Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Water, corridor among topics for Pullman council candidates; City, school races highlighted during forum"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Pullman City Council candidate Nathan Weller says he is in favor of anything Pullman can do to preserve its aquifer water.

Weller took part in a 30-minute question-and-answer forum in council chambers in Pullman City Hall Monday along with Incumbent Ward 2 Councilman Al Sorensen.

A number of community members submitted questions for the candidates during the forum which was sponsored by the Pullman League of Women Voters, Pullman Chamber of Commerce and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Each candidate was allowed a four-minute introduction and one minute to respond to audience questions.

Weller, 25, said aquifer levels may be decreasing in Latah County, but they are increasing in Whitman County. He said Pullman should continue to make progress in water conservation, and wastewater reclamation projects, which would treat and reuse water for things such as irrigation, are a step in the right direction.

"It's essential that we be good stewards of our water resource," Weller said.

Sorensen agreed.

"I think we need to explore all options," he said, noting Pullman is making a conscientious effort to save as much water as possible. "Anything we can do to reuse, we should be looking at."

In terms of economic development along the Pullman-Moscow Highway, Weller said he was in favor of city officials working closely with Whitman County commissioners.

Weller said he supports a county proposal to split sales tax revenue 50-50 with the city in exchange for services being extended into the transportation corridor.

Water and sewer services currently are limited in the area of the highway, curbing some efforts for development.

"Working with the county to open up that line of communication is part of my objective," Weller said.

Sorensen, 45, noted there has been some "give and take" by both the county and city during negotiations of tax sharing. He said city and county staff are working on a compromise that will protect each entity's best interest.

"The idea of revenue sharing could be a very good way to extend services into the corridor," Sorensen said.

The City Council has yet to formally approve any terms of the contract.

A member of the audience wanted to know the candidate's stance on College Hill issues, specifically substandard housing, trash, noise and parking.

Sorensen said the council recently passed several ordinances that are intended to improve the quality of life for all College Hill residents. A new ordinance makes it illegal to be in a public place with an open container of alcohol and a nuisance ordinance was meant to curb issues associated with litter and noise. The council also is mulling a proposal aimed to discourage commuters from parking and walking to campus, and the city attorney is drafting a code that would make property owners accountable for the condition of their rental units.

Sorensen noted that College Hill is not the only problem area in town.

"We have nuisance problems on every hill in town," he said.

Weller said a consensus is needed to identify the problems on the hill, and the community as a whole must make an effort to improve the situation. He said students - although only partial residents - also have an interest in the community, and their opinions should be valued.

"Through communication and unification we can overcome any issues we have," he said.

Pullman School Board

Candidates in the Pullman School Board election also addressed the community during the forum.

Daquarii Rock, who is vying for the District 1 position against incumbent Susan Weed, said Pullman High School eventually will need to be rebuilt or remodeled. The design of the school has been questioned, with some rooms too large while others are too small. Some classrooms can only be accessed by going outside, and the boiler is old and failing.

Rock, 36, said the building's needs must be addressed.

"I think that good facilities are important for young people to learn in," she said, noting that the community "is working for what is ultimately best for the students of Pullman."

Weed, 61, agreed. She said a huge portion of the school district's budget goes to heat the school, which was built in the early 1970s.

"It's something that is going to have to be looked at in the really near future," she said. "Whether I like it or not, something is going to have to be done."

In response to an audience question, Weed said the district must pay close attention to students who speak English as a second language.

"That is something you have to be concerned with," she said. "Students have to be able to read the test and take the test in their second language."

Weed said students at Washington State University have been and will continue to be an asset to the district as volunteers who work with the youth.

Rock said students of all cultures are an asset to the district and community. The Pullman School Board should look at what other districts are doing to ensure the success of students who practice English as a second language "to come up with the best strategy."

"If we keep our focus on the children ... we'll be able to come up with a solution," she said.

Referendum 67

People on both sides of Washington's Referendum 67 also spoke briefly at the forum. If passed, the referendum would allow consumers to collect triple damages if their insurer unreasonably denies a claim or violates unfair practice rules as far as auto, homeowner and business policies. Medical insurance is exempt under the referendums language.

Mike Rydbom, with Associated Independent Agencies in Pullman, said the referendum could cause frivolous lawsuits and result in skyrocketing rates. Legal costs imposed by the referendum could cost consumers an additional $650 if the referendum is passed, he said.

"It's totally and completely unnecessary," Rydbom said.

Local lawyer Robert Rembert is in favor of the referendum as a way to keep insurance carriers accountable.

"If insurance carriers were reasonable in the first place, I may not have a job," he said.

The forum was televised Monday night. It will be replayed on public access Channel 11 at 8 p.m. starting tonight and continuing through Nov. 5. It will be replayed each night except Wednesdays. Mail-in ballots were sent to Washington residents Friday.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

Congratulations to the candidates who have not stooped to petty politics. It's refreshing to read about Pullman candidates who are looking out for the greater good of Pullman and not their own self-interests. A clean campaign reflects well on Pullman.

Once again, Nathan Weller has taken the more difficult, but higher road. My admiration of Nathan is growing.