Why November 2 matters

By now, you have probably had your share of the television campaign advertisements, the campaign yard signs, the bumper stickers and the rest of the bells and whistles that come with our fall elections.

By now, you have probably had your share of the television campaign advertisements, the campaign yard signs, the bumper stickers and the rest of the bells and whistles that come with our fall elections.

However, as this column arrives at your home, and your completed mail-in ballot (hopefully) prepares to depart it, one cannot help but reflect upon the magnitude of this election’s importance. Between the initiatives, the candidates, the issues and the challenges, you could write a book on what this election will mean for our long-term economic vitality.

The Issaquah Chamber has historically not endorsed candidates or initiatives, and we did not do so in this election. However, it is difficult to ignore the implications of what the 2010 election will mean for our businesses, our competitiveness and our quality of life in the long term.

It will also be hard to ignore the implied message voters will dispatch to leaders within King County, Olympia and Washington, D.C. through their ballot, as it relates to how government should respond to the challenges of our time.

Consider just a few of the proposals facing local voters this election: a proposal to institute a state income tax; a proposal to reinstate the two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes; a proposal to privatize liquor sales in Washington; a proposal to reverse the new tax on certain food items; a proposal to introduce competition within the state-run workers compensation system; a proposal to increase in the King County sales tax. And, finally, the question of which candidates and which party should lead the state in Olympia starting in 2011.

At the Federal level, playing out in the campaigns for Washington’s House and Senate delegations, most notably, voters will ask themselves, among other questions: did the recent changes in health care regulations offer an improvement on delivery and expansion of quality health coverage, or introduce more complexity, uncertainty and cost to the healthcare framework?

At the local level, elections aside, the yeoman’s work conducted by the Central Issaquah Task Force members concludes and our community and city elected officials continue the conversation about what a large part of Issaquah should look like in 5, 10 or 30 years. We are off to a great start, thanks to the work of the Task Force, but there is much at stake as these recommendations move into policy.

As you can imagine, all of this is a lot for a small business owner and his/her employees to consider, especially in the midst of simply trying to make payroll – ensuring regulatory compliance, holding-on to your customers and trying to squeak out the usual donation to your local charity – and all in the middle of one of the most challenging times a small business owner has ever, and perhaps will ever, face.

While we haven’t endorsed specific policies or candidates, a few things we can say for certain about the proposals before you. We believe that the need to “vote for jobs and economic recovery” is clear, and we offer the following points to guide you in your selections:

Businesses need predictability and more can be done to assist this need.

Leaders should look at all proposals through a lens of economic vitality and take a “do no harm” approach to provide a runway for business success and economic recovery. Jobs will come, but certainty and stability must come first.

Government must become more nimble, performance-based and accountable; for example, locking-in long-term unsustainable expenses might not be in the interest of the common good.

Failure to adequately budget, even in good years, reduces the hard-earned goodwill needed from voters when they are asked to pay more for legitimate increases in costs of service.

Sudden and immediate changes in taxes do significant harm and set a poor precedent.

Businesses shouldn’t be taken for granted; business provides the jobs, resources and the platform for high quality of life in a community.

One of the questions we asked the candidates at our 5th District candidate forum last week was: Describe your knowledge of how a recessionary environment affects small businesses. The answers were good, but the question was telling as to why Nov. 2 matters so much.

We are in unchartered economic territory, with a stubbornly high unemployment rate, pervasive uncertainty, and a major resetting of our economy. It seems that even now, after almost two years of economic turbulence, we are only at the introduction page of a book on what the “new normal” will look like.

On (or by) Nov. 2, you get to help write this book. Take time to make your contribution matter. Washington can yet again become a blockbuster best seller, with your thoughtful and informed contribution at the (mail-in) ballot box.

Chris Hysom is the chairman of the Board for the Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce. Matthew Bott is Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Issaquah Chamber.