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City council candidates spar
As moderator Cathy Claney, far left, oversees the debate, Sequim City councilor Laura Dubois speaks to a crowd at the Sequim Senior Activity Center while opponents Ron Fairclough, second from right, and John Miller listen. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
It was less than four years ago that newcomer Laura Dubois vied for a Sequim City Council seat, running a campaign promising "careful and sensible planning for growth."
At Saturday afternoon's League of Women Voters debate, she took on opponents Ron Fairclough and John Miller with nearly four years of city council experience, saying she hopes to carry that experience to another four-year term this fall.
In front of a sparse but inquisitive crowd at the Sequim Senior Activity Center, Dubois said she's proud of the council's work, including stabilizing finances by building reserves, improving parks and streets, implementing impact fees and hiring a new city manager (Steve Burkett).
"He (Burkett) brought a new level of experience and professionalism and customer service to the community," Dubois said. "I'm proud of that."
But at the first debate of the local political season, both Fairclough and Miller said they're not particularly happy with the city's direction.
"They make decisions too quickly (with) not enough research," Fairclough said.
Miller said he was frustrated with the city's reluctance to spend reserves in lieu of improving the roads or enhancing the city's surroundings.
"Instead of focusing on hiring new people, what about making the town more appealing for people?" Miller asked.
Council candidates answered a number of questions likely to be lasting issues throughout the campaign: impact of permit fees, how to get citizen involvement, traffic gridlock at Sequim Avenue and Washington Street, finishing off the link to the Olympic Discovery Trail, a survey regarding city parks and recreation use and potential growth, and the future of Sequim's downtown core.
Miller, a Sequim resident for five years, said he moved to the area because Sequim seemed like a good place to raise his daughter, now 15. He said he's frustrated that a new city hall hasn't been built yet and that the council approved funding for a citywide survey.
Fairclough, a Sequim-area resident for the past 37 years, said he would like to see a more pedestrian-friendly downtown and handed out a diagram of what that would look like.
Fairclough also railed against the city's impact fees.
"There ought to be ways to spread the cost out," Fairclough said. "I know people who didn't start building because they couldn't pay the fees or get a loan."
Dubois defended her record, particularly when it comes to Sequim's future and the council's work on a downtown plan.
"This is a desirable area; I believe Sequim will grow," she said. "It's good to have a plan for your streets. Otherwise, things grow helter-skelter."
The League of Women Voters has two more debates planned - a SARC and
Sequim School Board debate on Oct. 17 and Port Angeles City Council debate on Oct. 19 - and has plans for another Sequim City Council and County Commissioner (District 1) debate before the general election.
Primary ballots go in the mail July 27 for the election on Aug.16. Two of three council candidates will move on to the November election.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.