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Land use key to Kitsap’s future, commissioner candidates say

Land-use policies implemented by the next Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will shape the future of the region and decide whether it resembles Bellevue or maintains its natural scenic beauty, according to the four people seeking that office.

A forum during which all four candidates appeared for the first time took place on Thursday night, sponsored by the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO), a local property rights group.

“If the county was running right, an organization like KAPO wouldn’t be necessary,” said candidate Monty Mahan. “If land policy was managed the way it should be, people would feel that their input was being taken.”

Appearing with Mahan were candidates Charlotte Garrido, Tim Matthes and Paul Nuchims. Mahan and Garrido are identified as Democrats, while Matthes and Nuchims are, respectively, Republican and independent.

Due to a newly enacted law, the top two vote-getters during the Aug. 19 primary will advance to the general election, regardless of party.

The forum’s first question concerned the Port of Bremerton’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project, with three of the candidates indicating they would not support releasing the $1 million allocated to SEED by the commissioners in late 2006.

“I’ve kept this project at arm’s length for obvious reasons,” Mahan, whose father is pro-SEED Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan.

“People are always wondering to what extent I am under my father’s thumb. Still, there are a lot of questions that have not been answered, and more research needs to be done. As it stands today I would not release this money. Before we do so there has to be firm commitments from companies that are willing to commit to participating.”

“The concept is a good one,” Garrido echoed, “but I don’t think it’s ready.”

Added Matthes, “Right now the project is in a holding pattern, and it isn’t right for taxpayers to support it. But under certain conditions, I could see myself being persuaded to support it.”

Nuchims first passed on the question, then answered that he felt “in the future everything should be proactive. I cannot answer how I would vote for this or not vote for that.”

Later, Nuchims admitted he did not know what the SEED project was.

“A county commissioner doesn’t need to know a lot of details,” he said. “They just need to provide leadership.”

Garrido was the only candidate who had anything positive to say about the county’s membership in the Puget Sound Regional Council, calling it an important partnership.

Matthes said the PSRC was too controlling, while Mahan said that local government should be responsible for its own future.

Garrido qualified her support, saying, “If it became too dictatorial, I wouldn’t support it either.”

Nuchims deflected several other questions, then became visibly agitated until KAPO Executive Director Vivian Henderson interrupted and said, “Mr. Nuchims is having a problem.”

Nuchims said he was upset that the ground rules had said he could read a statement and the forum proceeded without him being allowed to do so.

“I was told I could make an opening statement,” he said. “I didn’t think my ideas would be cherry-picked.”

Following questions from the attendees, Nuchims and the other candidates were all allowed to make statements.

Nuchims read from his text, while the other candidates spoke extemporaneously. (Mahan later said he wrote his remarks while Nuchims was reading his statement).

“Bureaucracies are pernicious, self-serving inner-directed entities,” Nuchims said. “We have one, the Kitsap County administration. First, the county commissioners need to have a vision of the future of the county. Second, they have to sell it to the people. Third, they have to hire people that will stay around to do the job.”

Mahan had a different idea about the commissioner’s role, saying it was to balance the needs of the community and the individual. He also said that scientific studies provide helpful data, although, “You can come up with a study to back up any claim.

“I know a lot of college professors and I like them,” Mahan said. “But I always empathize with the people who are on the ground. These people understand the shorelines and the streams because they walk them every day.”

When asked about their political role model, Garrido said she most admired former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Mahan favored Mohandas Ghandi, while Matthes said he most admired Ronald Reagan.

Nuchims first expressed admiration for soldiers who risk their lives, then mentioned Ralph Nader when he was asked to be more specific. He later said that he wanted to change that choice to Abraham Lincoln.

Throughout the evening the candidates stressed unity, and seemed to have more similarities than differences.

Nuchims said that no matter who won the four candidates should work as a team for the betterment of the county “to get done what is not getting done much of which you want us to get done.”

Garrido added, “If I am elected commissioner I will represent citizens from all walks of life. I will listen to the citizens and make the best decisions for all of Kitsap County.”

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