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Primary ballot features Kent City Council, School Board races

King County Council position; ballot measures also up for a vote

Kent-area voters will have a City Council race, two Kent School Board races and a King County Council showdown on the Aug. 3 primary ballot.

Voters also will consider ballot measures about whether to approve a Puget Sound Fire proposition to make the fire benefit charge permanent and a county proposal to renew the Best Starts for Kids property tax levy.

Ballots can be mailed for free or taken to ballot drop boxes. Ballots must be postmarked by election day or dropped off at ballot boxes by 8 p.m. on Aug. 3. King County Elections mailed ballots July 14.

The two candidates with the most votes in each primary race advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Kent City Council

Incumbent Brenda Fincher faces challengers Bradley Cairnes and Larry Hussey for Position No. 6 on the city council.

“As your council member, I’ve led the passage of renter protections, secured significant funding for mental health counseling for Kent youth, and made accessibility improvements to our city council meetings,” Fincher said in her election statement. “I’ve continued to work with our community and police department to improve trust, training and accountability. I’ve also worked to proactively manage Kent’s growth and responsibly manage our budget to jump-start our recovery and keep Kent affordable.”

Cairnes, a magician, plans to focus on the police department.

“It has come to my attention that there are police officers and other government officials in our region acting outside of the scope of their oath for office and if elected will see to it that the very people our children are taught to trust and respect conduct themselves with dignity and honor and I promise you there will be no other way,” Cairnes said.

Hussey, who works as a day trader, views marijuana as a key issue.

“I plan to follow the example set in New Jersey,” Hussey said. “There, every city opted out of the proposed state marijuana law. I will opt out of our state’s marijuana law. On the day before Thanksgiving, Visa Corp caused it’s debit cards to be declined. The day before Christmas, they did the same with their credit cards.”

Kent School Board

Four candidates are on the ballot for District No. 4 director.

Bryon Madsen, who earlier this year filed a recall petition against board members but then withdrew it, issued the following election statement.

“Education occurs in the classroom, not at the district office,” Madsen said. “A board member’s responsibility and loyalty is to be and remain with the community. It is to hold the district accountable. You should feel comfortable coming to a board meeting, addressing the board and feel that your and your student’s voice matters.”

Willie Middleton Sr. kept his statement short.

“I have lived in Kent for 30 years,” he said. “My passion is to help our youth in receiving quality education.”

Bradley Kenning plans to put part of his focus on the superintendent.

“We need to hold our leaders accountable for the selection and evaluations of the superintendent,” Kenning said. “We need to be fiscally responsible with our budget. And most importantly; as a community it is our voices, strong beliefs and values that create what is possible for our kids.”

Awale Farah, who lost to Zandria Michaud in a 2019 city council race after winning the four-person primary, said the budget is a key topic.

“I will work on the goals and mission of the Kent School District and be mindful of the financial responsibilities,” Farah said. “It will be exciting to create a ‘new normal’ for our children’s education, and I look forward to working with other members of the Kent School Board. I am a positive thinker who learns from the past in order to enhance the present and design a better future.”

Three candidates are vying for the District No. 5 seat.

George Alvarez questions the use of digital learning in the classroom.

“There’s increasing evidence that digital educating inhibits learning,” Alvarez said in his election statement. “That exposing young children to digital tech causes the brain to wire itself to work in short bursts. Then when they reach high school and need to dig down and do deeper studying, they struggle with it. The brain has not wired itself for that task.”

Tim Clark served 16 years on the Kent City Council before deciding not to run again in 2009. Voters elected him to the school board in 2009 and he served four years. He lost a race against incumbent Suzette Cooke for mayor in 2013. He is a former Kentridge High School teacher and community college instructor.

“Previous elected service on the Kent School District Board of Directors, Green River College Board of Directors, and Kent City Council taught me the challenges administrations face and the importance of sustaining programs and tracking expenditures of large public budgets,” Clark said.

Sara Franklin lost a 2019 Kent City Council primary race against incumbent Les Thomas and challenger Hira Singh Bhullar. She wants politics out of school board decisions.

“As a board member, I will work hard to ensure we have real accountability, transparency and actual results for Kent families,” Franklin said. “We need to put politics aside and get back to focusing on our kids. As a parent, I stand side by side with all of you in wanting what is the best for our kids and their futures. I have fought over the years to advocate for education equity.”

King County Council

Incumbent Reagan Dunn, in his 16th year on the council, faces challengers Ubax Gardheere, Chris Franco and Kim-Khanh Van for the District No. 9 seat, that includes part of Kent.

“I am troubled by the dramatic increase in crime and homelessness in King County, and I believe we can do better,” Dunn said in his elections statement. “The murder rate is up by a staggering 86% over the last two years and our crime rate is the highest it’s been in 30 years. I am one of the few voices on the council fighting to give law enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs.”

Gardheere, who came to King County 25 years ago as a 15 year-old refugee, said it’s time for change.

“For decades, we’ve seen police brutality against Black people, continued erasure of Native people, cruel separations of Latino families, rising anti-Asian hate crimes, and high suicide rates and opioid addiction in white communities,” she said. “These problems peaked last year with COVID and a renewed reckoning of systemic racial injustices. Today, we need bold vision rooted in the community to reimagine how King County functions.”

Franco wants to be a new county leader.

“I’m running to represent our community on the King County Council because the last 16 years of leadership has allowed too many of us to fall behind, through short-sighted policies and self-interest,” Franco said. “Those failures have led to us being in a state of emergency on homelessness for the last six years with nothing to show for it, seniors at risk of losing their homes where they’ve spent their entire lives, and young families struggling to find housing that’s affordable.”

Van, a member of the Renton City Council, wants to take on a larger role.

“I’ll build on my record of experienced leadership on the Renton City Council to coordinate regional action on homelessness and affordable housing, make overdue transit and transportation improvements, stand up for struggling local businesses, and step up safeguards to protect our climate and way of life,” Van said.

Puget Sound Fire measure

Approval of the proposition would make Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority’s fire benefit charge permanent rather than people voting every six years on the fee.

Puget Sound Fire is funded through property taxes ($1 per $1,000 assessed valuation) and up to 60% by a fire benefit charge, which is based on an industry accepted formula that takes into consideration fire flows, the square footage of structures, the type of structures and various risk factors. By state law, a fire benefit charge cannot exceed 60 percent of the operating budget.

With the fire benefit charge, the owner of a large house or business pays a higher fee than the owner of a small home or business.

Voters in 2010 approved the formation of the regional fire authority and funding the agency through a property tax levy and a new fire benefit charge. Previously, Kent funded its fire department through the city’s general fund. Voters approved in 2016 an extension of the fire benefit charge for six more years.

State law required voters to approve the fire benefit charge every six years but now the law has changed to allow regional fire authorities to seek voter approval of a permanent fire benefit charge.

Best Starts for Kids levy

First approved by voters in 2015, the Best Starts for Kids levy is up for renewal and with higher property tax rates that would bring in about $873 million over six years, according to King County.

Money would fund prevention and early intervention services and capital investments to promote health and well-being, including child care; prenatal and newborn family services; youth development programs; social, emotional and mental health supports; and homelessness prevention.

Approval by voters would authorize an additional six-year property tax beginning in 2022 at $0.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuation or about $114 per year for a $600,000 home. The 2022 levy amount would be the base for calculating annual increases of up to 3% in 2023 to 2027.

Voters approved a rate of $0.14 per $1,000 in 2015 to bring in about $440 million.

The funds would be used for a new child care subsidy program for more than 3,000 low-income children; a new workforce demonstration project for low-wage child care workers; expansion of out of school time programs for school-age children; op to four new school-based health centers; and expansion of transitions to adulthood programs for youth and young adults.

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