North Kitsap Herald endorses … | In Our Opinion
July 27, 2012 · 12:36 PM
Kitsap County Superior Court judge, Court 7
There are four fine candidates for Kitsap County Superior Court judge, Court 7, but Jennifer Forbes and Bill Houser stand out in their experience and their vision of how to improve the efficiency of the Superior Court system.
Forbes has been a county prosecutor and served as a pro-tem judge for seven years on the local District Court and Municipal Court benches. She also serves as a Bremerton court commissioner. Houser is a county public defender who has also been a pro-tem judge in Kitsap County and a part-time judge in Oregon, and is the only candidate who as an attorney has handled a death penalty case.
Superior Court judges are paid $148,832 per year, a cost shared by state and county. Superior Court judges preside over felony trials, domestic relations matters, juvenile proceedings and probate. They handle real estate disputes and civil claims valued at over $50,000. They consider appeals in land-use cases and appeals from lower courts, and preside over mental inquest hearings.
In separate interviews with members of the Herald editorial board, Forbes and Houser spoke about the growing number of civil litigants who are representing themselves, called “pro se,” because they can’t afford an attorney; the right to an attorney applies only to criminal cases. Court rules apply equally to attorneys and pro se litigants.
Their suggestions: Make sure the process and procedures are understandable, and have a separate calendar for cases in which both sides are represented pro se.
Other suggestions: Establish a system by which Superior Court cases to be filed electronically, as in District Court. “E-filing saves people money and it’s more efficient,” Forbes said. “Every time I file a case in Pierce County, I do a cartwheel because it’s so easy.”
Recidivism of cases that go through Drug Court is 5 percent. Both would like to see similar courts developed to handle cases involving veterans and those with mental health issues. “Mental health should not be dealt with in criminal court,” Houser said.
Forbes and Houser see the court as an administrator of justice as well as a resolver of disputes. Both should advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
23rd District State Representative, Position 2
One of the great things about elections is the flow of ideas that come from discussion of issues. The boldest ideas for reforming our state’s tax structure have come from Drew Hansen, our state representative; and political newcomer Henning Larsen, a poker room supervisor and tournament director at Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. We’d like to see them advance to the general election and continue that discussion.
Members of the state House serve two-year terms and receive $42,106 and benefits offered state employees.
Hansen and Larsen understand that if we are going to have more revenue for education, ferries and other critical state needs, we need to reform our tax structure. “We don’t have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem,” Larsen said. Many may not agree with him, but it’s clear to us that the solution to the state’s financial woes is not in continued cuts to public services.
Our ferry system depends on gas tax revenue, which is declining as cars become more fuel efficient. The state’s Business & Occupations Tax, one of only two in the nation, is not equitable. Lacking a — shall we say it? — state income tax, we rely heavily on sales tax, which is volatile.
Larsen supports establishing a state income tax to break the state’s dependence on sales tax revenue and enable the state to ease the tax burden on businesses, which would boost business growth and result in more jobs. He wants “a new conversation” about how to adequately fund ferries, including possibly bringing back the motor vehicle excise tax.
In his year in office (he’s completing an unexpired term), Hansen has worked hard for Kitsap’s best interests. He sponsored legislation that exempts Kitsap County from having to pay back-property taxes on forest land it might acquire for conservation and public use from Pope Resources; the acquisition of as much as 7,000 acres of Pope Resources land would create jobs in ecotourism and outdoor recreation. He sponsored legislation expanding the engineering program at Olympic College to train people for civilian jobs with the Navy and at the shipyards. He’d like to see the expansion to other fields with a presence in Kitsap, such as health care and software. In addition, the state moved up projects on its three- to five-year project lists because borrowing costs are low and the jobs are needed now.
Hansen and Larsen support performance audits of state departments to hold departments accountable for spending and to identify potential savings. Both would work to make it easier for veterans to integrate into civilian life. Hansen sponsored a bill that would have allowed military personnel coming to the end of their enlistments to register early for college. Larsen proposes making it easier for veterans to earn their college degrees, with credit for service.
Jobs, revenue growth, tax reform. We need to continue having the discussion. We encourage voters to advance Hansen and Larsen to the general election.