By STEVEN DOLAN, UW News Lab
Funding for education – both K-12 and higher ed – as well as Initiative 1185 were the primary topics debated last night at a public forum at the Sunset Hill Community Center. Featured were candidates competing for the two 36th District legislative positions.
State Rep. Reuven Carlyle and candidate Leslie Klein are running for Position 1, while candidates Noel Frame and Gael Tarleton are competing for Position 2. Winner of the latter race will replace Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, who is retiring after 18 years. Dave Boyd, the former president of Groundswell NW, a neighborhood nonprofit focused on creating and preserving parks and habitats, served as moderator.
In his opening statement, Klein noted points of agreement with Carlyle, the first being his likely loss of the election.
“Based on the number of absentee ballots cast at this point, he already has more votes than I’m gonna get between now and the last time the last vote is counted a month from now, so Reuven, let me congratulate you,” he said. The crowd of roughly 20 laughed appropriately. The second agreement mentioned was that candidates should have a dialogue with voters –which, of course, was what the evening’s forum was all about.
Funding both K-12 and higher education, Initiative 1240 (charter schools), and Initiative 1185 (regarding the minimum majority vote requirements for tax and fee increases) were among the topics brought up. Carlyle is the co-chairman on the campaign against Initiative 1185. “Super majorities are undemocratic. They are clearly unconstitutional in our state. Clearly,” he said. “But they are also an evisceration of representative democracy.”
Klein argued in favor of 1185, saying that the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate “will have no problem” raising taxes if the initiative is not upheld, calling it a “protection.”
“The legislature is constantly running huge deficits, and wouldn’t they like to be able to raise your taxes, so that they can balance the budget that way instead of showing fiscal responsibility,”Klein said.
In the debate for Position 2, Tarleton and Frame received questions on topics including affordability of higher education, taxing the wealthy, and their environmental position.
Particular emphasis was on higher education. Frame noted the 60 percent increase in state college tuition in the last five years and spoke on new revenues. “I personally have said that I want us to have a conversation and I want to lead a conversation, not just income tax, but I’m going to fight to keep that income tax as part of the conversation,” she said.
Tarleton spoke her of experience compared to Frame as “the difference between knowing the problem and finding a solution.” She has proposed tuition freezes aided by federal money and new revenues generated through the recovery of the economy.
Frame repeatedly called into question Tarleton’s progressiveness, while Tarleton continually challenged the claims.
To close the forum, volunteer Candis Litsey represented the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County Speakers Bureau; she summarized the initiatives that will be on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.
(STEVEN DOLAN is a student in the University of Washington Department ofCommunication News Laboratory.)