PORT ANGELES — Two candidates vying for the Port Angeles City Council seat once held by the late Jim Moran differed from his appointed replacement at an Aug. 3 primary election forum Tuesday on how much the elected representatives should cast their attention beyond influencing basic city issues.
Adam Garcia, Veterans Administration Program support assistant; John DeBoer, former COVID-19 social distancing center manager; and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Restoration Planner LaTrisha Suggs, the appointed council member, answered questions posed by participants at a Port Angeles Business Association meeting.
Kaj Ahlburg recalled that council members had advocated for a state progressive income tax.
“Is that the kind of thing as electeds you want to be involved in as a city council member?” he asked.
The city council should “focus more on the local issues we have here in Port Angeles,” said Garcia, 38 as of General Election Day on Nov. 2.
National- and state-level politics “isn’t something that we can control,” he said.
Garcia said he would not support any increase in taxes unless “a large group of the community” wanted to tax themselves at a higher rate.
DeBoer, who said in the Clallam County voter guide at clallam.net/Auditor/Elections.html that he opposes fluoridation and focuses on issues surrounding homelessness, repeatedly sparked laughter with his comments and one-liners, giving the event the feel of a comedy show.
“I am not going to be your next city council member,” DeBoer, who will be 62 on Election Day and someone who has himself been homeless, said in his introduction.
“Anyone that knows me knows I’m going to same say something impolitic between now and Nov. 2, but I’m going to get my 66 bucks out of this filing fee.”
Residents are already heavily taxed, “and we still don’t know which way to go,” he said.
“We can’t just grease our noses into everything.”
Suggs, the first Native American member of the city council, said the council pushed for the state Legislature to have a more progressive tax system to dent the impact of COVID-19 on city and state revenues.
She was appointed to the position in November 2019 after Moran died in his sleep nearly two years into his term.
“Regulations and policies that are passed, federal laws, impact the state and then they come down and impact at the local level,” said Suggs, 51 on Election Day.
“Our goal is to make sure that city finances are taken care of.”
The candidates were asked about Lincoln Park trees that add difficulty for planes landing at William R. Fairchild International Airport.
“If there’s a way to pull them out and plant them somewhere else, it’s worth a go,” said DeBoer, a former Army air traffic controller.
“Let’s get the trees out of the glide path. It’s a hazard to navigation.”
Suggs said the community is passionate about the trees.
“Take out as minimal as you can and just kind of, as times change, then we’ll address that,” she suggested.
“I’m not sure what has been discussed in the past, so guess I would have to take recommendations from our staff, and see what the staff recommends,” she said.
“Even though I’ve been called an extremist, I really don’t think I’m an extreme environmentalist. I’m passionate about it, but I do believe we need to have development.”
When it comes to divisive topics, Garcia focuses on “fiscal responsibility,” he said.
“I do think that LaTrisha has a point in saying that we should be trying to minimize our impact on nature,” he said.
“But at the same time, we need to make sure that we’re getting our money’s worth, and spending our money, the city’s money, or the port’s money, or the county, depending on who’s doing all this stuff, doing it in a responsible manner,” Garcia said.
He said it would be unwise “to just rip everything out.” Instead, the ones that must be removed should be taken out and others planted that are not quite as tall to maintain the beauty of the area.
Suggs said there were more similarities than differences between her, DeBoer and Garcia.
She and Garcia have similar goals but different approaches.
Suggs said she respects DeBoer for “saying what you want without a care” but that she is not that way.
“I grew up respecting elders and being cautious about what you say, and when you’re out and about, you’re very respectful to people,” she said.
“I even grew up knowing you don’t swear out in public,” she said.
“So I was very cautious about what I said. And John, you know, is not; he’s very bold about that.
“I’m more conservative about just saying something because I don’t want to upset people.”
If DeBoer swears in public, “I guess that I don’t hear myself doing it,” DeBoer said. “It’s a fault of mine.”
The 45 forum participants “would be well served by either of these two people,” he said to laughter.
“I knew that sooner or later there’d be a question that makes me feel like a dumb guy on a quiz show, so I’ll pass on the microphone.”
“The biggest difference between John and I is that I hope to be on the city council,” Garcia said, to more laughter and, this time, applause.
He said he joined the Army in July in 2001 when the U.S. was attacked two months later on 9/11 — and later re-enlisted. He served until 2017.
Garcia said the biggest difference between him and Suggs is the issue of the Olympic Discovery Trail and that he opposes an upland route and a connector to Gales Addition.
He said the city should focus on the existing trail and finding cheaper ways to maintain it rather than adding more to the trail.
“I don’t know the nitty gritty of it,” Garcia said. “There’s paid professionals that do that part, and I’m just here to listen, and hopefully take action on a plan that would end up working out.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].