State Rep. Paul visits La Conner, addresses key issues at public forum

A man speaks at a public forum

Ken Stern

WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE – Rep. Dave Paul (D-Oak Harbor) spoke with La Conner elected officials, staff and fire department volunteers at the La Conner Swinomish Library last Wednesday about the state portion of funding for a fireboat.

Five years ago, 10th District State Rep. Dave Paul successfully lobbied his colleagues in Olympia to provide funding to build the La Conner Swinomish Library.

Paul was at the library for a March 27 town hall that included several of La Conner's appointed and elected officials, including Mayor Marna Hanneman.

Those attending the forum asked Paul questions related to education, housing and Washington State Ferries.

Perhaps most important, they secured Paul's commitment to back La Conner's campaign to buy a fireboat. They hope that his support for the fireboat will prove as successful as it was with the library.

"Being able to fight fires from the water would absolutely be beneficial," town council member and firefighter Ivan Carlson said.

He told Paul the backstory of a man who drowned in Swinomish Channel earlier this year.

"The (9-1-1) caller said he was in the water, waving his arms, asking for help," Carlson said. "But he didn't make it."

Carlson said having a fireboat would enable faster local marine rescue responses and provide a key tool to fight waterfront blazes.

Carlson related that a La Conner contingent visited Olympia during the recent legislative session. State Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, suggested the Department of Natural Resources as a potential fireboat funding source. DNR administers tideland leases on the channel and protects nearby Goat and Hope islands.

While the short legislative session didn't allow a fireboat funding package, Carlson said it was a step in the right direction.

"We appreciate that he made an effort to get money from DNR," Carlson said of Muzzall. "He was very helpful."

Paul said additional funding sources for a fireboat, which Carlson estimated would cost about $600,000, might be available.

"I will get this on my list to really champion for it," Paul said. "Let me think about how to help."

Paul, a Democrat from Oak Harbor, has represented the 10th Legislative District since 2019 and serves as vice chair of the State House Transportation Committee. He teaches American government at Skagit Valley College.

During his La Conner stop, Paul discussed innovative approaches to improving high school graduation rates, extending instructional time, and increasing full-time equivalency enrollment rates for districts whose students attend off-campus college credit programs such as Running Start.

The state bases public school funding on full-time student enrollment numbers. La Conner's full-time K-12 student population has plunged from 600 to 490 students since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The school district projects enrolling 430 full-time students next year.

Paul is open to suggestions that instructional time be increased.

"I'm supportive of looking at proposals to extend the school day," Paul said. "The challenge is money. It's not cheap."

Paul stressed the need for more workforce housing in the 10th District and his support for allowing retired police officers to work part-time in response to law enforcement shortages. He has also prioritized reforestation efforts, capping the price of asthma inhalers and epi-pens at $35, and improving college affordability by ensuring students and families know about available dual-credit programs.

Paul has been a vocal advocate for locating a police training academy in Skagit County.

He said another priority has been to increase the state ferry system's fleet to meet growing demand.

"I will continue to fight so that (Washington State) ferries have adequate funding, and we can get them back on the right course," Paul said.

"I try to be bipartisan in my work," Paul said. He credits constituent input for many of the bills he has written during his three terms in Olympia.

Paul said his goal is to hold public forums in each 10th District community, which is no easy task.

"It takes three hours to drive around the district," he said.

Last week, all roads for Paul led to La Conner.


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