PORT ANGELES — Candidates for Port Angeles City Council Position 1 tackled questions Tuesday about issues facing the city including annexation, the city’s fight with the federal government over water and whether Port Angeles should revert to a second-class-city status.
The candidates — who will be on the Aug. 1 primary election ballot — also fielded a question about why not all candidates said the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the Port Angeles Business Association candidate forum.
Among the most discussed questions was about whether the city should annex Gales Addition.
Jim Moran, president-owner of The 401(k) Co. Inc. of Port Angeles, suggested the city look west to annex less developed areas, saying the city can’t afford to provide services to Gales Addition.
“I think we need to hold off on annexing areas we can’t provide services for,” he said. “Areas to the west are less populated and would require less services.”
Marolee Smith, a researcher and writer, and Todd Negus, owner of OSP Sling Inc. in Sequim, each said they would support annexing Gales Addition but needed to learn more about the process and budgeting requirements.
Negus said that without knowing the specifics, he could see the advantage of growing the city.
Said Smith: “I think we should annex in all directions because we need a larger city base.”
She called Gales Addition “wonderful waterfront property” and suggested the area could be developed to add to the city’s tax base.
“I realize as long as I’ve been here, people refer to Gales Addition as poor people, but that land has value, and if we were to develop any area, that would be the nicest area to develop,” she said.
Jake Oppelt, a candidate for Position 2 who was in the audience, asked Smith: “Isn’t Gales Addition [already] developed?”
“Have you been down there?” Smith asked Oppelt. “Yeah, sure, kind of, but not for what the waterfront homes could be. It could be redeveloped and be something spectacular.”
“You don’t just go redevelop somebody’s private residence,” Oppelt replied.
The candidates were asked whether they had signed the petition supporting a vote on reverting the city back to second-class-city status. The measure will be on the November general election ballot.
Negus said he has “absolutely not” signed the petition.
Moran said he is “totally opposed” and asked voters to not even consider approving the measure.
Smith, who signed the petition to change the city government to a “second-class city in order to elect a full new city council,” said she signed it at a time when people were frustrated with the city council.
“It was poorly thought-out, but it was a desperate measure by a group of people,” she said. “I signed it.”
She predicted that if voters approve the measure, which she called the “nuclear option,” it would get caught up in the court system.
“It won’t go through,” she said.
Moran said among the biggest issues facing the city is its water supply.
The city is preparing to sue the National Park Service for not providing information about the Elwha River surface water intake treatment facilities.
The Park Service in February denied the city’s $60 million claim to mitigate the financial impact if the Park Service transfers the plant to the city, as it plans to do.
When Congress approved the removal of the dams on the Elwha River, “it was promised Port Angeles citizens would pay no more than any other citizen [across the country] for the deconstruction of the dams,” Moran said. “Right now, the Park Service wants to turn away from this facility, and it’s going to take about $50 million to repair, and it’s money Port Angeles doesn’t have.”
Negus, who said he learned about the issue through Moran, said it should be a high priority for the city.
Smith called it a problem and said she would like to know more about it.
Pledge of Allegiance
As the meeting began, Port Angeles Councilman Dan Gase noticed Smith did not say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I noticed that … two of the candidates stood proudly with their hand over their hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and one candidate stood with their hands down and refused to say the pledge,” he said, before asking candidates to say why they do or do not say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Smith said it is her First Amendment right and she hasn’t pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States for many years.
“I’m about as patriotic as they come,” she said. “I pledge allegiance to my country, and that’s a whole different thing.”
Negus said he’s been saying the Pledge of Allegiance since he was a child.
“It’s been in my family and we’ve always stood proud when we do the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said, adding it’s up to each person whether they want to say the pledge.
Moran, a Vietnam War veteran, said he feels strongly about saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I was proud to serve my country, and I think the Pledge of Allegiance is an indication of my commitment to my country.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].