The primary election is Aug. 1, the general election is Nov. 7.

Bremerton City Council candidates talk priorities, issues

BREMERTON — The League of Women Voters of Kitsap County hosted a debate July 11 for the candidates for Bremerton City Council districts 1 and 3, at the Norm Dicks Government Center.

Debates generally take place before the primary election if there are more than two candidates for a position. Bremerton council districts 5 and 7, which attracted two candidates each, will also be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

DISTRICT 1 CANDIDATES

Hoping to advance from the Aug. 1 primary to the general election in District 1 are Suzanne Griffith, Allen Mathews and Pat Sullivan. Sullivan was appointed to the position in September 2015 to complete her late husband’s term.

District 1 includes the areas surrounding Tracyton Beach and Lions Park, as well as Pine Road and part of Wheaton Way bounded by Sylvan Way.

Griffith said she would make a good council member because she has “experience in teaching, grant writing and 20 years in social media.” She said she has “deep knowledge of Bremerton,” as she was born here. She supports working people, has a strong interest in community, healthcare and housing.

“I believe everyone should have access to quality healthcare in their community,” Griffith said.

Mathews is a U.S. Navy submarine veteran with an extensive background in troubleshooting and problem solving.

“I am committed to using those skills to becoming the voice of reason for District 1,” Mathews said.

Sullivan has a lot of interest in housing, as she “knows what it’s like to be homeless and hungry.” She said when she moved to Bremerton in 1984, she had a home for the first time. Since then, she’s attended Olympic College, had a rewarding career and currently serves on the council.

“It is a collaborative body,” Sullivan said of the council. “One individual is part of that body and all of us together move Bremerton forward.”

After opening statements, League of Women Voters moderator Gail Sackman asked each candidate questions, provided by the audience. Below are a few of those questions; answers are given in alphabetical order of the candidate’s last names.

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Bremerton, and how would you address the issue?

Griffith: “Housing and healthcare are big challenges, but I think health care may be the greatest challenge. In order to keep a hospital in Bremerton, we need to work with the state, with the existing CHI Franciscan hospital … we would have to really work hard to get a good medical facility here for the many citizens who deserve it.”

Mathews: “One of the greatest challenges is the hospital situation. I would be willing to work with legislatures from all three districts to form a plan to get a new hospital here, if such a provider like Kaiser [Permanente] takes interest.”

Sullivan: “We have a lot of mental health issues that our police and emergency services deal with on a daily basis. I would like to see more collaborative efforts to deal with it.”

Are you in support of declaring Bremerton a “welcoming city”?

Griffith: “I support the welcoming resolution. I heard the talk from the Kitsap Immigration Assitance Center and they convinced me that some of our legal immigrants … are afraid to come forward. That’s not a way to run a community in my opinion.”

Mathews: “I personally support the welcoming resolution. But, as an elected official, I can’t support it.”

Mathews then elaborated, saying he’s taken oaths as a member of the U.S. Navy and would be taking an oath as an elected official that would prevent him from supporting it.

Sullivan: “Bremerton is a welcoming city. A new resident and I had a conversation not too long ago. I asked him what made him move to Bremerton, and he said it was just so welcoming … We do not need further resolutions for a welcoming city.”

What are your plans to fund residential street repairs and maintenance?

Griffith: “I need to look at the budget a lot more closely. Spending too much money downtown and not enough on the neighborhoods. I do have experience writing grants.”

Mathews: “I’m currently looking into private/public partnerships, tax incentive funds and other means to fund roads. I don’t think the current plan — “wait until it fails” — is working. I’m also open to suggestions from the public. Another thing I was looking into was doing pavement respray [which would extend the life of the pavement].”

Sullivan: “This issue has been before the council this year and last year. I’m finding funds. The grant monies that we can generally get are for arterial streets … that is generally the type of large grants we are able to get. The council this past year set aside … a specific residential street fund. It’s a start. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a start.”

Bremerton is the hub of social services in Kitsap County. What is your vision for the role of Bremerton for enhancing vital services for those in need?

Griffith: “I’m not sure Bremerton is the hub of social services … I think people think of Bremerton as where really destitute people live because of the number of people waiting for free meals. Technology will help us communicate among agencies. Everybody’s is a little different, so we need to keep improving that.”

Mathews: “Where I see the city social services, I think we as citizens can help promote and foster private charity to aid that.” He added that Kitsap Housing Authority issues 200 vouchers for Section 8 housing in a lottery style, and “they can go all over the country. Why aren’t we helping our own first?”

Sullivan: “Transportation is a key to getting residents around, or help … as a city, we should be working with other municipalities and finding ways for them to assist in helping to fund this endeavor.”

If Bremerton was given $10 million, no strings attached, how would you use it?

Griffith: “I would use it for housing. There are people who are desperate for housing. I would definitely try to get some grants for that.”

Mathews: “I would look at it going into our debts and liabilities and taking a chunk out of that. We need to take a look at those first.”

Sullivan: “Overall, I think, I suppose, the majority of the individuals I asked about that … [said to use it to improve] local streets and sidewalks.”

Closing statements

After the questions, each candidate had an opportunity to make a closing statement.

Griffith said, “I’d like to be able to communicate with all the constituents in District 1 and with the other council members and the mayor … We need to look at creative ways to empower the communities to help others. I believe I have the skills, knowledge and ability to do that for Bremerton.”

Mathews said, “This is a nonpartisan race. I am seeking to represent all voices in my district. Let me use my skills and experience to represent you.”

Sullivan said, “The council is nonpartisan and members must serve collaboratively for the benefit of all Bremertonians. The city has momentum in revitalization in the downtown core. We must also focus on local neighborhoods.”

DISTRICT 3 CANDIDATES

Three candidates seek election to Bremerton City Council District 3: Adam Brockus, Kevin Gorman and Deborah McDaniel.

District 3 includes the areas of Harborside (downtown), Manette, the Evergreen Rotary Park and the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial.

Brockus is a U.S. Army veteran who works in the shipyard. He served on the Bremerton City Council from 2008-13.

Gorman, a Pacific Northwest native, spent 14 years in the U.S. Coast Guard and municipal government.

McDaniel moved to Bremerton in 1999 and was “struck by how easy it was to be [involved]. So I got engaged and stay involved.”

After opening statements, League of Women Voters moderator Gail Sackman asked each candidate questions, provided by the audience. Below are a few of those questions; answers are given in alphabetical order of the candidate’s last names.

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing Bremerton, and how would you address the issue?

Brockus: “The biggest challenge of Bremerton today is health care, but I’ll expand a little bit and also say, we need to look at the growth coming in the next four years …

“Downtown definitely has some places where they could put more apartment buildings … I want to grow Bremerton wisely and avoid the problems we are seeing in Seattle, Gig Harbor and Bainbridge Island.”

Gorman: “Affordable housing and the hospital leaving. For District 3, our big issue right now is parking, and affordable housing. Intensifying our urban cores is what we need to do. We need a strategic plan on how to attack housing … I think we need to partner with the Bremerton Housing Authority and the Kitsap Housing Authority. The growth is coming. It’s already here. So we need to partner with the leading experts.”

McDaniel: “It’s a combination of healthcare and affordable housing and low-income housing. We have to take care as we grow to not leave behind those most in need. Collaborate with appropriate agencies, maintain existing stock of affordable housing and grow our stock of low-income housing, including strategic means to address homelessness. We can’t be against growth; if we’re against growth, it’s like we’re against breathing.”

Are you in support of declaring Bremerton a “welcoming city”?

Brockus: “I was here back in March when (the council) talked about it. I was absolutely for calling Bremerton what it is: a welcoming city. We should put it down for all to see. Here we are, and Bremerton still shows that if you come to work, Bremerton welcomes you. I think we should pass that ordinance or resolution and make sure everyone knows it.”

Gorman: “This is a very political issue that’s crept its way into our city government. I personally support the resolution, but I understand both sides and why there’s hesitation. There’s a fear, the fear of economic threat of taking federal grants away. I’ve been walking around and talking to residents, and every single one except maybe a couple support it, and I’m amplifying their voice.”

McDaniel: “I think if, as everyone seems to say, we are a welcoming city, then let’s say so in writing. Your words are your intention. Federal law prohibits local law enforcement from enforcing that anyway. Fear is no way to respond to anything like this. If we respond out of fear, then the bully wins.”

What are your plans to fund residential street repairs and maintenance?

Brockus: “I was on the public works committee when I was on City Council before. We started a system where the streets were examined every one to two years to determine which were and were not doing well. We prioritized the streets into what could get grants and what we could do by ourselves.”

Gorman: “As we all know, streets and sidewalks are expensive … I think the answer is to budget first, not last, for these sidewalks and streets. Another thing is, there’s ways we can raise funds or find funds. Money from red-light tickets, annexation, building our industrial core … We just got new city and port economic directors. I’d like to work with them and see what they think.”

McDaniel: “I believe the city needs to take a close look at how our money is being spent currently, and reallocate appropriately. I did a quick search and found six potential grants. I think there’s money out there to fund sidewalks. Roads are very expensive … we have to be mindful as the project proceeds not to waste money, but to do it right the first time.”

Bremerton is the hub of social services in Kitsap County. What is your vision for the role of Bremerton for enhancing vital services for those in need?

Brockus: “We have the Kitsap Community Resources building, and the Salvation Army, and we’re building the Marvin Williams Community Center (in District 3). All those are meant to help the low- or no-income persons of the community. By grouping them in the urban center of Kitsap, we can get them to resources and programs that can improve their lives. I hope we can improve upon what we have there and also improve upon transit to get them there.”

Gorman: “I think they’re necessary services, and we should really wrap our arms around them and help them out whenever we can. Anything the city can do, I would support for social services. One issue that comes up often is how it’s condensed, this district. That’s necessary because our transit system is not very supportive. If you have to get to Silverdale, it takes an hour, plus. One way (to enhance the services) is getting them around the city, getting them to other services they need as well.”

McDaniel: “Actually reduce the burden of Bremerton shouldering much of this for the county. I do not believe that needy people only live in Bremerton. If there are ways to share these services out in other areas, I think that would be to our benefit. I really believe in a ‘housing first’ mantra for homelessness. I think there’s an opportunity that needs to be explored.”

If Bremerton was given $10 million, no strings attached, how would you use it?

Brockus: “I’ll say that with the municipal debt we have, most bonds are with very low interest. I want to put the greatest priority to that. The wisest way to do that is for projects that build permanent jobs here in Bremerton. If we extent Bremerton Airport by about 1,000 feet, we might be able to get more maintenance jobs associated with 737s and possibly 797 airplanes … those would be very good jobs for Bremerton workers.”

Gorman: “Education would be a good thing to invest in. ‘Invest in the future’ is something that we often neglect. We always try to get things. I think we really should be investing in the people, and the people who need it the most are the little ones. I would totally redesign the education system.”

McDaniel: “Ten million dollars buys a lot, but it can produce a lot of income. How can we put that money to work, and make it work for us? One of those that I think should be set up would be something for housing first, to help any agencies that need help with that. I agree [with District 1 candidate Pat Sullivan], streets and sidewalks should be looked into, [and] invest in tech upgrades for the commercial core of Bremerton.”

Closing statements

Brockus said, “What we hear a lot is, we are better when we work together, when all seven City Council members work together, when all communities in Kitsap County work together, when all neighbors in neighborhoods work together to build a better community. Bremertonians working together to make a better Bremerton for all of us.”

Gorman said, “I’m here to amplify your voices at City Council. Please, put me to work. I’ll bring my experience, fresh ideas and fresh perspective.”

McDaniel said, “I’m energized and lightened by your questions, and they further solidified my drive to be your next District 3 council member. I promise to lead with integrity, compassion and collaboration.”

The debate will be aired in its entirety on BKAT July 14-16, 18-20 and 22. For a schedule, go to www.bremertonwa.gov/402/Bremerton-Kitsap-Access-Television-BKAT.

— Michelle Beahm is online editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact her at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

 

Bremerton City Council candidate Adam Brockus answers a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)

Bremerton City Council candidate Kevin Gorman awaits his opportunity to respond to a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)

Bremerton City Council candidate Suzanne Griffith readies for her opening statement at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)

Bremerton City Council candidate Allen Matthews responds to a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)

Bremerton City Council candidate Deborah McDaniel listens to a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)

Bremerton City Council candidate Pat Sullivan responds to a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 11 in the Norm Dicks Government Center. (Michelle Beahm/Kitsap News Group)