KITSAP COUNTY — This year, Rep. Sherry Appleton is running for re-election. If elected, it will be her eighth term in the Position 1 seat of Washington’s 23rd Legislative District. Appleton stopped by the North Kitsap Herald’s offices in Poulsbo on July 2 to have a conversation with senior staff writer Nick Twietmeyer. In their chat, Appleton discussed her run for Legislature, challenges facing her district and her opponent in her run for re-election, Poulsbo’s mayor, Becky Erickson.
Nick Twietmeyer [NT] — You are running for re-election. If you win, this will be your eighth term. Since you have assumed office, what are the three things you are most proud of accomplishing?
Rep. Appleton [SA] — In different budgets, different things happen. Especially about two years ago, I was able to get the Silver Alert passed and the highway patrol just gave me a ration of you-know-what. They did not want it passed because they had EMPA. So I went around asking all the state police, ‘Do you know what EMPA means? Not one of them knew what EMPA meant, which is Exploited Missing Persons Act. It was ridiculous, but if you asked somebody about the Silver Alert on those signs, they know it’s an older person who is lost. We’ve had great success. Before it used to always be recovery, now it’s rescue.
I got a million dollars for Martha & Mary this year, three-quarters of a million for Morrow Manor … that made their budget. Fishline, I got them $500,000, and then many other things throughout Kitsap County. Kitsap County is 54 square-miles so it’s not just Poulsbo.
I was named national Legislator of the Year back in 2009, I think. I got the Senator John C. Heinz Memorial Award for fighting for aging populations … I was Legislator of the Year for the Veterans Administration here in the state. Then I was Legislator of the Year for the Humane Society.
[NT] What are the most challenging issues you have faced as a legislative representative?
[SA] McCleary was probably the biggest, where the Supreme Court fined us $100,000 a day for not funding basic education. Of course, for a long time we didn’t have a definition of basic education, but once we did, a lot of parents — and they were right — they were upset because they felt they were not getting the best education for their children. So this year it reached $14 million, and we gave that to schools. It wasn’t like it was a fine and the Supreme Court grabbed it and ran with it. It went back to schools.
Another was the Great Recession. That was without a doubt one of the most difficult things that we have had to live through because everything costs money. What things do you get rid of, to be able to keep your budget together? The environmental stuff just went out the window because they swept a lot of funds. Now that’s finally coming back.
[NT] With exponential growth expected in the coming years, how do you intend to ensure that your district adequately prepares to tackle the growth-related challenges currently being faced now by Seattle?
[SA] Well, the truth is we try not to usurp the ability of city councils to do their job without the state interfering. What I do is when I hear from a constituent who says they have been asking for the county to pave their road or do something like that, I call the commissioner. I don’t do anything except call him and say this is what I’ve heard and I forward him the email. [Otherwise] you’ve got competing governments working against each other, and if you don’t, you can work with them much better.
[NT] What do you think will be the greatest challenge associated with exponential growth in the 23rd District?
[SA] I think you can look around and see we don’t have enough roads, and we need that. Of course, in downtown [Poulsbo] you can’t get rid of a road that’s been there 100 years, but you need to make provisions so that the roads are meeting the expectations of the people who are coming here. So, I think that’s going to be the biggest problem, and with that comes fire, police all of those things. As the population grows, you have to have more firemen, more EMTs, more police, but if you don’t have roads, you can’t get there.
[NT] That specific issue ties nicely into one of the committees for which you are a member, City Government. Have you been discussing the impact that growth will have on cities’ abilities to build and maintain adequate infrastructure?
We have, because of the Growth Management Act. Growth Management Act comes to my committee. In 1990, when we passed the Growth Management Act, people were really afraid that we were going to become like Oregon — who had no zoning and lost a lot of open space. We made this promise to the people that we would have green space and we would work to put most of the density in the cities, because the cities are the ones who supply the utilities, not the county. If the county has to give up the utilities, then they have to work together to figure out how they can make the counties whole, while keeping the cities whole.
[NT] Becky Erickson has voiced her criticism of the a bill you voted in favor of which sought to exempt Legislature from the Public Records Act. How do you respond to Erickson’s comments, “What made me decide to do this was the Public Records Act. The state Legislature cannot continue to work in secret. This is wrong. It goes against everything I believe about who we are as a people, how representative democracy should work.”
[SA] What happened that day was all of us were called to the floor and we were not told what was in that bill and everybody from the House, the Senate, everybody voted for it. Then we realized what it did, and we went to the governor and asked him to veto it. We never exempt ourselves from public records. This is what all of us have said to the committees, that we don’t mind if you get my calendar. I’ll send it to you anytime. You can have my texts. I never do business with my texts, but you can’t have my emails. The reason for that is so many constituents write us with very personal issues, and it’s up to me to guard their privacy when they’ve done that. It wasn’t to exempt everything out, it was to make sure that we could continue on and [newspapers] have been asking for this stuff for years, and we give it to them.
[NT] Would you not just be able to redact the names of the constituents that write in to you?
[SA] I would think you could, but I also think that somebody would make a mistake somewhere along the line and not only that, if somebody was put in the paper and they were — let’s say — a Poulsbo constituent and everybody recognized what was happening, then their privacy would not be kept. To me, that’s the thing. We are the stewards of civility in a way. You can’t just redact. People look on the other side of the redaction.
[NT] Given what you know now, would you have voted for that bill again?
[SA] No. I would not have voted for the bill, because it was wrong. We were sort of barreled into it and everybody felt that way. We felt that we had been sold a load of goods, so that’s how it got vetoed.
[NT] What issues do you want voters in your district keep at the forefront of their minds in the days to come?
[SA] I want them to keep the fact that we have a silver tsunami coming.
[NT] Is that what I think it is?
[SA] Yeah, because the baby boomers are no longer just there, they are the silver tsunami and there are so many of them. I sat on the State Council on Aging for eight years, and when you think about it, where are they going to put people? We don’t have enough assisted living, we don’t have enough nursing homes, we don’t have enough memory care. What’s going to happen to these people? We have to work very hard to prepare for the silver tsunami.
They have to look at the budget. Everybody says, “We don’t want an income tax. We don’t want a capital gains tax because that’s an income tax,” which it isn’t. I don’t know if they realize when a state is growing like ours … somebody has to supply the money. It just doesn’t fall out of the sky. You have to be able to pay your fire, you have to pay your police, you have to be able to assume those things. If you don’t have money, you can’t do it. Everybody who knows me, know’s I’m in favor of income tax. … I believe that it’s the fairest form of taxation. If we had an income tax, we could cut the sales tax in half. We could get rid of the [business and occupation] tax, 350,000 companies would no longer have to pay B&O tax.
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org