By Meg Olson
Ballots are in mailboxes this week, and candidates for local offices spent an informal evening meeting with voters.
There was some initial resistance to the October 21 event’s “meet and greet” format, with some audience members wanting the traditional format with candidates speaking from the stage and responding to audience questions, but event organizer and parks district candidate Linda Hughes said it worked nevertheless.
“This was meant as an opportunity to try something new,” she said. “This format was chosen at the request of some candidates and together we felt conversational responses to voters are less staged.”
Fire district candidates Stan Riffle and Judson Meraw stood together on most issues, but Meraw said as commissioner he would encourage more community involvement. He took issue with the lack of community input or legal advice commissioners had sought before approving a generous long-term contract for fire chief Christopher Carleton.
“There were people there who did not feel they were invited to speak but were observers. The community was shocked by what happened, and how it happened,” he said. “I wouldn’t have approved it, though that has nothing to do with the performance of the chief. But without enough incentives and disincentives, he is really under no legal obligation to perform.”
“I’ve never heard of that kind of long-term commitment to a public employee,” said audience member Steve Conn. “Only a ballplayer.”
Riffle said by making a hefty commitment to Carleton, they got one back. “We have had 11 fire chiefs in the last 30 years,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose Christopher Carleton. We deserve longevity and continuity. He wrote his own contract. I looked at it and liked it.”
Wayne Knowles and his opponent for a spot on the water board, Arthur Reber, are both running in hopes of tackling the contract with the Greater Vancouver Water District (GVWD).
“I am running because of my frustration with the fact we pay over $700,000 to the GVWD for over 300 million gallons of water and yet use 25 percent of this amount,” Knowles said, adding he hoped to bring “new eyes” to the contract.
Reber said he hoped to “renegotiate the contract or at least find some accommodation.” Reber said other solutions to long-term supply, such as a pipeline to connect to the system serving Blaine and Birch Bay, would need to “be costed out” to determine their feasibility. He speculated the pipeline option would be cost-prohibitive.
Madeleine Anderson, running unopposed for her seat on the water board, is a veteran of failed attempts to get the GVWD to budge on the contract. However, she too felt the pipeline would likely cost too much and the district needed to keep trying to renegotiate.
None of the water district candidates had a sewer system for all or part of the Point on their radar.
All three candidates for the parks district – Hughes, Bennett Blaustein and Stephen Falk – are running unopposed, and all three put the comprehensive planning process now underway on their priority list. For Hughes it was top of the list, but Falk and Blaustein ranked it as even with seeing the new library project to completion.