Homelessness, housing top issues for Port Angeles City Council candidates

Miller, Haguewood differ on approach to housing issue

EDITOR’S NOTE: Amy Miller’s present employment is corrected in this story.

PORT ANGELES — Questions about housing and homelessness dominated the conversation during a discussion between Port Angeles City Council appointee Amy Miller and challenger Jim Haguewood, who are running for the Position 5 seat.

At a meeting of the Port Angeles Kiwanis Club on Thursday, most of the questions put to the two candidates asked about how candidates would address the various elements of those two issues.

Both candidates agreed that the city should work to streamline the permitting process and make it easier for development to occur but differed somewhat in their approaches toward providing housing for the homeless population.

Miller, who has served on the council since January when she was appointed to fill the vacant seat left by Mike French after his election to the Clallam County commission, said she believed the city should take a more active role in providing housing to the local homeless population.

“I would like to see the council discuss and approve an initiative that includes the city in the development process, whether it’s a design-bid-build initiative or it’s a city-run housing authority,” Miller said.

“I think the city can be more proactive when it comes to providing housing and being a part of the funding solutions, perhaps even owning and temporarily operating those housing units.”

Miller is a social worker who has spent time working with the homeless population in Port Angeles and elsewhere and has worked as a behavioral health crisis responder. She is the behavioral healthcare manager for North Olympic Healthcare Network and the former director for the ReDiscovery Program at the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic. She also has worked as a designated crisis responder for Peninsula Behavioral Health. She moved to Port Angeles with her husband in 2015.

Miller said the current council has made some progress in addressing the housing issue by revising the city’s code to make it easier to build multi-family housing and accessory dwelling units throughout Port Angeles.

Haguewood disagreed with the suggestion the city start its own housing program, but said that the city would likely have to help fund the construction of affordable housing. The cost of private construction is too high to provide units at a level the city considers affordable, he said.

“I’m not in favor of setting up a new department at the city to run housing,” Haguewood said. “I think the city does have a role. Are there parcels of land that the city can make available for affordable housing, which really needs to be publicly-funded housing.

“We can’t expect the private sector to go out and build because of the cost of construction and everything,” he added.

Haguewood — who was born and raised in Port Angeles — is currently a Realtor at Port Angeles Reality and has formerly served as executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council and as president of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Other questions included how the candidates would work to revive the downtown area and ensure the city’s infrastructure was adequate to accommodate for projected population growth.

Aging infrastructure

Miller said the city has been working on developing a comprehensive plan for addressing the city’s aging wastewater infrastructure, some of which is up to 100 years old, and that staff are considering funding options of maintenance and repair.

“What we need to do is put in a plan to be able to afford repair and maintenance on those systems,” Miller said. “Right now what we are looking at is a 25-year comprehensive plan to address that and looking at additional funding sources for that.”

Miller said some of the options the city is currently considering are loans, increasing utility rates and grant funding.

“Infrastructure has got to be high priority,” Miller said. “We can’t increase housing stock until we have that availability for our utilities.”

Haguewood said he believed the city was already moving in the right direction on infrastructure, and complimented city staff for having put money into the capital facilities fund to help deal with the issue.

“It becomes an issue of prioritization,” he said. “You’re not going to change the whole system in the next few years but can you begin to address, through the capital facilities plan, how you invest your money?”

“I think we’re heading in the right direction, but there’s a difficult question that’s going to come up which is: Are you in favor of a fully local utility bill charge to pay for that or do you want to go into debt to get more done and pay it over a long period of time?”

Port Angeles City Council members do not represent a particular district or area of the city and are elected to serve a four-year term. In addition to the Position 5 seat, Positions 6 and 7 are up for election this year. City Council races are non-partisan.

Election Day is Nov. 7, and ballots will be mailed out Oct. 18. Voter registration is available until 8 p.m. on Election Day but online voter registration ends Oct. 30.

Online voter registration and additional election information is available at Washington’s election website, votewa.gov.


Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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