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Final public forum for Mason County candidates

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Radio station poses questions to city, school and port incumbents, challengers

Candidates for the Shelton City Commission, the Shelton School Board and the Port of Bremerton Commission squared off publicly for the final time Tuesday evening at a forum presented by KMAS Radio at the Mason Transit Authority's Transit-Community Center in downtown Shelton.

The forum, which was broadcast live, offered a different format than the events staged by the League of Women Voters of Mason County and the senior center Oct. 13, and the Shelton Mason County Chamber of Commerce, Hood Canal Communications and Mason-WebTV Oct. 15.

Candidates were not allowed to give opening statements, but had the opportunity for closing statements. They had one minute to answer the questions.


Two of the three incumbents are facing challengers on the Shelton City Commission. Marilyn Vogler is seeking to unseat Mayor Gary Cronce, and Kathy McDowell is running against Mike Olsen.

All four candidates were asked what accomplishment they would like to achieve in four years, if elected.

Vogler, who moved to Shelton four years ago, said there are many factions in Shelton who do not talk to each other or understand each other. She said she would bring a fresh perspective.

"I have no connections that put me in league with a faction," she said.

Cronce said he wants the city to finish the job on its Basin 3 project, and believes he can attract more grant money to pay for it. The mayor also said he wants the city to place a moratorium on fees for builders.

McDowell said she'd like to see most of the streets repaved in Shelton. She said she supports the ballot measure to raise sales tax to collect money to improve streets through the city's Transportation Benefit District. McDowell said she also wants the city to continue to pay off its debt.

Olsen said he wants to focus on housing issues in the city. There are 100 to 200 houses in the city that aren't worth saving or rehabilitating, he said, and the city could consider eliminating demolition fees to attract developers.

Olsen said the city should consider zoning changes to allow more than one duplex on a block.

The candidates were asked if the city should "declare a state of emergency on the homeless."

Olsen said no. He said he has compassion to work with the homeless in the city.

"If anything, we should declare a state of emergency to help them more," he said.

McDowell also said no. She said she volunteers one day a week at CHOICE Alternative School, and is alarmed to hear about homeless teens forced to "couch surf."

"We need to dig deeper to find a solution to this," she said.

Vogler painted the scenario of a homeless person walking around Shelton with wet shoes and a wet tent, in 40-degree weather, and the homeless children in the city.

"I would think that is an emergency," she said.

Cronce said he works as a mentor, one-on-one, with people in need.

"I don't think any government program will save any of these people," he said. He added, "I don't think we're anywhere close to an emergency."


Seven of the eight candidates for the Shelton School Board shared their views at the forum. Terry C. Miller did not attend.

Incumbents Sandy Tarzwell and Cheryl Williams are competing for a four-year term representing District 1. Miller and Keri Davidson are competing for a four-year term for position 2 on the board. Sally Brownfield and Bill Shanahan are competing for a two-year unexpired term for position 1 on the board. Ross Gallagher and Ginger Seslar are running for a four-year term representing District 2.

The candidates for the board were hampered by questions that were either vague, or focused on subjects beyond the power of a school board member.

Which bathroom should a trans-gender student use? Answer: a new state law says they choose the one where they are most comfortable. Do the candidates favor recess? How much freedom should a teacher have while teaching?

"When you ask a broad question like that, it can mean many different things," Brownfield told moderator Dale Hubbard.

But everyone had a response when they were asked what students in the district aren't learning that they should.

Davidson said students and teachers spend too much time on standardized testing. More time should be focused on fun projects that center on learning, she said.

"There's more to student achievement than testing," Davidson said.

Shanahan said students need to make "connections to the community they live in." Students should transfer what they learn into partnerships with businesses such internships, he said.

Seslar said she agreed with Davidson and Shanahan. "I don't think they're taught how to apply the concepts that are taught to them," she said.

Gallagher said the district needs to improve its math classes, and to teach students "how to be a better citizen."

Williams said students spend too much time on testing.

"Kids aren't learning where they belong in the grand scheme of things," she said.

Tarzwell said cursive writing is no longer taught in Shelton schools and should be re-introduced as an elective arts class.

"The kids should have the ability to read what their ancestors have written," she said.

Students are "not learning intra-personal skills, to work in a group, to be in a group," Brownfield said.


Incumbent Tom Wallitner and challenger Sue Patterson are competing for a term on the Port of Shelton Commission.

Patterson did not attend the forum, and sent someone to read an opening statement.

Patterson wrote that the public has been left out of the loop on port decisions involving the former fairgrounds, the drag strip and marijuana production on port property.

She said she will open the commission's work sessions to the public if she is elected.

Wallitner said he would like to eliminate the tax levy and make the port financially self-sufficient.

Wallitner was asked about patrons of a recent Habitat for Humanity of Mason County fundraiser at Sanderson Airport complaining about the smell of marijuana coming from a grow operation on port property.

"The smell is supposed to be dispelled," he said. "I didn't smell it. No one complained to me."

The building that houses the grow operation was empty for six years, Wallitner said. The new tenant invested $800,000 in the building, much of it on equipment to eliminate the smell, he said.


Ballots for the Nov. 3 general election were mailed on Oct. 13

Oct. 26 is the last day for in-person registration for this election for those who are not currently registered in the state

The first results from the election are scheduled to be released after 8 p.m. Nov. 3 on the county auditor's website

The county is scheduled to certify the results on Nov. 24

Copyright 2015 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: October 22, 2015

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