Candidates face voters at forum

Mayor and council candidates debated Renton issues

As new Renton leadership is on the horizon, those vying for mayor and council seats made their goals known at the Renton City Council and Candidate Forum, on Oct. 1 at Renton Technical College.

All of the candidates for the November general election were present, except for council candidate for position seven, Thomas Trautmann. Candidates answered a series of questions, created by staff at the Renton Reporter, then took questions from the audience.

Mayoral candidates Marcie Maxwell and Armondo Pavone answered questions first. Both talked about how they took public safety personally, Pavone’s father was a Renton Police Department Officer and Maxwell’s late husband was an officer.

When asked about continuing Mayor Denis Law’s legacy of inclusion, Maxwell said she would not only maintain a task force that has representatives from diverse groups in Renton, but go out and spend time throughout the year being a part of the communities. Pavone said as a member of the task force, he thinks it’s important to continue Law’s work and also continue to improve on language barriers with the city, and train staff including officers, about diverse groups in the city.

Pavone mentioned work he has done as a councilmember to work towards safety, homelessness and affordable housing. Maxwell discussed pushing for Renton to be a leader in the region. During a question regarding government transparency, Maxwell questioned the city council not televising the Committee of the Whole meetings, especially over the last year.

Community members also asked the candidates about protecting the Cedar River, including Fairwood in events, the need for public restrooms at the transit center and the lack of bus options in Renton.

In closing statements, the candidates presented different reasons they should be elected.

“Running for mayor wasn’t something I took lightly, we made the decision as a family and I haven’t looked back,” Pavone said. “Renton is going through a transitional period, losing a mayor and councilmember with over 50 years experience. I believe we need someone with knowledge, leadership skills and stability to move us through this period.”

“(Law) has done some really good work over the past 12 years,” Maxwell said. “But it’s time for the next steps; it’s time to build, it’s time to improve and time to grow smart. I think when you look at my priorities— traffic and transportation, environmental stewardship, homelessness and housing and public safety— those are the basic needs we need to start with.”

In the council questions, the five present candidates tackled similar issues.

Ryan McIrvin (position four) was the only incumbent on the stage, joined by challenger Maria Spasikova. Both discussed the importance of bike lanes in the city and protecting the environment. McIrvin was very passionate about transit in Renton and said in the last legislative session he was in Olympia in support of more funding for I-405.

Spasikova talked about how she has lived throughout the world and that she planted her roots in Renton because she believes in it. She said she was happy with the city’s work on maintaining infrastructure. Her and several candidates mentioned the new Renton Responds application.

James Alberson (position three), when asked about growth, said it’s important to keep the Business and Operation Tax rate low, but to also be more aggressive to target the businesses the city wants to see in the downtown area. At the same time, there needs to be no negative impact to transit and improving the perception of Renton so those who work here, live here.

Valerie O’Halloran (position three) said she would have made sure Renton was at the table for every regional transit discussion in the past, to make sure there was no misunderstanding that the city was a key player in the region, and will make sure that every person in Renton doesn’t have to travel in a car for work, citing a future influx of employees coming from Southport.

Kim-Khanh Van (position seven) discussed her childhood and work as an attorney when addressing questions. When asked about increasing growth of major developments in Renton, Van took a different approach and said it’s important that mom-and-pop shops are preserved in the city.

On a question regarding homeless services, McIrvin said they are addressing the issue but they need to pitch into regional efforts and do more. Others on the stage took a strong stance that the city needs to do more on homelessness. Alberson said he had a recent conversation with councilmembers where they said shelters are something for nonprofits, not cities. He said he questions that and that the city could do more to help. O’Halloran and Van also said more needed to be done.

Community members also asked candidates questions about supporting homeless with jobs, how they will maintain and improve the image of their city, and retaining character of single family neighborhoods.

For more responses from each of the candidates, check out the video of the forum, available on Facebook @RentonReporter.

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