Ballots have been mailed and are likely sitting on many dining room tables waiting to be filled out. Although this is an off-year election, there is some big choices to be made for Covington residents. A large portion of the city council is up for election along with local and state ballot measures that could affect residents’ taxes and the city budget.
For the City of Covington, four council members are up for reelection and three of those races are contested. Mayor Jeff Wagner is also up for reelection but is running unopposed.
Incumbent Marlla Mhoon is running to keep her seat as Position 1 on the council against challenger Kristina Soltys. Mhoon has served on the council for nearly 14 years and is on a few other advisory councils and commissions.
“Covington is a vibrant destination city, the economic hub of South King County and it is only getting better,” Mhoon stated in a Covington Reporter article from July. “There is so much more to do; city beautification, more parks, a town center with a public plaza and a city hall that is Covington owned.”
Soltys is a past music teacher from Covington and said she is choosing to run because after 14 years in the city she is ready to make more decisions for “Covington’s future.”
“I absolutely love the area and more importantly the people that make up the city and want to see a safe and stable environment for our seniors, families and children to thrive in,” Soltys stated in the July article. “Growing up in an immigrant family, I have always been taught to do more, try harder, and give back because serving is more rewarding than being served.”
For Council Position 2 incumbent Jennifer Harjehausen is running against opponent Elizabeth Porter.
Harjehausen was appointed to her position by the council and is running to keep her seat. She moved to Covington 17 years ago and began volunteering with the city soon after.
“I was impressed with how it is run, the positive culture set forth by council and displayed by city staff, and the progress being made by a city that’s only 20 years old. It’s impossible not to want to do more!” she stated in the July article.
Porter has been living in Covington for 15 years and attends city council meetings on a regular basis, which is why she decided to run for council.
“I see our council continues to put aside millions of dollars for a town center and aquatic center,” Porter stated in the July article. “The past two resident surveys have shown these capital projects are a low priority for Covington citizens, yet the majority of the council disregards those positions in favor of their own vision for Covington.”
The last contested race is for city council position 5 with incumbent Sean Smith running against opponent Jonathan Ingram.
Smith has been serving as a city councilmember for five years and has lived in Covington since 2006. He believes the current council he’s served with has improved the city, and he’d like to continue that trend.
“I’ve seen Covington change for the better. We have new police officers, improved roads, a new hospital, expanded parks and some of King County’s lowest taxes,” Smith stated in the July article. “Covington’s reputation is growing and is, literally and figuratively, putting us on the map. My leadership on the council has helped to make this happen. I want to serve a second term to continue the city’s trajectory toward greatness.”
Ingram describes himself as a “quiet” resident of Covington with growing concerns.
“There are three reasons I put my hat into the ring now,” Ingram stated in the July article. “One, About 98 percent of the votes on our city council are unanimous, which simply doesn’t represent the opinions of everyone in the city. Two, to my knowledge, our city council has never voted against increasing taxes! Three, instead of putting our tax dollars into infrastructure and public safety to support that growth, millions of dollars of tax revenue has been set aside for other purposes while we are repeatedly hit with tax increases. These things are just wrong!”
Current councilmember Margaret Harto originally put her name in the running for reelection to council position 3 but withdrew early in the race, leaving her opponent Jared Koukal as the lone candidate.
Koukal is the youngest candidate on the ballot for city council at age 23. He served in the military before coming home to Covington, where he says he wants to continue to serve his community.
“I see a need for improved public safety, roads, and community in our city and I know we can accomplish these tasks together,” Koukal stated in the July article. “My top priority would be public safety, I want my family as well as yours to be safe and protected.”
Local and state ballot measures
The city of Covington is asking voters to help it decide whether or not to ban the use of fireworks in the city limits with an advisory vote. Advisory Proposition No. 1 asks residents whether the city should prohibit the sale, possession and discharge of consumer fireworks in city limits.
“Dangerous fireworks create serious hazards in our neighborhoods, whether it’s celebrating the 4th of July or the New Year,” a pro-ban statement on the King County Election’s website states. “We essentially allow anyone, including those from neighboring communities that have prohibited fireworks, to put our lives and theirs in danger. We also allow them to risk damaging our property, and triggering PTSD in our veterans. Seniors, infants and those with compromised health may also be seriously affected. Fireworks put our animals at risk of becoming frightened and disoriented, then becoming lost, injured and even killed. This summer in King County, two people and their pets perished in home fires caused by neighborhood fireworks.”
Those against the ban stated on the county elections website that the solution is not an outright ban but more education, and that bans in neighboring cities have only worked because there is public space for a city-sponsored firework show.
“Our sister cities of Maple Valley and Kent have recently restricted fireworks and have turned to city-sponsored firework displays over Lake Wilderness and Lake Meridian,” the opposition states. “The City of Covington is unique in the fact that we do not have a public lake or area to put on a city-sponsored event. The new LakePoint development in Covington will have a lake and the potential for a firework show in the future.”
King County has one measure on the ballot, Proposition No. 1 Medic One. Voters will decide if the expiring Medic One emergency medical services levy should be replaced. The levy would impose a property tax of $26.50 per $100,000 taxable home value for six consecutive years beginning in 2020.
There are multiple state measures including;
•Referendum measure No. 88 – A public vote to decide whether Initiative 1000 (I-1000) becomes law. I-1000 would allow the state to “remedy document discrimination or underrepresentation of disadvantaged groups in public education, employment and contracting,” according to the King County elections website.
•Initiative 976 – This measure would repeal, reduce or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees and limit car tab fees to $30 while basing vehicle taxes on Kelly Blue Book value. Those for the initiative, including conservative activist Tim Eyman, says the initiative will create a flat and fair tax for all vehicles. Those against the initiative stated it will take away necessary funding for road, bridge and train track maintenance. The City of Covington estimates it would lose around $400,000 a year in road maintenance funds if I-976 passes.
A new face is running to represent Covington on the Kent School District Board of Directors in District No. 3 after incumbent Debbie Straus announced her retirement in May. Leslie Kae Hamada is running unopposed. Her daughter is a teacher and she has served on several committees in the Kent School District.
Where to turn in your ballot
Ballots were mailed out on Wednesday, Oct. 16 and ballot drop off boxes open on Thursday, Oct. 17. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. All ballots must be dropped off in ballot boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day or must be in the mail and postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Covington ballot boxes are located at the Covington Library at 27100 164th Ave. SE.