Arthur challenges Howard for democracy’s sake

Main concern is voter turnout

Posted 10/16/19

Bernie Arthur is running for City Council. But his biggest concern is getting people to vote in the first place.

“I watched the last election for City Council and only about 3,600 people voted,” Arthur said during a candidate forum hosted by the Port Townsend Kiwanis club on Oct. 9. “But the total amount of registered voters in the city is more than 7,000. That means more than half didn’t vote at all.”

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Arthur challenges Howard for democracy’s sake

Main concern is voter turnout

Posted

Bernie Arthur is running for City Council. But his biggest concern is getting people to vote in the first place.

“I watched the last election for City Council and only about 3,600 people voted,” Arthur said during a candidate forum hosted by the Port Townsend Kiwanis club on Oct. 9. “But the total amount of registered voters in the city is more than 7,000. That means more than half didn’t vote at all.”

Arthur, who has lived in Port Townsend for 50 years and worked as a business owner and boat builder, decided to run for City Council when he noticed that the incumbent, Amy Howard, was going to be running unopposed.

A self-described lover of democracy and of free thinking, Arthur wanted each incumbent running for re-election to have the opportunity to see how many people will vote against them.

“If you want to support Amy, that’s OK,” he said. “But she needs to know who doesn’t agree with her.”

According to the county’s election officer Betty Johnson, at the time of the 2019 primary there were 8,003 voters in the City of Port Townsend. The number of ballots counted for the city was 3,231. That’s only a 40% voter turnout.

Even though Arthur doesn’t have any campaign strategies—he doesn’t take donations, he isn’t doing any doorbelling and he hasn’t posted any yard signs—he hopes that people will turn out to vote this year, whether or not it’s for him.

“I’m curious about all the people in Port Townsend that didn’t even vote in the last election,” Arthur said. “I’m just testing the water. I’ll put my toe in and see what happens. It’s really up to the people of the city to vote.”

For Howard, having an opponent is not a problem.

“I’m grateful that Bernie filed to run against me,” Howard said at the Kiwanis candidate forum. “It gives me the opportunity to talk to all of you.”

Talking with the public is one thing Howard is hoping the City Council will improve upon in the coming years. Having come to Port Townsend to build a life, Howard decided four years ago that she wanted to give back to the community that helped her find her path. That’s why she ran for City Council.

“Port Townsend basically saved my life,” she said. “There are a number of community members and agencies in Port Townsend where I would literally not be here without them. It’s important to take care of the community that took care of me.”

As the incumbent, Howard is hoping to continue her work on the affordable housing committee.

The committee is looking to streamline city code and development regulations so that it’s easier for builders to build.

For Arthur, who was a builder, the city has an attitude problem when it comes to new development.

“You can’t make a set of rules that affect everybody,” he said. “You have to have some flexibility. The attitude of the city has to be a hand up, rather than a poke in the eye.”

But Howard thinks this is a long-lasting stigma that citizens have about the city, even though the City Council and staff are working hard to change the system.

“A lot of progress has been made in the last couple of years towards streamlining our processes,” she said.

Before, when people would come in with a building project, there was a lot of confusing and inaccurate information. The city has been working on making this easier to understand. Not only that, but they’re working to create more incentives for building as well.

“Just this year we adopted a multi-family tax exemption program,” she said.

But she also admits that it’s not a problem that can be solved overnight.

“It’s an issue that’s facing most, if not all communities across the country,” she said. “It will take some huge paradigm shifts and unfortunately we’re working at the speed of government. But it will also take commitment from the community as well.”

During the Kiwanis candidate forum, she reminded everyone that it isn’t the city’s job to build more housing. However, she agrees City Hall can work to make it easier for developers.

For her, this means having consistent, easy-to-follow policy.

But Arthur believes that the city’s elected officials get too bogged down in bureaucracy.

“I make a decision to do something and it doesn’t take me four or five years to make it happen,” he said.

He thinks the city relies too heavily on consultants and studies, instead of doing the work themselves.

“Every day you study something, somebody gets locked out of their housing or loses their job,” he said. “If you see a problem, just fix it.”

However, Howard thinks that part of the “speed of government” includes communicating with the public, something she has been campaigning for ever since her first run for City Council.

“We can’t do our jobs without being engaged with the public,” she said.

During her last run, Howard wanted an overhaul of the city’s website and communications plan. Those two things have both happened in the last couple of years. Now she wants to work on the city’s use of social media and increase of public forums.

“I want to bring city information to people where they’re at,” she said.

That’s why she was pleased when Arthur decided to run against her, even though neither of them are campaigning hard—Howard doesn’t agree with doorbelling and she finds the environmental impact of yard signs troubling.

“It’s a democracy,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I would have an opponent or not, but it gives me the opportunity to speak with people at events. And Arthur is right. It’s important to know who disagrees with you.”

Comments

4 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
HarveyW

I don't know much about Amy Howard. Perhaps that's the point. Starting in at least 2015 I began sending photo and text documentation of my business and others being blockaded by all day parkers in posted 2 hour zones. I am still sending those emails years later. No replies from Amy Howard or any No Term Limit Council member including the Appointed Mayor. The volunteer parking program was deconstructed and the public was abandoned to sort things out among themselves. Just one issue of many, but the one I can speak to with documentation and first hand experience.

A culture of disrespect was born on the street, as some took advantage of others, as a blind eye tolerance policy was practiced by the No Term Limit Council. The City Council has a culture of self entitled disrespect. The 1.2 million dollar (total cost) Gateway Park was approved by Amy and others without public input, at the cost of much needed basic items, police, roads, animal control and parking. No website can explain basic needs to any sitting Council Member. You get it or you don't. Amy apparently voted for the questionable (from greenhouse gas to budget priority) curb appeal project.

Amy's championing of new websites etc. for better communication rings hollow to me. She and others could have responded to my concerns that affected both visitors and business via email, or simply stopped in to see what problems were occurring and growing. I'm less than 2 blocks from City Hall. Silence, year after year after year. They all knew. Every individual No Term Limit City Council member failed and created ripple effects they don't deal with for and to hundreds of thousands of visitors and dozens of businesses over many years.

Amy has the chance now to comment on the 10 item list that Appointed Mayor Deborah Stinson won't comment on. I have asked for comment after every person in Letters to Editor tells us how great a job the Appointed Mayor is doing. Silence from submitters and Stinson. Pretend this is a city website Amy. Pretend you have the chance to explain your part in the problems the list speaks to. Distinguish yourself as a unique mind with unique answers. With all politeness from me, with all due respect here is your chance.

With a new City Manager due soon, as many fresh and untainted seats on the City Council, those with clean hands, are more important this election than ever before. Thanks to Amy for her time. If she were an employee of mine I would simply not be able to re hire her due to a lack of communication and action, and at least one very bad decision we can all drive by daily.

Nothing personal. As I always explain to anyone working with me, no excuses. Its job done. Or, job not done. In this case year after year after year. I would give Bernie Arthur a chance because he seems to have calloused but clean hands. Here is the list for Amy to comment on. Stinson is silent as is the norm for her. Go Amy.

1) Short staffed Police.

2) Underpaid Police.

3) Roads in bad condition and the growing cost to maintain or repave as they continue to degrade.

4) No Animal Control.

5) Being unresponsive to the damaging effects of elimination of parking enforcement and deconstruction of the volunteer parking program. (5 years of photo documentation went unanswered) Leaders lead, they don't hide.

6) Having absolutely no parking plan in place for years, even after expensive studies.

7) The $600,000 Crooked Sidewalk/sculpture project that is a monument to no public input as to priority, and at the cost of other much needed items ignored in the budget or needed budget. We can all see STINSON'S FOLLY daily now.

8) The refusal to facilitate the Planning Commission reviewing laws and codes as they requested and were denied, related to the comprehensive plan.

(9 Not dealing with growing debt service without public input that hamstrings the ability to do needed basic projects, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 million dollars per year.

10) What the Editor of the Leader described as a lack of public input during the formative time of selecting the new City Manager. Then, evasive and obstructive actions by Stinson and false claims of relevant law when he requested information after the job offer was accepted by the new City Manager. Open government.

Wednesday, October 16
Robert Gray

Important message Bernie.

Monday, October 21
Robert Gray

Important message Bernie.

Monday, October 21
Robert Gray

Important message Bernie.

Monday, October 21