Rosenfeld reelected to County Council from Friday Harbor

Howard Rosenfeld - Submitted photo
Howard Rosenfeld
— image credit: Submitted photo

Howie Rosenfeld learned early on in his political career not to take anything for granted.

And with good reason. Rosenfeld won a previous run for the Friday Harbor Town Council by a mere two votes.

But there will be no recount this time around, as Rosenfeld sailed into a second term on the San Juan County Council Tuesday.

At 8:21 p.m. with 17 of 17 precincts reporting, Rosenfeld received 466 votes to Fay Chaffee's 314.

More than anything else, Rosenfeld credits his performance on the town and county councils for creating an "extensive track record" by which voters could evaluate his credentials and accomplishments.

"I've been running mostly on my record," he said. "I think with me people know what they're getting."

Nevertheless, Rosenfeld was apprehensive about the outcome on Election Day.

"I really don't have any expectations, not after my first run for political office was decided by just two votes and, I think, it took about two weeks before it was final."

County Council members are elected by district, serve four-year terms and receive $34,000 a year plus benefits. The County Council is the legislative authority of the county, approves the annual county budget, is responsible for county property and funds, considers land-use appeals, provides for county infrastructure, roads and buildings, fixes the amount of county taxes according to law, and serves as the county franchising authority.

The council's challenges are different than when the campaign season began. A decline in sales and lodging tax revenue has the county looking at making $1 million in budget cuts for 2009.

During the campaign, Rosenfeld, a resident of Web Street, said he believes the solid waste transfer station should stay where it is. "The draft EIS says it can be modified," he said.

Regarding government efficiency, Rosenfeld said retaining employees avoids expensive employee turnovers. "There already is an employment freeze except in critical positions," he said. Mainland travel is another area we’re already cutting back on. We’re planning a teleconferencing capability so even interisland travel can be reduced, saving staff time."

Rosenfeld also said the county needs to avoid lawsuits and to comply with the Growth Management Act; non-compliance in even a single area can affect the amount of grant funding the county receives.

"Some want environmental protection cut even though most of it is covered by grants," Rosenfeld said during the campaign. "Others, like my opponent, want less land regulation. There is a problem, but her solution is too pro-development."

Rosenfeld said he's concerned about growth on the islands. "We need to know what are our carrying capacities for water, waste, etc. If we could see computerized illustrations of what 'build out' would look like, maybe we could get consensus from both developers and environmentalists on programs to prevent it."

Chaffee, who lives on Park Street, is a permit coordinator in the county's Community Development and Planning Department.

She supports keeping the solid waste transfer station on Sutton Road if it could be improved at a "comparative cost." She said development of another site must include cleanup of the current site. She was "hesitant" to put the financial burden of affordable housing on "a relatively small group of people, the residents of the Town of Friday Harbor" through annexation of the 45-acre Buck property near the former gravel pit.

"Mayor Jones’ advice to go slow and know the costs before we commit to a financial burden to be shared by a small percentage of people is good advice," she said, adding, "There are numerous rentals listed in the newspapers. The housing problem may be one that is solved by paying wages that are commensurate with the higher costs of living in San Juan County."

She counted among her priorities "finding a balance between property owners’ rights while protecting our fragile environment."

-- Richard Walker contributed to this report.

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