April 18, 2024 2:17 pm

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Rowdy Mukilteo Town Hall criticize lawmaker’s handling of statewide issues

MUKILTEO—Senator Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), Representatives Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo) and Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), shared their priorities and heard from constituents at a 21st Legislative District town hall event at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, on Saturday, February 17. The event was emceed by Mukilteo Council President Louis Harris. Washington’s 21st Legislative District encompasses portions of Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds, and Lynnwood.

LD21 Town Hall 2024 at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo on February 17, 2024. Lynnwood Times YouTube Channel

Senator Marko Liias, Chair of the Transportation Committee and Kamiak graduate, kickstarted the evening by highlighting three of his priorities throughout this year’s short, 60-day, legislative session. The first is ensuring kids have a quality education, which he tackled by introducing the 9th Grade Success Grant Program (SB 5408) which would fund the creation of ninth grade success teams that can identify and support incoming high school students who are at risk of not graduating.

Senator Liias’ second priority is transportation and infrastructure, which includes “getting our iconic ferry system back to where it needs to be,” he said Saturday. Senator Liias just unveiled the supplemental transportation budget, Senate Bil 5947, on Tuesday, February 20—a $14.6 billion proposal which prioritizes public safety, preservation and maintenance of existing infrastructure and investments in the ferry system.

Lastly, Liias mentioned public safety wrapping up his top three priorities, mentioning his recent opportunity to meet with Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett, Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn, and new Snohomish County Sheriff Susanna Johnson, to learn more about challenges they’ve faced ensuring community members feel safe.

Representative Ortiz-Self, House Majority Caucus Chair and member of the Education Committee, shared how she has prioritized ensuring behavioral health services for students remains accessible while stressing the purpose of encouraging higher education.

Mukilteo Town Hall
Representatives Lillian Ortiz-Self (right) and Strom Peterson (left) at 21st LD Town Hall at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo on February 17, 2024. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Representative Peterson, who chairs the Housing Committee, noted that access to and affordable housing is the number one issue his office consistently hears about. Rep. Peterson noted that Washington State is about 1 million houses short as “we look out into the future” and mentioned he has been working diligently to address the housing issues many Washingtonians face this legislative session.

Rep. Peterson said the housing problem falls on three solutions: supply, which he said legislatures have been working on for the last couple of years, support which is the state level investments lawmakers can do to maintain affordable living options, and stabilization to address rising renting costs and ensuring people stay housed.

Rep. Peterson also serves on the Capital Budget and the Civil Rights and Judiciary committees where he primarily focuses on reducing gun violence. He closed opening remarks by applauding Senator Liias, and other Washington lawmakers’ work on supporting high-capacity magazines and assault rifle bans.

After each officials’ introductions, the floor was open to questions from community members, with many of them animatedly expressing dissatisfaction with their elected officials from legislation related to COVID-19 vaccinations; to handling substance abuse services; to “over-governing” by introducing hundreds of new bills this session; to “enforcing housing density” as a solution to the state’s housing crises.

“I believe our response to the pandemic was data driven and fact drive,” said Rep. Strom Peterson in response to the COVID-19 vaccination criticisms. “Science is always growing and always evolving. I believe that Washington citizens fared better in health impacts from COVID than just about any other state in the country and I think we should be proud of the work we did.”

Senator Liias echoed Rep. Peterson’s defense of how the state handled vaccinations adding that their response was guided by leading authorities in health and science which, he added, is a constantly evolving field as more information becomes available and as the field changes as does legislatures approach to problems.

Liias also addressed the “over-governing” concern stating that the 60 bills or so, he introduced this session were the result of having conversations with community leaders who expressed a need for them.

Senator Liias, as it pertains to the housing, mentioned the reality is that more people are moving to our region than there are houses to accommodate them.

With regards to a question by a resident about the lack of crisis beds in Snohomish County, Liias told the Lynnwood Times after the meeting that the state acquired a new hospital in Tukwila and Tulalip is adding more crisis beds. He added that if I-2109, repeal of the capital gains tax, were to pass, funding for programs like this would be hindered.

“I want to make sure we invest more,” Liias told the Lynnwood Times. “This budget invests more across the Puget Sound Region to create more capacity.”

Rep. Peterson also answered an audience question concerning a rent stabilization bill he introduced which he defended as being a way for renters (who encompass 30% to 40% of the state’s housed individuals) from knowing 30 to 40 years out what to expect as far as rent payments go, adding that for every percentage of rent increase there is about a 10% increase in homelessness.

Rep. Ortiz-Self, after urging the crowd – which at this time had been extremely vocal – to remain respectful, then answered a question regarding the housing crises adding that the issue is complex and must be resolved by working with her constituents and multiple agencies.

Throughout the public question segment, the over 120 attendees continually interrupted the lawmakers, chastised their handling of certain issues, spoke out of turn, and talked over each other.

The line for questions and comment stretched from the stage of the Kamiak High School auditorium, down the aisle, all the way to the back door.

Below are comments of how the Mukilteo Town Hall went from random people we spoke to after the event:

  • The responses were the typical political rhetoric.
  • Disappointed only three initiatives made it to hearing.
  • It was brutal, you need to have a calm voice. Sometimes we forget we live in a representative democracy.
  • Tough crowd, but our electeds aren’t listening to us
  • It is a necessary platform to allow people to voice their opinion. It is not set up in a manner to be specific with the issue. It was beneficial and necessary.
  • I am not sure how to improve the format, but an hour and a half was not enough time.
  • The reality is that they are making their own choices.
  • They knew the hotels were contaminated for months; Claire’s Place was in the Herald today. How is this helping addiction?
  • A lot of people came here to not have a discussion.
  • Liias is a great speaker, he handled himself well.

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