Viebrock looks to unseat Rodne from 5th District seat

September 23, 2008

By Staff

By James Spung

After four years as the 5th District’s representative in Olympia, Republican Jay Rodne has had a chance to make things happen.
The North Bend resident said, however, he has been frustrated by the Democratic majority who has overruled many of his suggestions and outweighed his party’s platform and many of his own initiatives that fall on partisan lines.

“I have unfinished business in Olympia, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to continue service,” he said.

Still, Rodne said he believes he’s held his district’s interests in mind since he was first elected to his seat in 2004.

“For four years, I’ve worked hard to listen and to represent the residents in District 5 with integrity, honesty and dedication,” he said. “I think I’ve been an effective advocate for the 5th District in Olympia.”

He has certainly been there long enough to understand the internal workings in the Capitol and recognize problems he wants to fix. Ask him which issues he’s most concerned about, and he’ll run down a concrete list.

The key issue, he said, is the budget.

“The majority has spent recklessly in Olympia, and because of that, the budget situation is very calamitous,” he said.

Indeed, after a nationwide economic downturn and an expansion in state-funded programs, the state’s budget spending is approximately double the state’s revenue.

“Every year, I have tried to rein in spending, but my friends across the aisle have rejected these measures,” Rodne said.

Two other major issues Rodne said need fixed: the state’s transportation woes, including irresponsible spending for a new 520 bridge, and the state’s lagging commitment to public K-12 education.

“I’m frustrated, because in four years, we’ve had lip service from the governor about funding education,” he said. “We need to step up and fully fund education for the benefit of our kids, but we’ve gotten nothing.”

He said he has been a staunch supporter of Fund Education First, a movement calling for the state to fully fund K-12 public education before any other priority.

“That gives teeth to the constitutional mandate that Washington’s No. 1 priority is education,” he said.

Rodne said he and his family serve as an accurate representation of the district in which he lives.

“I think my family and I reflect the interests of the district. My wife and I have kids in a public school, and we care about education,” he said. “We care about creating a good future for our kids. We care about the economy and we care about the environment.”

Rodne and his wife moved to the Snoqualmie Valley area in 1999, two years after he received his law degree from Gonzaga University. He has done legal work in the Seattle/Bellevue area for nearly 10 years, including his current position as in-house general counsel at King County Public Hospital District 4.

His résumé of community involvement is extensive.

Before his term in the state Legislature began, he served as a member of the Snoqualmie City Council and was a member of the Public Safety Committee.

He is a board member for Encompass, an early-childhood development program, and serves as a member of several chamber of commerce boards throughout the district. He also is a member of the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary.

In Issaquah, he has worked with City Councilman John Rittenhouse on a proposed human services campus, and has done pro bono legal work in that area.

As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Rodne said he understands commitment to his country beyond lawmaking.

He went into active service right after graduating from Creighton, fighting in the first Gulf War and spending a total of four years between 1989 and 1993 on active duty.

He has been in the Reserve ever since, and was called back into active duty for six months during the initial intervention in Iraq in 2003.

“It’s been great to serve my country,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done that in the Marine Corps, and that commitment to service is continued with my service for the 5th District.”

Rodne has been awarded a legislative environmental score of 73 percent by the Washington Conservation Voters, and has been ranked as “very good” by the Municipal League, a nonpartisan association that conducts the equivalent of job interviews with candidates in King County and rates them on their capacity to serve effectively.

He serves as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and is a member of the House Transportation Committee.

He has introduced 15 bills in the House this term, four of which have passed, and 28 amendments to bills in the House this term, only two of which have passed. Out of 1,570 votes this term, he has missed 10.

By Jon Savelle

While campaigning for the office of state representative in the 5th District, Carnation resident Jon Viebrock has found one of his flyers to be especially effective. It is a picture of him, taken on a riverbank, in which he is holding a big, beautiful steelhead trout.

“It has done wonders for my campaign,” Viebrock said. “It makes you into a human being. These other portrait pictures, they make you look like a head on a stick.”

Viebrock, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, for the House seat. It is the first foray into politics for Viebrock, a 41-year-old ex-Marine, drywall foreman and member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

He has plied that trade for 19 years. But Viebrock credits his return to school four years ago, at Cascadia Community College in Bothell, for broadening his worldview and awakening an interest in policy. While there, Viebrock studied fisheries and wildlife management, and is now just a few credits shy of an associate of science degree.

“I really, really enjoyed going to school,” he said.

The experience started him thinking in larger terms about local people and issues, but he didn’t act on them until he found a certain piece of mail in his mailbox. It was from the three 5th District legislators, all Republicans — Rodne; Rep. Glenn Anderson, of Fall City; and Sen. Cheryl Pflug, of Maple Valley — and it carried this message: “Democracy works better when you get involved.”

That seemed to flip on a light bulb in his head.

“The state Legislature is where the rubber meets the road,” Viebrock said. “It’s where the issues are.”

High on his own list of issues is urban development and its impact on the environment, particularly fisheries. Viebrock’s steelhead picture is no accident: He is passionate about fishing, and about protecting the resource. He said he would like to see it managed to give more weight to sport fishing, which he said would spur tourism and local business while creating an economic incentive to promote wild fish.

That’s how it is done in British Columbia, he said, where the sport fishing industry generates $3.7 billion annually.

Lest anyone think that Viebrock’s interests begin and end with fish, he is also focused on education, transportation and taxation. On the latter subject, he supports revamping the state’s tax structure to make it less regressive — so those who earn less no longer bear a disproportionate share of the burden. He suggested that a luxury tax might be substituted for part of the sales tax, but stopped short of calling for an income tax.

“The problem with an income tax is, it would be poked full of holes, like the federal one,” Viebrock said. “And just proposing a state income tax in the Legislature is a political death sentence to whoever does it.”

School funding is another important issue to Viebrock. He noted that the state declined to provide matching funds for a new Mount Si High School in North Bend, which left that community to face an impossible $100 million cost on its own. However, while the need for a new school is acute, Viebrock said there are schools all over the state that are in much worse condition than Mount Si.

He said he would like to fix that shortcoming. And he especially would like to end the way taxpayers in the 5th District are subsidizing those in other districts.

“Our taxes are 20 percent higher, but we get 10 percent less,” Viebrock said, adding that he feels that a Democrat has a better chance of correcting the situation than the Republican incumbents.

“We have three Republican representatives in a state Legislature dominated by Democrats,” he said. “If you look at the results, they just haven’t delivered. If (the Legislature) won’t listen to a Republican, maybe they will listen to a Democrat.”

Then, there is transportation. Viebrock said he is worried that the state’s plans to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, the crumbling elevated highway on the waterfront, will suck funds from other needed improvements. He said he is particularly concerned that the eventual decision will be to put the highway in a tunnel under Seattle, the most expensive option.

“Once those bulldozers hit the earth, there’s no stopping,” he said. “No matter what the price.”

What Viebrock said he would really like to see is an effective regional transportation system, a commitment to renewable energy and a shift away from oil. State and local governments can make a difference, he said, by adopting sustainable practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Viebrock has been ranked as “adequate” by the Municipal League, a nonpartisan association that conducts the equivalent of job interviews with candidates in King County and rates them on their capacity to serve effectively. His campaign Web site is www.jonviebrock.com.

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