Richmond Beach candidate forum is lively but professionally run

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jesse Salomon answers a question
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

By Diane Hettrick

The Richmond Beach Community Association has been holding candidate forums for almost two decades, and moderator Tom Petersen has been presiding for a dozen of those years.

In that time, as the ad says, they have "learned a thing or two."

They needed all that expertise at their forum on October 9, 2018, which featured a somewhat rowdy audience, sets of "gotcha" questions, no show candidates, and a major date conflict.

A date fluke put their forum on the same night as the League of Women Voters Snohomish County - both inviting all the candidates from the 32nd Legislative District. The two organizations coordinated their presentations so the candidates could appear at both.

Moderator Tom Petersen, center. Left is candidate Joe Campagna
right is candidate Les Ponomarchuk
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

District Court Judge

This gave the Shoreline District Court race pride of place on the agenda. Joe Campagna and Les Ponomarchuk are vying for the open seat left by the retirement of Judge Doug Smith. Both candidates live in Shoreline. Both have deep experience and good ratings.

Oddly, Ponomarchuk asked to have a supporter introduce him - something quite unusual in time-limited candidate forums. Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, also a Shoreline resident, stood up to introduce him. After a couple of minutes it was clear that it was more than an introduction, but the kind of speech that a campaign chair gives at the fundraising event for the candidate.

The audience started shouting for the candidate to speak for himself. Tom Petersen intervened and pointed out that he had agreed to an introduction only and that it was time for the candidate to speak. All this time the audience is shouting, Judge Shaffer is still extolling the virtues of her candidate, and the candidate is standing by. Finally Ponomarchuk spoke for a few minutes, in a halting and fairly inarticulate manner.

In response to audience questions which were written on index cards and handed in to Petersen, the candidates discussed the idea of community courts, which would handle low level property crimes. Both agreed that it was a good idea but Ponomarchuk said there was no money to do it. Campagna said there were costs involved with not doing it which would offset the cost of the court. Many people charged with these crimes are homeless, mentally ill. When they can't make bail, they stay in jail and we pay the cost of their incarceration awaiting trial. We pay for a deputy to transport them from south King county to court. A community court would connect them to services.

When asked what they would do to make the court run more efficiently, Ponomarchuk said that as a court commissioner he presides over the busiest calendar in the state of Washington and is very adept at processing cases quickly.

Campagna said that there are a large number of people who miss their court dates and have to be rescheduled. If Shoreline instituted a reminder system of text messages it would not be necessary to issue warrants, reschedule, and drive them to court.

State Senator

By this time, some of the other candidates had started to arrive from Snohomish county, so Tom brought up the candidates for State Senator for the 32nd District. Maralyn Chase is the incumbent senator and Shoreline Deputy Mayor Jesse Salomon is the challenger. Salomon won the primary with Chase coming in a close section, thus dropping the third Centrist candidate, Keith Smith, from the race.

In Salomon's opening statement he said that he had been seven years on the Shoreline council, a prosecutor working with abused children, and he was running for office because he wants to help to make things better. In this political climate, he said, it's dangerous that political opponents become enemies.

He said that he wants to be someone who gets things done, that it's not enough to just be in office for 17 years. The way to get things done is by building relationships and working together.

Chase said she had been in the legislature for 17 years, 7 in the House and 8 in the Senate, and before that she was a general contractor and she looked forward to serving another term. She said there were ongoing issues in the legislature and cited the McCleary decision, international trade, jobs, and transportation issues.

Part way through the questions that followed, Tom Petersen's skills were challenged again when an audience member started shouting that her questions had not been asked, that her rights were being violated and he was suppressing free speech.

Tom explained that he was disregarding the "gotcha" questions, the questions aimed at only one candidate, and questions that did not pertain to the senate race. The audience member continued to argue, but finally subsided when Tom suggested she write a letter to the editor.
  • State Income Tax: Chase said that we have a regressive tax system and need a state income tax. Salomon said voters were 64% against it and said we need to look at some of the hundreds of tax exemptions on the books like the one for bull semen.
  • Homeless: Salomon said that some have mental issues, some need to get their act together. Shoreline is doing its part with the 198th Street Project. Chase cited an Edmonds CC program educating inmates so they don't end up on the streets when released from Monroe.
  • Unemployment / trade jobs: Salomon said people come from out of state for tech jobs - why aren't we training our own kids? Why are we funding classes in high school that have no practical application? Chase cited the Edmonds CC classes training inmates for trades.
  • Public disclosure for legislators: Chase said that it's important to safeguard citizens and whistleblowers who consult their legislators. (See Op-Ed by Chase). Salomon responded by reading from The Seattle Times' editorial in response to Chase's op-ed and stating that everything he has ever done on the city council is open to the public.

After this session, Tom Petersen declared a brief break and half the audience, which had been standing room only, took the opportunity to leave.

Maralyn Chase answers a question
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

State Representatives

The remaining candidates, for the State House of Representatives, were Cindy Ryu and Lauren Davis. Both were endorsed by Ruth Kagi, who is retiring from her seat in the legislature. Ryu is the incumbent in her race. Both Ryu and Davis won their primaries with huge margins and their Republicans opponents - Frank Deisler against Lauren Davis - and Diodato (Dio) Boucsieguez against Cindy Ryu - have apparently given up.

The Republicans did not respond to invitations to appear at this forum. The League made contact with them but they did not attend that forum. Neither did they appear at a forum at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis has a compelling biography, starting with creating educational programs for preschoolers in Africa, and being the primary caregiver for six years for her best friend, who was drug addicted and suicidal. From this experience, she went to the UW where she wrote Forefront in the Schools, a program designed to train parents and community to identify and help suicidal teenagers. The program is now presented in both Shorecrest and Shorewood as well as other high schools in the state.

She became painfully aware of the deficiencies and limitation of resources to help with addiction treatment and spent months lobbying the legislature, finally passing “Ricky’s Law,” one of the largest investments in addiction treatment in state history.

Cindy Ryu
Cindy Ryu has been in the legislature for eight years. She said she is in the middle of a lot of projects that she wants to continue working on. She loves infrastructure, taking care of the things that you don't see and aren't so interesting but are vital. For example, sewer pipes have to be maintained - if they break, you have a crisis.

She is the chair of the housing committee, which includes housing for the homeless. She was able to pass a law in the last session that allows cities to donate or sell property at a loss, rather than selling to the highest bidder. This change in the law made it possible for the City of Shoreline to work with partners to create homeless house on 198th and Aurora.

Future candidate event
Candidates will appear in one more event, at the Ridgecrest Public House on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 8pm.


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