On September 21, Port Angeles City Council No. 2 incumbent Mike French and challenger John Madden participated in an online candidate forum. The Port Angeles Business Association hosted the event.
French, who was elected to city council in 2017, owns and operates Restaurant First Street Haven. Madden owns Ready Remodeling.
For an hour, the candidates discussed topics that included, among others, the coronavirus pandemic, housing, the city budget and the future of the city. The following is a selection of the candidates’ responses.
Moderator: “Could you please express your thoughts on the current requirements in place [referring to a Clallam County and Jefferson County proof-of-vaccination requirement enacted by the North Olympic Peninsula health officer on Sept. 2]. What if anything did change that, and how long do you think this pandemic would last if your particular policies were in place or if you had the ability to set regulations. “
Mike French: “I support what the local health worker is doing, I think she clearly has the power to do it, and I think as a small business owner it was really shocking to have this mandate with maybe, I think a two day warning, you know, for all my restaurant policies. It was certainly shocking. She had reported that this was something she had been thinking about at the previous meeting. So, I would certainly have liked more notice if it had to be done again. “
John madden: “This is something that must be done with public support and cannot be forced on people, especially by dictatorial means. I am very sensitive to breaches of the Constitution, and I would just like us to return to a model that honors the integrity and individual choice of human beings. I see other countries dealing with this pandemic in a much more effective way, and they achieved herd immunity a long time ago, without stopping, masking or forcing people to get vaccinated experimentally. “
Moderator: “Affordable and available housing is a problem – it’s a problem not only for citizens to find housing, but for us to attract very good professionals here. Having said that, could each of you please explain what you think is causing this problem and what you could do as an individual board member or as a board together? .
Mike French: “I think in general it’s a supply problem, and that’s why for the last four years I’ve really focused on what the government can do to get out of the way so that the markets can work, I think, more effectively. What we’ve tried to do is say, in our licensing processes, in our regulations, what’s in our control and what’s not, because I think a lot of people there there is this feeling that oh it’s the whole state, the state does it all. But this is in fact not true. What we found was that a lot of things were under our control. And so you know, two years ago we basically did a citywide zoning reform that was really about making it more affordable for developers and people to renovate and add housing, both the existing housing stock and the new housing stock. I think what we did was we made a lot of lots much more valuable to the development of the city of Port Angeles by allowing them to be subdivided or by allowing different setback rules and all kinds of things. And I think it has really been successful and I think it will be part of the long term solution. But of course there is then some advocacy work to be done on state rules.
John madden: “This is where we need to have low income housing available for people. What you’re up against here is a market dynamic where you have AirBnBs and that type of offering, and in our current situation we have a very limited stock of rooms available. The people in their homes invite people from somewhere, whatever part of the world they are from, to come and stay in one of their rooms to take advantage of it. A free market company does that and I don’t think it’s up to city council to get involved. I believe that more people will open their homes to low rental housing and that will require some guidance, as there are certain considerations that need to be taken into account in terms of health, community safety and most importantly the contamination of our environment. We see it in places where the homeless are camping in different parts of the city. “
Moderator: “How solid do each of you think the Port Angeles budget is?” Where do you think the main concerns in our budget are, especially when we are extrapolating into the future? “
Mike French: “My goal for the budget is to determine the extent to which staff – our municipal staff – to respond to the issues our citizens really expect us to respond to, not just in law enforcement and enforcement. of the code, but in our building division. Do we have enough speed in the building permit turnaround time. This is the issue that this council really focuses on in our strategic plan, and that is to build the capacity of the staff so that we can be responsive as a city to the demands of our citizens.
John madden: “I think part of our income in this city comes from tourism and we had a problem with the ferry, so it’s a pretty important point that needs to be addressed. There are some things out of our control with these closures and all that type of behavior, but in the long run I think the budget won’t be as much of a problem as you’re going to have a resurgence of businesses coming into this city. Right now you see a lot of businesses that have been closed because of the pandemic. I don’t think there are too many other reasons why businesses have been closed in the past 18 months. As a community, we have to work to get back to what we used to call “normal”, and I think it is possible. “
The future of Port Angeles
Moderator: “Tell us how you see Port Angeles in 10 years, and more importantly, what would you do as a board member to help achieve the vision you see Port Angeles in 10 years.”
Mike French: “I really see us evolving towards a sustainable tourism economy which also has industry as a major sector. And I think that’s something that our community has shown a lot of favor through a lot of these open houses that we have. I think downtown we can build, we can get denser, we can have people living downtown, I think we can turn downtown into a really pedestrian friendly experience. When a visitor comes to Port Angeles and says what I need to see, we send them back. We say go to Hurricane Ridge, go to Lake Crescent. What I mean is, yes sure you want to do these things, these are amazing things that show the natural beauty of our area. You should also visit the city center. This has to be the third thing on our list of unforgettable experiences in Port Angeles and we have to bring our downtown product to the level where it is competitive with someone visiting Hurricane Ridge or going out and visiting Lake Crescent.
John madden: “Now that we have moved on, it is important to note that we have a gym where the youngest can go to play racket, pickle ball, possibly we have a swimming pool here, it’s wonderful. We have all kinds of healthy activities that people can do. I am happy that we have returned to exercising at the senior center. It is extremely important for the health of our people. I know that with population growth, there will be density problems that will have to be resolved. I know we have a new downtown mixed-use building, which is a good way to deal with housing and retail combined. It’s hard to see 10 years from now, but I’m optimistic. “
To view the full forum, click here. Click here to learn more about the Clallam County elections in 2021.