Mayor hopefuls air concerns, visions for the city

Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill faced his challenger — and a few tough questions — Thursday afternoon as the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce hosted the first of many debates to come before the November election.

Weatherill and Port Orchard resident Kim Abel both asked their audience at McCormick Woods Golf Course’s Mary Mac’s restaurant for their votes and spelled out their strategies for the city.

Weatherill said his three priorities as mayor will continue to be public safety, fiscal responsibility and solid economic growth.

Among the many projects the city needs to focus on and finish, he said, are the $1.3 million firing range for the Port Orchard Police Department, along with improving the city’s streets and water.

“I’m asking you to to support me in my endeavors, and let me continue in my successes — there have not been any failures that I can think of,” Weatherill said.

Abel told the audience that Port Orchard needs a change in leadership.

“I know how to work for solutions,” Abel said, “and I want to keep our 19th Century charm, but take it into the 21st Century.”

Abel said her priorities would be to maintain a sense of community and build both a strong vision and a strong voice for the city.

“I believe the first step toward that is creating a line of communication between the the city and its citizens,” she said, suggesting the city offer a recorded hotline for meeting information, an informative and up-to-date website and promising, if elected, to be available by phone or e-mail and to return all inquiries within 24 hours.

“We need to make sure people know what’s going on in Port Orchard,” she explained. “If we communicate better with our community, we can better plan for the future and develop a vision.”

When it was the audience’s turn, they asked the candidates what they would do about removing chlorine and fluoride in the city’s water, making Bay Street more attractive to tourists and about the city’s homeless population.

“Well, I’m sure we have homeless in Port Orchard,” Weatherill said, and a woman piped up to offer as an example of the problem that South Kitsap Helpline, an organization that provides food, clothing and other services to the needy, was currently $24,000 in debt.

“No one told me about that,” Weatherill said.

Dennis Goss threw more than one pointed jab at the mayor, asking first if he thought spending $1.3 million to benefit 18 cops was a wise choice given the lack of recreational opportunities and other services for children in the area, and then asking how the mayor proposed to keep local children from moving out of the area.

“How are you going to retain our children when the city does nothing to recognize the (South Kitsap High School) baseball team that won the state championship, or the young guy (Willie Bloomquist) with the Mariners that recently hit a grand slam that ended up winning the game?” said Goss.

“You’re the only one who has raised that point to me before,” Weatherill said. “That’s a very good point — but no one has raised that to me before.”

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