In the Federal Way Mirror’s first-ever virtual candidate forum, four 30th District State Representative hopefuls discussed their views on the state’s COVID-19 response, police accountability, ways to mitigate to homelessness and more on Oct. 14.
More than 60 community members and local leaders tuned into the live forum, hosted via Zoom, as Jamila Taylor (D) and Federal Way City Councilmember Martin Moore (R) each sought to win voters over for Position 1, while Jack Walsh (R) and incumbent Jesse Johnson (D) each worked to woo voters to earn the Position 2 seat.
Moderated by editor Andy Hobbs, each of the candidates outlined their priorities and future accomplishments they will work toward if elected as a 30th District State Representative.
Martin Moore, a seven-year member of the city council, began the opening statements and noted his efforts creating a senior advisory committee, his advocacy for youth opportunities and his commitment to uplifting all voices. Jamila Taylor, a domestic violence and crime victims attorney, outlined her more than 20 years of leadership work with diverse populations and described the need for progressive champions who know how to manage public funds during difficult times.
Jesse Johnson, a former and the youngest member of the Federal Way City Council, expressed the importance of representation in leadership, his advocacy for accessible and equitable education, and explained the efforts he is working on as a current state representative in Olympia surrounding mental health services, cost of living and more. Jack Walsh, a small business owner in Federal Way, highlighted his investment in the community, noted his empathy with small businesses during the pandemic, and called attention to a multitude of volunteer endeavors.
Candidates were first asked how they felt about the state’s COVID-19 response and what specifically, if elected, they would do to support small businesses during this time.
Moore said he applauds the attempts to get virus numbers under control and Gov. Jay Inslee’s efforts, but said a balanced approach and the voices of businesses are missing. Listing local businesses concerned with lack of operations or customers during this time, Moore said we need to give meaningful support to businesses. Taylor said residents are in dire need of rental assistance and childcare assistance, which would then free up disposable income dollars to be used to support the local economy. Businesses also need access to additional capital funds to make it through this time, she said.
Johnson said he is working with colleagues to lower taxes for working class members and small businesses, as well as deferring payroll taxes for small businesses until 2023. Johnson also said he understands the need for opening up the economy without compromising health, and this time period is a turning moment for workforce development and skill/trade development. Walsh said he has lived through the challenges of COVID-19 firsthand, both as a business owner and as someone who lost a relative due to the virus. He said the approach that should have been taken was to ensure those who are most vulnerable are supported in a way to be comfortably isolated to protect their health while the other demographics took reasonable precautions, and to keep the economy more open, which would have lessened the impact on businesses, schools and other aspects.
When asked about the core causes of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing, Walsh said the homeless crisis is more of an addiction and mental health crisis. Walsh believes in stronger action in drug laws, and limiting the ways in which systems and programs enable people to continue that type of lifestyle. Walsh also supports a reduction in regulations on land development and housing. Johnson said homelessness is a public health crisis and requires careful investment and resource deployment. Johnson said there needs to be a stronger focus on crisis response with the right personnel in place, such as social services, rather than police, responding to homeless emergencies. Johnson also said there needs to be an expansion of housing markets to be affordable, yet in line with community infrastructure.
Taylor said a focus should be put on strengthening supports in the community because jails should not become the new housing system for folks experiencing medical and mental health issues. She said affordable housing depends on rental assistance resources and on smart growth patterns in collaboration with local municipalities to handle the growth of an area. Moore said an honest conversation needs to be had about how to deal with the two types of homelessness: one being those who need support after having fallen on a series of unlucky events, and another being homeless individuals who truly do not care to change their situation. Moore said he plans to allocate resources via local jurisdictions as it’s the cities that understand their own homeless problems best, not the state.
Candidates were also asked about what reforms to the criminal justice system and police accountability measures they support or would work toward. Taylor believes in a top-to-bottom overhaul of the criminal justice system. Taylor agrees with the idea of independent oversight boards and said the focus should be on attaining the most well-attuned officers to each force, and ensuring they are provided with proper training. Moore said he wants modify a civil service rule, and give more authority to police chiefs to hire more officers locally. Moore also said he is pushing for better and more training for officers around various cultures, disabilities and more.
Walsh said officers need additional and continual training, noting that the King County Sheriff’s Office is an exemplary model of reformed policing. He does not agree with defunding the police, as more trainings would require more funding, and the actions of the City of Seattle are an example of what not to do. Johnson said systemic racism exists in all institutions, and he is working on broadening public access to information and strengthening police accountability measures. He is also working on a bill that tightens the state standards for officers’ use of deadly force when de-escalation tactics are not used. Johnson also said he will continue to work for the implementation of police oversight boards in local jurisdictions.
When asked who they will be voting for in the election for governor, Walsh said he will be voting for Loren Culp because he is not pleased with incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget actions or tax increases. Johnson, declining to elaborate, said he will be voting for Inslee. Taylor also said she will be voting for Inslee, noting that while no elected official is perfect, she does not feel Culp is in touch with the needs of the community that she is closely connected to. Moore did not state which gubernatorial candidate he would vote for, instead saying now more than ever and regardless of political party, people need to be working together.
Watch the forum