Incumbent Brenda Fincher and challenger Larry Hussey are running for Position No. 6 on the Kent City Council on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Fincher was appointed by the council to a vacant position in 2014 and then defeated Toni Troutner in 2015 and Russ Hanscom in 2017. Hussey works as a day trader and temporary worker. Fincher had 79% of the vote in the August primary and Hussey had 13% to advance to the general election. Bradley Cairnes had 7% and failed to advance.
The Kent Reporter emailed the same five questions to each candidate.
• Why should I vote for you?
Fincher: I want Kent to be a place where everyone can thrive, feel safe, welcomed and part of the city. I want our residents and environment healthy and our businesses and economy strong. Good businesses and good paying jobs are right here as well as entertainment and recreation.
I am the only person in this race who has balanced city budgets. I successfully led efforts to budget $200K for culturally relevant youth mental health counseling, worked with tenants and property managers to increase move out notifications to tenants from 20 to 60 days allowing them more time to find other housing and preventing more homelessness, established a single use bag ban, led the push for racial equity training for all city employees and started the Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series.
Kent has been my home for 30-plus years. I work at Holy Spirit Parish where I helped create W.H.O.M.E., our shelter for homeless women. Some of the organizations I have served with now and in the past are Kent International Festival Committee, Kent Youth & Family Services, several PTA/PTSAs. Kent AM Kiwanis, Kent Parks Planning Committee, Police Strategic Planning Committee, Allyship Housing Committee, KBAC, and PAID.
Hussey: Because you know me so well from watching my daily V-cast on YouTube channel kpop fan.
• Does Kent need to hire more police officers? Why or why not?
Fincher: Yes. Our police department has lost a considerable number of officers to retirements and resignations in the past year with more likely to come. We were already significantly lower in the number of officers in relation to the number of residents than other cities our size and to quickly and efficiently respond to the calls received.
Officers alone will not solve our problems. We also need more programs like our new Community Immersion Law Enforcement program. The program pairs police cadets with community organization where they spend 320 hours getting to know members of the community they hope to police. We’ll have our own co-responder unit pairing a mental health professional with an officer. We also need domestic violence professionals which we do not have, but could certainly use.
Hussey: Kent does need to hire more police officers and pay for it with a hiring freeze on firefighters. U.S. municipalities are generally 13% overstaffed in firefighters.
• What steps would you take to help reduce the number of homeless people in Kent?
Fincher: This is important to me, as I was a lead in the development of and continue to manage W.H.O.M.E., Kent’s first women’s homeless shelter, which helps our most vulnerable women gain safe shelter and help with transitioning to permanent, stable housing.
This is a regional issue and there is not a single answer to fit every person, but primarily we need to get people into housing. I support a transition to hotel and tiny home transitional shelter, which gets people off the streets and into housing that allows for more safety, better health, privacy and wrap-around services. Transitional housing in conjunction with support services give people the opportunity to stabilize enough to address the barriers to permanent housing.
We also have to have more affordable housing options of all types, and do a much better job of connecting people to the services that help people to achieve stability.
Hussey: Homeless people are a blessing. Give them a nice sack lunch with notes from kids in them every day and watch the magic happen. Do not send them to the Union Gospel Mission, because there they would be harassed and forced to sleep on yoga mats. You could allow a tent city in Kent, as well.
• What types of new businesses should the city try to attract and what can be done to get them here?
Fincher: We need more locally owned business across all sectors in the city. Kent is unique in that we have the opportunity and talent to attract a wide range of manufacturing and high-tech jobs that give everyone who lives in Kent the opportunity to earn a family wage while working in Kent.
Our diversity is a tremendous strength and we should make ourselves known as a top destination for art, culture, cuisine and nightlife.
We have a talented and diverse community, workforce, geography and economy and we need to do more targeted outreach to entrepreneurs, investors and local employers to make that known.
Hussey: We really need more hotels and motels. There is only about a $30 difference right now between the most and least expensive hotels in Kent right now. We need nicer hotels like a Marriott and affordable motels like a Motel 6 or Super 8. We also need a roller derby in the stadium. And we should ask the Thunderbirds to change their name to Kent Thunderbirds.
• Do you see any services or departments where the city could save money? Where and how?
Fincher: We can make several upgrades to our existing infrastructure that would enable more efficient, environmentally friendly and inexpensive operations. It would also make our systems more reliable and resilient.
For example, pollinator gardens and stormwater gardens aid the environment while at the same time cutting costs because they require much less maintenance. Replacing some of our existing gas powered fleet with modern electric vehicles also reduces operational costs.
Hussey: Yes, we should save money by exiting the interlocal agreement with Valley Communications for 911 service. That agreement is about 40 years old and does not take into account current technology. Our 911 service could be handled by anyone in the USA as long as the technology and customer service (and price) was right.