David Mabrey of Port Angeles and Edna Willadsen debated the proposition for Port Angeles to change to a second-class city during a Port Angeles Business Association forum Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Second-class city measure debated before Port Angeles Business Association

PORT ANGELES — The campaign for Port Angeles to revert back to a second-class city has been fueled with misinformation, David Mabrey said during a forum Tuesday.

Mabrey, who has been outspoken at public meetings over the last two years, challenged most claims made by Edna Willadsen, an Our Water, Our Choice! organizer and a Proposition 1 proponent at the forum before the Port Angeles Business Association.

Willadsen said the main purpose for the proposition is to lower taxes and that it has nothing to do with fluoridation, despite the proposition being spearheaded by the anti-fluoridation group and promoted as a way to replace the city council.

“No, I am not involved in the fluoride,” she said. “Fluoride is not involved in this, what we’re doing now.”

If the measure is approved by a simple majority on Nov. 7, Port Angeles would be the first city in the state to regress back to being a second-class city, severely restricting what the city is allowed to do under state law.

“The argument for is completely full of misinformation,” Mabrey said. “There isn’t as single piece of accurate information for this argument.

“The yes side is advocating this will save you from high taxes, remove appointed officials and reduce salaries,” Mabrey said. “Reclassifying to second-class will not change any of these things. Reclassifying does not change the structure of government or fair wages for city staff.”

Willadsen said that now Port Angeles has a city manager who is not elected and that “we have no one we can actually go to.”

She claimed the City Council has no power and that because City Manager Dan McKeen isn’t elected, “there’s no recourse.”

The proposition would not make the city manager an elected position and it would not reorganize the council into a strong-mayor form of government, Mabrey said.

“This is one of the reasons we’re informing people,” Mabrey said. “They don’t even know what they are asking for.”

Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, a Port Angeles attorney running for Position 3 on the City Council, told Willadsen that the shift in power from the city manager to City Council isn’t described in the text of the proposition.

“You’re speaking as if it does, but it doesn’t do that,” he said.

Willadsen decried the high-paying jobs the city offers, such as city manger, adding the city has payrolls “comparable to what I’ve seen in some of these larger areas.” Though she said city payroll was too high, she said no jobs would be lost.

She incorrectly said — during her prepared statement — that McKeen is paid $189,925 annually.

McKeen actually earns $144,720 annually, or $12,060 per month, according to the city.

According to Association of Washington Cities 2017 salary data, McKeen is paid about $1,000 less per month than city managers in cities with similar populations.

Mabrey also challenged the notion that an approval of Proposition 1 would give citizens a voice.

He said that approval would give citizens less of a voice by not allowing citizens to petition the city government for six years.

“We need to stop saying we’re going to gain a voice by going to a second-class city,” he said. “We already have a voice; you just need to use it.”

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