Issaquah mayor, school board candidates face off in first forum
September 19, 2013
By Peter Clark
NEW — 11:22 a.m. Sept. 19, 2013
Differences became apparent between candidates in the Sept. 17 candidate forum.
The Issaquah Chamber of Commerce welcome the two mayoral contenders and the two seeking a school board position to Blakely Hall for the kickoff of campaign season.
City Council President Fred Butler and Councilman Joe Forkner met each other for a first public appearance directly related to seeking November votes.
Moderated by Erin McCallum, of the Strategic Campaign Group, the forum allowed candidates 90-second answers to a variety of questions asked by McCallum and the audience.
While Forkner and Butler mostly agreed with the path Issaquah has traveled down for the past 16 years under Mayor Ava Frisinger’s leadership, there were brief moments that revealed differences between the two candidates. On the whole, Butler stressed a larger desire to address regional concerns and Issaquah’s place within it, while Forkner spoke closer to home regarding transit and his experience as a city employee.
“While I haven’t had the experience that Fred has in leading people, I understand a lot of the unique things that being a city employee brings,” Forkner said when asked what skills he would carry to the office of mayor. “I have a pretty good feel for some of the things that people in the community want and I feel like I can bring those things together.”
Butler concentrated on his wider goals in fighting for regional dollars that will be needed in the years to come for what he considered the city’s largest problem.
“The mayor has the responsibility to represent the city regionally,” he said. “Transportation is probably the biggest problem that people talk about. I serve on the Sound Transit board and have for the past 10 years, and a lot of times it’s about personal relationships just like it is in business. Establish those relationships and when you need it, they’ll be there for you.”
Forkner expressed his appreciation of the city’s Economic Development Department multiple times in his plan to work with the business community. He framed it as a larger part of his message of teamwork.
“I think one of the things that works the best is collaboration and cooperation,” he said of the city’s commitment to reach out to interested and incoming businesses. “I think the mayor should sit down with business and see if they are happy. I think that collaboration with any of the partners is going to the key for anything if you’re after success.
“I have worked with a lot of electeds and I have not found it difficult. It’s all about gaining credibility for the area and I look forward in gaining that.”
Butler expressed his goal to be omnipresent as much as possible in the office.
“I think that you pretty much need to be everywhere if you need to be in tune with what’s going on in the city,” he said. “It’s being out and about where things are happening and what is happening. I always ask myself the question, ‘What is the city like to work with?’”
Both said Issaquah does not need to annex Klahanie, though it would not hurt. Forkner had concerns with the city shifting focus away from other Issaquah areas, while Butler said he felt the city had a responsibility to the northern neighbors who already view themselves a part of the community.
Lisa Callan and Alison Meryweather, both vying for Meryweather’s spot on the school board, also answered questions related to goals, hopes and hurdles for the Issaquah School District. They were asked what they considered their top priority in the term to come.
“Your role is policy governance,” Callan said. “The first thing to do is to make sure the policy adheres to our community values. We need to make sure our policies are catching and that there is oversight.”
Meryweather concentrated on the training needed to ensure competent teachers in the face of solidifying state standards.
“We need relevant academics with high-quality instruction,” she said. “The biggest challenge is the implementation of the common core standards. Our state is moving forward with those standards. We need to make sure that our teachers have that training to achieve that level of standards for our children.”
Both spoke with passion about ensuring the greatest potential is passed on to graduating classes, and they pledged to work with local businesses and community leaders. Callan pushed for greater technical instruction in partnership with businesses, while Meryweather called for larger lobbying alliances to rally toward Olympia lawmakers.
Both Butler and Forkner said the campaign, with two months to go, has been difficult, yet heartening.
“I’ve been encouraged by the support I’ve received from those in our community and around the region,” Butler said. “I’m committed to building collaboration to find solutions that will help us all.”
Forkner said that no matter what, the future looks bright for the city.
“I worry about the city and I think it’s obvious that both Fred and I love the city,” he said. “We both have concluded that the winner this November is going to be the city of Issaquah.”