Six candidates for various Issaquah City Council positions attended a campaign forum at Blakely Hall on July 18.
Michele Kemper and Zach Hall represented the two candidates for council Position 2, while Tim Flood and Barbara de Michele sat on the other side of the panel as opponents for Position 3. Lindsey Walsh and Victoria Hunt are running unopposed for re-election in Positions 4 and 6.
Renee Zimmerman moderated the event and curated questions for the panel of candidates. Her family was one of the first to move to the Issaquah Highlands in 2000.
Hunt and Walsh each spoke briefly about their platforms despite being unchallenged on the ballot. After the Nov. 5 general election, the two councilwomen will automatically resume their positions.
“Issaquah is growing and changing rapidly. This makes leadership very important at this time for the city,” Hunt said. “I see serving on the Issaquah City Council as a way to make a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of people of the community.”
Victoria Hunt has been a member of the council since 2018. She has spent much of her time tackling affordability issues within the state by taking action to build more accessory dwelling units.
Walsh filled Bill Ramos’ seat in February when he moved to the state Legislature. She aims to look at quality of life issues by listening to community issues and ensuring that the government is investing money wisely.
“I highly encourage you to reach out,” Walsh said. “Let’s talk.” She highlighted the importance of addressing community needs.
City council Position 2
Kemper has been living in Issaquah with her husband for the last 20 years. She plans to focus her platform on consumer protection issues with help from her business background and personal life experiences.
“I have lived the affordable issues of our community. I haven’t studied them, I’ve lived them,” said Kemper. “We have planned the plan — it is time for implantation.”
Kemper emphasized the importance of cleaning up traffic in the heart of Issaquah.
She wants to add transit centers to move traffic around Issaquah, rather than having a “through” street in the center of the city. Kemper committed to work on traffic management from her first day in office.
Hall has lived in the South Cove neighborhood for 22 years and graduated from Issaquah High School in 2013. He explained that Issaquah needs fresh, forward-thinking, community-minded leadership. Hall’s platform is centered around city growth, transportation and protecting the environment.
His priorities encompass community engagement, mobility around town and affordable housing. Hall said councilmembers themselves should go out and seek community engagement in order to gain a stronger wealth of knowledge and create trust between people and the government.
He wants to improve housing affordability by effectively mapping out mixed-use and mixed-income developments in alignment with transit routes in Issaquah. Additionally, Hall plans to create a South King County master mobility plan to minimize traffic in and around the city.
When discussing the proposed sales tax for the Capital Improvement Project (CIP), Hall mentioned that it would marginalize low-income populations. He expressed concern about the sales tax at a time when the city is also trying to push affordable housing and improved livability.
“I think there needs to be more community engagement about what projects are actually being funded by the sales tax,” Hall said in response to the recently approved CIP.
Hall and Kemper both opposed the potential implementation of a safe injection site in Issaquah.
“I understand that our city is not to expand its responsibilities beyond the infrastructure of taking care of our local citizens,” Kemper said.
Kemper said she does not want Issaquah to be responsible for taking on a federal issue.
City council Position 3
Flood has lived in the South Cove neighborhood with his wife and two kids for the last seven years. His campaign is concentrated on improving mobility and protecting green spaces.
He plans to ensure development and foster a business community that brings jobs to the city. In response to a question about each candidate’s first 100 days in office, Flood vowed to prioritize mobility projects to re-establish trust within the community.
“Within our Capital Improvement Plan, the first thing I noticed was the percentage of it that was dedicated to transportation versus parks and improvement,” Flood said.
Although one pillar of his platform centers around protecting green space, he does not think the city should increase investments in parks at the expense of additional transportation projects.
De Michele chose to move to Issaquah 35 years ago because of the warm and welcoming environment. She intends to create the same feeling for new young residents by eliminating the concern for affordable housing. She wants to ease traffic congestion and increase transit in the city.
“Affordability, to me, is at the root of many of our issues, including traffic congestion,” de Michele said. She wants to get more people out of cars and more cars off the street.
She supports adding more housing options in order for residents to live in Issaquah without commuting to work. A survey by the city showed that only 1,600 people actually live and work in the city, she explained.
In a question about the addition of a safe injection site, Flood and de Michele both answered in strong opposition.
“I am not in favor of a safe injection site within the city,” Flood said. “I think it is a regional issue that needs a regional solution. The city is not a health care provider.” Flood said he is against inviting drug users to the city to access a safe injection site.
De Michele shared that her daughter died 24 years ago as a result of heroin. She suggested placing a safe injection site in Seattle or South King County.
“We have to address this terrible epidemic and we need to do so creatively,” she said.