Kitsap candidates making the rounds

Hopefuls appear at three forums this week alone.

The political season is moving into the home stretch, with a series of forums designed to support interaction between voters and candidates.

“I enjoy each one of these gatherings,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “They make you think about what you are doing, and whether you are focusing on the right issues.”

Added South Kitsap Commissioner candidate Charlotte Garrido, “The questions vary from place to place, and each gathering has a different personality.”

This week county commissioner candidates participated in three forums — the League of Women Voters on Tuesday night, the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People scheduled for today.

Several other forums are scheduled prior to Election Day, with some including candidates from other races.

On the commissioner side, the Silverdale event included Bauer, Garrido and Tim Matthes, who is running against Garrido. Sandra LaCelle, who is running against Bauer, did not attend but had a supporter read a prepared statement.

Also present were Walter E. Washington and John Clark, who face each other in the Kitsap County auditor’s race.

The Silverdale forum limited comments to one minute, a unique condition because most events allow three times that amount. Candidates were racing to get their answers finished in time, and in most cases were interrupted by a buzzer in the middle of a sentence.

While candidates have learned to expect many of the same questions, each forum is unique.

Predictably, Wednesday’s meeting focused on Silverdale’s expected incorporation and its impact on the county tax base.

“When Silverdale incorporates it will be a train wreck for the county budget,” Bauer said. “If we wait until that happens before preparing for this change, we will do the public a disservice. When Silverdale incorporates, a majority of the sales tax will go to the new city, and the county will need to deal with a major loss of revenue.”

Matthes sees the incorporation as inevitable, but favors gathering as much advance information as possible.

“Before voting on this, we will need to answer a lot of questions,” he said. “We will need to prepare the voters in order to make the best decision about what to do.”

Garrido agreed, saying, “We will need to make a careful analysis so the residents can live with whatever decision they make.”

The candidates differed on parks. Matthes, a property rights activist, does not advocate the development of park land, saying, “We need to get real about what we can afford and whether turning open space into park land is a good decision.” Bauer acknowledges the cost problems, but feels parks should be preserved.

“All the land we own is a critical asset for the future,” he said. “We are out of the recreation business, but it’s important to stay in the parks business. A strong parks system is what makes an area attractive to visitors and new residents.”

With additional questions about the Growth Management Act and the Puget Sound Regional Council, the auditor candidates were given short shrift.

Clark and Washington were asked just two general questions, with no exploration of the issues that may differentiate the candidates.

Washington, however, thought it was time well spent.

“These forums don’t give us an opportunity to talk about the real issues,” he said. “But we do get to meet a lot of different people. I get more out of doorbelling, when there is more personal contact and I can talk to people about my qualifications, what the auditor really does, and what people are concerned about. Here, a lot of people are already for me or against me. They don’t come to make up their minds, but to reinforce what they already know.”

Clark underscored the themes of his campaign, that the auditor should supervise the budget process.

He also expressed opposition to voting by mail, while admitting that it was “here to stay.”

He also emphasized his view on registered voters, which is more stringent than Washington’s.

“People who vote need to be of sound mind,” he said. “There are people in long-term care facilities who can’t fend for themselves or even fill out a form who get a ballot. A lot of these ballots should be challenged.”

“Voting is a constitutional right,” Washington said. “It is not the auditor’s role to determine competency.”

Several candidate forums will take place in the coming weeks, in various locations and featuring a changing cast of candidates:

• Homebuilders of Kitsap County, Oct. 2;

• Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, Oct. 9;

• NARFE (National Active & Retired Federal Employees), Oct. 13; and,

• Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, Oct. 15.

The Bremerton Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues forums concentrating on individual candidates will continue through Oct. 14.

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