Candidates for Washington State Senator (Legislative District 37) Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe debate on October 3, 2014. • Photo by Travis Quezon
Candidates for Washington State Senator (Legislative District 37) Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe debate on October 3, 2014. • Photo by Travis Quezon

Over 60 people attended the API Candidate forum at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service building on October 3. Discussions were held on the gun initiatives and on the childcare propositions on the November ballot. There were also two debates featuring candidates for Washington State Representative (Legislative District 33) Mia Su-Ling Gregerson and Jeanet Burrage; and candidates for Washington State Senator (Legislative District 37) Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe.

The forum was sponsored by a dozen API organizations in the Greater Seattle area.

The audience first heard from supporters of each of the two gun initiatives. Philip Watson from Protect our Gun Rights spoke in support of Initiative Measure No. 591 (I-591). Alex Hur from the Washington Alliance of Gun Responsibility spoke in support of Initiative Measure 594 (I-594).

I-591 would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process or from requiring background checks on fire arms recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

I-594 would subject all firearms sales or transfers in Washington to background checks unless specifically exempted. It would also require all firearms sales to go through a licensed dealer. The measure establishes procedures for dealers and requires the Department of Licensing to regulate a dealer’s violation of the law.

Watson spoke to the simplicity of I-591, which is one page long compared to I-594, which is 18 pages long. He said he did not disagree on background checks but preferred a national standard. Watson also said that the measure is supported by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.

Hur said that the purpose of I-594 is to close a loophole. Currently, only guns bought from licensed dealers are subject to a background check. The loophole, he said, keeps bad people from buying fire arms from other sources such as gun shows and on the Internet. Hur said the measure ensures that the current law is applied to all situations.

The audience next heard from supporters of each of the two City of Seattle propositions relating to early learning programs and providers.

Proposition 1A (Initiative 107) would establish a $15 minimum wage for childcare workers (phased in over three years for employers with under 250 employees); seek to reduce childcare costs to 10 percent or less of family income; prohibit violent felons from providing professional childcare; require enhanced training and certification through a training institute; create a workforce board and establish a fund to help providers meet standards; and hire an organization to facilitate communication between the City and childcare workers.

As an alternative, the Seattle City Council and Mayor have proposed Proposition 1B (Ordinance 124509), which would fund the four-year initial phase of a City early learning program with the goal of developing a widely-available, affordable, licensed, and voluntary preschool option. The Ordinance requires support, training and certification for teachers. The program uses research-based strategies, includes evaluation of results, and provides tuition support. This proposition authorizes regular property taxes above RCW 84.55 limits, allowing additional 2015 collection of up to $14,566,630 (approximately 11¢ per $1,000 assessed value), totaling $58,266,518 over four years.

Lisa Chen spoke in favor of Proposition 1A and Dave Okamoto spoke in favor of Proposition 1B.

Okamoto said Proposition 1B is a pilot program that ramps up over time that puts a priority on dual language pre-K programs. He said that proposition 1B is extensively researched, fully funded, and supported by a wide range of government agencies. He criticized Proposition 1A’s funding mechanism.

Chen said that she agreed with the points of Proposition 1B but disagreed with the approach. She said Proposition 1A directs the City Council addresses the high turnover in which a large number of teachers are leaving the profession each year because of unsustainable wages. Cheng said the city can afford funding Proposition 1A by pulling from existing funds.

In the candidate debate for Representative District 33, Burrage prioritized jobs and higher education. Gregerson prioritized healthcare access and affordable housing.

In the candidate debate for Senate District 37, Jayapal prioritized education funding, affordable housing, and small businesses. Watanabe prioritized addressing homelessness and protecting small businesses.

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