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Journal Q&A: Lovel Pratt, candidate for San Juan County Council, San Juan South
About this series: The Journal’s series of Candidate Q&As for the Nov. 4 election continues this week with candidates for San Juan County Council, San Juan South.
The series schedule: Oct. 1, County Council, San Juan South — Gordy Petersen, Lovel Pratt. Oct. 8, State Senate — Kevin Ranker, Democrat; Steve Van Luven, Republican. Oct. 15, Congress — Rick Bart, Republican; Rick Larsen, Democrat.
About this position: San Juan County Council members are elected by district, serve four-year terms and receive $34,000 a year plus benefits. The County Council:
1. Is the legislative authority of the county.
2. Approves the annual county budget.
3. Is responsible for county property and funds.
4. Considers land-use appeals.
5. Provides for county infrastructure, roads and buildings.
6. Fixes the amount of county taxes according to law.
7. Serves as the county franchising authority.
2551 Cattle Point Road, San Juan Island
Q: Should the solid waste transfer station be moved, or can the current site be modified to meet the island’s needs? Which option would be more cost-effective?
A: I am keeping an open mind in this process and look forward to the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the responses to the comments, questions and concerns that have been raised during the comment period.
We are very fortunate to have so many concerned and capable citizens who have taken the time to thoroughly review the draft EIS and raise important points that need to be addressed.
Unless new information indicates otherwise, it is my understanding that in the long-term the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible location for the solid waste transfer station is the current site.
Regardless of which site is ultimately selected, the modification and/or development of the facility must mitigate the impacts to the neighbors as much as possible.
Q: Which areas of county government could operate more efficiently? Do you see any areas where expenses could be reduced?
A: Reducing expenditures, operating more efficiently, and ensuring that fees adequately cover the cost of a service are all essential in the current economy. The 2009 budget will be a challenge for the current County Council, and unless the economy improves, the 2010 budget will be even more challenging.
Barring a turn-around in the economy, I know that if I am elected I will have to say “no” to many very compelling and important expenditures in order to maintain a balanced budget and preserve a healthy reserve. The best way I see to achieve this is for the County Council to work together, along with county staff, in a comprehensive process to identify budgetary priorities.
Our independently elected officials and county department heads and staff will have excellent ideas and recommendations for reducing expenditures, operating more efficiently, and ensuring that fees adequately cover the cost of a service. I look forward to learning more about how the various departments in our county operate, and talking about how we can address our budget challenges.
I think it is essential that the solutions to our budget challenges be a cooperative process, but I know that if elected I will have to make the difficult choices and I am prepared to do that.
Q: Some Friday Harbor officials are concerned that the town may not be able to afford the costs of providing utility services for a proposed affordable housing neighborhood near the former gravel pit.
Since the town is being required to shoulder most of the island’s responsibility for affordable housing, in what ways could the county and town work together on this issue?
A: Both Friday Harbor and San Juan County must make adequate provisions for all existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community. Affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families is needed now, and the need will be more critical in the future.
Where possible, it makes sense for the town and county to facilitate the work of affordable housing providers. These organizations are fulfilling town and county requirements. One way for the town and county to work together to address infrastructure costs would be to collaborate on applications for grant funding such as Community Development Block Grants.
Q: Can the island economy be more diverse and, if so, what types of businesses or industries would you like to see locate on the island?
A: I support economic development that promotes and preserves our environment and our quality of life. Additional jobs that pay a family wage are a priority. Businesses that can be conducted via Internet and phone are ideal additions to our local economy, given our remote location.
Areas of our economy that should be expanded include marine research and education, and other forms of education venues such as elderhostel and conferences.
I support the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau’s emphasis on “geotourism” (tourism that sustains, enhances, and supports the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, heritage, aesthetics and the well-being of its residents).
I am a strong proponent of local agriculture. The more local foods we eat, the more we reduce our carbon footprint and support and enhance our beautiful, pastoral, agricultural landscape that we so value. The more local foods we produce, the more self-sufficient we can be and the better prepared we will be in the event of an emergency that interrupts our supply of food from the mainland.
Economic development of local agriculture is economic development with the greatest multiplier effect (the number of times the same dollar circulates within the community).
Q: Any concerns — economic, environmental, infrastructure, or otherwise — that you feel need to be addressed? How would you address those issues?
A: Economic issues are addressed in 2 and 4 above. An environmental issue I see as critical is water, especially in light of recent water franchise applications. San Juan County needs a comprehensive water policy. We need to know what our carrying capacities are for water, and have a county-wide prioritization of water use. First and foremost, we must protect water supplies for existing homes, agriculture and other essential uses.
A desalinization policy and policies for all other alternative water source systems are needed to ensure the protection of existing water uses and our environment.
A critical infrastructure issue is transportation. I have pledged that if elected I will go to Olympia when the Legislature is in session at least one day a month, regardless of compensation, to work with our legislators on county issues — including ferry service and a sustainable source of funding for ferries — that must be addressed at the state level.
Q: What are your priorities if elected?
A: If elected, my priorities will be to do my best in addressing the work of the County Council; work collaboratively and effectively with fellow councilors, county staff and citizens; listen to your concerns and goals for our community; and promote an inclusive public participation process.
Q: How much have you spent on your campaign? Who are your major contributors?
A: I believe in campaign finance reform. I believe that election to public office (both running for office and supporting a candidate) should be available to everyone on equal terms, regardless of personal finances.
From the start of my campaign, I decided to pay only for the filing fee ($337) from my own money, and only to accept contributions up to $25 per person ($50 per couple).
So far, I have raised a total of $2,754 (including the filing fee) from 103 people. My campaign expenses to date are $2,236.22. I am happy to provide campaign financial details at any time to anyone who is interested.
I appreciate all the support and encouragement I have received during this campaign. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I am grateful for and really enjoying this opportunity to connect with friends, meet new people, and talk about county government and all our concerns and goals for our wonderful community.