PORT ANGELES — Two candidates vying for a seat on the Port Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday the city should eschew second-class status and encourage economic development and weighed in on an avigation easement for William R. Fairchild Memorial Airport.
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Artur Wojnowski disagreed on how to answer a Nov. 7 advisory vote on fluoridated drinking water, annexation and other issues during a Port Angeles Business Association forum at Joshua’s Restaurant.
Schromen-Wawrin and Wojnowski are running in the November general election for Port Angeles City Council Position 3, a four-year nonpartisan position held by Mayor Patrick Downie. Downie is not running for re-election.
Schromen-Wawrin, a Port Angeles native and a lawyer, was a Democratic Party precinct committeeman and recent president of the Clallam County Bar Association.
Wojnowski, a Chicago native who was raised in a Polish household, is maintenance manager for the Dungeness Meadows Home Owners Association.
“I don’t believe that we should be fluoridating the water,” Wojnowski said.
The City Council voted 4-3 last August to stop adding fluoride to the municipal water supply, ending a 10-year-old practice.
Downie, who voted in December 2015 to continue fluoridation, cast the deciding vote last summer.
“I believe that we don’t know how much [fluoride] we all need to intake,” Wojnowski said.
“And given the fact that none of us really know how much is required, personally I don’t think we should just be blanketing it. But again, that’s for everyone to decide on their own.”
Schromen-Wawrin said he had a more “nuanced view” on fluoride, saying the chemical has been shown to improve oral health and that he uses fluoride in his daily dental regime.
Schromen-Wawrin said he would personally vote no on the advisory vote but listen to the will of the voters and act accordingly, provided he has assurances that the city would not put lead and arsenic in the water.
“We’ve been gridlocked for too long and we need to move on from this issue,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“I think at this point this issue has been tossed to the will of the people, which is not necessarily the best way to decide public health matters.
“So in that regard, I think I’d vote with what the voters said, with my caveat that I’m not going to be putting lead and arsenic in the water supply in a knowing and intentional way.”
Wojnowski said he will oppose fluoridation regardless of the advisory vote.
“People can voice their opinion voting, yes, but people who elected me would basically be voting for my stance as it is currently,” Wojnowski said.
“So I would stick to the no vote.”
Each candidate was given three minutes to make an opening statement, two minutes to answer audience questions and two minutes to make a closing statement.
The 53-minute forum was moderated by PABA Vice President Matthew Rainwater.
Schromen-Wawrin said he is running to help create a stable economy, address affordable housing and create a more accountable and collaborative local government.
Wojnowski said he is running to bring a more diverse representation and business acumen to the seven-member council.
The two candidates agreed that the city should not seek a change to its second-class designation, a measure also headed for the Nov. 7 ballot.
Schromen-Wawrin said the re-designation would give the state more control over local policy.
“It’s the wrong direction for us to go,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Colleen McAleer, who chairs the Port of Port Angeles commission, asked the candidates whether they would support an avigation easement above the city’s Lincoln Park for aircraft landing at the port airport.
Such an easement would allow for the removal of certain trees from the west side of Lincoln Park.
“I would support the port having as much access to the air path there as possible,” Wojnowski said.
“We definitely do need air service. The one thing that I continually hear, even from friends and family that come and visit me, is it’s a pain in the butt to get here.”
Schromen-Wawrin said he, too, would support a formal agreement between the city and port.
“For me, the bottom line is that I don’t want Lincoln Park to just be a grassy runway strip that the city owns and maintains for the airport,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“It’s a park, and as much as possible we need to be able to continue its use as a park. Does that mean it has 200- to 300-foot-tall Douglas fir trees? Absolutely not. There’s many other alternatives to that.”
When asked to weigh in on annexation, Schromen-Wawrin said the state Growth Management Act encourages cities to incorporate urban growth areas, which Port Angeles has on its east and west sides.
“In principle, I think it makes sense for Port Angeles to have the city limit and the growth management area be coextensive, to be in the same spot,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
”I think eventually we are talking about making the urban growth area and the city boundary the same.”
Wojnowski said he did not have all the information on annexation but articulated a clear philosophy:
“I believe we have other focuses within the city — dilapidated buildings, vacant buildings and just buildings standing vacant. We should be focusing on that versus trying to sprawl outside the current boundaries.”
Schromen-Wawrin said the city “plays a vital role” in cleaning up dilapidated properties.
“The city is really the entity that needs to help encourage vacant lots or unused buildings to get into productive use again,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“There’s carrots to do that and there’s sticks to do that, too.”
Wojnowski said there are limitations to what a city government can do and should do with private property.
“We need to communicate what options there are for these people who own these buildings,” Wojnowski said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].