The field is now set for the elections this fall. But what do you want to know from the candidates? What issues do you care about?
Candidates and incumbents are vague about taking controversial stands because they don’t want to alienate any voters. Whether they are on your door step courting your vote or in a community debate, make them answer the difficult questions that are important.
Here’s some food for thought. Whether they are running for City Council as an incumbent or candidate, ask them about the following:
A majority of the City Council wanted to ban marijuana sales in the city even after voters approved recreational use. Now another public vote is scheduled. Ask the candidates which way will they vote in the fall.
We have a significant number of low-income residents who make minimum wage. Some cities have raised the wage to $15 per hour, others are considering it. It could help some people, but may hurt some businesses. However, in Federal Way it hasn’t even been brought up for debate. Should it be? Where do the candidates stand? How would they vote on the issue as a council member? And don’t let them get away with calling for a public vote, unless they also tell you how they would vote.
How would they handle such a controversial issue? Their answer will tell you a lot about how they think.
If they had been on the council would they have voted for the Performing Arts and Events Center? Would they have supported a public vote on the issue? If they are incumbents, how did they vote and why didn’t they even discuss a public vote? Listen carefully to their answer.
South King County is the poorest part of the county. The social inequity is staggering. And yet, while the city has been talking about a homeless shelter, they haven’t done anything about it. Even though they spent $8 million on the former Target building in a few months. Where do they stand on the hygiene center for the homeless? Why isn’t it done yet? How do they plan to improve opportunities for the working poor and unemployed?
The City Council also prefers the Interstate 5 route for Sound Transit, even though most of the poorer people would likely get better service on State Route 99. There is also a better chance to create more jobs on SR-99 route. How do the positions of the candidates differ on the issue and why?
What are the candidate’s priorities? Every candidate always says public safety. But council members think that means just increasing the police budget. What other steps would they consider to fight crime? Would they support a discussion on some type of gun control?
And what do all of the candidates think of the city’s overall spending? A lot of money has been spent on buildings and highly paid staff. Is that the right priority?
The downtown park that was built last year will be partially torn down to make way for the new park. Do you support that approach? What do you want your tax-paying dollars spent on?
What do the candidates think? Why are they running?
And what about the recent controversy over the Centerstage contract? What are you willing to spend to have performances in the city? Do they support Centerstage, or should the city discontinue the contract?
At South King Fire and Rescue, there are two major questions that commissioner candidates need to answer that are intertwined.
Why should the public support additional funding? And when will there be some serious oversight of the department that gives the public the confidence that they need to provide that support?
The school board candidates need to talk about their positions on academic standards. But with over 100 languages spoken, and a majority of our students near or below the poverty line, how will they ensure an equal opportunity education for all students?
What are their priorities? And some candidates need to explain the travel they took to Europe and how it led to benefits to the district.
We have a new superintendent, who has created a “wow” factor that has raised expectations. How will they support and evaluate her?
And the legislative candidates? Teachers influence more students than any legislator. And yet who got the pay raises?
Do the candidates think starving the rest of state government is the way to fund education? Won’t that just lead to poor service in other parts of government? Ask the candidates to explain their priorities.
And above all, do not accept a simple answer. Because the answers are not simple. Make them explain their answer so you can see if they really have done their homework and actually understand the issues.
Lastly, several of the candidates are likely to be considering other future political jobs.
Evaluate them for the job they are running for, but would you see them in a higher level position?
Depending on scenarios, there are anywhere from four to six possible future candidates for mayor or the state Legislature on the ballot.
Evaluate them carefully, and see if you can guess which ones might be interested in higher office.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org.