Whatever by John Merton Marrs

John Merton Marrs

Port Angeles should have a redesigned City Council by year’s end with four positions to be voted upon. It will soon be time for Port Angeles voters to vet candidates for election to the City Council (as well as the school board, the port board and the hospital board).

To “vet” has come into popular usage. We’ve heard many references in the news for months about “vetting” candidates, nominees and immigrants. Interestingly, the term comes from veterinarian, having to do with vets checking horses to see if they were healthy enough to race.

Seems appropriate since so much of our mass media these days treat elections as horse races. Port Angeles voters in November will fill four of seven council positions — and will join with voters in the larger local area to elect three school board members, two port commissioners and two Olympic Medical Center board members.

The vetting begins after candidates announce themselves in May by filing at the County Auditor’s Office to be placed on the ballot. Meanwhile, interested people are lining up supporters and campaign operators.

It’s not too early to think how we can vet (scrutinize, evaluate, judge) the candidates, especially for City Council. My sources indicate that two or three of the council positions may be wide open; that is, the incumbents may not file for re-election.

To vet properly, we need to know what we’re checking for. Here then is my list of topics and questions that City Council members should be expected to answer. To get their answers, voters will need to read news accounts, attend candidate forums, read voter guides and candidate campaign materials, and when possible talk to the candidates in person. Here’s what I want to know from each council candidate:

How would you rank (A) timber interests, (B) the national park and tourism, (C) local business, (D) city land-use practices, (E) inter-governmental cooperation and (F) opioid and general drug abuse as City Council priorities? Would you agree that these priorities are related and symbiotic interests? Would you identify any one of them as not being inter-related with the others?

Regarding the issue of job losses in the timber industry, do you believe this has resulted from the industry’s own marketing decisions (e.g., exporting logs to Asia) or mostly from alleged arrearage in local state trust lands management?

Which of the following should the city spend more time exploring? (A) the possibility of restoring lower Peabody Creek to a daylight course from 2nd Street north to the harbor; (B) partnering with the Feiro Marine Science Center to upgrade it as a downtown educational and tourist attraction; (C) establishment of a Public Development Authority (Port Townsend formed one to redevelop Fort Worden) to remodel the downtown business core in concert with local commercial building owners; (D) subsidizing a commuter airline to help maintain daily flight service between Fairchild Airport and Seattle; (E) construction of another parking structure in the downtown area; (F) creating additional pedestrian parkways in midtown or partnering with the county to make such improvements east of town; (G) renew efforts to negotiate with Rayonier and the Elwha Tribe over the future use or development of the former Rayonier mill.

Renters are having difficulty finding rental housing in the city. Is this a matter that should be left strictly to the private marketplace or should the city consider coordinating some kind of a public housing agency? What role should the city play in the problem of homelessness?

Should the city continue to depend on the County Prosecutor’s Office to decide which criminal cases to take to court? If the county prosecutor declines to pursue any important case, should the council instruct the city attorney to take over that case?

What does it mean to be a leader? Should the City Council have taken positions on matters not strictly its own business but which promise to impact the city, such as (A) the school district bond issue, (B) the Wild Olympics proposal in Congress or (C) the Navy’s use of Olympic National Forest and our county’s skies to test electronic warfare with excessively noisy Growler jets?

Should Port Angeles become a “sanctuary city” against arbitrary deportations?

As a council member, would you count votes among your colleagues to decide when to support an issue or proposal, or would you tend to always stand on principle?

The issue of water fluoridation is bound to return to the council. Would you vote to restore fluoridation? Would you support dropping the city’s charter city status in favor of the weaker general-city status, as some have proposed?

As a council member would you see a difference between attempting to represent the interests of all city residents in all matters or do you see special interests (such as timber, retail sales or real estate or youth sports, etc.) as important ways to benefit the wider community?

What local interests or organizations do you have a history of participating with? I know this is a lot of information, but if we don’t have these answers, then how do we make wise choices for our city come November?

John Merton Marrs is a writer and editor who lives in Port Angeles and at Lake Sutherland.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for this, John. We need to be asking real questions about specific issues, instead of passively sitting by, and letting the candidates prattle on about their “integrity”. They may have their claimed integrity, but I’ll see that best by the answers they give to the real issues Port Angeles and the area faces.

    We need to know.


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