Education, traffic, and taxes were key topics during a recent forum featuring candidates for two positions in the 5th Legislative District. The forum was the Issaquah Highlands Council’s second forum event of the year.
Hosted at Blakley Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Highlands Council invited voters to submit their questions for the candidates. The responses received were complied into five questions about topics worked on by the legislature.
Republican Chad Magendanz and Democrat Bill Ramos are vying for position 1. Republican incumbent Jay Rodne is not running for re-election to that position.
Republican incumbent Paul Graves is running for a second term against Democrat Lisa Callan.
Moderator Nate Perea led the candidates through some of the big topics facing the 5th Legislative District today including education, mental health, traffic, finances and taxes.
With the state having met the requirements of the McCleary decision to fully fund K-12 education, the four candidates were asked their opinions on what needs to be done going forward.
Magendanz, a former 5th District representative who worked on the process to fund the McCleary decision, expressed concern over the the levy swap that provided funding for this year, but will have funding decrease in 2019 in several districts due to a reduction in local levy rates on property taxes. He said 44 percent of school districts will see a net levy rate reduction and that high property taxes would continue, which was not the intent of the legislators.
Ramos talked about the need to fund special education and early childhood learning. Making sure students are not getting left behind at the earliest levels will be a big shift in their success as they get older, he said. Ramos also touched on the need for emphasis on apprenticeships and vocational schools in addition to a traditional four-year college or university.
Position two candidates took on the question of education as well. Graves said examining and improving student outcomes in terms of graduation and drop out rates was an important factor. Learning about careers and connecting students to the working world during their time in school is another important step, he said, to give the students a chance to see what kind of professions are possible.
Lisa Callan said that while funding for the McCleary decision has been met, it is just the baseline of what is needed in schools around the state, and more funding and support for education in the state is needed. She also touched on engaging businesses in partnerships with schools to give students more real-world experience.
Another big question of the night was regarding the traffic and road needs of the 5th District. Ramos said his number-one priority would be the state Route 18 and Interstate 90 interchange improvement and the extension of state Route 18. He also said state Route 169 going south from Issaquah is in need of improvements.
Magendanz agreed, lamenting that state Route 169 often gets overlooked despite being a highway of state significance that needs funding for improvements. He cited his time as a 5th District representative when he fought for more funding for state Route 169 improvements. He also stressed making sure the state Route 18 and I-90 interchange project does not get pushed back past 2021.
Callan talked about her determination to push for more funding for the 5th District in the next transportation package. While there has been some regional collaboration, she said there needs to be more to bring strong representation to Olympia in order to be able to make all of these improvement projects happen.
Graves also highlighted the need for options for transit such as park and rides, bus rapid transit and vanpools to get cars off the road for affordable prices. For long-term challenges, he talked about smaller cities and towns that did not have the infrastructure to support the large population growth the district has seen. Graves plans to work with legislators from those cities to capture more funding for improvements.
For a full video archive of the forum at Blakely Hall, visit www.issaquahhighlands.com or the city of Issaquah’s official YouTube channel. Ballots for the Nov. 6 general elections will be mailed to all registered voters on Wednesday, Oct. 17.