PORT ANGELES — A proposed sales tax to fund affordable housing received limited support from six City Council candidates at the general election season’s last of four Clallam County League of Women Voters forums.
Charlie McCaughan, Richard “Doc” Robinson, Nina Napiontek, Navarra Carr, Martha Cunningham and Brendan Meyer sat at the dais in the City Council chambers Tuesday night — right where those who win their seats on Nov. 5 would render decisions for the next four years.
Voters will make their decision after Oct. 16, when ballots will be mailed to registered voters for the general election.
The one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax hike for affordable housing — Proposition 1 for Port Angeles voters on the ballot — would generate an estimated $7.6 million over 20 years, or $325,000 a year.
If approved by a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote, a penny would be added to every $10 sales-tax-eligible purchase in the city limits.
Funds would build or rehabilitate housing or facilities where housing-related programs are provided, city officials have said.
The housing would serve veterans, senior citizens, the mentally ill, homeless persons or those at risk of becoming homeless and people who earn 60 percent less than the area median income, which for a two-person household is $31,940, city officials have said.
It also could be used for infrastructure for such housing.
Robinson, 66 on Election Day and executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County, was only one of two candidates — the other was Carr — to express support for the measure during the hourlong question-and-answer session.
“I guess I’m the lonely voice up here,” Robinson said, asserting that no builders or organizations in Port Angeles can build affordable housing and make a profit.
“The reality is, the tax will provide a fair amount of money over 20 years,” Robinson said.
“What’s going on is, $325,000 a year that would be coming in is leverage money. It’s money we can use to help the contractors to get onto the property.”
Robinson’s opponent for the Position 5 seat, McCaughan, will be 63 as of Election Day and is the procurement and facilities supervisor for Clallam County Public Utility District.
He said there are “other ways” to find a solution to the shortage of affordable housing.
McCaughan said a “collaborative effort” should be initiated between private developers, the community and nonprofit organizations to “see what we can come up with.”
McCaughan also criticized the ballot measure.
“There’s just no clear picture of where that money’s going to go right now,” he said.
City Council member Mike French, saying he was acting as a private citizen, appeared as an advocate on a separate program at the forum on Proposition 1, under which the city would fund affordable housing projects proposed by private developers, governments and nonprofit groups.
The city would not build, manage or own housing.
The city would be eligible for a sales tax credit of up to $1.1 million over 20 years, or $55,000 a year, if it’s approved.
No opponents of the measure, including City Council candidates and the person who wrote the opposing view for the ballot measure, would appear opposite French on the program, according to Paula Barnes of the League of Women Voters.
French said passage of Proposition 1 would double the tax credit already received by the city.
“This is a long-term solution that is actually going to make a big change in the long term,” French said.
Meyer, 35 on Election Day and a self-employed media-marketing consultant, is running for a Position 7 seat against Martha Cunningham.
“I take empirical evidence and data and then come up with my decisions,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the tax would not provide enough funds to tackle the problem and incorrectly said it would garner $50,000 a year over 20 years, confusing it with the sales tax credit.
“That was a mistake on my part,” Meyer said Wednesday in an interview, adding that the tax is confusing, which French agreed Tuesday is the case.
He remained against Proposition 1.
“I’m not for increasing taxes,” he said.
“That’s pretty much the bottom line.”
Cunningham, 67 on Election Day and a freelance editor and substitute teacher, said the tax is “not the best way to address the problem.”
She said the tax “does not have an end to it,” on which Meyer corrected her.
Cunningham agreed with McCaughan that there is “no clear plan” for proceeds and said private builders and nonprofits should get together to build housing.
Navarra Carr, 27 on Election Day and a development associate and office manager for North Olympic Land Trust, is running for Position 6 against Nina Napiontek.
Carr, who has said she favors the tax, views Proposition 1 as “one way our community members are able to help end homelessness in our community,” she said.
“The tax going forward is a community benefit that would benefit all the members of our community and would really solve a community problem that everyone in this room sees every day,” Carr said.
“We really need to step up and understand that this tax is coming from people not just in our community, but who visit our community who our services go to,” shes said.
Napiontek, 38 on Election Day and a substitute teacher for Lower Elwha Head Start, said she is not ready to support Proposition 1.
Napionteck said she would first explore other funding sources, such as the state Department of Commerce.
“That’s something I would look into before adding another tax onto the community,” she said.
Peninsula Daily News will publish a second story about the forum Friday.
A video of the forum will be available by Sunday at www.lwvcla.org.
The PDN will publish a general election voter guide Sunday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].