The economy, the police and mental health were all hot topics at a 5th Legislative District forum, where candidates fielded questions on a number of issues facing voters in the Snoqualmie valley.
The forum was put on by the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce, and featured Sen. Mark Mullet (D) and challenger Ingrid Anderson (D) who are running for the district’s Senate seat. It also included Rep. Bill Ramos (D) and Ken Moninski (R), who are running for the district’s 1st House seat.
Lisa Callan (D) made a brief video statement. She is running unopposed for the 2nd House seat. Statements were also given by Kim Schrier (D) and Jesse Jensen (R), who are running for the 8th Congressional district Representative seat.
The candidates were asked how they would support businesses through the pandemic. Mullet said the state should protect business owners who are following guidance from health authorities from potential lawsuits if staf for customers fall ill. The legislature should define what qualifies a business for a lawsuit.
Moninski said it should be encumbent on the state and federal government to protect businesses that comply with basic health requirements developed by the state.
“I think we’re going to have to deal with this pandemic, and this virus, for a while longer,” Moninski said. “I think we’re goint to have to learn to live with it.”
Ramos said businesses are always considering liability, whether or not there’s a pandemic. Businesses who follow health protocol shouldn’t have much risk of being sued, he said.
“That’s the critical piece, doing the right thing. If you’re not doing that, then that’s something else,” he said.
Anderson, who is a nurse, said even at a hospital it’s difficult to know where someone was exposed. She largely seemed to agree with Ramos.
“If you are following the guidelines, that is your protection,” Anderson said. “If you’re not following the guidelines, you put yourself at risk.”
After a summer of protests, the temporary CHOP/CHAZ in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has become a political football, tossed from the state’s largest city to politicians across the state. Candidate’s responses varied when asked about their views on policing.
Mullet called the zone a “step too far” and said he doesn’t support calls to defund the police. Instead, he wants to put more money into law enforcement, combined with accountability standards. He was the only candidate to call for more funding.
Moninski said he would like to see more training and proactive intervention by other officers when they see a fellow officer acting dangerously. He would also like to enact a certification process that would keep bad officers from jumping from department to department.
Anderson and Ramos both said they would like policing to be more transperant. Ramos said measures like preventing officers from covering badge numbers should be enacted. Anderson likened policing to medical care, where if a medical error is made, there needs to be accountability. She also supports creating a crisis treatment team which can respond to calls which officers may not have adequate training for.
On mental health care in the state, Moninski and Ramos said schools were a critical place to provide care for youth. Ramos said getting more counselors in schools is a critical next step as the state figures out how to allocate money for education.
Mullet suggested teachers across the state should be paid a base cost of living, and that local cost of living increases should be instead used to fund other services like mental health.
Anderson said hospitals don’t have capacity for mental health patients. And those without insurance are stuck making a $8,000 down payement to be considered for a bet. On top of that, there’s almost no pediatric mental health beds available.
The state must find a way to incentivize providers to take state payments for care. Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are so low that many providers will only do cash payment clinics. And there needs to be more providers across the state, especially in underserved communities.
On a carbon tax and the environment, Anderson said she’s not opposed to a well-structured carbon tax, but that she hasn’t seen any proposed bill that she would support. However, she said reducing emissions is a good goal for the state.
“The environment is not going to be something that we can just let lapse any longer,” Anderson said.
She would support a clean fuel standard, and pointed to the direct health consequences of inhaling exhaust as a reason.
Ramos said the state needs to build a transportation funding package from the bottom up. He sits on the Transportation Committee and is developing the next transportation packing. The state is holding some 80 listening sessions with communities, and after those conclude, Ramos said they’ll look at how to fund needs in the budget.
Moninski was suspicious of government efforts to address climate change.
“The climate is changing. It’s changing all the time,” Moninski said. “It’s been changing for a millennia.”
He’s against a mileage tax because of privacy concerns. And he said there’s no current alternative to fossil fuels.
On a mileage tax, Mullet said he’s worried administrative costs will be too large. He said money generated by a fuel tax should stay within the transportation budget for transportation issues.
The general election will be held on Nov. 3, with ballots due by 8 p.m. that Tuesday night. A list of ballot drop box locations in the Snoqualmie valley include the North Bend Library, the Snoqualmie Library, the Fall City Library, the Carnation Library and the Duvall Police Department.