PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council candidates Nina Napiontek and Navarra Carr presented different governing styles and visions of the city’s future at a voters forum Tuesday.
Napiontek said she “probably” will vote against an affordable-housing sales tax hike on the Nov. 5 ballot, saying it would hurt struggling families and adding she would consult with other council members and the planning commission before deciding on issues such as increased taxes and parking.
Carr said she favors the one-tenth-of-1-percent sales tax, asserting the council has taken too long to make decisions on “tough calls” that it would be her duty to make, praising council member Mike French’s failed proposal to repeal off-street parking requirements.
Carr and Napiontek appeared at the weekly series of voter forums sponsored by the Port Angeles Business Association leading up to the general election.
Napiontek, 38 as of Election Day, is a substitute teacher for Lower Elwha Head Start. Carr, 27 as of Nov. 5, is development associate and office manager for North Olympic Land Trust.
They are vying for the four-year Position 6 seat being vacated by Mayor Sissi Bruch, who is not seeking a third term.
As of January, when Carr or Napiontek is sworn in with new Position 5 and Position 7 members, no one on the seven-person panel will have more than two years of experience.
Napiontek, a Crescent High School graduate, lamented finding garbage and drug paraphernalia when visiting a city park with her children. She said she was upset over having her and her children followed and harassed by suspicious people on the Waterfront Trail, which she no longer walks.
“I not only want to talk about change, I want to implement viable solutions to create change,” she said.
Carr said she, too, is for change, stressing the importance of working together to reach across divides and working with other city and county leaders “on getting things done.”
Carr said she supports the sales tax increase to 8.8 percent within the city limits so the city can “step up” and make affordable housing a priority.
“I strongly believe our community has a responsibility to come together when we see people in crisis and in need,” she said.
Hundreds of new homes need to be built without any way to afford the task, Carr said.
Napiontek said the tax, which would add 1 cent to every $10 purchase, would be a burden on her family.
“We have a lot of working class families who have to decide whether they are going to pay the electric bill this month or buy a gallon of milk for their children,” she said.
“Adding another tax on my fixed budget for my household would be a hardship,” Napiontek said.
“It leads to other taxes being implemented in other ways which could always raise the tax level.
“Even though it could benefit the housing shortage, there are other ways we can try to implement more housing without raising our taxes.”
Asked how high the city’s sales taxes should be, Napiontek said she would rather not discuss taxes on homeowners and consumers for raising revenue.
Asked what other options she would consider, she said she would have to talk about it with other council members, stressing she is “only one person.”
Carr said she would review grant options as revenue sources.
“I don’t think that taxes or raising taxes is the end all or be all, or the right solution for every project,” she said.
“I think that we as a city can look to grants from the state or federal government or other private funding sources and try to be community-minded when we fund new projects.”
On parking and downtown traffic, both candidates noted the not uncommon danger of navigating around double-parked delivery trucks.
Carr supported French’s proposal and “having some level of bravery and putting something on the table,” she said.
“I understand how important it is to be thoughtful, but I don’t think it takes months and months to decide an issue about parking,” she said.
“As elected officials, we need to act and make decisions, and tough decisions, around things like parking and increasing it.
“It is our duty to make these tough calls and to bring things to the table and listen to the will of the people.”
Napiontek suggested handing the parking issue over to the planning commission, “who knows what they are talking about,” to look into the legalities and zoning.
“We don’t want to do something and jump the gun,” she said.
The candidates were asked how they would prioritize spending if a budget faces shortfalls.
Napiontek called it a “really hard question” and asked for the questioner’s email to respond at a later time.
Carr said she would review the council’s 2019 and 2020 goals, cautioning against “dreaming big and going for it.”
In her closing statement, Carr said she would be a voice for youth on the council.
Council members “are here to listen to you,” Napiontek said in her closing.
“You are our community.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].