Candidates confer and clash at forum

More than 60 San Juan Islanders came out for the San Juan County League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Grange in Friday Harbor, moderated by Steve Bowman. The forum consisted of local council candidates, state senate candidates, as well as Representative District 2 candidates Rick Larsen and Marc Hennemann.

To watch forum in its entirety, go here .

“Unfortunately Rep. Rick Larsen is not able to be here tonight, so we will not be able to ask questions of him, or his opponent Marc Hennemann. However they have both prepared statements to read,” Bowman announced, adding that Diane Martindale would read Larsen’s statement.

“Larsen has shown by his absence that he does not care about your vote,” Hennemann said, giving his statement first.

“Rep. Larsen is very sorry he could not attend tonight,” Martindale responded during her turn, “he attended the forums on Orcas and Lopez, and simply could not make it to this one.”

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, District 40, faced off against candidate Daniel Miller, during the first round. The second round was a panel of the four San Juan County Council candidates. Ranker and Miller answered questions ranging from domestic violence, global warming and even Bernie Sanders, whose progressive platforms have caused some in-fighting among democrats. He vied for the position of presidential nominee this summer.

Contrary to speculations about Sanders’ failure to secure the vote, Ranker stated he did not believe Sanders was taken out by democrat leaders. Miller stated simply that Sanders was not treated well by the Democratic party. On climate change, Miller explained that he believes climate change is impacted by humans and the issue is very complicated. Miller said he believed speaking to researchers to understand all the details would be helpful. He also stressed that he would not support any environmental regulations that would have negative impacts on jobs.

Ranker responded that an economic argument against fighting global warming is a false standpoint. He went on to list places with climate change laws on the books, and whose economy is thriving.

When questions about domestic violence were asked, Ranker said there is a crisis in the islands, noting an increase in violent cases. Listening to the victim, making sure she is safe, and refraining from victim blaming are just a few things that can be done, he said.

Miller agreed the islands have a domestic violence crisis and said that it could be due to economic factors.

The San Juan County Council candidates came up next. Michael Durland, and incumbent Rich Hughes running for District 2 and incumbent Bob Jarman and Bill Watson running for District 1 each took a turn answering the audiences’ questions regarding water issues, agriculture, affordable housing, and the emergency preparedness of San Juan County.

Each of the candidates encouraged citizens to educate themselves and prepare themselves for a natural disaster like an earthquake by educating themselves on preparedness, and by working with neighbors to help keep each other safe. They also had their own ideas about what the council itself could do to be prepared.

“Ninety percent of the population is on a well. If we lose power, well pumps are down, and people wont have water,”Jarman said.

Hughes talked about the importance of developing relationships with neighboring counties, which, he said, this council has been doing. Durland said San Juan Islanders tend to be problem solvers, using Islands Oil Spill Association as example. IOSA is a nonprofit, community oil spill response organization that provides prompt, local oil spill response and prevention. “It’s one of the things we do as islanders,”Durland said, “we step up.”

“The key is to think through all the scenarios,” Watson began, proceeding to talk about the lessons the major communication crisis (when CenturyLink’s underwater cable was cut) from a few years ago taught islanders.

One of the heaviest questions of the evening was in regards to affordable housing. “Would you support a ban on vacation rentals, yes or no?” an attendee asked the council candidates.

Durland and Hughes both said no, and cited property rights as their reasoning to vote against that kind of ban. Jarman also cited property rights as one of his reasons to be hesitant, but as a last resort, Jarman said, a moratorium on permits for vacation rentals would not be off the table.

Watson was in favor of a moratorium on vacation rentals in order to get more data on the subject in order to figure out how these rentals are impacting the ascetics of neighborhoods and affordable housing issues.

“I guess I am in the minority,”Watson said.