The general election campaign is afoot.
Kicking off the Nov. 3 general election candidate forums, incumbent Jim McEntire and Mark Ozias, both seeking the Clallam County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat, appeared at a post-primary forum on Aug. 7 hosted by the Sequim Sunrise Rotary.
While Ozias believes it’s time “for a generational change in leadership,” McEntire aims to maintain his seat with his “consistent approach of focusing on people and the economy first.”
McEntire and Ozias agree that growing the local economy is key, but the process is debatable.
“I plan to keep doing what I am doing,” McEntire said.
“There is not much government can do to create economic activity, as they can to create a friendly climate and environment for business.”
McEntire said he hopes to provide the foundation for successful economic development by partnering “with other government and publicly owned infrastructure that private entities can grow on top of and increase the types of economic activity.”
As a former Sequim business owner, Ozias said he recognizes “developing the local economy” as the most important aspect of his campaign.
“The county can’t support individual businesses, but it can do things like support our local WSU Extension program and that has potential to provide employment opportunities,” he said.
Unlike the robust WSU Jefferson County Extension, the funding for the Clallam County Extension has been cut by half in the past five years, Ozias said.
He questions McEntire’s recent support to spend down $2.51 million from the county’s General Fund, lowering the county’s optional sales tax rate from 8.4 percent to 8.2 percent. Ozias flagged the current board of commissioners’ actions to spend down the General Fund as an “example of lack of planning and a missed opportunity.”
“I would have preferred to see some planning and strategic investments take place,” he said.
McEntire admits the sales tax reduction isn’t “much, but it’s something and it’s heading in the right direction.”
“My priority is to leave some additional money in family budgets rather than find creative ways to spend tax dollars in a way that really doesn’t have a whole lot of effect,” he said.
What about SARC?
Clallam County could play an important role in the future of the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, which saw its attempt to create a metropolitan park district fail on Aug. 4. However, the City of Sequim’s city councilors have discussed plans to propose a broad-based metropolitan park district, but need a resolution from the county commissioners to do so.
McEntire said he is open to have any and all conversations about plans but noted four attempts to levy taxes or create a construction bond within eastern Clallam County have failed in the past two years.
“The real take-away is that the voters of eastern Clallam County aren’t interested in having their property taxes raised,” he said.
His belief, he said, is that conversation should happen first among parks and recreation departments within the county, City of Sequim and SARC.
“If they can find (a solution), they need to come up with a creative, non-tax increase recommendation toward the survival of SARC.”
However, Ozias sees the (long-term) solution to keeping the facility alive as “something similar to the City of Sequim’s tentative proposal for a broad-based parks district.
“I think the citizens would be more likely to support a plan that involves a lot of different types of recreational opportunities,” Ozias said.
But Ozias urges SARC officials and supporters to “pursue any and all short-term funding opportunities,” such as creating “Friends of SARC organizations and seeking grants and bridge loans” because the strategy doesn’t solve the immediate financial needs of SARC.
McEntire and Ozias seem to look at area water resources differently, too.
“I believe that water is one of if not the most important questions that we face here in Clallam County,” Ozias said. “It is more likely than not that the future is one where water is an increasingly scarce resource and we ought to be doing significant planning to be prepared for our likely future.”
With possible moratoriums on water use, Ozias finds the concept “at best a short-term solution to an unexpected problem” and only looked to as a drastic option to preserve and protect property and water rights of existing users.
“If we don’t plan effectively for this limited resource (water) in the future, then the goals we’re talking about aren’t going to be met,” he said. “The county needs to actively engage in planning for the future that we see as most likely … if things change, then great, we’ll be ahead of the game, but we need to be ready.”
McEntire remains consistent in his distaste for moratoriums of all kinds, including one on water use. Based on his interpretation of the Dungeness River flows, McEntire said the average annual flow is on an uptrend since 1988.
“We’re not running short of water on the east end of this county so a moratorium is totally unnecessary,” he said. “Mother Nature has historically taken care of water storage for us, and this year is an exception to that, but I fully expect over the years the snowpack to be as normal.”
Ozias takes a different approach to planning future water use by looking ahead.
“Historical data is important when it comes to flow in the Dungeness River and water in the valley, but it’s not as important as looking ahead to the next 100 years and thinking about what the most likely scenario will be based on what we know now,” he said. “Based on what we know now, water is going to be an increasingly precious resource and everybody needs to use water and everybody wants to use water.”
McEntire said it’s a dry year, but feels that the Dungeness Water Rule placed by the Department of Ecology in 2013 is “unnecessary.” The future development for the parcels within the watershed that can have a residence with a well is projected to have a less than 4 cubic feet per second “total impact” to all streams, including the Dungeness River.
“I think this is a solution in search of a problem,” he said.
Ozias looks to the U.S. military for answers in what to prepare for.
“The U.S. military plans for global climate change, only they call it climate adaptation,” he said. “If the military acknowledges this is a reality and threat to our future and something we need to plan for, then I think it’s smart we look at it as well.”
Ballots for the Nov. 3 general election are sent Oct. 14. The election is certified Nov. 24.