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Commissioner and council candidates chalk it up
Sequim got its first sampling of the views of several city council candidates and county commissioner candidates on Sept. 19 as Sequim Family Advocates hosted its second forum of the season.
Audience members asked questions alternating between city and county issues.
Budget woes are topic one
The two candidates for Clallam County Commissioner Position 1 agree on one thing: Residents are struggling, said candidates Linda Barnfather, a Democrat, and Jim McEntire, a Republican.
Household incomes have fallen 26 percent in the past eight years, McEntire said. With the failing economy, he said, this is the wrong time to raise taxes.
“We need to make do with what we’ve got,” he said.
McEntire also wants to review county ordinances relating to economic activities to make sure they are functioning properly.
McEntire said he wants to adopt a pro-business stance because the county is losing people between 25-55.
“That tells me we’re not doing right by our working families,” he said. “It’s evident in the past three years county government can’t afford the size of its government.”
Barnfather said she wants to keep the county running as well as it has in the past. With a budget shortfall this year and more cuts looming, Barnfather said the county needs to work smarter. That means cutting budgets without laying off people, she said.
Barnfather said county services must be maintained: Most importantly, the county needs to ensure a safe and secure environment for businesses, as well as police, fire protection and health services.
To Barnfather, fiscal responsibility is synonymous with prevention.
“We need to make sure our jails aren’t overcrowded, there’s no widespread homelessness and we must have essential services,” Barnfather said. “This is not an easy task or time to be in government,” she said.
Creating jobs, supporting families
Pete Duncan, a wireless Internet consultant running for Position 1 on the Sequim City Council, said he represents a different demographic from incumbent Erik Erichsen, a retired federal employee.
“I hope to bring a voice to those who are unheard right now,” he said.
Duncan said he sees a lot of potential for creating living-wage jobs in Sequim, citing the technology sector.
“We’re struggling here,” he said. “I’ve seen people with college educations that should have a job here but they leave town all the time.”
Erichsen said he would be hesitant to provide further city funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs, saying there are many worthwhile charities but that government provides services for all people in the city rather than special interest groups.
“If we give money (to charitable organizations), then we should charge less so that you can give to charities,” he said. “It’s not the government’s job to give. It’s yours.”
Erichsen said he wants to help clarify city codes while reminding councilors they represent all people in the city.
Duncan said young families need a hand and they are not a special interest group.
“Support is critical,” he said. “A lot of families are without after-school care. We should continue to support other services.”
One audience member noted that county development is outpacing that of the city and asked if the disparity is attributable to the city’s developer impact fees or to the economy.
Debating impact fees
Incumbent Laura Dubois, a retired budget analyst, said in her four years of holding Position 2 on the city council, she helped balance the city’s budget, worked toward better streets and created the Transportation Benefit District.
She wants to continue her work, citing the time she has spent updating the comprehensive plan to better guide the city’s future.
John Miller, a retired Safeway manager, said he wants more fiscal responsibility from the council. He also wants to create an environment so young people, including his daughter, can find work and live in Sequim after completing school.
Much of their debate centered on their opposing views regarding impact fees on new construction.
Dubois, a proponent of impact fees, said Sequim grew so fast it couldn’t keep up with infrastructure needs, so they’ve done little to keep roads in good condition.
She said improvements can come from a combination of developer impact fees and the Transportation Benefit District.
Miller opposes impact fees and said he moved from a town with high impact fees.
“Once implemented, you go to slow growth or people don’t want to build here,” he said. “You can’t turn it off or on. It takes a long time to restimulate the growth.”
Dubois defended the city’s funding of the Sequim Boys & Girls Club, saying it’s an excellent service but the city does have budget limitations.
“I feel in this economy we can’t cut this kind of funding, but it is fair and balanced at this time,” she said.
“I’m hoping we continue to serve the community through this funding in a fair and balanced way.”
Miller likes the club in the community, but he’d leave funding decisions up to the city’s residents.
“I’d put something on their water bill to see if they want to give to the club,” Miller said. “If all the people said they wanted to give, I would give the $1.25 million (set aside for) city hall if that’s what people wanted.”
Incumbent Eric Miller, running for city council Position 7, declined to attend.
Candace Pratt, a retired bookkeeper and voter service chairman with the League of Women Voters, is running against Miller. She called herself fiscally conservative. Pratt said she has no agenda.
“I just want to take my commitment to good government to the next level,” she said.
She hasn’t set goals but wants to help complete the city’s comprehensive plan and possibly create a business incubator group.
Incumbent Mayor Ken Hays, running unopposed for Position 6, was scheduled to attend but did not.
The cut-off for registering to vote is Oct. 10, with the election on Nov. 8.