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Candidate Q&A: Kevin Ranker, 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.

Kevin Ranker
1. Education and background:
Kevin has worked in community development and conservation at the local, regional, national and international level. He has worked in the private and public sectors developing and advancing legislation, economic development strategies and conservation initiatives.

If elected, he will bring to the state Senate 15 years of experience working to protect natural resources and build healthy and thriving communities.

For the past four years, Kevin has acted as a lead on state and federal legislative matters for San Juan County. He has direct experience working on behalf of our citizens representing issues regarding senior citizen and veterans’ needs, agricultural preservation, small businesses, education and the environment in Olympia.

Recent positions have included:

— Member, San Juan County Council.

— Chairman, Board of County Commissioners.

— Chairman, Washington Counties Transportation Committee, responsible for advancing all 39 Washington counties’ legislative transportation priorities

— Chairman, Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council.

— Chairman, Coastal Counties Caucus, responsible for advancing the state and federal legislative priorities for all 14 coastal counties in Washington state.

— Vice chairman, Northwest Regional Council Area Agency on Aging

Education: Majored in Child Developmental and Social Psychology at Santa Monica College. Bachelor of science from Evergreen College in Ecology and Community Development.

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?
The Legislature must view the ferry system with the same degree of attention and commitment as every other part of its public highway system. Not only are ferries critical to the everyday lives of residents of the islands, they are also a significant economic driver for our $11 billion state tourism economy, as they are consistently recognized as a major draw for visitors.

Ferries should be recognized as a benefit to our state economy in addition to being an expenditure within our transportation budget.

As senator, I would work to develop a predictable and sustainable source of state funding for ferry operations that is not based on significantly increasing user fees. I would also work to involve local communities in important decisions that impact them.

Lastly, the state must conduct an economic analysis to evaluate the impact of ferry fares on local economies including the positive impacts ferries have on the state tourism economy.

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”?
The Legislature must commit to fully funding education through regular and dependable sources, and cannot rely on local excess levies for that funding. In order to accomplish this, the Legislature must first redefine basic education and reevaluate our state funding formulas. We cannot afford the shortfalls that have plagued our schools these last few months to happen again.

In order to fully fund education the Legislature must: A. make it a top priority, and B. work with the superintendents, principals, teachers and school board members to implement a multi-year plan for full funding. As senator, this will be an absolute top priority for me.

4. Does the Growth Management Act need to be revised? Please explain.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) as it stands now is achieving many of its goals, and has protected enormous amounts of farmland and forest resource land statewide. That being said, there are some intricacies that need to be reformed.

As we have found in San Juan County, the state rules regarding stormwater that were originally formulated for urban settings don’t work as well in rural settings such as ours. We need to add rural stormwater rules that supplement their urban counterparts.

Also, the GMA has left loopholes when addressing shoreline issues. I have the knowledge and experience necessary to address the changes needed to the GMA without dismantling the progress that has been made so far.

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?
As a lead on this matter for San Juan County and having been appointed by Gov. Gregoire to the Washington Oil Spill Advisory Council, I worked tirelessly with Sen. Spanel and the governor to secure the state year-round funding we now have in place.

In addition, federal legislation is being considered by Sen. Cantwell under the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act that is critical to sustaining a year-round tug. I have been working with Sen. Cantwell for the past two years to advance this federal legislation.

As state senator, I will work with our congressional delegation to secure the diverse support needed to advance this important legislation. I will also make sure that we are prepared to maintain state funding if the federal funding should be delayed.

6. What should voters in the San Juan Islands expect from you if you’re elected? What are your priorities?
Islanders can expect someone who will be a true champion for their issues. The strength of our campaign has proven that for the first time in over 50 years someone from San Juan County can represent us in the Washington State Legislature.

With deep family roots on Orcas and having served as a member of your County Council, I understand the unique challenges that our community faces. My three legislative priorities are: fully funding our education system, developing and promoting a strong local economy — which must include a well-funded and maintained ferry system — and stewardship of our beautiful natural environment.

7. What issues unique to the San Juans and to the rest of the 40th District need to be addressed by the Legislature?
We must develop a predictable and sustainable source of state funding for ferry operations that is not based on continually increasing user fees.

We must address the growing problems with affordable housing and our ability to maintain good teachers, county employees and safety officers in our communities.

We should actively pursue and grow the significant economic opportunities in marine industry, technology, research and education and in local agriculture production, marketing and distribution.

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