The 18th semi-annual candidate forum took place before a crowd of 100 or more at the Key Peninsula Civic Center October 11, and was mostly civil but for the behavior of one participant. The nonpartisan event was sponsored by the KP Business Association, the KP Civic Center Association and KP News, and organized by Safe Streets Campaign.
Moderator Connor Schultz of Safe Streets introduced nine candidates for four public offices and explained the rules. Each candidate was given two minutes for opening and closing statements and one minute to answer questions. Candidates agreed to restrict their speech to their own work and not to attack opponents. The audience was asked to refrain from applause, cheering or booing to maintain a respectful atmosphere.
It almost worked.
Questions were submitted by audience members in advance. Answers to most are summarized below in the order they were given.
Q. What will you do if elected to address two key issues facing the Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor: Crime and taxes?
Young: The first I would do is listen to our police community, and restore their ability to pursue and take in criminals. I would love to make hard drugs illegal again. The second thing I would do is I would immediately vote to reverse the impending 49 cent gas tax increase that was just voted on by the other party.
Denson: First, we have to hire more deputies; the county council has 57 more positions funded, they are hiring folks as quickly as they can, but once we are fully staffed it’s really important to advocate that the Peninsula detachment get more help out here. We need to be more proactive and more preventive with crime, and we need to work with our neighbors to do it.
Lonergan: One of the reasons we have these problems with crime is because of some of the legislative action that was taken last year. But at a county level, our jail is not at capacity; we do not have enough staffing. Somehow, we need to convince people that working in law enforcement is an honorable thing to do.
Randall: We need more law enforcement, but we also need to prevent crime in our community. I started the day meeting with police chiefs and mental health providers, talking about how we build and strengthen the system with mental health, crisis response and drug treatment to prevent more crime. We have a challenge that we’re not currently able to solve without big investments in mental health and drug treatment.
Hutchins: It is a little astonishing to me to hear the legislative and executive leadership of Washington state act like they have just discovered there’s a crime problem and they’re going to take it very seriously, when some very reckless policies were pursued over the last legislative sessions. The question asked about taxes as well: $15 billion dollars in revenue surplus—that’s what Washington state had. We do not have a revenue problem in Washington. We need to pull back on taxes.
Richards: I was down in the Legislature the last two years representing crime victims. We need more police officers (especially) to respond to car thefts. We’ve got to come up with solutions to lower property taxes for every homeowner, we’ve also got to lower taxes for small businesses like my dad’s. He does landscaping around here.
Caldier: Law enforcement said these bills that came through were awful, and I listened to them and voted no. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues did not listen to them. We need to roll them back. On top of everything, we need to allow businesses to thrive and grow. When more people are employed, more people (and) businesses contribute to our tax pool, and it actually overall lowers the cost for everyone else.
Macklin: In my career in health care, we’ve always dealt with a so-called staffing crisis. The pipeline seems to get longer and longer. We actually need to talk about that in our policy, moving kids from high school to the trades. On taxes, we have a very weird and inefficient system that really sucks out the middle. We have to do better at putting money in the pockets of business and also invest in infrastructure that supports small businesses.
McCarty: Auditors don’t do crime. Auditors don’t do taxes. But we can provide leadership to push the Legislature. There are things that auditors can do in this county. We need someone to go in there and say, why are you doing that?
Q. What would you do to help solve the highway safety and congestion problems on State Route 302?
Richards: One of the reasons I am running is because I am disappointed in how our district and particularly the Key Peninsula continues to get overlooked in Olympia for spending priorities. We know (we need) a new Purdy Bridge. We’ve got an emergency preparedness issue out here in Longbranch. There’s only one way in or out, and we’ve got to do something about that.
Caldier: We have put stuff into the budget. The problem is that we have a governor who line item vetoed what we put in and the Legislature had to sue the governor and have that resolved in the supreme court. It was incredibly frustrating having to work in the environment that I had to work in with some of the characters that were a part of that. The other piece of the puzzle is that unfortunately fish culverts have taken a higher priority than our roads.
Macklin: We can’t solve the problem of bottlenecking in an entire community. When something happens down in Home, there’s no urgent care, there’s no emergency service, and there’s a line of traffic. If you’re having a stroke, there’s not going to be a fast enough route to get you to services when you need them. We need something here in this community.
McCarty: Auditors don’t do traffic (but) I’m on the transportation commission for this county. The question was about traffic on 302. No, it’s not. The question is traffic. It’s everywhere. I’m a military logistician. We have to get us to work, get us to school. But our first responders have to get there. We have to get parts to the port, or to the airport, or to McChord, and we’re not doing that job.
Lonergan: Because of the Growth Management Act we are very limited as to what can take place in this area. That is something proscribed by the state. That is the first issue, but the next thing is funding. We may have to look at land and expansion, and that takes a lot of planning.
Denson: You all know that 302 is a state route but the county does have a role to play, and I will be advocating for that as soon as they finish the environmental impact statement—started in 2005. If we can finish that and get a preferred alternative, and there are a number of great options, then we can advocate for that.
Randall: I’ve been working on traffic and infrastructure problems. That’s why I sit on the transportation committee and why I signed on to every transportation package over these last couple of years until we finally got one across the finish line this year. Now, I will admit we weren’t able to get every piece of infrastructure that our district needed in that package; 302 didn’t make it. But I am ready to go back and keep fighting, hopefully it doesn’t take another four years, to make sure that we get the same investment in our community so that we can benefit from the tax dollars that we’re paying, just like everyone else.
Young: There’s a difference between budgets and packages and what you just saw is the reason why there literally is no money out there right now. You need to write balanced budgets that bring dollars back to the district, not wait every 10 years for a gas tax increase package to pay for bike lanes in Seattle. I will never vote for that.
Hutchins: The transportation budget has been historically in Washington State a bipartisan issue, but this last legislative session the majority party passed a transportation budget I think for the first time, in my memory, without a single Republican vote. That indicates to you some of what Jesse was talking about in terms of fiscal irresponsibility and lack of reality about what it’s going to accomplish.
Q. This one is just for the candidate for auditor: Do you believe there is just reason to have confidence in our state and federal elections, i.e., mail-in ballots, voting machines, drop boxes?
McCarty: I’m going to answer yes, and I’m going to answer no. All that voting data we have, the auditor’s office is trying to protect but there’s always somebody who is trying to unprotect it. There are 800 government password compromise attempts made in the United States every second. We’ve got to stay ahead of this.
The forum ended with two-minute closing statements from each candidate. Young used his statement to indirectly attack his opponent, saying he was responding to texts he’d just then received praising a position Randall took in the Legislature. “That is a lie,” he said.
The audience booed, cheered and admonished each other as Young talked over attempts by the moderator to intervene, refusing to return the microphone and exceeding his allotted time. He finished by asking that his opponent be allowed to respond without enduring the treatment he had received.
For her part, Randall reiterated her positions, accomplishments and plans.
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