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Candidate Q&A: Ken Henderson, 40th District state Senate

The Journal’s series of Candidate Q&As continues this week with candidates for 40th District state Senate. The 40th District comprises San Juan County and parts of Whatcom and Skagit counties, from Bellingham/Lake Whatcom to Mount Vernon. Senators serve four-year terms. Their annual salaries are $42,106 (effective Sept. 1) and they receive health benefits. The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 19 primary, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Ken Henderson

1. Education and background: Deception Pass Parks Advisory Committee, 2006-present; Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, 1998-2007; Whatcom County Parks Commission, 1996-2004; Whatcom County Council, 1990-94; Bellingham Planning Commission, 1985-1990.

Managing doctor in a group optometry practice with offices in Bellingham, Eastsound and Lynden, 1982-2006.

Bachelor of science, health science, 1977, Western Washington University; bachelor of science, visual science, 1980, Pacific University; doctor of optometry, 1982, Pacific University College of Optometry.

Married 33 years to Janet Stoupa Henderson. Two adult children, Jennifer and Nathan.

U.S. Navy, 1967-1971, Vietnam veteran.

2. Ferries are part of the islands’ lifeline to the mainland. How can the Legislature ensure the state’s ferries are adequately funded and maintained?
As the ferries are part of the state highway system, the state has an obligation to fund and maintain the system. It appears long-term planning and management have not been well done and we must now catch the system up to where it should be.

The building of the three new ferries is a start and, with the governor’s support for the larger ferries, we can look forward to a modern fleet. Building these vessels in Washington state will make getting legislative support easier as it creates jobs and helps the economy overall. I am encouraged at the changes being made in the management of our ferry system and hopeful there will be more attention to local input in the future.

The deletion of that portion of Capron Funds from the recent gas tax is not entirely fair to the San Juans in that it is the only county without state highways. While a case can be made for part of them to be spent on the ferries, I support more being returned to the county.

To have high ridership on the ferries, we need to better integrate public transit and parking options. Good marketing will help increase use by off-islanders and help the economy in the islands in addition.

Getting support for those ferry runs to the San Juans will take a team effort on the part of legislators from the Northwest Corner. I commit to working to build support for ongoing ferry funding.

3. Article IX Section I of the state Constitution states, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” What should the Legislature do to ensure it meets its obligation to “make ample provision for the education of all children”?
I believe the commitment of resources to the health and education of Washington students is a fundamental investment for the future. I will work to ensure that students receive a quality education through a fully funded system, which is based on the Constitutional mandate that it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children.

An ample and accountable funding plan based on a general and uniform school system phased in over a six-year period, based on Washington Learns and ample school funding studies, needs to be implemented. This funding plan needs to include a formula for K-12 schools that is sustainable, predictable and fully funded.In particular, I am in support of more early childhood education, early intervention for students falling behind to ensure their success in later grades and a significantly expanded trade and technical training program in high school with Running Start-type options for technical schools.

4. Does the Growth Management Act need to be revised? Please explain.
I am a strong supporter of the GMA. My initial run for elected office was in large part because I was unhappy with poor community planning, vague development standards and poor environmental protection.

The GMA has been adjusted as we learned over time the implication in enacting the law. We should continue to evaluate the act so it makes common sense and results in the kinds of communities we want and the environmental protections needed. I would like to see a component added that considers community development from a more global and climate change perspective.

5. A rescue tug has been proven effective in preventing groundings and spills by distressed vessels. What should the Legislature do to ensure that a year-round rescue tug is adequately funded?
The inland waters of the state are incredible natural resources for all of us and their protection should be paramount.

6. What should voters in the San Juan Islands expect from you if you’re elected? What are your priorities?
— Education. We need more early childhood education and early intervention programs for children needing additional help in all grades of school. Our class sizes are too large in early grades and our high school dropout rate is unacceptable.

In addition, we need more defined programs in trade and technical programs to offer as educational tracks in high school, with additional training at the community college and technical school level. This will give the students a reason to stay in school, get the basics in education and take pride in entering a career early in high school.

We need to eliminate the WASL as a graduation requirement and replace it with multiple measures of student achievement. The WASL can be refined and used as another measure of university-bound students but not as the one-size-fits-all graduation requirements.

— Environmental protection and Smart Growth. We can protect the environment and develop our communities without giving away the farm or any other environmental assets we have in the district.

This is such a remarkable place to live and raise families we can attract the businesses we need to have jobs for our children. We live in a region that has the technology and community support to become a world leader in “green” energy production. We need to take advantage of the workforce trained by U.W., WSU WWU, Boeing, Microsoft and others and incubate green industries in our local communities. The recent farm digester projects to generate energy in Skagit and Whatcom are great examples. The early wind energy systems were developed in Washington and we need to build on that and other research in ocean wave energy to market systems around the world.

— Basic health. It is long overdue that we provide for basic health for all the citizens of the state. We already pay for basic health care through our emergency rooms, our emergency medical response, subsidized and volunteer care provided through public and private clinics. We need to start with uninsured children and expand to offer programs to the poor and working families who have no coverage.

Having basic health care available to our returning veterans to allow them to transition is something we owe to them.

7. What issues unique to the San Juans and to the rest of the 40th District need to be addressed by the Legislature?
There will be hundreds of issues that will need to be addressed in the 40th District. We have the most diverse district in the state with agriculture, islands that are environmental jewels, a major ferry system, including both county and state, major industry and a strong small business community, a top quality university and a populace that is impassioned to retain the quality of life we enjoy for our grandchildren and beyond.

I commit to being in the community, meeting with as many groups as will set aside time to meet with me and carry the message from the community to Olympia. The legislative team from the 40th District has a long history of working for issues for the islands and I will continue the tradition.

I have many years of commitment to my community and am excited to be your representative.

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