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Eastside constituents voice disapproval and concern at 48th LD town hall
Many Eastside residents turned out to protest Sen. Rodney Tom’s Senate coup Tuesday, Jan. 8 at a town hall meeting in Bellevue, brandishing signs that read: “Traitor Tom” and jeering when he spoke. The 48th Legislative District attracted a crowd of nearly twice its normal size, observed Rep. Ross Hunter of Medina.
Tom and Hunter were joined by Representative-elect Cyrus Habib of Bellevue, a first-time politician and graduate of the district's public school system.
The three legislators told constituents that the Eastside presented a unique set of needs and challenges this legislative session, among the top concerns being transportation to meet the growing population, the McCleary ruling and initiatives to promote the Eastside’s economic viability.
McCleary alone presents a huge hurdle. At least $1 billion is needed in the next biennium to meet a judge’s ruling to adequately pay for education--a task that Hunter said was difficult without additional revenue.
“Judge us on our end product,” said Tom, addressing several noticeably upset constituents.
Resident Brett Hill of Bellevue told the crowd that he had voted for Tom in 2010, but was disappointed with his lack of transparency. He asked for a show of hands--how many people would have backed the senator had they anticipated his Republican alliance. About half the crowd raised their hands or clapped in contempt.
Tom rebutted that he had always voted in line with his district, including Barack Obama for president, Jay Inslee for governor, the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage and charter schools.
“I was out in front on all the issues in a public manner,” said Tom.
With just two hours to address constituent concerns, the senator agreed to talk individually with folks after the meeting, to allow for more discussion in the time allotted.
For Margaret Lee Thompson of Redmond, that worry centered on protecting social services for the disabled and disadvantaged. Rep. Habib said that having lost his eyesight to cancer at age eight, he well understood the importance of protecting the most vulnerable. Without those "wrap-around" programs, he said he likely would not have made it to college. Tom conceded with Habib, though he added that perhaps the definition of the country’s most vulnerable had been expanded too wide for the current economy.
“Any decision that happens at the state level will assess all cities in the area,” said Steven Kasner of Bellevue. "I understand that there's very limited money, but there are very large ripple effects.”
This year’s legislative session starts Jan. 14 and will run through April 28. Habib will serve as vice-chair of the Technology and Economic Development committee and Hunter as chair of Appropriations, responsible for the key budget-writing efforts of the majority House Democrats.