Below are the questions and responses sent to Jack Connelly, candidate for Washington State Senate District #27.
The questions being asked to Washington State Legislative candidates this year from the Tacoma Sun are very specific and address such issues as the best method rebuilding Tacoma Streetcars, digital billboards, pollution in Tacoma and addressing the Felon Dumping Ground Issue.
Tacoma Sun Candidate Questionnaire Candidate: John Connelly Position: Washington State Senate District #27
1) Education and Experience
Question: What education and experience do you have to qualify to be a member of the Washington State Legislature? What books have you read that you believe that would give you insights as to how to be an effective legislator?
Education: Lakes High School, 1974; Stanford University, B.A. Human Biology 1978 (also fulfilled requirements for degree in Psychology;) J.D. University of California, Hastings College of Law, 1981; Ongoing courses in continuing legal education, both as student and as a lecturer.
Experience: Work as an attorney and advocate for 31 years. Worked through college and law school, first in the cannery at Nalleys, then as a swim coach in Palo Alto, and Lakewood. During Law School I clerked for a law firm in Palo Alto after my first year, then with Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell in Tacoma after my second year. After Law School I returned to Tacoma and began working with Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell as an attorney. I became a partner in 1986 and board chair (managing partner) in 2000 and 2001. I was a two time member of the Board of trustees of the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association and invited onto the Board of the Washington State Association for Justice. I held several offices in the Washington State Association for Justice, including chair of the legislative committee – a committee I served on for a number of years. In 2005 I was elected President of WSAJ. I ran the campaign against I-330. As a lawyer, I received a number of honors including, WSAJ Trial Lawyer of the year in 2000, American Board of Trial Advocates Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2007, Membership in Best Lawyers in America, Selection as one of the top 100 lawyers in Washington State by Washington Law and Politics Magazine and one of Seattle Area’s best lawyers by Seattle Magazine.
During my tenure with the Washington State Association for Justice I worked on legislative issues and served on the legislative committee for a number of years. I also served for a period on the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Associations Legislative Committee.
In my work I have handled civil rights and injury cases on behalf of minorities (e.g. the Puyallup School District case), the elderly, abused children (e.g. the OK Boys Ranch cases); disabled, firefighters (Pang Warehouse fire, 30 Mile Fire), Police Officers (Lakewood Police Shootings), people whose rights have been undermined by the State (cases against the Department of Corrections and DSHS) some employment cases (Barbara Corey, Cases by employees of Dale Washam) and other cases on behalf of families and people whose rights have been violated. The skills from this advocacy and negotiation are directly transferable to the work in the legislature.
Books: I am a fairly voracious reader and all the books I read influence my thinking. I particularly like reading anything about John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. Examples of recent books I have read include:
Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, Christopher Mathews
Bill Bradley, We Can All Do Better
Team of Rivals (Book on Tape); Doris Kearns Goodwin
George Washington’s Sacred Fire, Peter Lillback, Jerry Newcombe
Home Grown Democrat, Garrison Keillor (Book on Tape)
The Fiery Trial, Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Eric Foner
The Cost of Choice, Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion, Erika Bachiochi
Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate, Robert A. Caro
2) Growth management:
Question: Over the last 30 years, Pierce County has been known for suburban sprawl which has caused the loss of farmland, pollution, traffic congestion and disinvestment in Tacoma. During the last 10 years, Tacoma has grown less than 5000 residents while Spokane grew by 13,000 and Pierce County grew by 95,000. If you are elected, would you work to add more density to the City of Tacoma? How would your plan, if any, be different from what is in place now?
Answer: Yes. We need to continue to build Tacoma’s inner core. Tacoma has some of the most beautiful areas in the State. We need to make sure we are keeping the city beautiful for people visiting it. This includes excellent parks and small things such as filling potholes and mowing right of ways. One of the great difficulties with Tacoma right now is that it is not seen as an attractive area for businesses, including small businesses.
This causes them to move to strip malls outside the city and in suburban areas rather than into Tacoma. It is extremely important that we begin working to make Tacoma a more livable and attractive city. We have done a good job with the museums but need to continue this work. This includes continuing the “promenade” from the Thea Foss waterway all the way to Point Ruston and on to Point Defiance. It includes repairing our infrastructure in areas such as the Hilltop and Martin Luther King Way. It includes encouraging and assisting small businesses in the downtown area, in East Tacoma, on the hilltop and throughout Tacoma. Work in the legislature to assist small businesses must include review of the B&O tax structure and review of the amount of regulation so that we are not strangling small , start-up businesses before they can get up and going. Additionally, we need to improve our voice.
Spokane runs certain events such as Bloomsday and the Hoopfest which draw thousands to the City and its message to those people coming into the city reflects great civic pride. Tacoma needs similar events and needs to make sure that its message after events such as the Fourth of July celebration (Freedom Fair) on the waterfront is similarly positive. We did this with the Tall Ships. We can do more of this. I should finally note that we absolutely must improve our schools so that people want to move into Tacoma and want to start their businesses here. We have many opportunities such as at the Port of Tacoma to bring more business and more residents to Tacoma. Extension of I-167 to the Port would add jobs and allow much new spinoff business. But people are only going to want to move and live here if we are working on building a beautiful city with quality schools and amenities that continue to make Tacoma a great place to live.
3) Pierce County Felon “Dumping Ground” Issues
Question: Despite the recent laws passed in the Legislature, Tacoma and Pierce County have a disproportionate number of released felons placed by the Department of Corrections as described in the Tacoma City Club report: 30 Years of DOC in Pierce County, Was It worth It? http://cityclubtacoma.org/images/uploads/DOC_Report_final1.pdf. Have you read this report? What specific steps would you take, if any, to reduce the number of felons being place in Tacoma and Pierce County? Does the Department of Corrections need more oversight as to where they place and/or subsidize felons to live?
Yes. I have read the report and have worked in this area. At our law firm we have handled cases involving felons who are “dumped” in Tacoma. This increases the crime rate and exposes residents to increased risks. One of the most difficult things for a felon who has been incarcerated is transitioning back into society. The Department of Corrections needs to spend more time overseeing how the individual felon is going to be transitioned, who he/she is going to live with and how they are going to avoid reoffending. Specific steps include creating an ombudsman position for this purpose, partnering with nonprofit and for profit groups who provide resources for released felons, (the Irma Gary House is an example) assisting with creation of new similar groups to work with transitioning of felons so that they have a meaningful chance of returning to society, finding work and leading a productive life; working to place limits on the number of acceptances in this area, and making sure that DOC has positions available in other areas.
5) Rebuilding Tacoma
Question: Despite the progress made, Tacoma still has a large number of vacant lots, and empty and blighted buildings relative to other west coast cities. In fact at least two new surface level parking lots have been created downtown in the last couple of years (the Sauro site and the site where the Luzon building was). What role can you and the Washington State Legislature take, if you are elected, to support the rebuilding of downtown Tacoma and Tacoma’s mixed use centers?
This needs to be an area of primary focus right now. Our delegation to Olympia in past years has not focused on business and the downtown core. That fact and the recession has contributed to the empty storefronts and empty downtown core that we are all familiar with. Rebuilding of downtown Tacoma will require a focus on business, especially small business, working with the Chamber of Commerce to make Tacoma a city that is friendly to business, obtaining funds and federal monies for infrastructure such as I-167 to the Port of Tacoma, infrastructure on the hilltop and East Tacoma, and assistance to businesses throughout the city. Partnerships with groups such as the Incubator and the Chamber should occur to increase participation and “buy in” to this development.
This is an important time for Tacoma and this time could be seized as a major transition point. The additional business coming into the Port of Tacoma, if properly embraced, could bring much meaningful change to this City. The additional business could bring a tremendous amount of spinoff business. In order for this to occur we are going to have to make sure that we are making it easy for this to occur. This will require good ingress and egress from the Port, will require a City that is welcoming to business and will require work to make the city more attractive and livable for employees and business leaders.
The changes identified in this question won’t occur until we begin to work to make them occur. The Sauro site, for example, could be the site of another skyscraper. Plans for such have been available. In order for that to occur, however, we need to work to attract businesses to the City so that a developer will be able to meet occupancy requirements and thus build it. Similarly, the Luzon site is a fantastic site for a business if Tacoma has an active busy, city core. I was asked at the last minute to try to step in and work with a group that wanted to save it. The historic building could have been saved and used for a business but businesses were not interested in locating in Tacoma at the time.
6) Restoring Tacoma’s Streetcars
Question: Many Tacomans support restoring Tacoma’s streetcar system. The latest Sound Transit measure passed by voters sets aside money for LINK extension in Tacoma. Gas prices are now near record levels. Do you support restoring the streetcar network in Tacoma? What steps on the legislative level, would be needed to be taken to make this happen?
I would love to see the streetcar system continue to grow. We need to continue to build and improve our mass transit. The current streetcars are nice but don’t serve a wide enough area and, therefore, aren’t used as much as they could be. The answers to the previous questions about improving the City and its inner core all are important in building a City in which streetcar service makes sense and is used to reach the businesses in the City. As we build up the inner core there will be additional reason for streetcars.
From a legislative standpoint we need to take those steps that will assist small businesses (as well as large businesses) to build up our business base in the City. We need to continue to approve city amenities (including schools) and make Tacoma an attractive place for people to live. We need to take advantage of those funds and grants allocated to mass transit. The Hilltop would be another nice place for streetcars as we continue to build up the MLK Way corridor with Evergreen College as an anchor.
7) Pollution Issues in Tacoma
Question: The City of Tacoma is currently failing the air quality criteria set by the State of Washington. If elected, what specific measures would you take, if any, to reduce pollution in the city limits of Tacoma?
Answer: I think we do need to try to hold fast to pollution standards and work with businesses which aren’t getting there. We have been infamous for the “aroma of Tacoma.” This has improved markedly over the past years. Specific steps to reduce pollution include generation of funding to stop pollution from storm water runoff – including possible polluter pays approaches ( after notice and an opportunity to cure), legislative funding and support of projects such as the Puget Sound Action Agenda to protect and preserve Puget Sound, enforcement of goals for reduction of carbon emissions including tax incentives for success and potential payments for failing to achieve standards, continued work, research and funding of clean energy alternatives, potential amendment of the Growth Management Act to make local plans consistent with greenhouse gas emission limits (helping to build a livable city that is less reliant on automobiles). Development of mass transit and energy efficient alternatives to transit that involves more pollutants.
VIII) Crime Reduction Proposal by former City Manager Eric Anderson
Question: A few years ago, former City Manager Eric Anderson set a goal to reduce crime in Tacoma by 50 percent in 14 months. Unfortunately, the goal was not reached. What can be done in your opinion to reduce crime in Tacoma?
Answer: Build up the business core. Provide jobs. Build community centers. Give Tacoma a strong positive voice and include all residents in the positive feeling about Tacoma and its residents. More events which build community. Less antagonism between Police and residents. Build strong and innovative schools so that kids feel good about going to school and good about their communities. Invest in early childhood education and keep parents involved in schools so that kids do not drop out. Studies have shown that good early childhood education keeps kids in school.
My wife and I are also involved in Safe Streets. This method of getting the community involved in prevention of crime is effective.
Continue to support Police services and ensure that the model followed by Police is to “protect and serve” the community.
9) Tacoma’s Billboard Ordinances
Question: Tacoma’s Central Neighborhood Council has posted dozens of articles on the electronic billboard issue located at:http://cnc-tacoma.com/proposed-electronic-billboards. What percentage of these articles do you estimate that you have read?
I have read quite a few of them and all of them included in the TNT. I have followed this issue fairly closely.
10) Billboards Issue
As you know, the Tacoma City Council has banned digital billboard. However, there have been attempts in the Washington State Legislature to pre-empt cities, as other states have done, and place more billboards, including digital billboards throughout the state.
What is your position on the issue?
I don’t like digital billboards within the City. They are a major distraction and not attractive. I don’t think they add to the City’s sense of organization and well being.
For more information, see Jack Connelly’s website.