Business, property rights and environment topics at candidate forum
by EVAN CAEL
Peninsula Daily News
PORT HADLOCK -- Three candidates running for the Jefferson County District 3 commissioner seat talked about economic development and environmental protection Wednesday.
The three candidates, two Republicans and one Democrat, addressed the Tri-Area Chamber of Commerce at a noon meeting.
Republican candidate Ian McFall of Brinnon, a former software business owner, stressed expansion of small businesses and combining education and infrastructure to accomplish this goal.
His Republican opponent, Bob Pontius of Port Ludlow -- who will square off against him in the Sept. 19 primary election -- focused his speech on property rights and infrastructure, namely a sewer system in the Tri-Area.
The sole Democratic candidate, John Austin of Port Ludlow, focused on his ability as a psychologist to listen to all sides of a debate.
``It's going to take a great deal of listening and bringing people together to figure out what to do,'' said Austin, who, in the Nov. 7 general election, will be pinned against the victorious Republican of the primaries.
McFall: Grow business
McFall, the first to speak to the 50 people in attendance at the Inn at Port Hadlock, said, ``Essentially, the problem we've got here is the county spends more money than it earns. The solution to the problem is we need economic development.''
Jefferson County residents spend $150 million outside the county to shop because the county doesn't offer the retail stores available in nearby Clallam and Kitsap counties, he said.
``We've got to grow our own indigenous businesses here,'' he said.
Environmental regulations in the county prevent a lot of this growth from happening, he said.
He questioned the validity of data that leads to environmental regulations.
``They're not based on real science,'' McFall said. ``They're based on opinion and conjecture and basically a lot of garbage.''
Pontius: Property rights
Pontius, a small-business owner, while agreeing that business growth is needed, stressed the importance of property rights.
He questioned the county deeming land ``useless'' in the name of the environment, he said.
``If they can take one foot of your land unjustly, then they can take the whole thing,'' he said.
He said he referred to the land use questions encircling the county's proposed critical areas ordinance.
If regulations prevent land from being developed, then the land owner should receive compensation for that land, he said.
Austin: Protect the trees
Austin recalled a 1965 visit to Jefferson County when he was in the military. He came to hike in the Olympic National Park.
The county is beautiful because of the landscapes and natural resources it offers, he said.
Austin wants to ensure the trees can be seen by his grandchildren.
Richard Hild, a Port Townsend real estate agent sitting in the audience, commented on Austin's views on environmental protection and asked how he views property rights.
Austin responded: ``Property rights can unfortunately be placed at one end of the spectrum while the environment is on the other end of the spectrum. Of course, I believe in property rights, but I also believe we should protect the environment.''
Ballots for the Primary election will be sent out Aug. 30, and a voter guide will appear in Peninsula Daily News on Sept. 3.