PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has appointed Amy Miller to fill the seat left vacant by new Clallam County Commissioner Mike French.
The City Council interviewed Miller and two other candidates, Andrew Schwab and Mark Hodgson, during a special meeting Tuesday night, in which housing and homelessness were clearly top issues for all three candidates.
After the interviews, council members used ranked choice voting to determine who would fill the seat, with Miller revealed as the clear selection.
Miller has worked closely with city officials in the past through the ReDiscovery program as a co-responder to behavioral health crises and riding along with Port Angeles police officers.
She later became the program director for the ReDiscovery Program at the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic and has worked as a designated crisis responder for Peninsula Behavioral Health.
Council members asked the candidates 10 questions that ranged from discussing their professional experiences and community volunteerism to identifying policies and issues in the city and how the candidates would address and handle them.
One such question: What is the city not currently doing, why it’s not doing it, and what the barriers might be.
“I think the city is not doing any city-run housing or city-provided housing services or programs and I think we are not doing that for a couple of reasons,” Miller said.
“I think it’s partly because it is not a service typically provided by the city, though I know it is being done elsewhere,” she said. “Perhaps it is a newer concept that needs to be discussed?
“I also think that it may be something that the community would not fully support,” Miller added. “So I think it would be hard to have those discussions and not have push-back.”
Said Hodgson: “I think we are doing things, but I think we could be doing more.
“My priorities are the homeless population and addressing emergency and entry-level housing and middle-income housing as well as jobs and living-wage jobs and public safety,” he said
Hodgson said he would like to see more incorporation of Native American heritage in city parks and more collaboration with the regional tribes.
In his answer, Schwab discussed a need for more code enforcement in the city.
“A lot of the things people want us to do can be solved with proper code enforcement, though there are some barriers to that,” he said. “The obvious one is city budgeting and making sure we have enough code enforcement officers who are trained and able to work.”
Schwab said he saw two smaller barriers as well, the smaller being citizen outreach.
“Most people in the city do not realize that we are complaint-based enforcement,” he said.
“The other element is that the City Council and staff need to come together to identify the priorities of code enforcement,” he added.
Candidates were asked how they would eliminate homelessness in the city.
“It’s really tricky,” said Schwab, who serves on the city planning commission, which is working on the issue, he told the council.
Schwab felt the council couldn’t necessarily make policies directly affecting homelessness, and instead needed “to address the issues that are causing the homelessness.
“A lot of that goes towards the code changes regarding housing and changes to rules around ADUs, such as size increases.”
Miller echoed some of the same statements as Schwab on code changes regarding ADUs and tiny homes, which were discussed at a housing solutions forum on Monday night.
“I think we could also benefit from some limitations on short-term rentals or different taxation structures depending on how many homes are owned by the same person and are rented out as short-term rentals,” Miller said.
“I also think there should be some policy in place that supports the local landlords and renters. I know how difficult it is to find a place that meets your needs and is affordable, but there could be some support that surrounds landlords and when damages are done to their properties and renters so that people are not evicted into homelessness,” Miller said.
Said Hodgson: “Eliminating homelessness is the goal. It’s going to be a marathon, though, and just like the causes of homelessness are multiple, so are the solutions.”
He cited the possibility of long-term parking for people living in their cars as a possibility, noting it has worked elsewhere but that it may not work for Port Angeles.
“Overall, I think increasing our housing stock and increasing our ability to have temporary shelters and tiny homes is good too,” Hodgson said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at email@example.com.