Forum offers a little talking room

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The election forum process has come under sharp criticism this year, for the practice of forcing candidates to their boil answers down into one-to-three minute morsels. But a Thursday event sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce tried something different, giving each candidate nine minutes to state their positions and answer questions.

The forum was moderated by Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, who announced the format at its beginning. The event featured four candidates for Kitsap County Board of Commissioners — Steve Bauer and Sandra LaCelle in the north, and Charlotte Garrido and Tim Matthes in the south.

“Three minutes is not enough time to answer a question in any depth,” Coppola said. “They usually have a one-minute answer and a three-minute answer to a question. We wanted to give them more of a chance to talk.”

There is the cynical view, that some candidates aren’t well informed or articulate enough to keep a discussion alive. For them, allocating nine minutes is just enough rope to hang themselves.

But none of these candidates had any problem taking enough time to explain their qualifications and outline their priorities. While the issues discussed deserved more than nine minutes, there was a sense of depth here that was missing at other forums.

Matthes, up first, favors fewer — and more succinctly stated — county regulations.

“I understand people and I know the program,” he said. “If I became county commissioner I would not need to spend a lot of time figuring things out.

“In the first place,” Matthes explained, “I favor reducing regulations because local business people are assailed with regulations that they cannot pay for. If we reduce these regulations we will save money and improve service.

“We have too many land use regulations and they are too long,” he said. “We need to use less words in our regulations. Every time we streamline a regulation they get larger and more cumbersome. If we don’t want something to happen we don’t need 20 pages to describe how we are going to accomplish this.”

Garrido expressed support for volunteerism and efficiency.

“I have taken several leadership positions,” she said. “I pushed for the televising of commissioner meetings. Since my last term I earned a doctorate in urban planning. I was also involved in a proposal that supports bringing higher education to Kitsap County, which I am very proud of.

“As commissioner,” she said, “one of my priorities would be to promote public participation in government. We shouldn’t be dwelling just on the problems, but work toward finding solutions. There are a lot of great thinkers out there who can help us do this.

“We focus too much on land use,” Garrido continued, “Now that we have a comprehensive plan, we can concentrate on the ways we can live together. With the permitting process, there needs to be a timeline where we can track projects and know exactly where they are at any particular time. And the Department of Community Development needs to do more staff training. There are a lot of new technologies out there, and the county staff should know as much about what’s new as the builders do.”

LaCelle said extreme positions in land-use and environment need to meet in the middle.

“Some of the environmental regulations in the county are interfering with property rights,” she said. “We all want to live in a nice, clean place but we also want to be able to use our land as much as possible. Some of the policies make sense but they are presented in the wrong way. When the government comes in and tell you what to do, there is a knee-jerk reaction to push back. You feel violated.

“I want to see more businesses thrive in this county,” LaCelle said. “If we make it too difficult for people to be successful here, you make it easy for them to go somewhere else. We’re isolated here, but with the new bridge it is still easy for companies in Tacoma to draw business from Kitsap.”

Bauer likened the Board of Commissioners to a board of directors.

“The county is a $330 million public corporation,” he said. “I’m the only person now sitting on the board who has any experience managing a similar organization. We are facing a lot of budget issues, how to live within our means without dipping into reserves. And there is the issue of what is going to happen when Silverdale incorporates.

“I am committed to an accessible vision of government,” he said. “I was behind moving meetings to the evening, so more people can attend. I think I have the qualities needed to succeed in this job. I focus on results, I am pragmatic and I don’t take local issues to a partisan level.”

Bauer was the only candidate who used his entire time allocation and did not take any questions from the audience. However, he filled the second half of his time to provide answers to questions that had already been asked.

Election Day is Nov. 4. Ballot distribution to the general public will begin on Oct. 15.

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