Candidate Q&A: San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor

The race for San Juan County Council, Friday Harbor, will not be on the Aug. 19 primary ballot because there are only two candidates. The race will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Council members serve four years and are paid $33,700 per year and receive benefits. July 23: Candidates for San Juan County Council, San Juan South. July 30: Candidates for 40th District state Senate.

Fay Chaffee
1. Education and background: Two years college, Portland State University. Employment has included ice cream scooper, legal secretary, professional potter, owner of a cookie company, owner of a secretarial service, assistant to a resort developer, real estate office manager, and the last 10 years working for San Juan County, eight at Community Development & Planning as a permit coordinator. Volunteer on the San Juan Island Park and Recreation board.

2. What priorities should determine where the island’s solid-waste transfer station will be located?

In the study of sites for the solid waste transfer station, there are many considerations: environmental protection to sensitive critical areas, adequate space for the facility to function properly, safety in regard to traffic and road adequacy, and impact to any residential neighborhood. My experience at Community Development & Planning has prepared me well to make careful, reasoned and logical decisions on issues such as these.

3. What role, if any, should the county and town have with regard to affordable housing?

The Town and the County are well on the way to providing space for more dense housing, which is the most likely area for affordable housing. The agreement that has been reached between the Town and the County to enlarge the Urban Growth Area, and the potential annexation of this area into the town limits of Friday Harbor is the first step in this process.

4. What changes, if any, would you like to see in ferry service to the San Juans?

I would love it if San Juan County residents could arrive at the ferry landing in Anacortes one hour prior to the departure of the ferry and be assured a spot on the trip. However, this is unlikely. A reservation system may be a help to us, as would better scheduling to allow us to be off-island and still get home in the evening.

The ferry landing area in Friday Harbor should be studied, the goal being to eliminate the bottlenecks that occur when each ferry arrives. The County Council will need to continue working with the Washington State Ferries to maintain affordable, safe and efficient ferries.

5. In what ways can the county and town work together to make government more effective?

Not being directly involved yet, I can only report what I have heard, and that is that the Town and the County are cooperating now at a new and more effective level. In the time period between now and the election in November, I will be speaking and listening to as many people as I can as to how the relationship between the Town and the County can be improved.

6. Are you satisfied with the implementation of the county charter? Please explain.

I think it is too soon to answer this question fully, since the charter is so new. So far, it seems to be progressing well.

When all positions are filled under the charter regulations and more time has elapsed, and when the charter has been fully implemented, it will be clearer that it is indeed fulfilling its expectations. The new position of county administrator provided by the charter has proved to be effective and is allowing the council the time necessary to perform their legislative duties.

7. What issues do you think are unique to your district?

The Town of Friday Harbor has a number of unique issues that I will be using all my energies to address. Among them are the solid waste transfer station as discussed above, the affordable housing issue, also above, traffic in the town, and parking in the town. These are all critical issues for Friday Harbor.

Since there will not be a primary election for this County Council seat, I will be using the time until the November general election to discuss the issues and listen to friends’ and neighbors’ views and suggestions.

Howard “Howie” Rosenfeld
1. Education and background: College, Peace Corps, public health epidemiologist, marine artist, sailor, 28-year resident of San Juan.

Whale Museum director, 18-year volunteer firefighter, Friday Harbor fire chief, town planning commissioner, Town Council member, County Council vice-chairman and this year’s chairman, local business owner for 21 years, Friday Harbor Art Studio for 16 years. See “About Me” at www.howardrosenfeld.com for more detail.

2. What priorities should determine where the island’s solid-waste transfer station will be located? 

The Environmental Impact Statement/SEPA process will provide lots of information on all the sites. However, unless there is a compelling reason for another site, I prefer to keep it where it is.

3. What role, if any, should the county and town have with regard to affordable housing?

The Growth Management Act requires that the county provide for affordable housing and, on San Juan, the town is where most affordable housing will have to be located.

The Town and the County have been, and will continue to have to be, working together on this. Establishing Friday Harbor Urban Growth Area No. 1 has been difficult, but was finally passed July 8. Annexation will have new issues of who pays for what. That will have to be dealt with so servicing new neighborhoods doesn’t burden old neighborhoods. County and Town will have to work as partners to make this happen.

4. What changes, if any, would you like to see in ferry service to the San Juans?

As a member of our Ferry Advisory Committee, I’ve been learning the complications of the ferry schedule. Squeezing out more service with the existing boats is very challenging. Washington State Ferries is in big trouble.

While management and practices need improvement, funding lost from Initiative 695 eight years ago has never been replaced. Fuel costs are way up. Contracts for new vessels have yet to be signed. There are no backup boats and we’ll likely take some service hits when there are breakdowns. The next few years until there are more boats in the fleet will be difficult. And the consultants are saying we’ll need to replace one boat every 20 months for the next 20 years!

I’m concerned about fares, which are supposedly frozen until September 2009. I want to protect frequent-user discounts and keep the Sidney service. I’m also concerned we protect the commercial traffic that brings everything we need to the island. I want cleaner, nicer ferries for our visitors and us. It is critical that long-term ferry funding is passed during the 2009 legislative session.

As a top council priority, I’ve been lobbying legislators in Olympia and elsewhere, I talked to the governor, I spoke to other counties at Washington state Association of Counties meetings, and I met with other ferry-served communities at Ferry Community Partnership meetings.

5. In what ways can the county and town work together to make government more effective?

As a former Town Council member and town fire chief, I’ve brought a town perspective to the County Council, something previously missing. If both entities are aware of what each other is doing, more cooperation and efficiency is possible. I’ve made sure county staff has good communication and work relationships with town staff. I make quarterly reports to the Town Council, and check in with town personnel frequently. We’re currently considering a shared meeting space, and in the future we might establish a joint civic center.

6. Are you satisfied with the implementation of the county charter? Please explain.

Yes. Having a county administrator has been a major improvement, with the charter separating the legislative and executive functions. The administrator has discovered many things that were not getting done.

The charter has clarified the relationship of departments, and make-up and function of our numerous committees. Meanwhile, the six of us councilmembers have worked well together. Requiring four votes to pass anything has worked OK. Having the ability to have subcommittees of up to three councilmembers has been effective.

One of the benefits of the charter is the ability to continue to make changes during five-year charter reviews. We still have to solve how to get part-time paid councilmembers to spend the significant time and effort going to meetings, lobbying, and representing the county in Olympia and elsewhere.

7. What issues do you think are unique to your district?

Council District 3 comprises the one-square-mile Town of Friday Harbor — the only incorporated area in the county, county seat, port of entry, ferry terminus and primary commercial center. The biggest issue: additional growth on San Juan Island will be concentrated in the town. The County and Town will need to become even closer partners in how this growth will be accommodated.

Utility rates and road infrastructure are issues. I want to keep the historic, small-town look and feel. I’m on the Trails Committee to help make town more walkable, and working on the council for more non-motorized transportation options.

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