Town hall talk: Resident urge lawmakers, leaders to tackle wide range of issues

Voters in Legislative District 47 have a lot they want their representatives in Olympia to tackle.

And if the 50-plus who came to an evening town hall meeting at the Auburn Library on Dec. 13 represented a reliable cross-cut of opinion, people out there are eager for lawmakers to fix everything from the spiking cost of health care to climate change, from curbing gun violence and supporting public education, to establishing a state bank and reducing tenant abuses at mobile home parks.

Every person got one minute to speak his or her mind.

And there to hear what they had to say were 47th District Senator-elect Mona Das, 47th state Rep.-elect Debra Entenman and 47th Rep. Pat Sullivan. Also in the crowd were Covington Councilmembers Marlla Mhoon, Margaret Harto and Sean Smith, and Auburn Council members Claude DaCorsi and Deputy Mayor Bob Baggett.

One Kent resident suggested setting up a state bank — only North Dakota has one today — to cure the state of its present over-reliance on property taxes, which, she said, disproportionately thumps lower-income people.

Kent’s Richard Johnson liked that idea.

“We wouldn’t have to try to squeeze every bit of tax we can out of homeowners and everybody else with gas and soda or bag taxes, or whatever. To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Johnson.

Becka Ritchie, a schoolteacher for 29 years, argued for continuing to fund public education and for reducing class sizes.

Bob Zimmerman, a retired electrician and a former volunteer firefighter, suggested establishing some kind of state board to which people could appeal city code violations that allow, he said, unsafe standards that threaten lives.

Baggett put in a word for additional transportation funding in an era when state and federal revenue that was once available for that purpose has dried up.

“Every city has the same problem we have. I know it’s something near and dear, but it’s very expensive,” Baggett said.

One man asked what could be done to protect the Affordable Care Act from the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans, who so are keen to kill it.

“I’ve been looking at bills coming in like $150,000,” said the man, who is battling cancer. “Luckily, as a Boeing retiree, I have good health care, but I really worry that if you don’t, how do you survive this? I’d like to hear … how are we going to protect what we have from the other Washington?”

Mhoon urged support for Gov. Jay Inslee’s efforts to increase habitat for critically-endangered Chinook salmon in the Green-Duwamish watershed.

Harto wanted more revenue resources for cities.

“Cities are where the rubber meets the road when we’re building an economy in this state, and cities get to scrape out the bottom of the barrel for pennies,” Harto said. “We don’t have very many options. So, I would like to see us have more options for partnerships, not only bringing economic growth to our cities but economic diversity to our cities.”

John Dawson, president of the Manufacturing and Mobile Home Owners Association in Washington state, said that in many of the state’s 1,600 manufactured-mobile-home parks too many absentee owners are ignoring the landlord tenant act, taking advantage of low-income, non-English speaking people by having them do things that the law prohibits.

“We need to get your support in Olympia to sponsor some of our bills that will require these people to provide formal certification and training for the managers that they hire to work in these parks, and also make sure that these absentee owners follow our laws here in the state,” Dawson said. “We also need money. We’re a nonprofit, all- volunteer organization, we’ve been incorporated since 1966, and we get all our funding from member dues and free-will donations.”

At the end, Baggett struck a lighter tone.

“Pat, Mona, all the elected legislators that are here in the room, you’ve got two years to take of all of this,” Baggett said.

And the electeds in the audience joined in the laughter that followed, an acknowledgment of just how many complex issues they were being tasked with solving.

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