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The Daily Record sent questionnaires to every candidate on the Aug. 3 primary ballot. Not every candidate responded.

In the race for Ellensburg School Board Position 5 (at large), Hilda Pena Alfaro responded. Michael Rowley responded. Ashley Crankovich is on the ballot, but has withdrawn from the race.

In the race for Ellensburg City Council, Council 1, Nancy Lillquist responded. Tyler Fuller did not respond. Kip Storey did not provide an email contact on either the county Auditor’s site or the Secretary of State election site.

In the race for Ellensburg City Council, Council 3, Barbara del Mar Robles responded. Adam Winn and Larry Nickel did not respond.

The following are the responses submitted by the candidates.

Ellensburg City Council

Bárbara del Mar Robles

Position sought: Ellensburg City Council position 3

Years in Kittitas County: 4

Town of residence: Ellensburg

What is a professional/personal experience that has helped prepare you to serve on the Ellensburg City Council?

Since moving to Kittitas County, I have been very active in the community; serving as interpreter/translator for our migrant families/Spanish speakers in the school districts and Central WA Disability Resources, a high school teacher, an evaluator for Pride Foundation scholarships, and a board member to several organizations like Central WA Justice for Our Neighbors, Hospice Friends, and Skookum Kids. I have dedicated my personal and professional time to advocating for equity and inclusion. I am committed to the progress and betterment of the city of Ellensburg for all who are blessed to call it home.

What, if any, specific steps should the city of Ellensburg take to help the local businesses and citizens recover from COVID-19-imposed restrictions?

As we bounce back from COVID-19, from a public health standpoint, one of the best things we can do is to continue making vaccines more accessible to the public. With a more vaccinated population, we can get back to some semblance of normalcy quicker, and safer.

What is the most significant challenge facing the city of Ellensburg faces over next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

Every year, Ellensburg faces extreme threat of wildland fires. In the next 5-10 years, this will only worsen. We need to support and fortify our firefighters and EMS as well as collaboratively work with other stakeholders to ensure we have adequate resources to tackle this urgent recurring issue.

Nancy Lillquist

Position sought: Ellensburg City Council Position #1

Years resided in Kittitas County: 30

Town of residence: Ellensburg

What is a professional/personal experience that has helped prepare you to serve on the Ellensburg City Council?

Serving on the Ellensburg City Council for the past 20 years, I have participated in the many policy decisions that have shaped Ellensburg’s recent past. I know the Council legislative process and am familiar with many relevant state laws. I know the City’s organizational structure and many staff and community partners. I am prepared for the job!

What, if any, specific steps should the city of Ellensburg take to help the local businesses and citizens recover from COVID-19-imposed restrictions?

COVID restrictions were hard on a lot of people. I am proud of how our community came together and demonstrated its resiliency.

Among actions taken to help businesses and residents, the City passed most of the CARES Act funds to small businesses and rental assistance; suspended utility late fees and disconnects for nonpayment and initiated a utility customer support program; and allowed Streateries (outside eating areas). The City Arts Commission provided grants to arts organizations and artists.

As we emerge from the restrictions, we can evaluate which sectors of the economy came out okay, and which were more seriously set back. Many received grants to offset their losses. The City will participate in an economic development plan that will guide public actions needed to restore economic vitality.

It is unclear if we will see a surge of evictions when the moratorium ends; assistance is still available from HopeSource for individuals behind on their rent and utility bills. The City will need to decide whether to write off the unpaid utility bills or attempt to collect them. Streateries were extended through December while Council discusses whether to make them permanent and under what conditions. The City anticipates receiving over $4 million in federal relief funds. I have suggested that residents should have an opportunity to weigh in on how to best use those funds. Depending on restrictions, it could be used to help local businesses that have not recovered from 2020.

What is the most significant challenge facing the city of Ellensburg faces over next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

Managing the rapid rate of population growth is Ellensburg’s most significant challenge in the next several years. Ellensburg grew from 15,547 in 2000 to 21,111 in 2019, a 36% increase. Our population is expected to reach 32,581 in 2037, a 54% increase, though it feels like we are growing much faster than the predicted 2.4% per year. More people can create opportunities for business growth and new friends, but also more congestion and loss of open space.

The city prepares for these new residents by maintaining and expanding transportation and utility infrastructure each year. Developers pay for much of the system expansion. The city is financially sound. Our land use codes were designed to create the kind of community people favored in the Comprehensive Plan outreach process. In many respects, we are prepared for growth.

Even so, rapid growth is straining our housing supply. High demand for housing has escalated home prices (47% since 2012) and rents (24% since 2012). As a result, young people are unable to invest in homeownership, and families are sharing housing or even living in hotels.

In 2017, Council responded by identifying city-owned properties to make available for affordable housing. Our citizens were the first in Washington to vote for an affordable housing sales tax, which led to the creation of an Affordable Housing Commission and contracts to build new housing to sell and rent at below market levels. Those measures will not be enough. Our current rate of adding 107 dwellings per year falls short of the 281 needed to meet demand. The city is now creating a Housing Action Plan, due in October, that will identify additional measures we can take in the effort to make housing available for citizens of all income levels.

Ellensburg School Board

Hilda Peña-Alfaro Ph.D.

Position sought: ESD Board Member, position 5

Years resided in Kittitas County: 4

Town of residence: Ellensburg

What is a professional/personal experience that has helped prepare you to serve on the Ellensburg School Board?

Since I moved to Ellensburg, this beautiful community has welcomed me and my family with open arms. Ellensburg is a place where people care for each other and where we deserve an outstanding school system.

Education is my passion and I have dedicated my life to teaching and learning at different levels and in different countries. I have been working in Education for over 25 years. I owned and ran a language school in San Antonio, TX for 16 years, where I partnered with school districts to implement programs boosting students’ literacy. With a bachelor’s Degree in International Relations, a master’s Degree in Business and Economics and most recently, and a Ph.D. in Cultural Literacy and Language from the University of Texas, I have a diverse educational background that provides me with a distinct and empathetic perspective. I currently teach Spanish and French at CWU, and I work with Ellensburg School District Education Foundation, the Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition, and I am a current member of the ESD Board of Directors.

I have been happily married for over 33 years; I have two grown daughters, Mariana, a public-school teacher and Marisa, an organismal biologist.

My values – Integrity, Empathy, Commitment and Positivity

What, if any, specific steps should the Ellensburg School District take to address any educational equity issues that may have arisen out of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on K-12 education?

I have been serving as a Board Member of the Ellensburg School District for the last year. It was a very challenging year for everyone, students, teachers, staff and families, but we managed to successfully start the school year in different ways in order to comply with the state mandates. We ended the school year in a very successful way, with an in-person graduation for our high school students. The School District, especially the teachers, also worked so hard that their students accomplished academic improvements, as shown in the MAPS scores.

We face many challenges but I think that the most urgent challenge is mental health. Many of our students are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other emotional and mental issues. Currently the School District hired two mental health experts to help our students, but the crisis we are facing is very complex and profound and we need to pay close attention to this matter.

Finally, as a School District we need to ensure that all the families and students of the district have access to technology, not only to computers, but also the knowledge to use the technology, and to improve internet access.

What is the most significant challenge facing the Ellensburg School District faces over next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

Effective educational leaders develop and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum instruction and assessment to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.

The most significant challenge faced by the Ellensburg School District is to ensure that all decisions about programs, curriculum, and instruction are guided by objective data analysis; following this approach will allow us to narrow the achievement gaps that our students are facing. Currently, at the state level, only 59.6% of students met the English Language and Art standards. Here in our district the percentage is only 52%. The mathematics scores are also troubling, 48.9% at the state level and 44.2% here in Ellensburg.

Effective educational leaders develop and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum instruction and assessment to promote student academic success and well-being. As a board member, I pledge to continue focusing my attention on student achievement as my primary responsibility.

Name: Michael Rowley

Position sought: Ellensburg School Board Position 5

Years resided in Kittitas County: 17 years

Town of residence: Ellensburg

What is a professional/personal experience that has helped prepare you to serve on the Ellensburg School Board?

I am a local third generation business owner and father of three students currently enrolled in the Ellensburg school district. I have spent many years in class as a parent volunteer while our children attended Ellensburg Christian School. I always loved being a part of their education, most of the time I was helping in math classes. I volunteered several years with youth sports as well as mentoring high school students with Washington Business Week, a program introducing youth to learning about and running businesses. I belonged to the Ellensburg Noon Rotary club where we helped with many local projects as well as many fundraising events.

What, if any, specific steps should the Ellensburg School District take to address any educational equity issues that may have arisen out of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on K-12 education?

Obviously every child deserves the best education. During the last year and few months, I think it became clear that to achieve such an education, students must be allowed to attend in person learning. The lack of online availability showed that if children cannot attend, there will be learning disparities. With the lack of COVID cases among the students and the social distancing and preventative measures parameters the current school board/ department of health had in place, I wish students could have gone back sooner, so that they could have all the social and learning developments they need to grow. Obviously, if families wished to keep their children home they would be allowed to continue to do so.

What is the most significant challenge facing the Ellensburg School District faces over next five to 10 years and how would you address it?

In the immediate years the district must work to get bus drivers hired or retain them. We have so many students, with more moving in all the time, that adequate transportation must be available to them. Many parents are required to work and adequate transportation helps alleviate many of the stresses that can arise from lack of school buses. That includes not limiting bus routes as well. Our county has many rural bus stops, some families are now required to drive miles sometimes to just meet the busses. Walking to and from home is unsafe for many of these students. Looking to the future, we must keep with providing every student the opportunities to succeed and develop and receive the best education possible. Finally I would like to add that special education should also be a top priority. Not as severe spectrum cases need to have the same attention as the more severe cases so that no student feels left behind or not adequate to receive the best education they deserve.

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