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Environment, economy key topics of commissioner debate
Jim McEntire will advocate for a review of all business regulations at the county level if elected to the board of commissioners.
At an Aug. 22 debate hosted by Concerned Citizens of Clallam County, McEntire said the county needs to send the message it is “open for business” and a review of regulations is necessary to determine if they are effective, proper and necessary.
McEntire, who ran unsuccessfully for state representative last year, is a Port of Port Angeles commissioner and the Republican candidate running to replace Steve Tharinger on the county’s board of commissioners for District 1.
Linda Barnfather, a Sequim Democrat and legislative assistant for Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said the county needs to focus on running a good government to keep things moving smoothly and leave the job creation up to the Port of Port Angeles and the Clallam Economic Development Council.
In response to a question about reducing unemployment, McEntire said while government can create direct employment by hiring people, the current budget forecast doesn’t make that possible.
On the issue of property rights, both candidates agreed private property rights are eroded in some areas of the county, specifically in Carlsborg where a moratorium preventing development extends into its third year awaiting court decisions and sewer plans.
Barnfather said her first order of business as commissioner would be to find a way for businesses to grow. Hundreds of family wage jobs are waiting on the ability of those businesses to expand, she said.
Barnfather said while a sewer facility is needed to address growth in the area, the county cannot go into general fund debt for a sewer system nor can it place a heavy cost burden on the shoulders of residents. It has to make sense and be equitable, she said.
McEntire suggested the cost of a treatment plant be spread throughout the county, like county road costs.
“Everyone in the county pays for it (the roads),” he said. “Everyone enjoys it. We all enjoy the economic benefits of Carlsborg.”
McEntire said the cost of a wastewater treatment system should be spread wide and over a long period of time.
McEntire also said it is important for officials to have the best science available before they make decisions on issues that can impact private property rights.
Too often decisions are made with little or scanty scientific evidence, he said.
McEntire said he’d be willing to spend public money to get good science and data locally, not generalized studies.
Barnfather suggested regionalizing scientific data, such as referring to studies conducted in Jefferson County, to save money.
McEntire said government can’t perform its function without the adequate number of employees, but there is the question of affordability.
If the county couldn’t afford pay raises scheduled in union contracts, he would advocate to reopen those contracts for negotiation, McEntire said.
Barnfather said county employees are a huge economic driver locally and it is important to take care of them.
At a state level, she and others took voluntary furloughs so no one would lose their jobs during tough budget times, she said.
“We will have to work hard to find solutions,” she said.
When asked, both candidates said they would accept campaign contributions from unions.
Reach Amanda Winters at email@example.com.