What do you get when you place nearly all of the Edmonds-area candidates for state Legislature (plus two running for U.S. Congress) in the Edmonds Council Chambers, and add a standing-room-only crowd of boisterous citizens? Answer: A lively candidates forum sponsored by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce Monday night.
There were a few jeers, boos and catcalls, but the crowd was mostly well-behaved. The candidate questions — drawn randomly from a stack created by the Chamber’s economic development committee — centered on business-related issues, including those specific to Edmonds. Here’s a summary of the evening, but the program was taped so you can watch it on Comcast channel 21 and Verizon channel 39 starting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The forum was presented in three groups: Two sets of state legislative candidates followed by the District 1 U.S. Congressional race.
Issues debated by the legislative candidates included the following:
Initiative 1098, which would add an income tax for those earning more than $200,000 a year (filing federal taxes as individuals) or $400,000 (joint filers) – but that some fear will eventually be extended to everyone: Elizabeth Scott, Republican candidate for the 21st District Rep. Position said she opposes the initiative as it “will open the door to eventually establish a tax for all.” The incumbent, Democrat Marko Liias, said he is “dead set against a middle class income tax for voters” but is still researching the initiative and hasn’t decided whether to support it.
Small business tax relief: Both Scott and 1st Legislative District Rep. Pos. 2 candidates Heidi Munson suggested that the state’s Business and Occupation Tax be on net, rather than gross, profit. Moscoso said it’s important “to do whatever is necessary” to ensure that small businesses succeed. He also repeated a common theme during the night – that he does not want to travel to Olympia to engage in ideological fights but to find solutions to problems.
Edmonds Proposition 1, which would add a $40-per-vehicle licensing fee onto an existing $20-per-vehicle fee to fund city transportation projects: This question was asked of state 1st District Pos. 1 candidate Derek Stanford, who admitted that he wasn’t yet up to speed on the measure (he lives in Bothell and his district includes only one small area of Edmonds). However, he added that his approach, as someone who has a Ph.D. in statistics, is to look at the numbers to determine whether the investment of taxpayer dollars is worthwhile.
Privatization of state liquor stores: Moscoso and incumbent State Senator Maralyn Chase, Democrat from the 32nd District, said they both opposed two initiatives going before voters in November that would eliminate state-run liquor stores — due to the $300 million loss of state revenue. “This is not a time to take us out of a business that provides revenue that is desperately needed,” Moscoso said. Munson said she supports privatizing liquor sales: “I don’t see the reason why the government is in the liquor business.”
Engaging the state Legislature in efforts to redevelop the Edmonds waterfront: Incumbent 21st District Sen. Paull Shin and challenger David Preston agreed this was a good idea, although Preston said he preferred that such an effort be a public/private partnership that involves local businesses, if possible.
Streamlining the state budget: Everyone supported this concept but the debate was reduced to mostly party-line sound bites. The Republicans generally called for “doing more with less” and “living within our means,” and the Democrats generally declared that the state’s financial problems are the result of a worldwide recession and it’s time to move beyond ideological differences to solve problems.
“I think this is an opportunity to do some streamlining of our state government,” Stanford said. “The reality is, we know that things are going to have to get smaller, because that’s where the budget is.”
Dr. Art Coday, a Republican candidate for 32nd District Rep. Pos. 1, said he is committed to taking the time and efforts necessary to address the state’s budget woes. “I’m not in favor of going in with machete cutting everything or raising taxes,” he said.
Republican Gary Gagliardi, running against Democratic incumbent Ruth Kagi for 32nd District Rep. Pos. 1, said the solution is to “move dollars and control out of Olympia and into our communities.”
David Baker, a Republican running against Chase for 32nd District Senator, cited his experience as mayor of Kenmore, where the city is financially stable and even built a new city hall under budget.
“My opponent represents business as usual,” added Republican Ed Borey, who is seeking the 21st District Rep. Pos. 1 seat held by Democratic incumbent Mary Helen Roberts. “Haven’t we really had enough?”
Roberts shot back: “My votes and my actions are transparent and they reflect what voters in this district believe in.”
Some of the most lively debate came during the Congressional questioning, with Watkins and Inslee sparring over questions ranging from how to serve constituents effectively amid partisan strife in Washingon, D.C. — Watkins said he will “vote for people, not special interests,” while Inslee cited recent bipartisan efforts to pass prescription drug abuse reform – to next steps in the health care reform bill.
In closing statements for both candidates, Watkins questioned Inslee’s focus on environmental issues and in particular his commitment to creating green jobs.
“We need real jobs in the 1st District, not la-la-land jobs,” Watkins said.
“I am not going to turn this seat back to someone who wants to vote with the coal and oil companies,” Inslee responded.