Clallam commissioner candidate forum yields differing agendas

PORT ANGELES — Those who attended Nor’Wester Rotary’s Clallam County Commissioner District 3 candidate forum heard two distinct agendas from incumbent Bill Peach and challenger Dale T. Wilson.

Candidate Mike Doherty, a Port Angeles Democrat who held four consecutive four-year terms for the District 3 position before not seeking re-election in 2014, did not attend the forum Friday.

All three are contending for the seat in the Aug. 7 primary election, for which ballots will be mailed July 18. The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 7 general election.

“I think you have seen a contrast between Dale and I,” said Peach in his closing remarks. “I hope very much that you consider it when it’s time for your vote.”

Peach said he has experience and that after living in the West End for 30 years he understands that community.

Throughout the forum, Peach, a Republican, said that the three present commissioners work well together and because of that are able to get things done.

“When we have the opportunity to share and openly discuss in a very transparent manner, we have the opportunity to gather our resources and address the issue,” Peach said. “I’m not terribly interested in that same amount of energy going into trivia.”

Wilson, who filed with no party preference, urged such changes as making Clallam County energy independent by installing hydrogen fuel cells on each of the “islands” that would be created during a catastrophic earthquake and exporting wood pellets and wood pellet stoves to China. He did not address how such changes would be funded or organized.

Wilson took his opening remarks as an opportunity to tell Rotary members that he was disappointed that he was not allowed to film the forum for Peninsula Area Public Access, the local television station he helped launch two years ago.

Wilson, who owns Port O Call — once a monthly publication and now an online blog — brought with him to the Friday forum camera operator Jordan Campbell, who has been nominated three times for Northwest Regional Emmy Awards.

“I was a little disappointed that we were not able to allow Jordan to set up and televise here,” Wilson said.

Wilson declined an interview with the Peninsula Daily News on Thursday after being told he could not film the interview. He was told he could audio-record it.

He told Rotary members that what is more important than him not being allowed to film a forum he is participating in is for the county to be energy independent in the event of a catastrophic earthquake. It was the issue he brought up when asked about the paramount issue that needs to be addressed within the next four years.

“There are going to be a lot of isolated people in the community who are still going to need electricity, still going to need food, still going to need medicine,” he said. “We should be planning to have micro-electric grids.”

He said solar-powered hydrogen fuel cells would guarantee that every community in the county would have a reliable energy source.

Wilson said he also wants to tackle economic development. The county should export wood pellets and wood pellet stoves — made by Peninsula College welders — to China, he said.

“For every shipment of logs we send to the Orient, we could ship another barge full of wood pellets and behind that a barge full of wood pellet burning stoves,” Wilson said. “They are still heating and running their factories with coal, and if you’ve ever seen any newsreel, they are just smothering themselves with the smog.”

Peach said among the top issues the county faces are homelessness and the opioid crisis. He said as commissioner he voted for an additional $50,000 that helped fund Serenity House of Clallam County’s shelter until the end of June.

During the latest funding cycle Serenity House was approved for a portion of the funding it had requested. This year 11 different agencies asked for a combined $936,587 out of the county’s Homeless Fund, which is funded through recording fees. Only $409,000 was available.

Peach said that lack of funding leads to difficult decisions.

“We are going to decide whether or not a baby gets milk or a 90-year-old lady continues to live in a car,” he said. “Throwing money at the problem is a start, but the people that make things happen is the real answer.”

Wilson said the homeless situation is a topic that’s “near and dear” to his heart because homeless people are often near the PAPA studios.

“Most of the ones I’ve met around there … are people who have lived in Port Angeles for dozens of years,” he said. “Many of them had good jobs here and, according to them, the jobs went away.”

He said Pennies for Quarters — a private nonprofit founded by Army veteran Matthew Rainwater, who is also chairman of the Clallam County Republican Party, that aims to build tiny houses for homeless veterans in Clallam County — has a great idea.

“I think that idea could be spread out some,” Wilson said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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