The League of Women Voters of Kitsap County held a forum Thursday night at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton for the candidates of Bremerton City Council District 6 to answer questions from the community.
Current District 6 Council Member Richard Huddy recently announced he would not be running for re-election this year. The candidates seeking the open vacancy are Chase LeFors, Anna Mockler, Michael Simpson, Jared Hofer and Erinn Howell. All candidates were in attendance except for Hofer.
The candidates gave opening and closing statements while also answering questions from the community members that were in attendance. Topics included some of the city’s biggest concerns, urban growth areas, homelessness, parking in downtown, government transparency, city infrastructure, safety of the district and affordable housing.
Getting to know the candidates
Chase LeFors is currently the General Manager of Oly-Pen Sports in Bremerton, which owns and operates the indoor soccer and recreation facility in Bremerton. He grew up in Lebanon, Missouri where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations and Design Arts from Drury University. LeFors moved to the Puget Sound area in 2014.
Anna Mockler stated she has been a union printer, a weapon scientist in King County, and a professor of writing and critical thinking at City University of New York. She has been attending Bremerton City Council meetings since the fall of 2018.
Jared Hofer is a retired Navy Master Chief and has served as the maintenance manager for the Port of Poulsbo until April of this year.
Erinn Howell has been a photographer for 17 years and recently opened a construction company in Silverdale.
Michael Simpson is a native of Bremerton and is a U.S. Army combat veteran, a corrections officer and a deputy sheriff.
All candidates except for Simpson agreed that affordable housing was the biggest issue facing the city of Bremerton.
“I plan on continuing to support the Bremerton Housing Authority and the efforts they are making to combat the issue, along with Mayor Wheeler himself, ” LeFors stated.
“It feels as if Bremerton is being given over to the people with more money,” Mockler said.
The growing homeless population in Bremerton was another big topic of conversation and Mockler insisted on giving the homeless permanent houses.
“It is less expensive to provide permanent housing for homeless people than it is to provide emergency services where people might have to stay in the hospital for days or even weeks because they cannot be returned to a shelter. It’s the ethically responsible thing to do,” she said.
“As a deputy, I’ve encountered the homeless on a pretty regular basis,” Simpson said. “A lot of them have mental health, drug addiction and alcohol issues. About 75 percent of them have all three. When it comes down to it, what we’ve been doing in the past isn’t working.”
Parking in downtown Bremerton was also a pressing issue that the candidates shared their viewpoints on.
“Why not give actual Bremerton residents a sticker on their car and provide reduced cost parking for them,” Mockler stated. “Create onsite parking for the thousands of shipyard workers, as is done in almost every other shipyard around.”
“We need to increase parking downtown,” Simpson said. “We need to increase the ability for vehicles to come in and out of the city. The goods and services that come to this city are by truck or ferry. If we take away that, it’s going to kill commerce here.”
The last question of the night saw the candidates make their case for why they are a better option than the others. Mockler stated that she would be a “fierce advocate and a clear and honest representative.”
Howell listed cooperation, communication, leadership and compassion as her strengths and said “I’m not just a nice person; I will fight fight for my district.”
“I’m somebody who actually has fought,” Simpson said. “If we had our best and brightest in government right now, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.”
“I’m a listener, I’m not much of a talker,” LeFors said. “I’m pretty sure that’s been fairly evident tonight. I’ve listened to what the constituents are saying.”
At the end of the forum, the candidates were given two minutes to make their case for the District 6 position.
“A lot of our residents are black and no one is here from that community,” Howell said. “I want to be their voice. I want to represent everyone, not just the white community.”
“Bremerton is growing and changing,” Mockler said. “I can help us grow sustainably. We are used to living in a short term world and putting away the long term view. For the sake of the generations that are coming, we really have to change our ways.”
“This has been a great opportunity for the voters to see what us candidates stand for,” LeFors said. “Let me be your voice for City Council.”
-Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org