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Council candidates tackle big issues at candidates forum
It wasn’t quite 30 minutes or less, but it was close.
City council candidates delivered their best answers to questions cooked up by local citizens at a forum Tuesday, and dished out why they should earn islanders’ votes.
Approximately 25 people gathered at city hall for the forum showcasing south-islanders Dee McComb and Roger Townsend. The event itself lasted just over 30 minutes.
It was hosted by the League of Women Voters and co-sponsored by the NAACP and the Bainbridge Island Historical Society.
Initially, the forum was planned for three candidates. Bob Bosserman threw his hat in the ring earlier this summer, but bowed out and endorsed Townsend for the position.
Bosserman’s exit came too late for county officials, however, and his name will remain on the Primary Election ballot.
For the two candidates still seeking the seat, Tuesday’s gathering provided few moments where McComb and Townsend differentiated themselves.
“I believe I can provide consensus-building and a rational voice on the city council,” Townsend said. “As a parent of young children I can provide a voice on the council that is not currently provided.”
“I am the only candidate that has young children,” he added. “I have been here since my oldest entered first grade; she is now in high school.”
McComb also noted her own island connections.
“I have lived on this island since 1979 and have raised a family here with my husband,” she said. “Although I have not held elected office previously, I have experience serving in positions of leadership in state and national associations, including president and legislative chairs.”
The candidates were asked seven questions spanning Bainbridge Island issues.
What role does a city council person have in making police department policy and do you have goals for the police for 2014?
Townsend: “The city council has one person reporting to it which is the city manager. But it is very important that the city council has a role in policy decisions. I believe it is important that the city council encourages collaborative policing. Obviously the city has had issues around its police department. It has a new chief. I would work with the police chief, through the city manager, to make sure that the actions of police are consistent with the values of Bainbridge Island.”
McComb: “I agree with Roger about the way the city council works with the city manager. I would also look at, through the city manager, at the department in terms of expenses and where the dollars are being spent in terms of training versus salaries versus on the street coverage.”
What should the city of Bainbridge Island learn from the SMP process?
McComb: “That there are a variety of interests and that council going forward need to be particularly concerned with how we handle enforcement and the process for the various changes done with the SMP. It is critical in terms of transparency for people to understand what really has happened.”
Townsend: “The SMP is obviously a hot-button issue. There are a lot of people on both sides of this issue. One of the complaints of the opposition to the SMP is that this was turned on its head. That key policy determinations were made in the weeds, at the grassroots level as opposed to policy determinations made from the council. That’s what the council is here for, to reflect where the community wants to be.”
What if any are your one, two or three major concerns about the past management of city utilities?
Townsend: “A principal concern of any of the utilities is to ensure that we are efficiently using city funds for the services that are being provided, and that funds are not going to overhead. This is a service that is being provided for the benefit of the ratepayers and that needs to be reflected in the way we spend money. And we need accountability for that.”
McComb: “I think one of the primary concerns with the utility has to do with the ratepayer issue; where the dollars are coming from and how they are being spent. We need to be able to look at long-range sustainability factors and what it is going to take to continue.”
How would you engender cooperation and respect between council members and respect for city employees?
McComb: “By example and working with other members of the council in terms of basic courtesy rules. The ability to have open conversation with city council members and the city manger who is responsible for the employees and not moving beyond the responsibilities that are laid out in the city manual for the way things are supposed to be conducted.”
Townsend: “It happens on a personal level. Having personal relationships with council members and the city manager is the foundation of respect. I’ve already met most of the council members, and Mr. Schulze, and have begun that relationship. I think that if you have personal respect that you can have civil disagreements about policy or the process. I’m a civil litigator, I argue for a living, and I know how to argue with respect and keep it about the issues and not make it personal.”
Is it important to you to learn about and follow open meetings rules and why?
Townsend: “Absolutely. The open meeting rule is a big part of the city governance manual. No one opposes the idea of open governance. It’s really a matter of implementation and following through. Everybody gets emails. You need to understand that getting an email as a council ember is not the same as getting email in your private account.”
McComb: “It is critical for the public and citizens to know what is going on. Abiding by existing rules is critical to success of the council.”
What do you see as the biggest concern of South Ward residents?
McComb: “The biggest concern of South Ward residents is focused on the SMP. And collaborative measures to either modify it, or work with it. The other issue is growth. They are concerned about resources, and concerned about the expansion in the Lynwood area.”
Townsend: “I would echo somewhat what Dee said. Growth is one issue. I live in the Lynwood Center area with my family and that’s an excellent example of positive growth. But we need to be worried about growth on the island, it needs to be good growth and focused in the urban centers. With regard to the SMP, that is an area of significance as well.”
Why did you decide to run? What change would you hope to be a part of?
Townsend: “I decided to run because I felt like I could make a difference. I had some close friends and associates who encourages me to run. They felt that my temperament, my knowledge base, my training would be a positive development on the city council that needs legal expertise and a calm rational decision maker. I felt like I was recruited for the position and once I took on the idea I decided it was something that I really wanted to do. It’s a way to exercise my skills for something that is bigger than myself. I’d like to see better cell phone coverage, better roads, better bike lanes. I’d like to see a better functioning city government.”
McComb: “It’s because I can. I can be a citizen who has been part of this island, and watched the growth and watched the changes. I decided that if I’m going to become a part of the process, it would be a good time to do it. (I want to be) part of a voice that helps moves things forward, in terms of a rational discussion. We certainly have been aware of a discourse that has been in the media, and that is a concern, and I want to be part of the process that is positive growth and can make policy decisions.”