5th District candidates give their thoughts on taxes, housing, and gun safety

Republican Chad Magendanz and Democrat Bill Ramos are running for the Legislative District 5’s first position open seat after Rep. Jay Rodne announced he would not run for re-election.

The 5th Legislative District runs east from Issaquah to the border of Kittitas County and south through Maple Valley and Black Diamond.

(More election coverage is online at www.valleyrecord.com.)

Please provide a brief biography:

Magendanz: Chad Magendanz (pronounced like Häagen-Dazs) served two terms as state representative for the 5th Legislative District, which comprises the eastern third of King County. He was elected to caucus leadership his first year and served as ranking Republican on the house education committee and as a member of house higher education, technology and economic development, appropriations and rules committees. Previously, he served as the Issaquah School Board president and in leading roles of other regional and statewide education-related committees and boards. After almost unseating the incumbent state senator in 2016 with 49.7 percent of the vote, he’s now running for re-election to the House of Representatives.

Chad has an electrical and computer engineering degree from Cornell University (New York) and served as a nuclear submarine officer in the Navy for 12 years. Having worked at Microsoft for more than 20 years in various roles, he still contracts as a software design consultant for many local and international firms and joined Voter Science as its director of product development in 2017. He and his wife of 29 years, Galen, reside on Tiger Mountain and have two boys working on computer science degrees, a senior at MIT and a sophomore at the University of Utah. He also volunteers as a TEALS computer science teacher at Gibson Ek High School, an innovative school he helped create.

Chad has been endorsed again by The Seattle Times as “the clear choice” and has never received anything less than an “outstanding” rating from the Municipal League of King County.

Ramos: I arrived to the Snoqualmie Valley in the late 1980s when I worked with the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years, serving a majority of those years between the North Bend and Enumclaw offices. I then worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation for eight years. I am a small business owner of a public transportation consulting firm called The Common Good, where I focus on bringing public transit to more rural areas. I am currently an Issaquah city councilmember and was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Washington State Public Works Board. I also serve on the King County Regional Transit Committee, Emergency Management Advisory Committee, and the Eastside Transportation Partnership. I have been endorsed by teachers, firefighters and law enforcement.

Do you believe that taxes are calculated fairly to fund education in our state? If not, what would you change?

Magendanz: As one of the lead negotiators for the McCleary school funding case, I fought to create a more equitable and progressive school funding system where everyone paid closer to the average levy rate. We doubled state school funding over eight years while keeping important taxpayer protections in place to ensure half our school districts would actually see net levy rate reductions.

Ramos: No — taxes are not calculated fairly to fund education in our state. We need to fund education; however, the last changes made to do so have unfairly burdened working families. We must find a way to make sure taxes are calculated fairly so everyone pays their fair share. The method used by the legislature to fund education resulted in an unprecedented rise in property taxes. This will force many people out of their homes, including seniors on fixed incomes, lower-income individuals, and single parents struggling to make ends meet. This leads to a dramatic increase in the cost of living for our communities. We must balance this cost.

Home prices and property taxes have been on the rise. How would you promote housing diversity and affordability?

Magendanz: I would work to increase the supply of affordable housing by promoting micro-housing (like boarding houses and dorms), which is currently prohibited in most zones and saddled with burdensome health code regulations for communal spaces. At the state level, I would also work to reform condominium liability laws, which have effectively stopped condo development. To address homelessness, I would invest in vocational training programs, which allow laid off workers to “retool” to another profession, and would expand mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

Ramos: The most important thing that we need to do for affordable housing is to maintain the affordable housing that currently exists. We must also increase diversity of housing, in particular changing the laws regarding condominiums so that we can build more condominiums. Also, we must look toward accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and cottages as we promote housing diversity. We need to work with developers and incentivize them to build a diversity of housing types.

Mass shootings, suicides and school security are big concerns in our communities. When it comes to guns, how do you balance safety with constitutional rights?

Magendanz: I support and defend the entire Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment but also the Fifth and 14th that protect due process. That said, I’ve supported several common-sense gun safety laws, such as HB 1840 (allowing confiscation of weapons from those subject to restraining orders) and the bump stock ban. As an education leader, my focus has been on school safety where I’ve invested heavily in access control measures, school resource officers, and mental health councilors to address the underlying issues of teen suicide and bullying.

Ramos: There is no conflict here between safety and constitutional rights. We can implement the safety concerns processes that we have with background checks and waiting periods, as we already do, and protect our constitutional rights in order to create common-sense gun safety. I am a responsible gun owner, as are most others. I support Initiative 1639 and it does not impinge on my Second Amendment rights. I-1639 seeks to treat all guns with the same safety measures as hand guns. As with other responsible gun-owners, I do not mind going through a background check or waiting period to purchase a gun. If I-1639 limits access from even just a few that wish to do harm to themselves or others, I believe that is a success.