.

McClendon: One of the ways we don’t make it worse is we don’t allow it. In Seattle (they want) safe injections sites. That’s not the way. Part of the way is enforcing the law, giving our prosecutors and our law enforcement the tools necessary to keep the community clean but also at the same time giving care (to) those that need help and want help to get off drugs.

Randall: Our opioid epidemic is part of our health care crisis. We have half a million Washingtonians without any health coverage and most folks who do have coverage don’t have coverage that includes substance abuse. We need to make sure that everyone has access to the health care they need and deserve, and we need to start with prevention and wraparound services that provide support.

Jesse Young: The first thing you need to do is stand up to big pharma. You need to stand up to big bureaucracy. Big bureaucracies like Pierce County, or Seattle and King County that have an urban-centric focus for delivering health care solutions lobby us down in Olympia and they lobby solutions that make it impossible for rural communities to get access to the funds the state allocates for solving these problems.

FitzPatrick: We need to make sure that we are providing for preventive care services and make opioids a last resort before surgery, trying to facilitate physical therapists and chiropractic care that could prevent so many people from…becoming addicted to opioids and harder drugs. I also believe that self-medicating is an issue for folks suffering from mental illnesses…we need to make sure that we are adequately and fully funding mental health care throughout Washington state.

Caldier: As a nursing home dentist, I will tell you that when I extracted people’s teeth, it hurt and I would prescribe opioids. We have to make sure we’re protecting people, getting them out of pain but also curbing the amount of opioid use. I proposed two bills this year: one was to have graded dosage packages and the other was to fix our prescriptive monitoring program so that doctors could easily report it, and I’m proud to say that both of those were wrapped into the large omnibus bill that Governor Inslee put forward.

Stanford: I’d like to see better integration of the behavioral substance abuse and physical health care systems. Everything is interconnected. You have folks who are suffering from opioid addiction and they’re homeless. We’ve got to solve one to get to the other.

Lindquist: I think we need to approach this with a combination of compassion and accountability. By compassion I mean get services to those in need. If someone is going to persist in criminal activity, like burglary, they’ve got to be held accountable. We do need to stand up to big pharma and that’s why I went to the county council and asked for that green light to file that lawsuit against big pharma. We’re looking for two things: injunctive relief, whichmeans putting an end to their deceptive marketing practices, and financial relief. We want money for Pierce County to combat the opioid crisis.

Robnett: The opioid crisis is a complicated issue and there’s not going to be any simple solution. I’m happy to say my current boss, Bob Ferguson, the state attorney general, I think was the first to file a lawsuit against big pharma on behalf of the state. The prosecutor has a piece of this problem but it’s not just a crime problem; it’s a public health problemand it’s going to take a multifaceted approach to solve it. The revolving door of people being busted for little amounts of opioids going to short-term incarceration, being released, still addicted, untreated, homeless, jobless, helpless, is really an expensive proposition for taxpayers and it’s just not working.

Olson: As a school board member, we’ve added additional behavioral health specialists to the district to target some of our middle schoolers and high school kids to try and identify them when they’re younger, trying to get them not focused toward opioids. A lot of the opioids are coming from their parents’ medicine cabinets. When they can’t get prescription drugs, they turn to harder drugs. We need to do more to crack down on China and places like that bringing those other hard drugs into our country.

Derek Young: When I first got to the Pierce County Council, (I convened) the opioid task force; we brought together law enforcement and service providers, experts in the field…to come up with a series of recommendations. They fall into three basic categories: prevention and education; medically assisted treatment; and, finally, delivering the right services at the right time. There are legitimate (uses) for opioids; the problem is the pharmaceutical companies went further than that to make more money. They lied to the American people … and that’s why I supported the lawsuit to get money back in our community to fix the mess they made.

Are you willing to support a constitutional amendment removing the supermajority requirement for passing school bonds?

Derek Young: We’ll need a constitutional amendment started in the Legislature and I think it’s critical. It’s important that we respect democracy and respect the will of the majority and we need to get that amendment on the ballot for voters ultimately to decide.

Olson: Most members of the school board currently believe in keeping it above a simple majority because it’s such a large amount of money. I think the way it is is working; we just need to get more people educated on why we need to support our schools.

Lindquist: I actively supported the school bond out here, which is not something you’d normally think a prosecutor would be doing. I would support striking the supermajority.

Stanford: Would I support changing that 60 percent? Absolutely. I’m willing to talk about where we can find the middle there, somewhere between 50 and 55. Our schools need help now.

Caldier: I sit on the (Legislature) education committee and every year this proposal comes forward … and every year there has been a Democratic majority in the House and you’d think that typically they would be supportive … however, every year the chair refuses to even allow it to come up for a vote because the Democrats don’t have the votes on their side.

What I am working on now is to increase the honesty and truthfulness when it comes to the campaign for and against the bond. I also think we need to decrease the cost of school construction. Right now, it’s $500 per square foot and that is way too expensive.

FitzPatrick: I am for changing the 60 percent supermajority requirement. We have seen schools falling into such disrepair that I cannot imagine what a solid, quality education that is for children. We have one of the most regressive tax codes in the country. We need to create equity and take back revenue and funnel it toward education and other programs that need our attention.

Jesse Young: I do not support lowering the threshold to 50 percent. That 60 percent not only protects low income and fixed income property owners from being taxed out of their house—it also protects rural communities. I am working with school board members right now as a fiscal conservative to help get it past that 60 percent threshold because I believe we can get a good bond passed if I lend my name to it and that is a community solution that we all desperately need.

Randall: I went to South Kitsap High School. When I was a senior we had 38 students in my English class and we did not have enough desks. One of my early civic engagements was to organize a sit-in in our principal’s office until we got the desks we needed. I shouldn’t have had to do that. We had three failed levies in a row and it was some years after that they lowered the supermajority requirement for levies to simple majority so that we could pass levies in districts like ours. We need to lower the supermajority requirement for school bonds so that every student can learn in a safe classroom that has room for them.

McClendon: I don’t support lowering the threshold, however I do support lowering the cost of school construction. One of those things would be…charging sales tax on all school construction as a way of lowering the price of doing projects. (Next) is accountability; finding more money at the state level…I want to fix those budgets, incentivize them to save money and tie that money to school construction projects.

Dightman: I don’t support abandoning the supermajority because I think that these are very complex issues. We have to be very careful about allowing people who don’t have all the information that’s necessary to make the choices for us. Finally, I’ll just say as a representative in Congress in D.C., I think that we need to get away from deciding how to teach people.