The Tacoma Sun


A Conversation with Candidate Jeannie Darneille on Critical Issues


Below are the questions and responses sent to Jeannie Darneille candidate for Washington State Sendate 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.


1) Education and Experience
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?
My legislative and professional careers have dovetailed to prepare me well for service in the Washington State Senate.  I have served for 12 years in the Washington House of Representatives, and have held many positions of influence:  I was elected to leadership as a Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and appointed to chair two important fiscal committees, General Government Appropriations and the Caseload Forecast Council.  I have also served as the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee for the last two years, and have developed an in-depth understanding of the state budget.  My professional career as a director of non profit community based organizations has given me a comprehensive understanding of the way state services are provided, and a passion to provide these in cost-effective, results-centered ways.  I have, both in my professional and legislative career, depended on my ability to draw people together to reach consensus.  My legislative career shows a long history of fighting for Pierce County and Tacoma, whether it is funding for the Washington State History Museum, or fighting to assure that Pierce County is not the dumping ground for felons.
As the eldest of six in a military family, our family moved enough that I attended 15 schools by the time I graduated from high school. I received my bachelor’s degree in art history at Western Washington University, with a Masters in Education (Higher Education Administration) at Colorado State University.
Books: I am reading “The Quotable Kennedys” by Bill Adler, but find that reading current research and analysis pertaining to issues facing government consumes more of my time than reading books.
2) Growth management:
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: The Legislature can require local governments to strictly conform to growth management principles, and work on educating stakeholders and the public on the advantages to denser communities.
Our local government can take steps to reduce urban sprawl and add density to the City of Tacoma by working collaboratively with the Washington State Departments of Commerce and Transportation to promote the development of multi- family homes near affordable transit options.  Especially in the denser Tacoma areas, we need to find ways to provide housing where there is the greatest amount of demand so that rental prices don’t continue to creep upwards and prevent families from living in the most livable and walkable areas or aren’t forced to move out.  Fortunately, much of my community supports increasing urban density and creating livable, walkable neighborhoods in Tacoma.  I’ve worked to create more density in downtown Tacoma through revitalization efforts to enhance those goals.
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?   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?
Criminal justice issues have been a priority for me during my legislative tenure. I have learned that transitioning felons back into society after their incarceration is over has to be one of the most complex issues that society faces. 97% of all felons do return to the community.  As with many other issues, the role of the state Legislature in where felons live when they are released from prison is nuanced.  The legislature passed a bill known as “The Fair Share Law” which requires a released felon under supervision of the Department of Corrections to return to their county of origin.  However, fair share only applies to those under supervision:  those who are not under supervision may live wherever they wish.  Our community is currently facing a situation where community members are upset over the potential of a halfway house for former felons, which is bringing to light the different roles and responsibilities of local vs. state governments.
I have a long history of working to protect Pierce County from becoming home to a disproportionate number of felons:  I was the only vote in the House of Representatives against placing the civil commitment center for sex offenders on McNeil Island, and I will continue to address the issues of re-integrating felons into the community after their sentences are over.  I also have a long history of trying to help former felons re-integrate into the community, and worked for 9 years on a bill that helped 140,000 people who had served their prison terms regain their voting rights.  I think that balancing regulation with programs that help felons re-integrate is the appropriate role for the state.
Former County Prosecutor Gerry Horne led the effort to educate the Pierce County delegation in the legislature about this issue and I continue to attend bi-monthly meetings convened by current Prosecutor Mark Lindquist on this issue.
4) 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?
Tacoma has suffered from the recession in many ways. Many businesses have been forced to close and the populace is experiencing high unemployment. But, the progress made in rebuilding Tacoma is significant, and the museum district, the theater district, the University of Washington Tacoma, and vibrant business districts like 6th Avenue all attest to this. Rebuilding Tacoma is a venture that requires all levels of government and civic participation to achieve. The state capital budget has, and can continue to assist in rebuilding Tacoma. Projects like the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum have been funded through the capital budget, and I have been proud to work with local organizations that are willing to do the work to create appropriate projects.  Transit and density are extremely important in rebuilding Tacoma, to create the walkable and liveable communities that people seek.
5) 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?
While I do support restoring Tacoma’s streetcars I have not seen their restoration as a high priority by local government.  I think streetcars can be an important part of the transit system, but, from a legislative standpoint, there is limited support available to transit-oriented projects. Legislative Transportation committees deal exclusively with roads, highways, and our ferry system. The Washington State Constitution restricts the use of the gas tax funding to streets and roads, and it cannot be used to support transit.  As a result, transit agencies are dependent upon the sales tax, which is extremely vulnerable to a recession.  All transit agencies are facing large budget shortfalls and are struggling to even maintain existing services.  I have supported legislation to increase the funding options for transit systems, and feel that overall reform to our revenue system is needed to fully address the needs for mass transit.  I would also support using revenue collected from tolls to fund transit options.
6) 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?
Again, pollution issues require a collaborative approach between citizen groups, state and local government, the federal government, industry and the public.  The largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions continues to be transportation, and reducing the use of single occupant vehicles is the single most important thing that we can do to reduce this form of pollution.  All of the issues applying to growth management are applicable here:  creating density and reducing sprawl, creating walkable communities, and encouraging transit and transit-oriented development projects for expanding access to affordable housing.
The South Tacoma Air Quality Non-Attainment points out another important role that the State can play in reducing pollution include addressing the issue of wood smoke (a bill was passed in the legislature last year to address this, which I supported) and incorporation of the Complete Streets and Low Impact Development standards to address storm water pollution.  The state also plays a very important role through the Puget Sound clean up.  As the chair of the General Government Appropriations Committee, and vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, I have worked to balance huge deficits in the state budget in a way that protects funding for Puget Sound clean up, educating people about storm water runoff, and other environmental projects.
7) Crime Reduction Proposal by 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?
There are no easy answers to this question. The causes that increase criminal activity are found in the areas of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, untreated chemical dependency, poverty, joblessness, lack of education and training, a lack of civic engagement, anger and despair, and many others. No single approach will result in longtime benefit to individuals, their families, or the community. Programs that are evidence-based are the key, but we need wider access to them. They include everything from access to quality healthcare, early childhood education, and expanding training that leads to family wage jobs.  Crime rates rise and fall with unemployment rates. When opportunities to make money vocationally decline, quick pay-off crimes like robberies go up. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important we ensure that citizens have access to vocation training and our system allows for retraining as our industries evolve
VIII) Tacoma’s Billboard Ordinances
Question: Tacoma’s Central Neighborhood Council has posted dozens of articles on the electronic billboard issue located at: What percentage of these articles do you estimate that you have read?
I have followed this issue.
9) Billboards Issue
Question: 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 would oppose these efforts.
For more information, see Jeannie Darneille’s website.

published August 29th, 2012

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