PORT ORCHARD — With two contested Port Orchard City Council races in the upcoming November election, the League of Women Voters sponsored a forum Sept. 28 so city residents could better become acquainted with the candidates.
For Position 6, the candidates are incumbent Fred Chang and his opponent, Maureen Wheeler.
Chang has been living in Port Orchard since 1996.
“I just had to live in Port Orchard,” he said.
He’s worked in communications and tech support, which he said has given him the skills to listen to complaints and getting down to the real issue behind them.
“It’s these listening skills that … encouraged me to get out into the city and talk to people,” Chang said. “I think there are more things we can do to reach out to people. I (also) believe in the continued long-range efforts to improve the downtown waterfront area.”
Wheeler was unable to attend the forum due to a previous work-related engagement, but a representative from the League of Women Voters read a statement from her.
“I am ready to make that next level of commitment to do what I can for my community,” Wheeler wrote. “I’ve spent many years in service to my community, in law enforcement, (as a) community advocate and volunteer.
“Now is the time for me to dedicate my time, skills and experience to my local community, which has been so good to me and my family … (We’ve) been a part of the PO community for over 20 years. As a member of our city council, I will continue to help protect our community while providing a valuable perspective from decades of dealing with real-life impacts of our city’s safety policies and public interaction.
“Our children deserve a safe and prosperous place to live and build their future. That includes economic opportunity and growth that will support new jobs and lifestyle amenities. I’ll help develop the next steps to support retail and commercial growth in the Bethel and Sedgwick corridors.”
For the at-large position, the candidates are incumbent Clancy Donlin, who is opposed by Jay Rosapepe.
“I’m a son, I’m a father and I’m a proud grandpa,” Donlin said. “Two years ago, I was asked to throw my hat in the ring by several prominent citizens. I had never envisioned myself running for public office … but the more I thought of it, the more I felt this was my chance to step up and do my part.”
Donlin said stepping into public office was a “huge learning curve.”
“There’s a new culture, language, everything,” he said. “I loved stepping up. It’s been a very special experience, and I look forward to continuing it.”
Rosapepe said he brings to the table 40 years of experience in finance, transportation and leadership — 20 with the Navy, which is how he came to live in Port Orchard.
“We’ve lived here for over 20 years,” Rosapepe said of he and his wife. “We’ve raised our family here, our two daughters have gone to school here. I’ve served as an elected official on the South Kitsap School Board … during the great recession of 2007-2011.”
He said that his time on the school board gave him ample experience in making the most out of a shrunken budget.
“One of the reasons I’m running is that during my time in the Navy, we were a part of a community, but never part of the city or town where we lived,” he said. “Coming here and deciding to live here, it’s been very important to me to give back to the community. It’s important to be involved. It’s important to be a part of the city.”
After opening statements, candidates present were asked questions, which audience members wrote on notecards and a League of Women Voters representative read. Here are some of the questions Chang, Donlin and Rosapepe answered at the forum.
What are the top two issues facing Port Orchard?
Chang: “Infrastructure is important, but so is downtown. I would like to add that the community participation, to me, is a concern, because we have a lot of great nonprofits, and I’m hoping the next generation will participate and continue their legacy.”
Donlin: “(One of) our top two issues in the city is, of course, infrastructure. We have roads that need repairing and we have our water supply we’re currently rerouting and updating sewer. The roads, we have a paving maintenance we’re going to be implementing. That will give us an accurate inventory of our failed roads (and) their condition. One of the other important things that I don’t know that everyone is thinking about is the impending population increase we’re going to be facing.”
Rosapepe: “I’ve been very pleased that the citizens west of State Route 16 … really want a thriving downtown city where they can come, they can socialize, they can have family time. The revitalization of downtown would probably be priority No. 1. Priority No. 2 would be our infrastructure.”
What would you do to attract new businesses to downtown, as well as get residents to shop and spend time downtown?
Chang: “In terms of attracting people to downtown, one thing to do would be to create more awareness of what is there. People … have wished our downtown is better than it is. They really want to take (visitors) downtown. They like the setting. They just feel there aren’t the quality of restaurants. My dream would be to have an Apple store downtown … We could consider a master plan of downtown, bringing together all the different visions and letting developers know.”
Donlin: I am a foodie and an advocate of encouraging that our downtown is laden with restaurants. I’m a huge advocate for that, and that’s one thing I would love to see. I think it would add vitality to downtown and I think it would be a great move on our part.”
Rosapepe: “It is the zoning that is very important to get done. I think that the council will have a very, very short period to get it done … We also have a great marina, and especially shops, to help attract people to. It shouldn’t be a weekend destination, it should be a year-round destination.”
Do you think Port Orchard should concentrate its growth outside of its downtown area?
Chang: “I think Sedgwick is becoming a major corridor. I think we could encourage people to fill in that area. And probably the next offshoot … would be Bethel, though right now I see Sedgwick as being more popular.”
Donlin: “We would do both corridors if we had the money. We would do a thousand things in the city if we had the money. It seems where the money is going and the popular route is Sedgwick. That is bound to be our next choice, our next focus after the Tremont widening.”
Rosapepe: “I don’t think you separate them (uptown and downtown). I think they need to be done hand in hand. We need to have a plan and implementation with partnerships and bring them all together, and not segregate them.”
Do you support Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry? Why or why not? Do you support having a fast ferry route start in Port Orchard?
Chang: “I initially had a little bit of heartburn over the proposal of fast ferries, because it was based on a sales tax. However, the fast ferry did pass. I have taken them. It’s great to have another option to get to Seattle. I love the idea of them starting in Port Orchard. I think it would be ideal in my opinion if they started in Port Orchard, then went to Bremerton, then Seattle, then did a sort of triangle route on the way back.”
Donlin: “I am in favor of the passenger-only ferry. I was thrilled to hear it was being proposed and I’m glad that it passed. It’s going to bring people from the Seattle area over here. As far as it originating in Port Orchard, I don’t think that is the best idea. I think Bremerton has the facility for it. We have our foot ferries … if anything, we’ll need to increase our foot ferry service.”
Rosapepe: “I’m absolutely in favor of that, as long as it’s sustainable. Put me down for the first ride. A fast ferry, I think, is great and will help in the revitalization of downtown.”
Do you support legislation to force property owners to maintain abandoned buildings?
Chang: “Yes. I would support legislation that would not let buildings become derelict. I think it would be a good idea. We probably would want to act before a building became abandoned and it was not maintainable. I would support legislation to deal with this before a building would have to be demolished.”
Donlin: “I’m in support of that because … there’s nothing worse than a city to have a bunch of ‘pimples’ you have to look at and can’t do anything about. When you have property, you have an obligation to your neighbors to keep it up, keep it clean. Property owners need to have a little respect for their neighbors.”
Rosapepe: “I’m in favor of that for two reasons. One as both Fred and Clancy has said, how does it look. But it’s also a health and safety issue … Kids play in abandoned structures. It’s a safety issue, pure and simple. I would like to see us not wait until a building becomes … broken down. That we work with property owners up front.”