2013 ELECTION | Candidates address goals, improving city, annexation if elected

Six candidates — including two running unopposed — are seeking election to the Port Orchard City Council.

Seeking the four council seats are Bek Ashby, Kim Punt, Jerry Childs, Rob Putaansuu, Fred Chang and Eric Gonnason.

Ashby and Punt are seeking the Position 2 seat being left vacant by Carolyn Powers, who decided not to seek reelection after more than 25 years on the board.

Ashby, a South Kitsap native, retired as president and chief executive officer at Silverdale State Bank. She has served on the city’s Planning Commission and Civil Service Commission, and is a member of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association. She was president of the SK Western Little League and Pony Colt baseball organization.

Punt, who has been in the insurance business for more than 23 years, owns an independent insurance agency in Port Orchard. She has lived in Port Orchard for 12 years.

For more than 23 years, Punt has been active in Concert by the Bay, Fathoms o’ Fun, Olympic College Foundation, SK Rotary, Soroptimist and Chamber of Commerce. She also served on the city’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

Childs and Gonnason, a political newcomer, are running for the city’s two-year term council at-large position.

Childs, a former Seattle firefighter, has lived in Port Orchard for eight years. He was elected to the council in 2007. While on the council, Childs has served on the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, Waterfront Planning Committee and member of Chimes and Lights Committee. He also is a member of the SK Rotary.

Gonnason said he lived in Port Orchard for 24 months, minus a total of seven months as a ‘snowbird.’ He has worked with the bike patrol in El Tour de Tucson, Boy Scouts, Gospel Rescue Mission and is a volunteer at Coffee Oasis. He worked 28 years at Raytheon Missile Systems and earned his bachelor’s degree in history in 2001 from the University of Arizona.

Chang has lived in Port Orchard for 17 years and served on the city’s Planning Commission for six years before being elected to the Position 6 council seat in 2005, which he is running unopposed. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Port Orchard Bay Street Association and Sidney Museum and Arts Association.

He works in communication for the Washington State Department of Transportation. Chang has a bachelor’s degree in English from Occidental College.

Putaansuu, branch manager for Columbia Bank in Port Orchard, is running unopposed for his Position 3 post after two terms. He served on the city’s Planning Commission for three years and was president of the SK Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.

The following questions were submitted to each candidate by the Independent through email. Putaansuu, who is running unopposed, didn’t submit answers to the questions.

Q: Why do you want to be a member of city council?

Ashby: Port Orchard is my home and I believe I have much to offer our community. My work experience as President and CEO of Silverdale State Bank and my volunteer service to the city of 12 years on the city’s planning commission and six years on the police civil service commission provide me the foundation to be an effective council member. Now that I am retired, I have the time and energy to make this commitment. I will listen and hear the voice of our citizens. My pledge is to make well thought out, independent decisions always working toward the best interest of Port Orchard.

Punt: I want to be a member of city council because I believe that my extensive business experience and community involvement make me a good fit for city council. I believe that I can bring a strong business oriented, common sense, approach that will help the city move forward in these uncertain economic times. I understand the complexities of running a successful business and the business of city hall is no different. City hall needs strong, confident leadership with individuals who can make independent decisions based on what is best for this city.

Childs: In short, to help move the City forward. But now after six years on the council, more specifically, I want to continue the good work we have started on the waterfront, including the development of a joint city/port waterfront plan to provide our business guidance and direction when redevelopment is undertaken. I am Chair of the Committee that will be bringing this plan forward.

Gonnason: To do all in my power to make downtown Port Orchard an attractive, inviting place to shop, visit and live for everyone, starting with local residents.

Chang: After six years on the planning commission, I decided to run for a council seat. I have always wanted to engage more people in the process of running the city.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish if elected, and what are your top goals?

Ashby: I hope to accomplish an active plan for economic development that is accessible to the general public for accountability, that will outline expectations, including costs and timelines and that is measurable and executable.  Planning, at all levels, is the foundation for success — to be prepared for opportunities rather than be reactionary to events. My top goals are first to provide an environment that will encourage a mix of commercial, industrial and technical job opportunities to provide local employment for our citizens as well as encourage local retail outlets for goods and services. Secondly, to increase the transparency and citizen involvement in the government process.

Punt: If elected I would hope to improve perceptions, attitudes and lived experiences of those in and around Port Orchard. Port Orchard is not just bail bondsmen, tattoo parlors and junk shops. We are more than that. This is the city I have loved and lived in for many years!

Childs: Of course I want to continue on task with initiatives I have personally brought forward, but I am also quite concerned about the finances of the city and the manner in which these funds are spent. As a Finance Committee member, I have been asking questions about what percentage of the city’s operating budget is being used for Wages and Benefits. And, whether it wouldn’t be prudent of us to put together a chart that tracks the trend of such expenses. I feel that in order for the city to spend our money wisely, we need to have financial strategies in place that tell us how we have done historically, reveal significant changes in our revenue vs. our obligations and, that develop thresholds for such expenditures. For example we should not walk blindly into a financial crisis. Instead, we should identify how much we should be paying for salaries, services, and maintenance, and track the sustainability of our choices. We also need to prioritize city revenues by place and purpose and use them accordingly. Money that comes from the Bethel Corridor annexation should, as much as possible, be used in that area. Money that is derived from impact fees should go for those purposes in those places. I don’t want to be overly idealistic, but neither do I want to spend without a plan and purpose that takes into account future sustainability.

Gonnason: 90 percent occupancy of available downtown business space.

Chang: My three priorities is to involve more people in the decision-making process, improve the sense of community, and maintain focus on the long-range efforts to reshape the downtown waterfront area by encouraging retail and business development. I hope to get more people involved with the city and its elected officials. I also hope to have better systems (processes and enhanced website, minutes of meetings that are easier to find) in place to make such interaction easier. I believe these are tools to can help show how the city is accountable and transparent. This would help build trust with people.

Q: What is the best idea you have to improve the city? How would you make it a reality?

Ashby: No idea to improve the city will come about until the stakeholders come together in cooperation and commitment. I would work with the city council and the mayor to foster and facilitate working partnerships and solicit cooperation among the private sector, government entities and nonprofits. Each group has a role in the growth and success of our town. I want to work toward developing partnerships that create action and provide support for those working to invest and build our community. The questions are: What can we each do to help the other? How can we come together for our mutual benefit? What can we do to make Port Orchard a better place to live and work and raise children? My goal is to orchestrate the initial dialogue and structure an arena for joint action.

Punt: My best idea to improve the city would be to promote cooperation of stakeholders to start up a Main Street association which would encourage and promote economic development of the entire city. To make it a reality revisit what has already been done and answer what has gone right, what has gone wrong and what can we do to do better?

Childs: As the incumbent, my ideas have improved the city. Whether it was my alternate route that allowed the Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway to go through Waterfront Park — saving $200,000. My concern and subsequent suggestion that we have a utility assistance program — now called Helping Hands — for our most vulnerable citizens. My idea for a festival to help stimulate the economy, resulting in the 2009 Cedar Cove Days Festival, which generated $400,000 into the local economy and produced $40,000 for charities and non-profits including the library and high school. Giving life to an idea or vision is the beginning of a long process, however the main ingredient is hard work, nothing happens without the proverbial rolling up your sleeves and making it happen. I worked on Cedar Cove Days for two years prior to that very successful event. I lobbied both the city council and port commissioners for several months before I was able to get all players on the same page and willing to change direction and choose my alternate route for the Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway. I spent several weeks putting together ideas and information from other cities before I brought forth my idea on a utility assistance program. Even now, it has been many months of meetings and discussions in trying to gain support for a joint city/port waterfront plan — just recently we approved financing. Currently, I am working on a video that will promote Port Orchard.

Gonnason: Propose a bill for the City Council to vote and approve.

Chang: Improved communications which I consistently advocate for: more meetings with people, better interactivity on the web, email alerts, social media and also broadcasting council meetings on cable.

Q. What area you would like to see the city annexed?

Ashby: While most annexations are at the request of citizens, the state’s Growth Management Act requires the city and county to define the Urban Growth Area for future annexation. We know that over time the entire Urban Growth Area will be annexed into Port Orchard. It is appropriate we understand the impact and begin planning now. I would evaluate any citizen annexation request. However, as the two major annexation projects, the Bethel corridor and the McCormick Woods region, have shown, the importance of planning is very evident. Port Orchard will inherit the lead role in providing infrastructure and services. The total scope of this responsibility must be assessed before any new city annexation is considered.

Punt: Next area to annex in my opinion would be the area from Mile Hill to Sedgwick along Jackson Avenue area, because of the potential for revenue from property taxes and commercial sales tax from the businesses located there and the potential for more businesses there.

Childs: While the city accepts and approves annexation requests, we don’t bring them forward; citizens or citizens groups do this. The state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) has established Urban Growth Areas which by law are the only areas from which we can annex. Over time, we are expected to annex our urban growth areas. Annexation requests come from entities that feel they would be better off in the city. If I personally had to choose, I would choose areas that improve our tax base and allow us to improve business opportunities in Port Orchard. One area that could do this is the Mile Hill neighborhood.

Gonnason: I support a complete moratorium on further annexations until all commitments pursuant to the Bethel Road corridor annexation have been met and until the downtown area has been restored to 90 percent-plus occupancy. If we can’t manage the areas already under our jurisdiction we have no business acquiring more.

Chang: While I agree the city should eventually annex to its urban growth area, I see no rush to do so. I think the annexation process needs two votes: from both the new area as well as the existing area, as they do in other municipalities.


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