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City council hopefuls square off

The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce held a candidate forum at its monthly luncheon Thursday for the eight candidates vying for just four open positions on the city council.

According to forum moderator Jeff Cox, the chamber does not shy away from its pledge to “promote sound government,” as stated in its mission statement.

Caroline Powers, Dennis Xavier Goss, Melode Sapp, Tye Moore, Leslie J. Weatherill and Gil Michael took turns speaking to the city’s business community before answering questions put to them by Moderator Cox and provided by the luncheon’s attendees.

Rep. Derek Kilmer (Gig Harbor-D) and soon-to-be former Councilman Ron Rider were also in attendance.

Weatherill’s opponent, Fred Chang, and Michael’s opponent, Bob Geiger, did not attend the forum.

Issues presented included the potential for mixed-use development in downtown Port Orchard, downtown parking possibilities, the potential annexation of Bethel Avenue and a revenue partnership with county for large commercial venues throughout the corridor.

Candidates were also asked what they would change about the way the current council is conducting business.

The candidates largely agreed on the need for mixed-use development and more parking options for commuters, although the location of any new parking was debated.

All voiced strong support for the annexation of the Bethel Avenue corridor and each candidate waxed poetic about their “vision” of the perfect Port Orchard.

Philosophical differences were subtle, but candidates talking points varied widely.

Gil Michael, as the current chair of the city’s planning commission, said he sees a strong need to simplify the permitting process and address the many annexation issues that Port Orchard will face in the upcoming years.

Weatherill touted the need for a more efficiently run council.

“I still haven’t lost my taste for good government,” Weatherill said. “Local government should be seamless.”

Opponents Powers and Goss approach their candidacies from different sides. Powers said she would like people to think of her as an ordinary citizen who cares about the town she lives in.

“I’m passionate about Port Orchard,” said Powers, who also brought up her support of downtown businesses over the years.

Goss, who laughed off his recent newspaper notoriety, took a more pragmatic approach. He said he wants Port Orchard to be a “user-friendly” town.

Goss said the current council is not focusing on Port Orchard’s best asset — its waterfront.

Opponents Sapp and Moore’s philosophies also vary slightly in their approach. Sapp spoke to the importance of protecting Port Orchard’s quaint quality of life while at the same time preparing the city for the growth that is coming.

Moore, who embraces Port Orchard’s eventual growth, is focused on leaving any personal agenda he might have at the door and continuing to develop positive relationships with city staff.

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