Candidates for state and federal offices came to the Point to meet local voters at the Point Roberts Registered Voters Association candidates’ night at the community center October 11. Of the 844 registered voters in the community, 25 came out
to meet the candidates.
Democrat Suzan DelBene is running for Congress in the newly redistricted 1st congressional district. “It’s the most evenly divided district in the country,” she said, making it critical that citizens exercise their right to vote.
Running for state legislature in the 42nd district, position 1, Jason Overstreet, Republican, is facing challenger Natalie McClendon, Democrat. In position 2, incumbent Vincent Buys, Republican, faces challenger Matthew Krogh.
Questions from the audience asked candidates for their views on regulation, specifically as it affected water quality.
“It’s a whole lot easier to keep a stream clean than to clean it up after the fact,” McClendon said. “Regulation has a very useful role. We have to be careful with it in that it really represents conditions on the ground. We have to have clear rules but practical rules.”
“We pass regulations to solve problems,” Krogh said, who works in water quality. He pointed to the infamous Cuyahoga River in Ohio, which caught on fire for the tenth and final time in 1969 due to extensive water pollution and is credited with prompting the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. “It worked,” Krogh said. “We recognized we shouldn’t pour chemicals in our waterways.”
Buys and Overstreet both warned of the dangers of overregulation. “Regulations often don’t make sense,” Buys said. “We need solutions that work on the ground.” Overstreet applauded Governor Christine Gregoire’s November 2010 executive order, which suspended rule making in the state to allow small businesses to focus on economic recovery and not changing regulations. He said a one-page document of intent from legislators can “turn into a 40-page, three-ring binder full of rules” that can be unduly burdensome.
Regarding taxation and revenue, DelBene said that on a national level, taxes and the programs they fund all needed built-in review processes. “We spend money but we don’t go back and see if we’re getting the results we want,” she said, and the same was true for tax exemptions intended to act as economic stimulus, which she said should have an automatic sunset. “I think we should let the Bush tax cuts on higher earners expire,” she said. “It’s a fairness issue.”
At the state level Overstreet defended his pledge to not raise the tax rate, saying the state’s operational budget was growing due to economic growth. “The rates aren’t the problem,” he said. “If we grow our economy those rates will serve us well.”
McClendon said that was only looking at the revenue side of the equation. “If you look at per capita expenditure it’s gradually going down,” she said. “We’re serving more people, doing more with less.” She said while there might not be a need to raise taxes, there was a need to change the tax system. Lower income taxpayers were spending 17 percent of their income on taxes, while high-income taxpayers spent approximately 1 percent of theirs on taxes. “We need to make it fair,” she said.
Asked about education spending Buys suggested the educational system didn’t need more funds but more flexibility. “Fifty percent of every dollar makes it into the classroom,” he said. Rather than funding programs that would be mandatory, he suggested a “tool box” of optional programs and letting school districts decide how to spend their dollars.
Krogh came out as the only candidate opposed to the proposed coal port at Cherry Point. “People say coal is cheap but it’s only cheap if you discount the costs to our health, our waterways,” he said. “There are many components that simply cannot be mitigated.”
The other four candidates said they supported a thorough environmental review process to precede any decision. “We all want
jobs,” McClendon said. “We need to decide at what cost. We have a process we need to go through.”
On the final question from the floor, gay marriage, the two Republicans were opposed to Referendum 74 on the November ballot, while the Democrats supported it. Buys and Overstreet said they would not support the measure because, while it offered protection to clergy who did not wish to perform a same-sex marriage, it did not offer the same protection to business, such as a photographer who turned down a job photographing a same-sex marriage.
Krogh spoke eloquently that approving same-sex marriage was the next step in creating greater equality for all citizens, in the tradition of voting rights for women and the civil rights movement. “I want to see increasing levels of equality and equality of opportunity,” he said.