The six candidates for the Port Orchard City Council weathered a whirlwind week of debates and joint appearances ending Oct. 14 with a forum in council chambers. While these events provided a way for candidates to interact with the public, there were few disagreements about the city’s future direction.
“I think the elections are a matter of style and what kind of person you want to represent you,” Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said after the forum. “There aren’t a lot of differences of opinion among the candidates.”
Of the four vacancies, incumbents Jerry Childs and Rob Putaansuu did not draw any challenges and will be elected by default. Two other incumbents, Fred Chang and Carolyn Powers, are facing respective challenges from Amy Igloi-Matsuno and Cindy Lucarelli.
All six candidates appeared at Wednesday’s forum, and a previous event sponsored by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. No additional joint appearances are scheduled, and the candidates will campaign individually until the Nov. 2 election–even though many voters send in their ballots as soon as they are received.
All of the candidates favor downtown redevelopment and support annexation of the city limits to the boundaries of the Urban Growth Area (UGA), with the caveat that finances are examined with each new annexation. All of the candidates favor openness–or transparency—in government, and will promote this through a willingness to meet with constituents.
None of the candidates support the I-1033 initiative, which caps revenue acquired by municipalities, agreeing that its passage would make governing more difficult. All of the candidates support keeping the Sidney Museum in place, and oppose condemning the building to make way for a parking garage. And all of the candidates have pledged to protect Port Orchard’s small town flavor.
Putaansuu said he likes the character of downtown and hopes it does not change. Chang gravitates toward its historical buildings, and Igloi-Matsuno doesn’t think a theme is necessary to generate interest as long as individual buildings are maintained.
“We have the best waterfront ever,” Childs said. “I think we can develop a Sausalito or Carmel flavor, with a long boardwalk and access to the water. We have the opportunity to re-invent downtown through its waterfront.”
Even if there are few direct disagreements, there are still differences. Igloi-Matsuno is running as a representative of small business, and her repetition of “I live here and work here” phrase calls attention to the fact that Chang works in Seattle for a large agency. Chang, on the other hand, says his representation of commuters provides a different voice on the council.
On one level, Powers and Lucarelli represent the typical “experience vs. change” dichotomy. Powers, the council’s second-longest serving member, touts her experience in finance and support of parks. Lucarelli’s strengths include business and tourism, and she was instrumental in the planning of the recent Cedar Cove Days celebration.
No polls have been taken to measure public preferences, although voters seem to have an idea about who will prevail. Even so, there are no sure bets. Igloi-Matsuno has received a series of high-visibility endorsements, but Chang is drawing praise for his tendency to ask detailed questions during council meetings. Powers provides the council’s institutional memory but Lucarelli–who came within 50 votes of unseating another popular incumbent in 2007–cannot be underestimated.
“Everyone brings something different to the table,” Coppola said. “You need to choose whether the candidate brings what you like to the table.”
Three videos taken at the recent candidate forum follow this story.