Sequim mayor mulls challenging Tharinger for commissioner
Posted on Wednesday 19 May @ 00:45:12
Sequim's mayor is considering a run for county commissioner, saying
he believes east end residents' concerns are being passed over by
the current commissioner.
"I do not believe that we have good representation on the east
end. I do not think he is in tune with the people," said Walt
Schubert of commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness. "If I
think I can do more for the good of the citizens at the county level
then I will run for commissioner."
Tharinger, who heard Schubert's comments at the May 17 Port Angeles
Chamber of Commerce meeting, said he does not agree with Schubert's
"Just having been re-elected, obviously there are some people
who think I am doing a good job," said Tharinger, who defeated
Sue Forde last November, earning his second term as commissioner.
Schubert is up for re-election next year for his Sequim City Council
position. He is going to make a decision on a run for county commissioner
before council election time.
"If I am going to run for commissioner I cannot in good conscience
run for council," said Schubert, adding he would most likely
run as a Republican. "I do not identify with the Democratic party
Should he run for commissioner, Schubert would be out of local politics
for two years, waiting for the 2007 election season. He also said
if elected the job would be short-lived.
"I am not a politician and I'm not trying to make it a career,"
said Schubert. "If I do run it will be a one-time thing, a one-term
Main issues of contention
"I am really unhappy what has happened with the city and county,"
said Schubert as he highlighted two main areas he said he believes
Tharinger did not do enough for Sequim residents.
Two years ago the city applied for a $450,000 county Opportunity Fund
grant. The money would be used to extend a reclaimed water pipeline
down Brown Road to the proposed Gierin Creek Golf Course and Brown
and Port Williams roads. The city would then sell water to the golf
course for irrigation and course maintenance purposes.
The county - frustrating city manager Bill Elliott and Schubert with
its decision - turned down the grant.
"It does not matter if it is Sequim money or county money, it
is all taxpayer money," said Schubert. "I think the taxpayers
expect the county and city to work together, not be adversarial."
A full grant was rejected, Tharinger said, because the city would
earn income while benefiting from a county grant. The city was offered
a $350,000 grant and the additional $100,000 as a long-term loan from
the county but that was rejected as well, according to Tharinger.
The city of Forks, Tharinger pointed out, accepted this week a similar
Opportunity Fund grant proposal, taking part of the money as a grant
and the rest as a 20-year, no-interest loan from the county.
Schubert also said he felt Tharinger did not take east end citizen
concerns into consideration when the county appealed both the Wal-Mart
and Sequim Village Marketplace retail developments.
"The way the county conducted itself through the process of these
developments coming to town," said Schubert, "they were
not an ally, they were an adversary."
"I am disappointed the mayor would say that," said Tharinger.
"He is coming at it from a perception of a part-time city council
person, not a full-time county commissioner. I think he has a flawed
perception of what the issues are."
Tharinger said the county Department of Community Development was
one of many government agencies that provided public comments on the
city's decision to approve both retail developments - a process, Tharinger
added, that is allowed by law.
"We did not take any court actions against the city," said
Tharinger, as community group Sequim First continues to do against
both retail developments. "The traffic and stormwater issues,
we brought these forward."
Learning what the people believe
Schubert said whether or not he runs for commissioner, he is going
door-to-door this summer to learn what people in the Sequim community
believe are the most important issues for the area.
Schubert said this is going to be a stand-in for something he has
wanted to do for almost a year now - holding a town hall meeting to
talk about Wal-Mart, Sequim Village Marketplace and the planned large
retail growth in Sequim. City attorney Craig Ritchie said that the
town meeting concept has to wait until there are no court cases involving
the retail developments. Ritchie told council members repeatedly not
to make public comments about the cases because their statements could
be used as a basis for filing appeals.
"I am going to walk the whole town again, just like I did when
I was first elected to the council," said Schubert. "I am
going to ask them how they are feeling about what we are doing."
Tharinger stated he believes the three county commissioners, Mike
Doherty, D-Port Angeles, Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles and himself,
are doing a good job for all county residents without focusing only
on their own constituents.
"I do believe that we have a good team with bringing three distinct
perspectives here," said Tharinger. "As a county commissioner
you are not parochial to any city or region."
Chapman is up for election this year, and Tharinger said he is very
supportive of the Republican commissioner's work, although he stopped
short of a full endorsement.
"I think Mike is doing a good job and we have a good team making
decisions," said Tharinger.
--by Dan Ross