WALLA WALLA -- Questions about what the Walla Walla City Council should -- or shouldn't -- be doing dominated the first two-thirds of a candidate forum Tuesday at Whitman College.
Six candidates vying for two seats on the Walla Walla City Council aired their views on topics ranging from a controversy over a downtown toy store's mural to city finances. Three candidates are seeking the council's Position 4 seat and three are seeking the Position 7 seat.
The Position 4 candidates are Jerry Cummins, Jim Hackett and John Richard "Dick" Swenson. The Position 7 candidates are Dominick Elia, Mary Lou Jenkins and Paul Mobley. Cummins and Elia are both incumbents in their respective races.
Among the topics candidates discussed were why they wanted to run for office, how they would formulate priorities, what should be done about supporting library services, design standards for business signs and consolidating services by merging city departments with other entities, such as the recently-formed Walla Walla Joint Community Development Agency.
As incumbents, Cummins and Elia emphasized the experience they've gained in their time on the council while their opponents spoke about how they want to be elected to make a difference.
Several candidates used the forum as a chance to stake out stands on certain issues. Hackett said he wants to revive a drive to build a new aquatic center while Mobley made it clear he was not in favor of the role the city has played regarding the mural over the Inland Octopus toy store. "Do you support small businesses when you litigate against small businesses?" he asked.
Candidates generally agreed that the council must take pains to explain the revenue process to people and learn what voters regard as priorities, whether it be street repairs or library services.
"Bringing people into government is the key thing," Swenson said in his closing statement. "A city council can't work in a vacuum...collaboration is the only way a city this size can survive."
The Aug. 16 primary election will narrow each of the city council races down to two candidates apiece, who will then advance to the general election in November.