Still No Answers from Hutchison

Only at a retirement home will an Exec forum fill every seat in the house.
First let me start off by saying I was totally wrong about the nature of last night's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The League has been very active in the abortion debates in the past, and I assumed that would come up here. But it turns out the League was mostly providing support to Horizon House to hold a forum. Horizon House is a retirement community on First Hill (again, mea culpa for not knowing that), making this forum easily the most well-attended. And the people who made it are darn well going to be voting in the August primary.

That goes a long way toward explaining Susan Hutchison's willingness to participate, and no, there were no questions on abortion or family planning (though Dow Constantine and Ross Hunter slid in their support of county clinics providing those services). But we still didn't learn anything about Hutchison's plan for the county except that she thinks taxes on businesses are too high and the Executive's staff is too large.

A candidate forum at a retirement community is a little like going to your grandparents' house. First it's very affirming. Everyone was invited, including Goodspaceguy, a perpetual candidate who wants Boeing to build the next spaceship, everyone to live in barracks, and the government to hire the unemployed as "helpers." He's a couple Buds short of a six pack, but when he asked the audience to say his name with him, they gamely echoed and applauded him when he sat down.

Second, it's a little rambling and hard to follow. There was only one set question--what the candidates would do about the budget deficit. (Fred Jarrett was the only one to point out that the November general election actually falls after the council has created the budget with the current Executive, Kurt Triplett.) You can get a sense for the candidates' financial plan for the county from their statements in North Bend last week. But the rest of the forum was audience questions, with only one or two candidates responding to each.

Most of the questions had to do with financial management, the environment, expanding Metro service, and health care. Because it wasn't set beforehand who would answer what, the candidates would listen to the question, then kind of jockey each other for the microphone. All of the candidates can be pretty vague about what they would be willing to cut to balance the budget or how exactly they would keep set up better performance measures or improve bus service. But Susan Hutchison didn't reach for the mic once. Goodspaceguy even grabbed for it a couple of times. There were a few questions where the moderator asked after an answer if anyone else wanted a chance to weigh in and Hutchison shook her head.

After six questions, the moderator finally asked: "Does anybody have a specific question for Ms. Hutchison?"

Someone asked about the role of the parties in the race and she stood up to say that sewage is not a political issue and transportation is not a political issue. But she still didn't share her plan for managing either of those things. She did participate more actively in the rest of the forum from there on out, answering a question on arts funding with a statement about how the arts are suffering and reiterating her plan to lower the tax burden on businesses (as has been pointed out, that's a state issue).

Near the end, Hutchison noted that, "all of the questions tonight have been marvelous." What isn't marvelous is that she answered so few of them. And don't expect any additional answers at tonight's forum on King County environmental issues (Town Hall, 7 p.m). It's likely none of the candidates will commit to much in the way of specifics on things like the Critical Areas Ordinance, probably the biggest environmental issue on the next Executive's plate, but once again, Hutchison isn't scheduled to attend.

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