Last week, Sen. Christine Rolfes of Washington’s 23rd Legislative District met with the local community members at the Filipino-American Community Center in East Bremerton. The order of the night was listening to questions and concerns of the senator’s constituents ahead of the coming legislative session, set to convene Jan. 13.
Some 25 people attended the event, including Bremerton City Councilmember Leslie Daugs and Kitsap County Auditor Paul Andrews. Topics on the minds of constituents included school district issues and local election reform.
One of the bigger discussions related to the shortage of school lunches at Bremerton High School. A couple of students were in attendance and spoke about how the school regularly runs out of lunch food by the end of the second-lunch period.
Rolfes seemed shocked by the notion and responded by saying, “I’ve actually never heard somebody say the food ran out.”
“Right now at the federal level, there are all kinds of conversations about tightening up requirements about school lunch,” she said. “That is not going to be helpful to us if that passes.”
Another education issue raised was regarding a shortage of school nurses.
“The state woefully underfunds school nurses,” Rolfes said. “There was no political agreement that nurses are part of the basic education. It was a partisan divide to be honest.”
Rolfes did note the fact that Kitsap County is leading the charge when it comes to incorporating community health clinics in local school districts.
“That is possible today to where it wasn’t possible 10 years ago because of Obamacare,” she said. “Every child in this state should have insurance coverage. Now we’re looking at this model that’s being done in Kitsap and wondering if there’s a way to [prop] the community health system up to provide coordinated care for students rather than having the school be responsible for the healthcare.”
The senator also addressed questions about the Washington State Ferries, stating that 80 percent of operating costs are covered by fares.
“If you consider that to be a transit system, it’s the most efficient transit system in the state, if not the country,” Rolfes said. “Riders are for the first time directly paying for some of the construction, but most of it is coming from the gas tax.”
Rolfes also lauded WSF’s work to convert its ferries from diesel to hybrid-electric.
“That’s going to be awesome because it’s going to be clean and quiet, that will save the ferry system millions of dollars over the life span of that engine.”
One of the last and more interesting discussions centered around the idea of possibly incorporating ranked-choice voting at the local level, such as Kitsap County. One gentleman talked about FairVote Washington, a non-partisan, grassroots group that works for electoral reform in Washington State.
Ranked-choice voting is defined as an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, they are the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated.
First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.
According to fairvotewa.org, the benefits of ranked-choice voting includes providing more options on voters’ ballots, allowing for a wide field of candidates while ensuring that the winner has the broadest support possible.
“I think it’s a cool idea,” Rolfes said of ranked-choice voting. “I’m open to being creative. I wouldn’t vote to do that at the state or federal level, but I’m open to it if a small city wants to try that out. I would never mandate it.”