The League of Women Voters Kitsap hosted a candidate forum at Poulsbo City Hall Monday evening, offering folks a chance to ask questions of the candidates for both the North Kitsap School District Board of Directors and Poulsbo City Council.
All told, eight candidates are running for the various positions on the North Kitsap School Board, with four more running for positions on Poulsbo City Council.
- NK School Board Position 2: Pamela Madden-Boyer and Mike Desmond (Desmond was missing from the forum, but his opening statement was read by the moderator)
- NK School Board Position 3: Breanne Martinez and April Ferguson
- NK School Board Position 4: Karl Fidler and Nancy Moffat
- NK School Board Position 5: Cindy Webster-Martinson and Kim Gerlach
- Poulsbo City Council Position 1: Dawn DeSalvo and Andrew Phillips
- Poulsbo City Council Position 3: Britt Livdahl and Ricky Moon
It became apparent at the forum, during an intermission, that the majority of the audience had come to hear from the candidates for the North Kitsap School District’s Board of Directors, with many leaving before the portion dedicated to the candidates for Poulsbo City Council.
The first question posed to the candidates for the school board was how they view the role of the school board?
Many of the candidates agreed to some degree that a key role of the school board was to oversee how the district functions and to hire, manage and work with the superintendent as well as manage the budget, much of which comes from taxpayer dollars.
“The school board is a small, local form of government in which the board members represent the people with the management of their school district. They oversee the hiring of the superintendent, adoption of school policies and management of the budget,” April Ferguson said, echoing the sentiments of her fellow candidates.
The second question addressed new graduation requirements set by the state legislature which requires students to have 24 credits to graduate.
The candidates were asked how the school district should allow all students to earn the required credits in four years?
The candidates each proposed ideas; Ferguson suggested a similar counseling/advising service that is offered to students at the college level to keep them on track.
“I think we should look at in a way similar to what happens when you go to college. When I went to college I had an advisor who would work with me on a plan to accomplish my objectives for the year,” Ferguson said.
The only incumbent in the race, Cindy Webster-Martinson noted that the advising portion should begin in middle school to prepare kids for navigating high school.
“One of the things is that in middle school, we need to make sure that they are counseled regarding their high school career. There’s been talk about giving students credit in middle school for high school level classes such as algebra. They can already earn high school credit by taking Washington State History,” Webster-Martinson said.
Other candidates noted that these new requirements put extra pressure on kids that do not intend on going to college as well as make it much harder for kids who do fail, to recover.
“We need to have programs that allow students that have failed or are struggling to get the support they need. 24 credits in four years, there’s no room for failure. But we have to realize that some kids are going to struggle more than others and we have to have programs for them to be able to catch up,” Nancy Moffat said.
“Not every kid is going to go to college. As far as these credits are concerned, it doesn’t address those kids, and there should be some flexibility for them,” added Karl Fidler.
A big part of the candidate forum for the school board candidates was district finances and funding.
The candidates gave a resounding “no” when asked if the state has provided the district enough funding for counselors, nurses and other support staff.
“We have what is called a prototypical school model that is grossly out of date. It does not provide adequate staffing at several levels. Nurses, counselors, school safety … it has to be revised, it has to be one of the legislative priorities of everyone connected with education,” Moffat said.
One of the last questions asked of the candidates was how will the district be able to sustain the increase in teacher and administrative salaries in the future?
“We need to talk to our legislature about their definition of basic education. I don’t agree with their definition. I am concerned that if they redefine their idea of basic education, where will that leave the local levies?” asked Kim Gerlach. “I think part of paying increased salaries comes with the increased cost of living.”
“I don’t think they know what true basic education is but it’s probably a lot less than what every other school district around provides. I would like to find some of the best financial experts around to give us a heads up on how we can structure so that the legislature understands what we need,” Pamela Madden-Boyer said.
– – – – – – – – – – – Poulsbo City Council – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Following a 10-minute break, the forum moved on to the four candidates running in contested races for a seat on the Poulsbo City Council.
The first question was what the candidates saw as the biggest issue facing Poulsbo over the next four years?
“One of the biggest issues, and it’s one we don’t see, is substance abuse and mental health issues,” Andrew Phillips said. “These are things that often lead to homelessness and eviction from housing. I think working with the Navigator program and getting out into the community will help that.”
Other candidates cited the growth of the city and its impacts on housing and infrastructure presented the biggest issues.
Many of the following questions focused on infrastructure, from parking to traffic safety to highway improvements.
A surprising question was a question regarding a plastic bag ban in the city of Poulsbo.
“I am more than supportive of a plastic bag ban, in fact, I think we should take it a step further,” Britt Livdahl said. “If the industry doesn’t want to innovate we should force them to. I think we, in the sense of a country and a planet, can do better. I support following in the steps of Kitsap County in plastic bags but also would consider a ban on all single-use plastic products.”
I know it’s a burden and can increase costs on small businesses but I think that sometimes the most important growth is not easy,” she added.
The candidates were unanimous in their support of a plastic bag ban as well as banning other single-use plastic items like straws and cutlery.
Two questions at the forum focused on the fatal police shooting of Stonechild Chiefstick on July 3.
The first asked whether there was anything the candidates believe the city council should be doing regarding the incident.
Andrew Phillips and Dawn DeSalvo agreed that the council had taken the appropriate action thus far by not commenting on the issue until the investigation is concluded and all the facts are made public.
“I think it was a tragedy. I feel horrible for the families involved. However, it would be reckless of me to comment on the case when it’s still ongoing at this point,” DeSalvo said.
“I don’t think there’s any action the council can take yet,” Phillips said. “We don’t know all the facts, the report hasn’t come out. Let’s wait for that and not jump to conclusions. Let’s read it, digest it and then see what needs to happen and make an informed decision,” Phillips said.
“I’m not going to assert what the city council should or should not do at this point, there is an ongoing investigation,” Livdahl said. “The facts that are available to us are enough to inform all of us that the issues of race that have been raised by this incident are beyond the city council and the police department, its something we all need to be deeply concerned with. We all bear a responsibility for the culture that we are a part of and we need to make changes on a systemic level.”
“It was a surprise to everyone,” Moon said. “But the situation that stood out the most to me, as a civilian, [was] why lethal force was used at all? They had other means of subduing the man, a Taser, a baton, etc.”
The second question asked if a task force addressing discrimination and equity should be formed by the council, to which Moon was the sole opponent.
“I don’t think we should have to worry about having a task force,” Moon said. “We need to provide understanding to the public that things are going to happen as we continue to grow, a task force won’t stop that.”
“I support the idea, I think social equity and justice needs to be a conversation that we begin to have,” Livdahl said.
“I would also be in support of it, 100 percent,” DeSalvo said.
“I would have to see what the task force would involve,” Phillips said. “I feel like we give lip service to a lot of stuff, but what are we doing as a public, as a nation to get better? Is a task force going to make things better? Maybe. We will have to look at the cost, so be it, the cost is the cost. Looking at discrimination and equity should be a part of everything we do in life. I think a task force is great, but it will be on the actions of the person to get to the issue, the city council can only do so much.”