Port Townsend City Council hopefuls discuss visions

Bicycles, housing among policies

Ben Thomas.

Ben Thomas.

PORT TOWNSEND — Electric bicycles and deer are seemingly everywhere and affordable housing is nowhere. What can the Port Townsend City Council do about it?

Those were among the topics of the League of Women Voters’ candidates forum Thursday night.

“My wife and my little kid were two of the people who got chased” by a doe defending her fawn, said Ben Thomas, who’s running for City Council position 1.

Thomas said he was among several people who have reported aggressive deer behavior, according to Renee Klein, moderator of the forum.

Both Thomas and his opponent, Cameron Jones, have thought about culling the animals and using the meat as a food source.

But, “I don’t think people are going to feel OK about that,” Thomas said.

The deer issue would be “a great one to get some public comment on,” he said.

“I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on that.”

Jones, for his part, said trapping the deer once or twice a year could be an option.

“Take them away to a processing facility and bring in some venison,” he said.

During the forum, Thomas and Jones, who are both new to campaigning for elected office, answered questions previously submitted by the public.

The first hour was theirs; the second hour brought together Libby Wennstrom and Tyler Vega, candidates for City Council position 5.

The Nov. 2 general election ballot also will include candidate Aislinn Diamanti, who is running unopposed for Position 2.

The Port Townsend City Council is about to turn over three of its seven seats as Mayor Michelle Sandoval and members Pamela Adams and Ariel Speser aren’t seeking re-election.

Regarding electric bikes, which have become popular all over town, Thomas and Jones were asked whether and how they might update city code to regulate them.

“I have an electric bicycle, and I can get up to 25 miles an hour. And that’s our speed limit in town,” Thomas said.

“That speed is a game-changer,” which is not a bad thing, he said.

More people out biking benefits everyone, said Thomas, who added all city arterials should have clear bike lanes.

Jones, who also said he’s a bicyclist, touted the way e-bikes promote bicycling.

Jones said e-bikes encourage more cycling across the community.

“I dig that,” he said, advocating for creating more bike paths.

“Moving towards more of a green future: That’s where we need to go. Electric bicycles are great … I don’t want to punish people for bicycling at all.”

Klein also posed a question from the public about Port Townsend’s struggles with downtown parking, outdated zoning and an under-utilized Jefferson Transit system.

“What policies do you support to start to unravel this mess?” she asked.

Higher housing density is one key, Thomas said. A first step would be “smaller unit sizes on less land,” for a greater diversity of people living closer together, he added.

“Ben is right,” Jones said.

Much of the solution will have to do with better housing options — and integrating it with the existing wooded environment instead of removing trees to make room for buildings, Jones added.

Jones wants to see a more inclusive Port Townsend; “climate refugees,” as well as people of color and people of modest means should be able to live here, he said.

Vega and opponent Wennstrom took a different set of questions during the forum’s second hour.

Klein asked them to give an example of a time when they set aside their ego for the good of the community.

“For me, that’s every day; every day as a candidate … every day as a leader,” Vega said.

When disagreements arise, City Council members — and anyone serving in public office — must “keep on getting up and trying again,” he said.

“We have to evolve. So setting one’s ego aside is the core principle of what I’m trying to bring to the table.”

Wennstrom answered with examples from her work not only with the Jefferson County Democrats but also as a costume designer for Key City Public Theatre and for Port Townsend High School plays.

As vice chair of the Democrats, Wennstrom has worked on “a ton of campaigns” — for other people, she said.

At the high school, “you’re backstage with this group of kids, and the goal is not to make one person a star,” she said. “The goal is to have everybody shine and to help make each other better.”

That’s what we’re doing in a community sense, she added. If people work together for local causes, the community is stronger.

Vega also has been a longtime activist, with addressing climate change — on a local level — a primary issue.

Elected office is about “crossing divides that are very difficult,” he said.

“I bring to the table the ability to do that … what we need is a wide spectrum of viewpoints on this council, and I believe I bring that to the table,” Vega said.

Wennstrom spoke during the forum about her 23 years in Port Townsend, including many as a single mother.

“Now that my kids are raised, I felt like it was my turn to step up,” she said.

A recording of the candidates’ forum will be made available on the League of Women Voters-Jefferson County website, https://lwvwa.org/Jefferson.

Ballots will be mailed this week.

Residents who have yet to register to vote can do so online or by mail by Oct. 25; information can be found at https://co.jefferson.wa.us/1266/Elections. After that date, residents can register in person at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., through Election Day on Nov. 2.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Cameron Jones.

Cameron Jones.

Tyler Myles Vega.

Tyler Myles Vega.

Libby Wennstrom.

Libby Wennstrom.

More in Politics

President Biden announced on Twitter on Sunday that he will no longer seek re-election. (Eric Lee/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of presidential race, endorses Harris

Ending re-election campaign after intense pressure from own party

Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler, left, and Democrats Patrick DePoe, center, and Kevin Van De Wege, all candidates for state Commissioner of Public Lands, met before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to discuss their priorities for leading the Department of Natural Resources. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Fires are top priority for Commissioner of Public Lands hopefuls

Candidates want to increase state harvests

League of Women Voters sets candidate forum schedule

Hopefuls for state seats, county commissioner position invited to debate

From left to right, State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, state Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Port Angeles attorney Graham Ralston and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, all candidates for Washington’s 6th Congressional District, appear before the Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday to answer questions about their priorities for serving in Congress. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Congress hopefuls meet for a forum

Candidates to focus on bipartisanship

Clallam PUD candidates cite costs as top priority

Three hopefuls line up for six-year board position

More candidates join local races

Third declares for state Senate seat

Packed races begin to emerge

Political hopefuls file intent to run

Heather Dudley-Nollette.
Bayside director to run for Jefferson County commissioner

Heather Dudley-Nollette seeks District 1 seat

Port Angeles City Council hopefuls Kate Dexter and Travis Berglund answer questions during a Port Angeles Business Association forum Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles mayor to run for county commission

Dexter has supported climate action plan, affordable housing

Emily Randall, left, and Hilary Franz.
Stalwarts take sides in race for Kilmer’s seat

A growing constellation of Democratic Party influencers are choosing sides in the… Continue reading

Online learning keeps rising among state’s K-12 students

Online learning for Washington’s public school kids is here to stay. That’s… Continue reading

Jefferson County turnout tops in state

More than half registered voters handed in ballots