Gridlock may decide House races in the 21st District

By JANICE PODSADA

Herald Writer

Residents of the 21st Legislative District live and breathe gridlock.

The district, which runs from Mukilteo to Woodway, is bounded to the west by trains, to the east by Interstate 5, to the north by Paine Field. And if that’s not enough, it’s also home to two ferry terminals.

Thus, transportation is a major issue for legislative candidates vying for state House positions.

The first House position is held by incumbent Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds, who is running for his third term. His opponents are Republican Stan Monlux and Libertarian Erica Merkley.

Cooper, of Edmonds, is a proponent of a regional mass transit system that would include extending light rail to the Lynnwood area. He favors making bus passes more available to employees of small businesses. Cooper opposes Initiative 745, which would funnel 90 percent of transportation funds into road-building. Cooper served on the House Transportation Committee.

Education also tops the list of issues in the district.

Cooper supports Initiative 728, which would reduce class sizes and give teachers merit pay. He also advocates more programs for at-risk youths. He opposes Initiative 729, however, which would allow the establishment of charter schools.

Environmental concerns also figure high on the campaign trail.

Local officials need to keep a closer eye on development, paying more attention to its impact on salmon habitat — shorelines, wetlands and water quality, Cooper said.

Monlux, also of Edmonds, opposes I-745. If the initiative passes, Monlux said he would support any constitutional challenge to the amendment.

Monlux favors the charter school initiative, saying it would give parents a choice of where their children could attend school and provide public schools with an incentive to improve their programs.

Given the federal mandate to restore and preserve salmon habitat, Monlux said, it’s imperative local governments assess the successes and failures of the state’s Growth Management Act, and alter it as needed.

Merkley, of Mukilteo, said the biggest political issue is an ever-expanding government.

"Libertarians are for small government, a lot smaller than it is," she said.

To that end, Merkley said she would privatize public transit and eliminate HOV lanes.

Merkley said that when it comes to education, the number of school administrators should be drastically cut.

Merkley does not believe it is the state government’s role to plan for growth management. "It should be handled at the local level," she said.

In the second House position, incumbent Rep. Renee Radcliff, R-Mukilteo, is seeking her fourth term. She faces opposition from Democrat Ned Daniels and Libertarian Gordy Bonhke.

Radcliff said she is focusing her re-election campaign on quality transportation, quality schools and tax reform.

Radcliff, who has served on the House Transportation Committee and other community transportation boards, opposes I-745. To address the county’s future transportation needs, she said, government must work toward devising better methods of funding transportation projects and public transit.

Radcliff would like to see schools create peer groups to evaluate teachers and allow those groups to decide which teachers should receive financial incentives for a job well done.

It’s time to take a hard look at the Growth Management Act, Radcliff said. "It’s only driven the cost of housing up in the state and created an artificial shortage of land."

Daniels, of Lynnwood, also opposes I-745. A member of the Community Transit board, he favors increasing bus routes and van pools.

Daniels, a substitute teacher in the Edmonds School District, opposes charter schools. However, standardized testing is a step in the right direction, Daniels said. "It’s one way to measure how the kids are learning."

Unlike Radcliff, Daniels said the Growth Management Act, for the most part, has done its duty in curtailing urban sprawl.

Daniels also said he is a firm believer in universal access to health care. "Health care should be a right, not a privilege."

Bohnke, also of Edmonds, said smaller government, not political party squabbles, is what’s needed in Olympia.

The way to save money and ensure quality transit and schools, Bohnke said, is to turn over the transportation and education systems to the private sector. "I’d eventually like to see schools part of the free market and not government run."

Bohnke opposes the Growth Management Act on the grounds that it limits people’s freedom to buy property or to live where they want.

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