Candidates for 41st District discuss top concerns at forum

October 28, 2008

By Jim Feehan

Transportation, education and the state’s projected budget shortfall were among the top concerns voiced by the four 41st District candidates at an Oct. 18 forum in Newcastle.

The event in the St. Andrews Ballroom of The Golf Club at Newcastle featured Democratic Rep. Fred Jarrett, running for senate against Bob Baker and Republican Steve Litzow, a Mercer Island City Councilman, against Democrat Marcie Maxwell, a Renton School Board member.

The tightly structured forum included opening remarks by the office seekers, followed by three questions and a closing statement. No rebuttals were allowed during the forum moderated by Debbie Berto, publisher of The Issaquah Press.

Jarrett, 59, said the state has done a poor job investing in the region’s transportation infrastructure in the past 25 years.

“Going 13 years without a gas tax increase, we have been playing catch up,” he said.

He said he favors a balanced approach to the region’s transportation planning that includes carpooling, vanpooling, bus and light rail.

“We have to have a multimodal approach to transportation,” he said.

Baker, 55, said the region does not have the population density of Chicago or Washington, D.C., to afford light rail.

“It’s costing us $400 million per mile for the light rail to the airport,” he said.

The state should invest more in road construction, especially Interstate 405, he said.

Jarrett and Baker were asked what areas of the state budget they would cut and where they would raise taxes. Baker said he has pledged not to raise taxes.

“I firmly believe government is inefficient with spending increasing 33 percent in the last two years,” he said.

Baker said if the state followed through on State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s performance audit recommendations, the state would save billions.

Expenditures need to be reduced to match spending in the next biennium, Jarrett said.

“Gov. Gregoire is systematically measuring programs to see what they accomplished,” he said. “I think that is absolutely exciting and the responsible thing to do.”

In the Position 1 race, Maxwell, 53, touted her business ties to the community and her work on Initiative 728 (to reduce class sizes) and the simple majority for school levies campaign.

“It’s our responsibility to build a system that trains our workforce and we need to bring it up to this century’s standards,” she said.

Litzow, 46, who said he’s encountered two angry dogs and one old, naked man while doorbelling 15,000 households in the district, said he agrees with Maxwell that the state is not meeting its mandate to fully fund education. About 40 percent of the state’s general budget is earmarked for education, down from about 50 percent, he said.

He said the state’s teaching requirements are too stringent and do not allow experts in the field to teach in the classroom.

“Bill Gates has said the school system is not preparing students for 21st century jobs and that he can’t even teach in school, because he doesn’t have a degree,” he said.

Litzow quoted Elvis Presley, calling upon state leaders for, “a little less conversation and a little more action.”

Maxwell said it’s time for the 41st District voters to elect someone who doesn’t live on Mercer Island. For the past 20 years, the legislators have all been from Mercer Island, she said.

“The 41st District includes Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton and Issaquah, and you’re all part of the district,” said Maxwell, who lives in the Kennydale neighborhood of Renton.

In Position 2, Democratic incumbent Judy Clibborn is running unopposed.

The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, The Golf Club at Newcastle and the Municipal League Foundation sponsored the forum.

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com.

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