5 Kitsap commission candidates speak on issues

The five candidates for Kitsap County commissioner District 3 were given the opportunity to answer questions from the public in a virtual debate July 14.

Candidates Josh Hinman, Katie Walters, Jeff Wallis, Axel Strakeljahn and Leiyomi Preciado are running to replace Ed Wolfe, who is finishing his second and final four-year term.

Candidates were asked about their qualifications and what they would bring to the position.

Democratic candidate and peer counselor Preciado said that being the only person of color running for the position “there in itself already starts to impact and allow us to add other experiences to the story.”

Two others already have political experience: Wallis is the county coroner, and Strakeljahn a Port of Bremerton commissioner.

Hinman is running for office for the first time, but said that his experience in business and work on the county budget committee for three years can help bring Kitsap together. “My skills aren’t typically in management. They’re in leadership,” he said. “I have a history of being able to galvanize leaders around ideas, to be able to move people into action, and to be able to get things done.”

The topics of homelessness and housing prices were major players in the debate, and while all five agreed more needs to be done, they differ on how to fix them.

Hinman believes that the county’s approach on homelessness needs to change, saying that “it’s obvious if you drive by Walgreens in Silverdale or many of our parks that our approach is not working.”

Wallis and Strakeljahn agreed that the issue needs less of a quick fix mentality, with Strakeljahn wanting to bring together resources. “We need to pull all of the communities together,” he said. “There are a lot of people trying to do a lot of good things…but we don’t have a cohesive, strong plan countywide.”

Walters said the issues require the county’s “immediate attention” and said that we can continue to build in areas planned for housing density.

Preciado furthered that mentality, saying there needs to be solutions created at every single level, and that developers need to be held accountable for price increases, saying, “The American Dream is unattainable for myself and so many other people that call Kitsap County home.”

Public transportation was also in the spotlight, with candidates debating on how to keep traffic to a minimum and support public transit. Walters said that the goal should always be to keep traffic moving, citing roundabouts as one way to do that. She also said, “We need to invest more in public transit, and not just buses, but also ferries and ferries that are connected to bus lines.”

Wallis said that more-efficient ways of travel such as Light Rail should start to be looked at, and more needs to be done to connect Bainbridge Island with the rest of the county, along with other major road work and repairs.

Other topics included supporting small businesses, which Hinman said needed to involve the future addition and funding of a trade school. “Most of my friends who own businesses like plumbers and electricians are looking for employees and they can’t hire them. They send them to Renton to get training, and then the Seattle Union picks them up, and they’re left without workers here.”

The debate, put together by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap, can be found on the league’s website and YouTube page.