Last candidate forum of the season held by Meridian Park PTSA

Sunday, November 4, 2018

By Diane Hettrick

The Meridian Park PTSA, in the very nicest way, laid down the law for the participants in their candidate forum on November 1 in the school cafeteria.

They issued a set of rules for the participants about how they would present themselves and what they were not to talk about.

Here's one. "We have requested that the speakers answer the following questions with a more personal tone, rather than canned talking points."

It's an approach I haven't seen before, or used, but it worked quite well.

Unfortunately they forgot to give the rules to the audience.

It did lead to the best line of the evening. In the last ten minutes they opened the forum to questions from the audience. A women excitedly questioned Jesse Salomon and to a lesser extent Cindy Ryu about campaign contributions from Chevron, Monsanto, and Stand for Children. The question was longer than most of the presentations but she finally paused and Jesse began to answer. But she interrupted him so often that it was clear she didn't want to hear what he had to say - she just wanted to raise her voice with accusations.

The moderator tried to smooth the waters to let Jesse answer the questions.

The moderator said, "Yes, I too want to hear about his contributions from Chevron and Monsanto - of course I bought gas at Chevron on the way here."

Cindy Ryu tried to bring it down and gently asked the woman, "I'm sorry, are you saying that because we have campaign contributions from those companies, they have bought us?" "Yes!" was the immediate response.

Stand for Children is a child advocacy organization that strongly supports charter schools, a topic not appreciated by the teachers' union and many in the education community. Jesse explained that he had met with them and talked about their shared concerns about the inequities in education. They wrote him a $1000 check but he returned it.

Jesse talked about going to Garfield High School and seeing the division between the kids in the honors program and the local kids and being disturbed about it. Cindy said she had a similar conversation with SFC about inequities in education. It resonated with her because of her personal history as an immigrant and how education made it possible for her family to succeed.

New sidewalks - Prop 1

The initiative opponents were downright genial. The pro and con Sidewalk Prop 1 speakers resembled each other physically, a point they joked about. Dustin McIntyre was on the sidewalk committee and is opposing Prop 1 (to pay for new sidewalks) because he said that the committee was 2/3rds in favor of fixing the existing sidewalks first. He also criticized the staff for changing the committee recommendations, and for the financial structure of the Proposition. He wants the City to start over. He said we need to get creative and find other ways to get new sidewalks like perhaps using money from the Parks bond.

Nicholas Merriam was not on the sidewalk committee. He's a citizen who wants sidewalks and volunteered for the Pro committee. He said he wants sidewalks where he can walk with his kids and that he's afraid that if this Proposition fails, we'll never return to it and we will get new sidewalks only at the very slow rate we are getting them now.

I-1631 Carbon Tax

The speaker for the Carbon Tax initiative, I-1631, Stephanie Celt, is a Washington State Policy Coordinator with BlueGreen Alliance. She noted that this is the most expensive initiative in Washington state history because of the amount of money being poured into the opposition from out of state corporations. The tax would go on the biggest corporations.

Ben Buchholz, the speaker against the Carbon tax, has been a lobbyist since he graduated from the UW some ten years ao. However, he is also a 5th generation family farmer from Yakima with a friendly, folksy demeanor. He said he was afraid that the companies being taxed would just pass it on to consumers at the pump and it would create hardships for low-income people, like his farmworkers who drive an hour to get to his orchards.

I-1639 Gun violence prevention
Speakers did not show for either side.

I-1634  Taxation of items for human consumption
Speakers did not show for either side.

Candidates were asked to say why they had gotten in to politics, how constituents could contact them, how they would stay in touch with constituents, and how voters can make a change in their community.

State Senate

Jesse Salomon talked about being deeply affected by the inequities of the world. He said "I'm not comfortable being in the brokenness of this world without doing anything about it." He's proud that he sponsored paid family and medical leave for City staff, that he helped salmon habitat by removing the dam on Boeing Creek, and for his part in siting an apartment building for homeless people in Shoreline. He talked about changing his position on an issue because one person presented him with a written, well thought out rebuttal.

Maralyn Chase talked about going to a country school with 8 grades and wanting to be student body president but being told it had to be a boy. Then trying to get a job when she was a young married and being told they wouldn't hire her because she'd just get pregnant and quit. Then as a widow with a child not being able to get health insurance at the family rate because she wasn't a "family." She decided to be a painting contractor in the early 80s and had to have her brother sign for her business loan because they wouldn't give it to a woman.

She talked about our regressive tax system and the need for tax reform, like taxing "intangibles" like investments in stocks and bonds.

State House of Representatives

Once again, the Republican candidates Frank Deisler and  Diodato (Dio) Boucsieguez  didn't bother to show. They sent statements. Deisler is opposed to sanctuary city policies, safe injection sites, increased taxes of any kind, and "failed socialist, progressive Seattle policies."

Boucsieguez said "We have to bring fiscal responsibility back to Olympia and stop the spreading of Seattle’s impulsive jobs tax. In addition, the creation of drug consumption sites must be prevented. These kind of failed policies hurt our region."

Cindy Ryu, the incumbent, said she worked full time in her family's business, had three kids in three schools but ran for office because of the 1st mile of Aurora. She's in her 5th term in the legislature and she loves committee hearings. "It's like grad school every day!" Email is the best way to reach her. If she doesn't see it, her legislative aide Shoubee Liaw will bring it to her attention. She and Ruth Kagi did telephone town halls with hundreds of people participating and she will continue those with Lauren Davis.

She is endorsed by the WEA, the teachers' union. She said it's not appropriate to accuse politicians of being "bought". She said she takes money from the beer lobby even though she is one of three legislators in the "dry" caucus. When the beer lobby comes to talk to her she listens to their issues.

She said that one person's story can change votes - keep telling your story.

Lauren Davis got involved in politics only by accident. When she returned from working in Africa in preschool programs, her best friend Ricky was depressed, addicted, and near death. She was his primary caregiver for years. One of the doctors on one of many ER room visits, told her that if he could involuntarily commit Ricky to treatment, he could save him but he was prohibited by law. After Ricky recovered, Lauren started lobbying the legislature. In the end she passed the largest investment in alcohol and opioid treatment in the history of the state. Female legislators kept telling her she should run for office and she finally decided she could get more done from the inside. Her issues are early childhood education, suicide (she wrote the Forefront in the Schools curriculum), opioid addiction, and homelessness.

All in all, the Meridian Park PTSA ran a well planned and smoothly executed candidate and issues forum. Audience members did find out more of the human side of the candidates and were able to consider issues in a calm and considered way.


Megan Kogut November 5, 2018 at 9:07 AM  

Thank you for this overview of the forum, Diane. I agree the Meridian Park PTSA got an A for setting up and moderating a longish, mostly insightful, and slightly raucous night.

I also want to thank all speakers, especially Jesse Salomon as a new candidate up against an incumbent in the same political party, for running for office and coming to the forum. If they hadn't, we wouldn't have had anything to talk about, and that would be terrible for democracy.

I too found the woman focused solely on campaign contributions, although genuinely passionate, to be offensive to the candidates and the audience because her pointed and repetitive questions were well out of context of this meeting. The rest of the audience no doubt had passions they kept in check out of respect for the event's organizers and for each other. Because the intent of the meeting was clear - respectful conversation about issues and about being a politician that would be engaging for students in the audience. There are other public forums, as well as direct email, for picking a bone.

Because clearly, based on their words and actions, Jesse and Marilyn are on the same side on many issues, including education and environment. Voters trying to pick between the two similar candidates want to know where and why they differ, and how they will work to achieve those goals? And the majority of us in the audience were there to find out by respectfully listening to the candidates speak.

Because of the campaign finance kerfuffle taking up the last ten minutes, I didn't get to ask my question of Jesse and Maralyn, which was this: what one thing do you practically want to achieve in the 2019 legislative session, and what one thing do you want to be your long term legacy? I want a balance of practicality and passion in my candidates.

Also, I would like to report that the chocolate buttercream cake I bought from the PTSA bake sale in the back was terrific, as were the homemade peanut butter bars and the homemade oreo-esque cookies. Urp!

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