BREMERTON — The candidates for Bremerton City Council district 1, 3, and 5 may differ some on the issues, but no one could say they didn’t have heart Oct. 3.
Pat Sullivan, District 1, talked about her family being homeless and hungry when she was a child, and how that shaped her commitment to helping others.
Suzanne Griffith, District 1, talked about wanting to make sure everyone has access to housing and local medical care.
Adam Brockus, District 3, said he wants to keep Harrison Medical Center’s Bremerton site open and improve local transportation.
Kevin Gorman, District 3, wants to create “a team culture” to achieve goals. “It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another thing to actually do it,” he said.
And Michael Goodnow, District 5, talked of his love for the area and his volunteerism.
The five candidates talked issues and solutions at the League of Women Voters candidates forum in the Norm Dicks Government Center; Melissa Kinzer, District 5, did not participate. The moderator asked the candidates questions provided by the audience.
Below are some of the questions asked at the forum; candidates are listed first by district, then alphabetically. To view the forum in its entirety, visit goo.gl/YE1Wia. The general election is Nov. 7.
Question: How would you work to balance the needs of current Bremerton residents with the expected increase in people moving to the city?
Griffith: “Current Bremerton residents are fine, I think, if they don’t have to move. But if they have to move, they’re not going to be able to afford another place. This may not be so good. There’s a lot of ramifications of the housing issue. There’s a couple things I’d like to consider. One … affordable housing. We need to address the 50 percent who don’t make the median income of $78,000.”
Sullivan: “We need to grow responsibly. Affordable housing is part of that. I also believe [we need] a sustainable bus service — we need more buses that go around our town and deliver people from east Bremerton, west Bremerton, downtown. And more service, more trips back and forth, and on the affordable housing [issue], we definitely need to be looking at the future and how we can care for our current residents.”
Brockus: “We need to do this wisely. If we let too many people come in at once, we’ll have traffic problems and infrastructure problems. We need to use our zoning and other laws … to make sure there is room properly planned out and affordable housing.”
Gorman: “It could be looked at two ways, either a good thing or a bad thing. A lot of people don’t realize growth is what gets you your nice sidewalk [and] parks. Construction is a huge industry in government. I have a huge amount of experience in Seattle watching this happen. I have a lot of insider knowledge in how this game is played and how to stop it from becoming a bad place to live.”
Goodnow: “I think the key here is that we know this is coming. It’s not going to happen overnight. We need to do everything we can to stay ahead of it … look at new ways to create some affordable housing options.”
Question: Over the last 12 to 15 years, it’s been difficult to fund road repairs outside of downtown or main arterials. How do you change that?
Griffith: “From what I have learned, there is no money for this. The city has no money for streets and sidewalks. Obviously, we need it very badly. We’re going to have to find an alternative funding source, either take it out of an existing fund … or look over the budget and find a place to get that money from.”
Sullivan: “This has been a big issue on the council. We need to look at our budget and where we can afford some sustainable funding and say we’re going to fund this. The problem is, repairing even a block of street is about $480,000 a block. [We get] that in car tab fees. That’s it, that’s our funding for streets. We need to come up with other alternatives. I think we need to focus not on our worst roads … but go through and do as much preventive care on our streets as we can.”
Brockus: “I do not think we need to increase the tax we have … but if elected I will go down to Olympia and ask the state for more money, more of their highway money to come in on local roads.”
Gorman: “I don’t think asking Big Brother for more money is the right way to go. If you don’t take care of what you have, these are the issues you start to encounter. I work in civil engineering. The cost gets exponentially more expensive if you don’t take care of it. [The city is working on a] great plan for creating permit parking. Charge for street parking … that money can go to road repair.”
Goodnow: “The city is doing a good job on busy roads. The problem is smaller roads. I think we just have to make … decisions using our values, using what we think is important. If streets are important, we need to make that happen.”
Question: How do you think Bremerton should address the homeless situation in the city? Do you support using tiny houses?
Griffith: “Some people are homeless because they don’t have anywhere to live, and that’s their only problem. If we go ahead with the auxiliary units … someone could put a tiny home or garage apartment [on their property] and they could live there for a low rent. As far as homeless people in general, I think Bremerton has kind of an auxiliary role … working with the county and resource center. We just need to keep it up. It’s a big problem.”
Sullivan: “Homelessness has many [causes]. Mental health and drug abuse are two of them. We need to continue to collaborate with … the Kitsap Continuum of Care Coalition. In regards to tiny houses, they have potential. My questions for those is, what about heating? When you build those tiny houses, there’s got to be some consideration to the living conditions also. Running water, cleanliness and heating are all important when you consider the tiny housing. I would be quite interested in seeing how we could work with that and meet the living conditions.”
Brockus: “We need to improve our programs … especially with Bremerton housing, especially with having subsidized housing in the east bay and west bay districts. We have a homeless veteran … he or she needs to get top priority for new housing so he can get a job, work in a rather large employer we have right here. A steady job is the best way to good housing.”
Gorman: “Personally, I love tiny houses. Homeless people need homes. I don’t think they need a program, they need a roof over their heads and not freeze out in the alleyway. So anything we can do to help that, we should. The only problem … where do these go? Where do these encampments go? I’m all for looking at alternative, innovative ways to help solve our problems.”
Goodnow: “I think we need to continue to do what we’re doing, I think we need to continue to support the homeless resource center. A big thing we have to do, if we’re losing affordable housing, recreating it in new places. I do support tiny houses, I think it’s a great idea.”
After the questions, each candidate was given the opportunity to make a closing statement. They were asked to focus on why voters should choose them over their opponent.
Griffith: “I’m a dedicated problem solver, I’m an intelligent person, I am well-read and I do research. I hate to leave a problem unsolved. I will stay up all night to solve a problem if I need to. I think I would do a good job for the citizens of Bremerton.”
Sullivan: “I’ve been on the council for two years. When I first got there, I had no idea what was going on. You don’t realize, when you’re running for election, you’re hoping you can make great changes real fast. You can’t just say, ‘I want this to happen’ and put your foot down. You have to build relationships and trust and understand the issues and build from the history and try to make the city remember. You look at every issue and try to do the best job you can for the entire city.”
Brockus: “My biggest difference between myself and my opponent: I work and live in Bremerton [and] if there is an emergency in the area somewhere, I’m five minutes away from getting to City Hall and being able to serve my district. I’ve lived here longer. I’ve been here 13 years, and I plan to be here as long as my grandkids need to be raised. I want them to grow up in a community that helps them become the great people I know they can become.”
Gorman: “I think vision, having a vision for Bremerton, and positivity is where I stand out. And if anybody’s hiring, too, I’m looking, I’d love to [work] here. I want to talk a little about innovation. My campaign signs, they’re made of cedar. They represent my values. There’s a whole story … I just want to talk about what values they represent. Innovation. Taking a risk and having the courage to be different. That’s really tough to do. As leaders, you should demand that: Innovation, taking risks, calculated risks and being intentional.”
Goodnow: “I bring 20 years of Navy experience. Since I retired from the Navy, I’ve only worked for nonprofits. I’ve also served the local downtown business community, in the Downtown Bremerton Association, the Union Hill neighborhood, I’ve worked with them and still do. I’ve been a member … of the Community Development Block Grant [committee] and the Planning Commission.”
— Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.