PORT ANGELES — The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s planned Healing Campus in Sequim dominated the debate between incumbent Mark Ozias and Sequim City Council member Brandon Janisse, who are running for Clallam County commissioner in the Sequim-area District 1.
The candidates, who participated in the Port Angeles Business Association forum Tuesday morning, will both will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Ozias, a Democrat, dedicated his entire opening statement to the topic, expressing his support for the project and his frustration at the divisive attitudes in the community.
“Up until a few days ago I was upset because I thought [Save our Sequim] was dividing our community and causing so much heartbreak in Sequim I can barely stand it,” Ozias said. “But things changed last night.
“The tactics being used by this group are not just dividing Sequim, they are placing at jeopardy the economic interest of the future of Clallam County.”
The Sequim City Council voted down a moratorium 4-3 on Monday that would have halted development in its Economic Opportunity Areas (EOAs) including the proposed MAT facility.
Ted Miller proposed the three-month moratorium so that city staff could review EOAs more in-depth to see what allowed uses would need conditional use permits. Janisse and William Armacost voted for the moratorium. Janisse didn’t say anything during the discussion Monday.
Janisse did not initially respond to Ozias, choosing to talk about moving to Sequim in 2000. He graduated from Sequim High School in 2003 before serving in the Army.
Janisse said his campaign focuses on the opioid problem in Clallam County, housing, jobs and juvenile services.
“I don’t think that you can say that you are paying attention to the opioid crisis in Clallam County when you’re not willing to stand up for one of the key assets that it is going to take to address the opioid crisis in Clallam County,” Ozias said.
After Ozias, who published an “open letter” on the topic Monday, pressed Janisse to state his position on the planned medication-assisted treatment facility, Janisse said the vote Monday night had nothing to do with the clinic and was addressing citizens’ concerns of the process.
“I totally support 100 percent a MAT clinic idea of helping the opioid crisis in this county,” Janisse said. “The fact you have thousands of people who said they had no idea … about the MAT clinic process until it was posted in the paper, is what it boils down to. I 100 percent support the MAT clinic, but I have to listen to the constituents who have an issue.”
Janisse said as a City Council member he has to stay neutral. When asked about his decision-making process, Janisse said Monday night’s vote was a “prime example.”
“You are a public servant. You are a neutral party,” he said. “You have to do your research.”
Ozias said he understands why Janisse believes his role is to remain neutral, but said there are times when public officials should not be neutral.
“There are some times when it is not appropriate to remain neutral … and the Jamestown MAT Healing Campus is an excellent example,” Ozias said.
“When one of your fellow counsilors presents misinformation from the dais to the public, when one of your fellow counsilors wants to take a vote to place a moratorium based on false information that has the opportunity not only to jeopardize an important project, but to jeopardize the entire economic opportunity zone project, it is not appropriate to stay neutral,” Ozias said.
“Your constituents deserve to hear your voice and unfortunately that did not happen last night.”
On multiple occasions Ozias criticized Save Our Sequim for distributing misinformation in the community. A mailer sent to residents called the facility a “giant 25,000 sq ft Methadone Distribution Facility,” though the MAT clinic is 15,000 square feet and will provide comprehensive wraparound services which include physical, mental and dental services.
The mailer also cited a study that said 88 percent of people addicted to methamphetamine will relapse. The MAT facility will treat people with opioid use disorder.
“When I see misinformation being promulgated, when I see lies being spread, I will not remain neutral,” Ozias said. “I will stand up and call them out for what they are.”
Janisse said if Ozias has an issue with a fellow City Council member’s motion, he should take it up with that person.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim Gazette Reporter Matthew Nash contributed to this report.