Friday, October 27, 2017

How Should I Decide Who to Vote for in Local Elections?

How Should I Decide Who to Vote for in Local Elections?
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

I live in Washington State and decided to take a closer look at the City of Everett's local election races this year.  I started by reading through the Voter Guide which arrived less than 2 weeks before the vote.  I read through all the candidates' descriptions and biographies.  Then, I decided to e-mail each of them and/or their campaigns to ask specific questions related to issues I care about.  While I understand some of the offices are non-partisan, I still wanted to know which parties the candidates most aligned with and a few other questions directly related to HEAL's primary campaign of stopping institutionalized child abuse.

There were 12 total candidates running according to the guide.  There were no Green Party candidates running in Snohomish or King County.  But, there are two great Green Party candidates running for local positions in Olympia, WA right now.  You can learn more about their campaigns at:

I contacted the Everett Mayoral Candidates Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.  I also contacted the following candidates for the Everett City Council: Paul Roberts, Lee Dart, Jeff Moore, Alex Lark, Scott Murphy, and Jennifer Hesse.  In addition, I contacted Amy Kaestner and Laura Van Slyck, both vying for judgeships and running unopposed leaving voters with only one choice to fill those judicial seats.  It is not really democratic when you only have one option on the ballot. 

Beyond that, I contacted both Pam LeSesne and Janelle Nixon who are running against each other for the Everett School District Director position.

I asked 3 main questions, with additional questions specific to the office the candidates were seeking:

1.  What political party platform is most aligned with your positions on the issues? (Please specify Green, Libertarian, Socialist Worker's, Democratic, or Republican)

2.  What is your position on segregated congregate care (i.e. group homes, residential treatment programs, boarding homes/schools, etc.) for vulnerable populations (children, youth, disabled, and elderly)?

3.  What will you do to prevent the abuse of public funds and protect human rights and dignity when it comes to segregated congregate care? For example, will you ban the use of special education funding for private segregated schooling and care for vulnerable populations?

I also attached the legislative request (see: ) HEAL researched and presented to our federal legislators last March and asked that the candidates adopt, promote, or make some progress on all suggestions that can be adopted locally.

I received responses from Mayoral Candidate Judy Tuohy, City Council Candidate Jennifer Hesse, School Director Candidate Janelle Burke, City Council Candidate Paul Roberts, City Council Candidate Jeff Moore, and School Director Candidate Pam LeSesne.  I agree with Jesse Ventura (see: ) that it is likely better to vote for those who responded than those who did not.  And, lucky for me, my choice has become much easier because of the willingness of some to respond to voters/constituents.

City Council Candidate Jennifer Hesse reports she is most aligned with the Libertarian platform.  She sees private charities as the answer to public need.  And, she supports the use of segregated congregate care for vulnerable populations.  She also reported, "I love the policies that you are supporting, especially those relating to education."  I believe Hesse is open to discussion and we may find some common ground for improving things for vulnerable populations.  Overall, I'm impressed that she read through my message, responded thoughtfully, and read through the attachments as well. 

City Council Candidate Paul Roberts reports that the issues I raised have not been brought up before the council, but, he would consider my views if it came up.  He did report, "I have - and do - support protecting human rights and protecting vulnerable populations and individuals."  Roberts also reported that he is most aligned with the Democratic Party, but, reminded me that it is a non-partisan office.  I appreciate that Roberts took the time to respond and that he at least agreed that we need to protect human rights and vulnerable populations.

City Council Candidate Jeff Moore also reminded me that this is a non-partisan office.  But, was kind enough to let me know that he is most aligned with the Democratic Party.  He reported that he supports keeping special needs children in public schools and providing them what they need in their own communities and homes.  To me, this is a big plus.  He also said the issues I raised had not come before the City Council to his knowledge and that he would keep my views in mind should it be brought to their forum.

Mayoral Candidate Judy Tuohy reported being a lifelong Democrat and having many Democratic endorsements.  She reported, "I am highly supportive of any measures we could enact at the City of Everett that would protect our youth, disabled, and elderly from being subjected to substandard housing, violations of their civil liberties, and/or abusive 'treatment' programs. The proportion of our population living in segregated congregate care is alarming, and I know we have several agencies that run such programs operating in our community... I do not have a legislative plan to address the concerns you have raised. I need to do more research on these matters before determining the best course of action for the City to take. Whether I am elected Mayor or not, I would welcome some time to meet with you to discuss this matter further. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!"  I am impressed with Tuohy's responses for the most part.  And, very happy to have an invitation to meet with her regardless of how the election turns out to discuss the issues I've raised.  She has my vote!

Here's where things get tough...  The judges don't give a hoot because they are running unopposed.  And, only one of the two options for the other seats responded.  Except, both School District Director candidates did get back with me in detail.  And now, my decision gets a bit tougher...

Everett School District Director Candidate Janelle Burke, reported not really being aligned with any political party and being more of an independent.  In responding to my other inquiries, Janelle said, "After reading the documents you sent me regarding your stance and the issue of segregated congregate care I must say that I actually agree that Everett needs to take a long hard look and consider (with maybe a push from the citizens) adopting these policies. I will be honest with you and say that until this email I was very ignorant as to this being as big of an issue as it is."  In addition, Burke invited me to work with her church and community organization to help promote HEAL's legislative agenda when it comes to stopping institutionalized abuse.  I remain very impressed and excited to hopefully work with Burke whether she wins or not on tackling these issues.

Everett School District Director Candidate Pam LeSesne also responded to my inquiry.  She reported that her views are most aligned with the Democratic Party, but, also reminded me it was a non-partisan office.  LeSesne didn't appear to take the time to read through my legislative request nor to answer my questions effectively in my opinion.  So, that decision just got much easier and Janelle Burke has my full support.

No matter the election cycle, as an activist, you should know the issues you care about and know what you expect of those running for any office.  You can write them and ask their position(s) on issues that you care about and make more informed decisions with minimal effort on your part.  I hope you will be inspired to get more involved at every level of the political process and commit to making more informed decisions.  This will help push through policies that will improve things for everyone.  And, it is the main peaceful option we have to putting an end to this fascist corporatocracy in the United States.

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