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Council candidates discuss the issues

While Bremerton City Councilwoman Dianne Robinson and her opponent Cassandra Helmrick and District 4 council candidate Carlos Jara made their points on the issues at Thursday’s Bremerton Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues forum at the Family Pancake House on Kitsap Way, Jara’s opponent Roy Runyon took a slightly different tact.

“It’s about sex,” Runyon said. “Parks are sexier than streets.”

In the Nov. 6 general election, voters will be asked to approve a property tax levy lid lift to pay for upgrades to recreational facilities across the city, which Runyon said he opposes.

“People told us streets are the No. 1 thing, and why we’re doing this is a mystery to me,” Runyon said. “It’s about sex I think.”

“I don’t think it’s about sex,” Jara countered. “The top three things were streets, parks and bike trails and walking paths.”

The city’s staff spent two years developing a three-part program to address those desires, he said.

However, when the state Legislature authorized car tab increases by local jurisdictions, city officials decided to wait to see what the county does first, he said.

“Let’s wait until we can legally do it,” Jara said. “At that point we should put it on the ballot.”

Although Helmrick said she is personally opposed to the parks levy, she said she supports the city’s parks system.

“I think parks are a priority because that’s where our children go to play,” Helmrick said. “That’s the heart of the community.”

Robinson said the parks levy is important because many of the city’s parks are in dire need of repair.

“We have a lot of old parks like the one on Warren Avenue that is in really bad shape,” she said.

Parks are a key component in neighborhood revitalization are sidewalks, which are important to District 6, she said.

“There are not enough sidewalks for our kids,” Robinson said. “I think half of my district is missing sidewalks.”

Helmrick agreed with Robinson that sidewalks are needed and that overall Proposition 1 looks good on paper.

“I don’t think we need a new park in Anderson Cove until we get the parks we have updated,” Helmrick said.

Because of his opposition to the parks levy, Runyon reiterated that he will not vote for it.

“I think people are of good sound thinking and they know what needs to be addressed first,” Runyon said in reference to his streets-first platform.

Jara responded that there is no doubt in his mind about which way to vote on the levy.

“It’s not yes, but heck yeah,” Jara said. “Kiwanis Park looks like a puddle and there are no lights.”

By working with the community and the Kiwanis Club, Jara said the park on 15th Street can become a real asset to that area, Jara said.

One audience member asked all four candidates what they believe it will take for Bremerton to regain its status as one of America’s most livable cities, which it attained in the early 1990s.

“At the time the housing market was half of what you would need to pay for the same home in Seattle,” Helmrick said. “There was also the transportation and closeness to Seattle.”

However since then, the housing market has changed and people in the city have grown apart, Helmrick said.

Robinson said city officials are working on making the city a more livable city and that includes providing affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is one of my main concerns,” Runyon said. “I’d like to look at a tax deferment for the first three years of homeownership.”

That tax deferment would benefit people at 80 percent of the area’s median income and also help those living on fixed incomes, which would increase homeownership opportunities in the city, Runyon said.

Jara said that in addition to providing opportunities for small business owners and homeownership, the city has to have better schools.

“How can you have a livable city, but people don’t want to bring their kids?” Jara asked. “Nobody wants to have their kids at a disadvantage.”

Bremerton City Council District 8 candidate Eric Younger asked each of the candidates how they would vote in February 2008 when the city council could increase the city’s car tabs without voter approval.

“I personally would support it, but as a council member I want to put it on the ballot,” Jara responded.

Runyon agreed with Jara and said he would definitely put it on the ballot.

“I think we’ve got our priorities backwards,” Runyon said. “I believe we need to put $20 car tabs on the ballot instead of the parks levy.”

Helmrick said she is currently undecided on the issue, but added one caveat.

“I would put it to the people and let them decide,” Helmrick said.

As the only standing city council representative at the forum, Robinson said she would vote for the increased car tabs because of the funding the city lost when voters approved $30 car tabs.

“I would vote for it,” Robinson said, and when pressed by Younger to answer if she would vote for it without the issue going to the voters, Robinson said, “Yes, I will.”

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