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King County, Island candidates speak out at public forum

King County Executive candidates Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison joined Island public office candidates last week for the League of Women Voters/Mercer Island Reporter 2009 Candidate Forum.

The forum took place before a crowd of approximately 300 on Wednesday, Oct. 14, in the Islander Middle School gym. KIRO news radio talk-show host Dave Ross moderated the event, while members of the public had the chance to ask City Council candidates Dan Grausz, Ira Appelman, Jim Pearman and Mike Grady, School Board candidates Terri Caditz, Dave Myerson and Adair Dingle, along with Constantine and Hutchison, questions regarding their campaign goals.

It was the first time that the annual forum had included King County representatives in years, and many came from off the Island to hear Constantine and Hutchison speak.

“Voters need to know the facts. They need to recognize that my experience and my values make me the right choice,” said Hutchison, a former KIRO news broadcaster.

The candidate first responded to questions about the county’s “broken budget,” saying she would ensure “fiscal discipline” and “common sense solutions.” Asked how she would help small businesses flourish in King County, Hutchison said she would introduce a Business and Occupation tax reform.

“Small businesses are the engine of our economy,” the candidate said.

Constantine echoed this point, telling the audience that his past experience as an attorney working with small businesses made him an ideal candidate for helping local businesses succeed.

The King County Council chair also spoke about racial inequality, from education to job opportunity.

“This is of critical importance,” he said. “We need to make sure that a person’s life span is not determined by his or her zip code.”

In closing, Constantine emphasized that “the clear choice in this race between real experience and [solving] real problems” lies in a vote for him.

After Hutchison and Constantine left the stage, Ross invited City Council incumbents Mike Grady, Jim Pearman and Dan Grausz, along with active citizen Ira Appelman, who is running against Grausz for Position 2, to speak.

The candidates were asked about the effect of Initiative 1033, which aims to cap revenue tied to the consumer price index and population (see story “Opponents say 1033 would hurt city finances” at www.mi-reporter.com), would have on the city of Mercer Island.

All three incumbents expressed opposition to I-1033, explaining how it would take much-needed funds away from the city and negatively affect Island services and safety. Appelman approached the question differently, asking “If there is such panic over I-1033,” why has it not yet been discussed at the City Council meeting? He added that it was not the Council’s responsibility to tell residents how to vote, and encouraged Islanders to “read the materials” and make their own decisions.

The City Council candidates were also asked about sharing city allocations with the school district, how to deal with peloton cyclists on East and West Mercer Way, as well as several questions regarding the intersection of Merrimount and Island Crest Way. Audience members urged each candidate to share his opinion on a solution for “the most dangerous intersection on Mercer Island.”

Speaking frankly, Grady said that there were more important issues on the Island and asked residents to “think long and hard about how high [driving down Island Crest Way] is on the priority scale.” He added that the City Council would look at the data and make a rational decision based on safety and cost-effectiveness.

Contenders Appelman and Grausz echoed what they have said in previous interviews (see “Full text of City Council Q&A” at www.mi-reporter.com), with Appelman saying that he was adamantly against the “road diet” option and Grausz saying that he was not yet decided on a resolution, since public input was still being considered. When each candidate was pressed for a more specific answer, Grausz said he was leaning toward the road diet, adding that it would not slow down traffic as much as people have rumored.

School Board candidates Terri Caditz, Dave Myerson and Adair Dingle were the last to speak at last week’s forum. Caditz and Myerson are running head-to-head for Position 2, while Dingle, a School Board incumbent, is running uncontested.

Ross asked the candidates what “one or two issues” beyond class size and the district’s math program each found “compelling to the school district.” Dingle answered that personalized learning was a main priority for Island students, pointing out that modern software can now accommodate a wide range of learning styles.

Myerson also prioritized personalized learning. However, he said that the school district needs to find a faster way to implement the changes proposed in its “2020 Vision,” which focuses on individual learning in the classroom.

“I think that the vision of 2020 needs to be moved along into an actionable plan and, further, moved along into measurable goals,” he said. As an academic researcher and scientist, Myerson said that he could help the district achieve this aim.

Caditz also focused on the 2020 Vision, agreeing with Myerson that attainable measures must be established.

The second question focused on the PEAK project and the district’s current struggle to secure a US Bank bridge loan for construction completion. Ross asked what “candidates saw as a solution for the collateral that PEAK needs to get the bridge loan in case of a default on its pledges.”

Caditz said that, as an attorney, she has faith that the issue will be professionally resolved by the school district and Boys & Girls Club attorneys currently working on it.

Myerson said he hoped that MISD might find a private loaner for the project; one that would introduce an “appropriate interest rate.”

Myerson did emphasize, however, what he did not want to see, which is “a building built that has a big sign on it that says US Bank Mercer Island School District Athletic Club.”

The School Board candidates were also asked about the importance of teaching the U.S. Constitution in schools, I-1033’s affect on the school district and how teachers would approach personalized learning.

To watch the entire Oct. 14 Candidate Forum, please contact the Mercer Island Reporter to request a DVD with the two-hour coverage. Islanders interested in borrowing one of the discs are invited to stop by the Reporter office at 7845 S.E. 30th Street. For questions, please call 232-1215.

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