Crowd questions finances, thanks Haugen for marriage policy

Georgia Gardner, a Coupeville resident, asks state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen about education funding during a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Bayview Senior Center.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Georgia Gardner, a Coupeville resident, asks state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen about education funding during a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Bayview Senior Center.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

BAYVIEW — A crowd of a few dozen people let state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen know money and the environment are concerns.

The status and blame for the Deep Sea contamination of Penn Cove was a  hot issue at the town hall meeting at Bayview Senior Center. The crowd wanted to know which government agency was in charge of the derelict vessel before it burned and sank May 13 and became an ecological threat as it leaked fuel.

“What’s happened is not acceptable,” Haugen said. “We need to make changes to our state law.”

Haugen also said while an abandoned car can be towed easily enough, a boat salvage industry isn’t as widespread. Another problem is the delineation between government agencies such as Washington’s Department of Ecology and the Department of Natural Resources, or even between federal, state and county levels.

“There’s a gap in the levels of government,” said Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, a fellow Democrat. “And I’m hoping we can bridge that.” The boat is expected to be resurfaced and hauled away from Penn Cove soon, perhaps as early as Sunday.

Citizens addressing Haugen, a Democrat from Camano Island whose 10th District also covers Whidbey Island, also said they wanted corporate money out of politics and more accountable school funding. One woman, who said she was a member of Citizens Ignited, which wants to repeal the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to pay for political advertisements, also praised Haugen for “tough” decisions made during the recent legislative session. Haugen, after years of reluctance, finally helped pass the Marriage Equality Act, which gives the right to marry to same-sex couples.

“I listened,” Haugen told the crowd, adding that she tells opponents of gay marriage to “go out and listen. It’ll change your heart. It changed mine.”

A Coupeville woman said she was concerned with school district funding for smaller class sizes. A state mandate to improve education by keeping class sizes small has been largely ignored and underfunded.

“In spite of the fact that there are those mandates for smaller school districts, the funds seem to be going elsewhere,” said Georgia Gardner.

In her opening statements, Haugen touted her role as Transportation Committee chair. Haugen said the state raised driver’s license fees to fund work to highways across the state.

“By doing that, we were able to do some additional investments,” Haugen said.

Work on the new Highway 520 floating bridge helps the state, Haugen said, as the pontoons will be built in Aberdeen. The construction of a second 144-car ferry will help Whidbey Island, as the contract was awarded to Vigor Industrial, which used Nichols Brothers Boat Builders to create the superstructure in past ferry contracts.

“You will be sure to get a 144 (car ferry) here,” Haugen said.

“One of the things I was going to be sure to do was get ferries as good in North Sound as in South Sound.”

Later in the day, Haugen met with another group of constituents in Oak Harbor. She’s running for reelection against State Rep. Barbara Bailey, an Oak Harbor Republican.

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