Economy weighs heavily on future and hopeful members of Congress, Legislature, County Council

The economy is weighing heavily on future and hopeful members of Congress, Legislature, County Council.

About 70 islanders attended the candidates forum Oct. 11 at Friday Harbor Middle School, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the San Juans.

Candidates for Congress, state Legislature and County Council were invited to share their key concerns and issues affecting our community.

The election is Nov. 4.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham is seeking a fifth term. Republican candidate Rick Bart, the former Snohomish County sheriff, did not attend the forum.

Larsen co-sponsored legislation that established the Wild Sky Wilderness, a 106,577-acre wilderness area in the western Cascade Range. It’s the first federally-designated wilderness in Washington since 1984 and protects low-elevation forest.

Larsen helped get local outpatient clinic services for veterans on the island, and supports establishing an outpatient clinic in Mount Vernon to provide healthcare services to Northwest Washington veterans. Such a clinic would reduce the expense that many local veterans incur by having to travel to Seattle for healthcare, he said.

Larsen has also supported funding for affordable housing in the San Juans.

On a larger measure, he voted for the $700 billion congressional financial rescue bill, approved by the House and Senate.

Though the majority of e-mails and phone calls he received opposed the rescue bill, Larsen felt it was necessary.

“Most members of Congress want out of the banking business as soon as possible,” he said. “The bailout bill is not a cure-all and was never intended to be.”

Much of the initiative, he said, provides oversight for protecting homeowners and taxpayers, and limits CEO compensation.

State Senate
Key concerns for Kevin Ranker, Democratic candidate for the 40th District state Senate seat, include environmental stewardship, protection of natural resources, protection of jobs and the local economy, and funding for ferries. He supports full funding of basic education.

Steve Van Luven, the Republican candidate, supports education funding, economic development, and preserving individual property rights.

Ranker is a San Juan County Council member and lives on San Juan Island. Van Luven formerly represented Bellevue in the state House of Representatives and now lives on Samish Island.

Both candidates believe that the state budget can be funded without raising taxes.

Ranker said scrutinizing spending of individual agencies will help counter the looming deficit. Van Luven proposes review of recently approved programs and eliminating nonessential programs.

County Council,
San Juan South

Gordy Petersen and Lovel Pratt presented issues of importance to them as candidates for County Council, San Juan South.

Petersen is a former freeholder and former county planning commissioner. Pratt is a county planning commissioner and advocate for sustainable agriculture.

“Our county’s financial outlook for the next year is dismal and downright frightening,” Petersen said. He promotes spending restraints, pointing out that this is a turbulent time with falling property tax revenues, unstable real estate values, and shortages in state and federal funding.

“The county is currently on a spending spree,” Petersen said. He referred to the hiring of a large number of new county employees (including replacements), approval of purchase of commercial property for a permanent farmers market, and funding for a dock at Orcas Landing.

Petersen questioned this type of spending during a time of economic decline.

Both candidates were asked what services should be cut in order to meet budget requirements.

Pratt emphasized the importance of identifying priorities, and making expenditures based on selected priorities. She said she didn’t know what programs she would cut.

Petersen believes in spending less by providing only essential services. He recommends eliminating positions that remain vacant for more than six months and supports a hiring freeze when current employees retire. In addition, Petersen would eliminate payments to volunteers serving on committees. Currently, a number of committee volunteers are county employees.

Pratt believes the county should study its water resources, to determine how much water the county has to support population growth. She said water is a priority, as is protection of residential and agricultural use. Petersen, on the other hand, believes such a study is too costly.

When asked about their positions on global warming, Pratt said she supports the reduction of our carbon footprint through lifestyle choices. Petersen is not convinced that global warming is man-made.

County Council,
Friday Harbor

Howard Rosenfeld and Fay Chaffee, candidates for County Council, Friday Harbor, agree that the existing solid waste transfer station should be modified, rather than a new site developed.

They said funding would be saved by utilizing the current site.

Chaffee is a permit coordinator in the county Community Development and Planning Department. Rosenfeld is a County Council member seeking a second term. He formerly served on the Friday Harbor Town Council.

Chaffee supports an advisory ballot for the proposed stormwater fee ordinance; revenues from the fee would fund stormwater control projects countywide.

“It’s the will of the people (that matters),” Chaffee said.

Rosenfeld said a ballot measure would be too costly. Time is of the essence for the county to comply with the Growth Management Act, he said.

Balancing the county budget and fiscal responsibility are key issues for Chaffee. She wants to preserve individual property rights by loosening regulations that she said negatively impact homeowners. She said many of the regulations that apply to guesthouses are unnecessary.

Rosenfeld supports measures to protect the environment and comply with the GMA. Complying with the GMA also makes the county eligible for low-interest loans and grants — critical during times of economic distress.

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