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Kent Candidate Forum: Sharp stays in City Council race; debates Stober
Ken Sharp's appearance at the Kent Neighborhood Council Candidate Forum demonstrated he's remaining in his Kent City Council race.
"I'm staying in the race," Sharp said during an interview after the Monday night forum at the Kent Senior Center.
Sharp decided to stay in the race despite first-degree theft charges filed by King County prosecutors against him for allegedly stealing money from his 93-year-old mother's bank account. Sharp pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 29 in King County Superior Court. The case won't be resolved prior to the Nov. 5 general election.
Neither Sharp nor his opponent Bailey Stober addressed the theft charges during the forum. But Stober told the estimated crowd of 130 there are reasons voters should pick him over Sharp. The winner will replace Elizabeth Albertson, who decided not to seek reelection.
"My opponent and I are two very, very different people," Stober said. "We come from two very different backgrounds. I grew up in this community. I was born and raised here. I rode a city bus to school and got my first job here. My opponent has lived here only a couple of years. I know the issues firsthand."
Sharp emphasized his experience as president last year of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and his role as owner of Minuteman Press in Kent that will help him be a valuable addition to the council.
"I live in Kent, I work in Kent and I am a business owner in Kent," Sharp said. "I think part of the value that I bring to the city council is that business experience I have. I've got a lot of wisdom and have had a lot of leadership experiences."
Stober and Sharp differ about how to address the financially struggling Riverbend Golf Complex owned by the city. City officials have looked at the option of selling the Par 3 course of the complex, which includes an 18-hole course, Par 3 course, driving range and merchandise shop.
Riverbend's operating losses and a $2.25 million debt has caused city officials to look at ways to get the complex self-sustainable financially. The facility has lost nearly $1.4 million over the last four years, including $220,903 in 2012, according to city documents. The debt is owed to an inter-fund loan, money that the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to help pay off the bond for the golf complex.
Both candidates want to keep the golf complex rather than sell any portion of it. Stober prefers to keep the course an enterprise fund set up to be self-sustaining rather than moving the golf course to the city's general fund, where it could take money away from the police department and leave fewer officers on the street.
Sharp said he would move the golf complex into the general fund to treat it like other parks funded by the city.
Berrios vs. Schwartz
In the other City Council race featured at the forum, Jim Berrios revealed endorsement from current City Council members as a reason voters should pick him over Wade Schwartz. The winner will replace Jamie Perry, who decided not to seek reelection.
"I've been able to get the endorsements of four of the five council members who are going to be in their positions in January," said Berrios to the crowd as he rattled off the names of Dennis Higgins, Dana Ralph, Bill Boyce and Les Thomas. "The reason why they are endorsing me is they have seen the work I have demonstrated. I'm collaborative when it comes to problem solving and I just do not give up until we find a solution."
Deborah Ranniger is the one council member who hasn't endorsed Berrios. Berrios is the owner of the Golden Steer Steak 'n Rib House on the East Hill and president of the Kent Chamber of Commerce.
Schwartz, who owns Blanc-n-Schwartz Salon in downtown Kent and is chair of the city Human Services Commission, said he wants to start a communications commission in the city to reach out to all people.
"We have 138 languages being spoken in our schools and I want to make sure our City Hall reaches out to all of those communities," Schwartz said. "I would start a commission based on all of the different groups in our city."
Schwartz also said he would try to bring the annual Seattle International Film Festival to Kent, similar to how the festival expanded its venues in 2011 to Renton.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't have the same as something that is going on in Renton," Schwartz said.
Berrios, a former Kent School Board member who ran unsuccessfully against Cooke for mayor in 2009, said his experience on various volunteer boards as well as his business background will help him in his role as a council member to oversee budgets.
"I will help establish policies and regulations that will help guide Kent's future," Berrios said. "And in doing so, I will be dedicated to protecting the interests of our citizens."
Schwartz was the only candidate who brought up the topic of recreational marijuana businesses that are banned in Kent despite Initiative 522 that legalized pot use in the state.
"If it's legal at the state and the state says they are taking responsibility, I don't think we should try to fight against something that is going on all around us anyway," Schwartz said. "And bringing that extra revenue to our city is very important to bringing the budget back to where we need it to be."
Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version to accurately attribute a quote to Stober.