Redmond City Council candidates at a community forum on Oct. 5. Aaron Kunkler/Redmond Reporter

Redmond City Council candidates share ideas at community forum

Candidates for four local races on November’s ballot met in Redmond on Oct. 5 for a community forum.

Position 3 on the Lake Washington School District Board (LWSD) of Directors is open, as are positions 2, 4 and 6 for the Redmond City Council. The forum was held by the Education Hill Neighborhood Association at the First Baptist Church.

For the LWSD position, Anita Damjanovic and Cassandra Sage are running against each other and fielded questions first.

“My vision for Lake Washington School District is to foster schools where every student is welcome and included,” Damjanovic said.

Damjanovic has been a teacher for 13 years, educating students from middle school through institutions like the University of Chicago.

She wants to be mindful of spending while also providing for teachers and students.

“Every single child out there deserves an education and a high-quality education,” said Sage.

Sage has 22 years of parent-teacher-association experience and volunteering for the school district. She has also been a family adviser for Seattle Children’s Hospital for 15 years.

One of Sage’s main goals is to see more vocational and tech education opportunities for students with an understanding that not every student will be headed to a four-year college.

Both said they have spent years advocating for students, as well as experience in schools.

One issue they agreed on was that LWSD should look at how to more adequately deal with issues of equity.

Sage said black students and special-education students were suspended at much higher rates than others in the district, and was a problem that should be examined and fixed.

Damjanovic said the district should also look at creating greater equity.

Damjanovic wants to get more details on how much some staff members earn in the proposed budget, as well as planning to meet needs.

With the district growing at a rate of 700 new students every year, LWSD should be planning to create more classrooms and lower class sizes as well as recruit new teachers, she said.

Sage said the school has been conservative with its funding and doesn’t rely on levies to pay for staff, which is good, she said.

She also agreed that the district should be taking a more precise look at enrollment projections at the level of individual schools.

When asked about their opinions of the boundary readjustment process currently underway, Danjanovic said she is most concerned about following federal equity laws and the safety of students walking to schools or bus stops.

Sage said she would prefer to see if families would volunteer to go to different schools first before a boundary readjustment mandates they move. She would also like to see transition grades grandfathered into their new schools so there isn’t a major disruption for students transitioning between elementary and middle schools.

In Redmond City Council races, incumbent Byron Shutz is facing off against former mayoral candidate Steve Fields for position 2.

For position 4, Tanika Padhye is running against Eugene Zakhareyev. Padhye was appointed to the council earlier this year to fill a vacant position and is seeking election on this November’s ballot.

In position 6, Jeralee Anderson and Jason Antonelli are vying for the spot.

The first question posed was how they would build consensus in the community and council around the platforms they are running on.

Antonelli said communicating with the community was essential, and that the council should work to bring more of the public into the process before it was up for a vote.

Anderson said the council should tell a story and try and work with local tech workers to help get their ideas across.

Padhye said the council does engage with the public through neighborhood outreach meetings and wants to make sure there remains room for public engagement.

Fields said decisions should be data-driven and that the council needs accurate measurements for its proposals.

“Getting the right information is essential,” he said.

Fields also said the city should attend community events, not just city ones.

Shutz said the city has been trying to get citizen input and regularly throws joint events with the community to build a sense of ownership.

On the question of encouraging affordable housing, Shutz said the city is working with regional organizations to find solutions.

“It’s our biggest challenge as a community right now,” he said.

He also said a recently passed multi-family tax exemption to incentivise more affordable housing from developers could help create more housing.

Fields said the city should look at using public funding for housing and creating different types of housing like micro housing.

“We are being priced out of our lives and we need to do something,” he said.

He was not in favor of creating exemptions for developers.

Zakhareyev said continuing to work with regional groups, like the A Regional Coalition for Housing was important.

He also expressed skepticism of tax exemptions for developers, saying Bellevue implemented a similar policy in recent years and that no developers have taken the city up on the offer.

Padhye said the city should try and create more housing options on a variety of price points.

She is in favor of the multi-family tax exemption.

“If companies don’t have places for their employees to live, they’ll relocate,” she said, citing Amazon’s recent decision to locate another headquarters outside of Seattle.

Anderson said she wants to see a progressive policy going beyond county minimums for affordable housing.

One suggestion she had was to increase the number of affordable units required for new developments bumped from 10 percent to 20 or 30 percent.

Antonelli said there should be diversity of housing in neighborhoods, ranging from apartments to houses.

As traffic worsens in the city from continuing economic growth, the candidates were asked how they would fix it.

Antonelli said the city hasn’t prioritized projects that impact traffic, and was skeptical of undertakings like converting Cleveland Street and Redmond Way downtown into two-way roads. He said these don’t help alleviate congestion in north-south corridors.

Anderson said letting people know how long it will take them to commute could let them look for alternative routes.

She said the city should address gap completion in commutes, like facilitating bikers to get around easier.

Padhye said the city has implemented some measures, like installing stop lights with more responsive timers, to help address the problem.

Encouraging transit use could help move some drivers out of their cars and reduce congestion, she said.

Zakhareyev said data is needed, but that traffic studies are complicated and expensive, so more real-time data is needed to figure out how to handle the problem.

Fields said the city should hire a full-time employee to tackle congestion.

Shutz said the city has to continue working with other cities in the area and the county since most transportation dollars come from grants.

Finally, the candidates were asked their opinions on safe drug consumption sites, which have been proposed in the county by county staff.

A group opposed to the sites, called Safe King County, will have Initiative 27 on the February special election ballot that seeks to ban the sites in the county.

None of the candidates outright said they would support the placement of a site in the city, but Padhye, Anderson and Shutz all said since the city wasn’t considering setting a site set up, it was all a theoretical discussion at this point.

“I feel that it’s unfortunate that a public health issue has turned into a political one,” Padhye said.

The ballots for the November election will be mailed on Oct. 18 with ballot boxes opening the next day.

Election day is Nov. 7.

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