Forum marked by humor, agreement on many issues
September 16, 2008 · Updated 9:20 PM
There were a few surprises and even more laughs at the League of Women Voters primary candidate forum Saturday, in Mullis Community Senior Center.
All state Senate candidates said they support the use of medical marijuana – prompting the moderator to say there’d be a get-together later.
All County Council candidates said they support the council salary levels established by the county Salary Commission. One candidate, Gordy Petersen, said he’d support a pay decrease.
The most dramatic moment came when Senate candidate Steve Van Luven opened an envelope and dropped small chunks of rust onto the table, to illustrate his point that the state ferries are being neglected. He said the chunks came from the ferry he took that day to the island.
This was the second in a series of forums scheduled before the Aug. 19 primary. The next forum is Aug. 9, 11:30 a.m., in the Shaw Island Community Building. The forum is hosted by Shaw Islanders, Inc.
The League’s Sandra Harold counted 97 people, including candidates and media, at Saturday’s forum.
County Council, San Juan South
Lisa Guard is a San Juan Valley farmer and former town businesswoman. She’s concerned about the ability of local farmers and businesses to survive. She supports the Growth Management Act and is concerned about the siting of the new state transfer station, and ensuring expanded cellphone reception for emergency purposes.
Gordy Petersen is a former county planning commissioner and freeholder. His issues include “common sense” in legislation, regulations and spending priorities.
“We have to get control of the runaway costs of the charter,” he said.
Lovel Pratt is a county planning commissioner and project director of the San Juan County Agricultural Guild, which is working to establish a permanent site for a year-round farmers market.
“I want to do whatever I can to enhance this beautiful place,” she said, adding that she is inspired by her 85-year-old mother, who is seeking a ninth term in the New Hampshire state legislature.
Dan Miller Jr. has run for the state House of Representatives and the County Commission. He has a degree in public policy from Evergreen State College; he also studied radio broadcasting. He said he would go to Olympia will lobby on issues of local interest and would host “a lot of public forums” on public issues.
In response to a question, all said they needed to study the proposed Critical Areas Ordinance, a state Growth Management Act requirement that would affect development in environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, fish and wildlife conservation areas, groundwater recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, and geologically hazardous areas.
Guard said she’s been attending local meetings on the issue. “It’s a balance,” she said. “We have to take care of the environment, but we have to take care of property rights too. We have to take care of both.”
Petersen warned against a “blurring of science and legislation,” and said the ordinance should employ the best available information; in fact, the state Legislature in 1995 added a requirement to include “Best Available Science” in setting policies and regulations regarding critical areas.
Pratt was asked why she resigned as executive director of the San Juan Community Home Trust, and the others were asked about their community involvement histories as well.
Pratt said she resigned for personal reasons, but that she felt she had taken the home trust’s Salal Neighborhood project “far enough” and it was the right time for her and the organization for a change.
Guard said she was a 4-H leader but stepped down when her two sons were no longer involved. She helped start Project Grad Night, is involved with the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, and is a Kiwanian.
Petersen said he served for 12 years on a utility board on Orcas Island, before pursuing other involvement.
Miller said he was involved with the Environmental Resource Center at Evergreen. “It was fun,” he said.
All three said they are comfortable with the council salaries set by the Salary Commission and wouldn’t lobby for more pay.
Pratt said she would go to Olympia once a month to lobby on issues of local interest. Petersen said he supports a cut in pay, noting that Friday Harbor Town Council members receive $85 a meeting and the town manages to attract good candidates.
Superior Court judge
John Linde was appointed to the Superior Court last year by Gov. Christine Gregoire. He had served 21 years as District Court judge and was a long-time private practice attorney.
Randy Gaylord is serving his fourth term as county prosecuting attorney.
Both put emphasis on their experience.
“Being a judge is not something you learn overnight,” Linde said.
Linde is endorsed by Island County Superior Court judges Alan Hancock and Vickie Churchill — who formerly also presided over the San Juan court — and Gregoire is honorary co-chairwoman of his campaign. Sitting with Linde’s family at the forum was Richard Mitchell, Gregoire’s general counsel.
“Those who know me know I’m fair,” he said.
Gaylord talked of things that he said counted for more than experience. He talked about his marriage and his family, about his school board president mom who taught him compassion, about starting the Victim Services Unit in the prosecuting attorney’s office, of clerking for a Utah Supreme Court justice who taught him to be inquisitive and put his heart into the job.
He talked about defending the ban on Jet Skis in San Juan waters, and writing the orca protection ordinance that later became state law.
In response to a question about whether the county Ferry Advisory Committee is required to comply with the state Open Meetings Act: Gaylord said he ruled that the committee is not subject to the Open Meetings Act because it is not a governing body. But he said a local ordinance requires that the committee adhere to open meetings law.
In response to a question regarding trial experience, Gaylord said he’s served as lead counsel in six trials in District Court, and six in Superior Court. His office handles two to three trials a year and one to two arbitrations a year.
Linde said he served as lead counsel in 12-20 trials as an attorney, and presided over 100 trials as a District Court judge. He has presided over 30 days of trials in Superior Court since Jan. 1.
The candidates were asked their political affiliations. Linde said the Code of Judicial Conduct precludes him disclosing his party preference, but he said he prefers to vote for a candidate based on the individual’s ideology rather than party affiliation.
Gaylord said he’s a Democrat.
In response to a question, Linde said he takes his office’s Juvenile Court responsibilities “very seriously.” He said he takes time to get to know the case, and considers how to best guide the child so he or she learns and doesn’t commit the offense again.
“Children are our most important asset,” he said.
Gaylord took a harder approach, saying that punishment is often in order if a case warrants an appearance in court. But he added that families need to be as involved as law enforcement to help young people stay out of trouble.
Gaylord was asked if he’s been campaigning while on the clock at the prosecutor’s office. Gaylord said he’s been campaigning late in the day and has taken vacation days and vacation hours.
Linde said he doesn’t campaign door to door because of his court responsibilities and because the Code of Judicial Conduct Questions precludes him from discussing politics or how he might rule in a case — two topics bound to come in a doorstep campaign visit, he said.
State Senate, 40th District
Ken Henderson, an optometrist and former Whatcom County Council member, is endorsed by Sen. Harriet Spanel, who is retiring from the position, and Rep. Dave Quall.
Steve Van Luven, a resident of Samish Island, represented Bellevue for 171/2 years in the state House of Representative and served seven years as chairman of the House Trade and Economic Development Committee.
Kevin Ranker is a San Juan County Council member and is the nominee of the 40th District Democratic Party’s precinct committee officers.
Ranker has served as the legislative lead for San Juan County; he counted among his lobbying successes a lower increase in ferry fares; getting a fixed-wing medical flight stationed on-island through Island Air; getting a monthly VA medical clinic established at Inter Island Medical Center; and helping establish the county Agricultural Resources Committee.
Ranker said his priorities if elected are ferries, jobs and full funding for education.
Resident Joyce Harrell asked the candidates if they support ending the death penalty in Washington state.
Henderson said he supports abolishing the death penalty, saying that DNA tests have cleared many death row inmates in the U.S.
Van Luven supports leaving the death penalty in place, saying that Washington hasn’t had an execution since 2001 (there have been four since 1993). But he agreed that DNA tests has cleared many people on death row and proven that convictions “have been a racial issue too many times, unfortunately.” He added, “There need to be some changes.”
Ranker supports abolishing the death penalty. He said the prison system consistently is budgeted 5 percent more each year but spends four times more than that. He said the prison system is financially mismanaged; he prefers taking some of that money and investing it in education, mental health services, and drug prevention and treatment.
All three support fully funding education. Van Luven proposes establishing the education budget first, then writing the state budget with the remaining revenue. Ranker supports early childhood and vocational education. Henderson also supports early childhood education.
All three support reinstatement of the Capron Fund, which returns to the county a portion of gas tax revenue collected here. The state uses gas tax revenue for road construction and maintenance. The Capron Fund returns San Juan County’s portion of gas tax revenue to the county because there are no state roads here.
The county uses that money for road construction and maintenance. But the state Legislature earlier took San Juan County’s share in the increase in gas taxes and applied to the state ferries.
All three also support the Growth Management Act.
Van Luven voted for the GMA as a legislator. Without the GMA, “Skagit Valley would have been totally paved over,” he said. That would have had global implications, he said; Skagit Valley farms grow seed that is used around the globe. “Skagit Valley feeds the world,” he said.
Henderson said he supports the GMA. “It’s an evolving act and it needs to have adjustments. But I’m very pleased.”
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, is seeking his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, District 2. This term, he won passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act, which protects 106,000 acres of wild lands in the heart of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Wild Sky is the first designated wilderness in Washington state in more than 20 years.
He pushed to get the Veterans Administration to build an outpatient clinic for veterans in San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and the VA is also conducting monthly clinics at Inter Island Medical Center. He has sponsored legislation to prevent and treat meth addiction. He is an advocate of investing in America’s infrastructure and changing America’s energy policy.
On that end, he voted for the release of 10 percent of America’s oil reserves to help meet demand and ease oil prices. He believes we need to switch to alternative energy sources and says oil companies should lose the domestic oil leases that they are not using.
Glen Johnson is a Skagit Valley farmer who said he makes “a decent living” growing more than 50 different crops on 20 acres. He believes a return to agriculture would solve a lot of America’s ills -- establishing a stable food supply in this country, reducing our dependence on imported goods, teaching children skills that can help their communities.
Johnson is involved with Experience International, the Everson-based organization that provides international training and work experience abroad in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and natural resource management.
In response to a question, both said they believe the U.S. has unfinished work in Afghanistan.
“We need to be in Afghanistan,” Larsen said, adding that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were born there. He said the Taliban’s influence is growing along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan will require cooperation from NATO and giving the Afghanistan government what it needs so that it can govern.
Johnson said America helped Afghanistan oust the Soviet Union, then left with no further economic and military support, allowing for the anti-American Taliban to grow in influence. “We created the problem we’re in,” he said, adding, “We made a mistake going into Iraq.”
In response to a question regarding the No Child Left Behind program, Johnson said schools must not only ensure students are proficient in math and science, but also trained vocationally and provided incentives — such as better pay for Peace Corps volunteers — to use those skills.
Larsen said he supports testing for accountability but that progress must be tracked per student, not per school. He said No Child Left Behind must be fully funded; he said 74 percent of the program is currently funded.