Port Angeles City Council candidates debate jobs, city projects
Jeremy Schwartz/Peninsula Daily News
Peter Ripley, left, and Lee Whetham at the Port Angeles Business Association meeting.
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Peter Ripley and Lee Whetham, who are vying for former City Councilman Max Mania’s Position 2 seat, appeared before the Port Angeles Business Association at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge on Tuesday morning.
Ripley is an advocate for people with disabilities and an online newspaper publisher.
Whetham works as a plumber and has held leadership positions in the Local 32 Plumbers and Pipefitters union and the Olympic Peninsula Building and Construction Trades Council.
Both are running in the general election for a four-year term. Mania resigned Aug. 3.
Whetham said his experience as a local labor leader has helped him develop the skills necessary to serve residents.
“I’m going to continue to fight for the people I represent, the people of Port Angeles,” Whetham said.
When asked about creating more jobs in the community, Whetham said he would support adding language to the city’s code that would a require certain percentage of hours worked in city-funded construction contracts be made available to apprentices from Port Angeles.
Whetham also said that if funding could be found, Civic Field improvements would be an example of a way to create local jobs.
“I believe that represents another huge expansion of our workforce if we can get that together,” Whetham said.
Ripley said he thought funding had been secured for at least some Civic Field improvements.
Such work is on the city’s multiyear capital facilities plan, though inclusion in the plan does not guarantee funding.
Another audience member asked about the looming cleanup of the western portion of Port Angeles Harbor.
The state Department of Ecology has named the city, the Port of Port Angeles, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Nippon Paper Industries USA and forest services company Merrill & Ring as at least partially responsible.
Whetham and Ripley agreed grants and other funding sources outside the city should be tapped for this project.
“I actually would look toward our federal and state delegations for financial help here,” Whetham said.
On the jobs front, Ripley said he would focus on bringing more industrial jobs back to Port Angeles and promised to work to establish a moratorium on all city tax and utility increases in an attempt to spur job growth.
“You can’t have retail jobs without industrial jobs,” Ripley said.
Specifically, Ripley floated the idea of working with the port to establish an amphibious plane facility in the harbor.
Lincoln Park trees
Ripley said he thought this idea also could address the Lincoln Park trees impeding the full use of William R. Fairchild International Airport by allowing air traffic capable of water landings to touch down in the harbor.
“My opinion is we look for alternative ways around cutting down the trees in Lincoln Park,” Ripley said.
Whetham said aircraft pilot and passenger safety is paramount for planes coming into Fairchild, adding that planes needing to make emergency landings should be given as much runway space to land as possible.
“My position is that a conclusion should be reached immediately on those trees,” Whetham said, adding that if asked to vote tomorrow, he would support removing the trees.
Applicants for council seat
Ripley, Port Angeles real estate agent Dan Gase and Robert Sommers, an inventory receiver at Swain’s General Store, have applied to fill Mania’s position until either Ripley or Whetham is elected to the seat.
Council members could interview and then vote to fill the position temporarily as early as the council’s Tuesday meeting.
Council members Brad Collins and Patrick Downie are running unopposed for their respective seats, while Councilwoman Brooke Nelson has announced she will not seek re-election.
Gase is running unopposed for Nelson’s seat.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsula
Last modified: August 28. 2013 6:36PM