Campaigns heat up at island forum
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:14 PM
"Eliminating government waste will save so much money that services can be increased even as taxes are cut, Republicans told a Bainbridge Island audience this week.That's wishful thinking, countered Democrats - if taxpayers want government services, they will have to pay for them in the form of taxes.If there's waste, let's look at it, said Sen. Betti Sheldon, D-Bremerton. But we need to be careful about throwing out whole programs. When you really look, you find that there's a person behind every program.The partisan battle lines were drawn at Wednesday's candidate forum sponsored by the Kitsap County League of Women Voters, which drew a capacity audience to the Bainbridge Commons.The forums brought together candidates for two Kitsap County Commission seats, and the 23d legislative district candidates for both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Each candidate made opening and closing remarks, and responded to questions from the audience. The most heated remarks came from Sheldon's Republican challenger, Bainbridge Island attorney Dan Murphy, who said, among other things, that Sheldon is personally responsible for a lack of business development in Kitsap County.People don't want to move to Kitsap County when you have legislators like my opponent, who go to Olympia and vote the way she does, Murphy said.He also claimed that Sheldon is a captive of special interests, has broken promises to hold down taxes, and that despite her position as marjority floor leader, has neglected ferry funding at the expense of other programs.Claiming to offer what he calls true leadership, Murphy promised to institute thorough performance of all state agencies and cut back on regulations to entice businesses into the county.But Sheldon said her claim to leadership is based on results, not promises.You don't get to be a leader because you say you want to be one, Sheldon said. You do it through credibility and hard work.Libertarian Senate candidate Scott Holman was invited to participate, but did not appear.In the House races, place 1 incumbent Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, emphasized his involvement with saving health insurer Kitsap Physicians Service from insolvency, reforming insurance laws that had prompted most companies to stop selling individual health-care policies in the state, and his work on transportation issues.His challenger, Poulsbo business owner and Naval retiree Phil Rasmussen, said that excessive regulation from unelected bureacrats is eroding individual property rights. He referred specifically to salmon-related building restrictions.Libertarian candidate Dennis Haynes offered novel approaches to the issues. He advocated cutting off all government support for ferries, saying that if people with ties to Seattle want to live in Kitsap County, they should pay the full cost of boat service. And to restore salmon runs, he advocated shooting the killer whales and sea lions that he claimed prey on salmon.Rockefeller also threw out a novel approach that could save Washington's blanket-primary system, despite a court decision that parties are entitled to choose their own candidates, and need not permit those not registered as party members to participate.Maybe we can say to the parties that if you want to have a closed, private primary election, you're free to do so, but you have to pay for that election, Rockefeller said. If the parties don't want to do that, their default option is a publicly financed primary that is open.The partisan lines appeared again in that forum, where Rasmussen said money could be saved by contracting out Department of Transportation projects, reducing DSHS personnel to reflect the diminishing caseload, and ending redundancies in the higher-education system.Rockefeller, a member of the Joint Audit Committee of the Legislature, said programs are being constantly scrutinized, and waste, when found, is eliminated.If we want government services, at some point we will have to bite the bullet and pay for them, he said. In the position 2 House race, challenger David Harrison of Bainbridge Island took issue with the prevalent argument that government is the enemy, saying instead that it is what we do with and for each other.I reject the grumpiness we see in most campaigns today, he said.Harrison said education and social services need more money, and specifically supported Initiative 732, which would give teachers automatic cost-of-living raises.Incumbent Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo, also supported higher teacher pay and the need to furnish social services. But she said tax increases aren't needed.We found $300 million in waste during the last session, Woods said. I've gotten the message that people want efficiencies, not higher taxes.Like her husband in the position 1 race, Libertarian candidate Diane Haynes was not shy about provocative ideas.We need to end the war on drugs, she said. It's not doing any good. In fact, it's doing a great deal of harm, and it's costing a huge amount of money.Washington is divided into 49 legislative districts, each of which elects one senator and two representatives in district-wide races. The 23rd District includes all of Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula roughly south to Bremerton.In the county commission races, the Democratic candidates offered specific government-related experience while the Republicans touted broad-based business backgrounds.Chris Endresen of Poulsbo, the Democratic incumbent in 1st District race, which includes Bainbridge and North Kitsap, said she has worked to preserve the area's positive aspects in the face of change.We can't stop growth, but we can manage it to protect the environment and quality of life, she said.Republican challenger Scott Henden, a Kingston electrical contractor, said the issues are property taxes and the erosion of property rights. He said that to attract business growth, the county is going to have to be more responsive.A year and a half for site approvals is too much, he said. Business can't move at that speed.One issue on which the two specifically disagreed is open space.Henden said he would not spend money to purchase open space for preservation, but would only spend on active uses such as ball parks. Endresen disagreed, and said preserving open space enhances the quality of life.In the South Kitsap District 2 race, Republican Jan Angel said her broad-based business background will help attract new business, which she said is the county's primary need. Property taxes are high because business vitality is lacking, she said.Democrat Dusty Wiley, who defeated incumbent Charlotte Garrido in the primary, said his 32 years of employment with Kitsap County government would help him move things along efficiently. But he warned that the citizens need to have realistic expectations.We can't take care of everything, he said. We need to clarify the county's role. "