Fitzgibbon, Heavey Make Pitch For Votes At B-Town Blog Forum
[REPORTER’S NOTE: Writing on the fast-paced exchanges of a candidates’ forum presents a challenge in conveying what they say with accuracy and balance. Therefore, many answers are paraphrased to ensure fairness to both participants. Candidate responses are presented generally in the order they answered questions. To hear their full remarks in context, you can listen to a raw MP3 of the event by clicking the Play button below:]
34th Legislative District candidates Joe Fitzgibbon and Mike Heavey each put his best foot forward at an Oct. 12 forum sponsored by The B-Town Blog.
Yet when it ended, little had been said to separate the two Democrats – engaged in an apparent close race made possible by Washington’s top-two primary system – in the minds of voters.
They hope to replace State Rep. Sharon Nelson, D-Vashon, who is running unopposed to succeed Joe McDermott – now a candidate for King County Council – in the Senate.
The 34th Legislative District includes most of Burien and North Highline as well as West Seattle and Vashon and Maury Islands.
Heavey and Fitzgibbon displayed the greatest degree of separation during the forum in Burien on the question of education reform.
“There are teachers, there are great teachers, and there are teachers unions,” Heavey said. The notion of tenure has run “our schools into the ground.” An objective measure is needed to track student progress.
But, said Fitzgibbon, “All I hear is reform and reform. It sounds good. There is pretty broad agreement that our schools need some changes. My concerns are over the criteria for evaluation.”
Asked if he would attempt, as a legislator, to change Burien’s recently adopted Shoreline Master Program, Fitzgibbon – chairman of the city planning commission – said state law is “pretty clear” about this regulatory process.
Stating he would not involve himself in the Department of Ecology review of the Burien plan, Fitzgibbon added that while city council members made changes in the document sent to them by the planning commission, “the system works pretty well as set up.”
Responding to a different inquiry, Heavey said he would vote to continue state unemployment benefits beyond the current 99-week limit. “One of the lessons of the Great Depression is that unemployment insurance does matter … until people start getting jobs back.”
Heavey, who hopes to follow his father and grandfather into elective office, said while he is building his own political identity, “I am “proud of my family tradition … I plan to embrace it” rather than shy away from it.
Fitzgibbon defended an earlier statement that he wants to “impact” people’s lives, saying he is “hesitant to discount the role government can play in people’s lives.” He defended his work experience – primarily as a legislative aide – as giving him insights to make those decisions.
“I would be in favor of looking at programs that have been added” since the recession started as a first step for making cuts to balance the state budget, Heavey said. He would also continue freezes on public employee pay raises and cost-of-living adjustments.
Fitzgibbon said he “won’t say I know where to cut the budget.”
Later he added, “I don’t want to classify all government works the same way. State workers are not generously compensated … but I don’t see any appetite for the Legislature to increase salaries – especially at a time when we are cutting health care coverage.”
Heavey said “when no one in the private sector is getting raises, the right thing for public employees to do” is to forego raises. “These are tough times, and we need to balance the budget some way.”
Both candidates supported increasing the state’s hazardous substances tax, which is imposed on oil companies and other industries whose activities generate pollutants.
They also agreed that increasing light rail routes, despite the costs, is a top transportation priority compared to reducing traffic congestion by adding more highway lanes – describing this as a green option that will contain urban sprawl.
This was The B-Town Blog’s fourth candidates forum this year, and was moderated by Nancy Warren, with questions posed by BTB Journalists Jack Mayne and Ralph Nichols, along with Pulitzer Prize winning Seattle Times Reporter Susan Kelleher.
To view and purchase photos from this event, click here.