Port Angeles candidates for Position 7 seat speak at forum

City council hopefuls tackle climate change, reserves and traffic-light cameras

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council candidates Brendan Meyer and Martha Cunningham staked out positions on climate change, city reserves and traffic-light cameras at a Tuesday morning voters forum hosted by a business group.

Primary election ballots, mailed today to 12,000 voters citywide, must be postmarked by Aug. 6.

Tara Martin Lopez, a third candidate, dropped out of the Position 7 council race to move to New Mexico after filing for the seat although her name must remain on the primary ballot.

Lopez cannot serve on the City Council as a non-city resident.

The top two vote-getters will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Cunningham, a freelance editor and substitute teacher, and Meyer, a media marketer and consultant, gave about 40 members and guests of the Port Angeles Business Association a preview of the likely general election lineup at the hourlong forum.

They were questioned about traffic-safety red-light cameras, a topic scheduled for discussion at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Meyer and Cunningham were against installing the devices.

Cunningham said they cost a lot of money and require a multi-year contract.

“People get savvy to them very quickly and they start going around, doing other things,” she said.

“It’s just a revenue maker.

“It’s not really a safety abatement system.

“I just think people will resent it, I think tourists will resent it, and I don’t think it will work.”

The cameras are “privatized extortion,” Meyer said.

“Private companies are coming in, and say, ‘Hey, you blew the red light, I’ll give this to the cops unless you pay the fee,’ ” he said.

“I’m a hundred percent against red-light traffic cameras.”

Former City Council member Dan Gase asked about the city’s reserve fund for emergencies, suggesting it ties up funding that could be better spent in the community.

The budget calls for a $5.1 million reserve for 2019, an amount set to equal 25 percent of the city general operating fund.

However, the actual reserve is $6.6 million, or 33 percent of the general operating fund, according to Finance Director Sarina Carrizosa.

The candidates differed on freeing it up for city projects.

Meyer suggested 3 percent to 5 percent could be spent on needed projects and to generate jobs.

“If we need to limit that [reserve] to get infrastructure projects moving, do that,” Meyer said.

Cunningham would tap into reserves as “my last choice,” she said.

The reserve should be set aside “for emergency and to keep us going,” she said.

“I don’t think 25 percent is too much.”

Clallam County’s reserve for emergencies is $6.2 million, or an amount equal to 54 percent of the general operating budget, Commissioner Bill Peach said Tuesday, adding commissioners will review maintaining that percentage later this year.

The city of Sequim’s policy is to maintain a general fund balance, which can be used for emergencies, of 17 percent to 25 percent that was 26 percent as of June 30, Administrative Services Director Sue Hagener said Tuesday.

The candidates responded to two questions on climate change.

“We always need to adapt to it,” Cunningham said.

“It’s nothing new.

“We need to look at it in a positive way and do what we need to do.”

Asked if they thought climate change “is a result primarily of human interaction,” Cunningham said “no.”

“I personally believe we have very little, we have a minimal effect on climate change,” she said

“I’m not sure about this catastrophic climate change idea.”

Meyer, like Cunningham, said he was unsure what the City Council could do about climate change.

“I want to say that I want my kid to grow up in a world that is not ravaged by runaway, irreversible greenhouse gases.

“The facts are that yeah, it’s man made,” he said.

“It only makes sense.”

The number of cars has one up “5 billion percent” in the last hundred years, and that’s had an effect, Meyer said.

“If you don’t believe that, maybe you should try starting up your car, going inside your garage and hanging out a little bit and see what kind of effect it has on you.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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