Walla Walla City Council candidates listen as Damien Sinnott of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, explains the question and answer format for their part of a candidate forum held Tuesday night. Candidates are Allen Pomraning, left, Robert Smith, Richard Morgan, Paul Mobley and Jim Barrow. In background is forum moderator Bob Withycombe.
Photo by Andy Porter.
WALLA WALLA — Candidates traded quips, barbs and even a few laughs Tuesday night at a voter forum hosted by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Contenders for seats on the College Place and Walla Walla city councils and the Walla Walla school board presented views and fielded questions during the event at the Columbia REA offices in Walla Walla. The races will be decided in the Nov. 5 general election.
While the question and answers between the Walla Walla council hopefuls remained fairly low-key, College Place mayoral candidates Rick Newby and Lonnie Croft sparred over economic development, charges of wasteful spending and how the city does business with developers.
Newby, the incumbent, defended both his and the city’s track record for bringing in businesses and repeatedly challenged Croft to provide specific examples to support his assertions of waste.
Croft charged the city has focused on certain road projects while ignoring other roadways and consistently puts up roadblocks for developers instead of helping them.
But Newby answered that the “regulatory cloud” from state and federal agencies are the problem, not city staff.
“Land use and development are processes that are tightly controlled by the state,” Newby said. “The city has to live within that regulatory framework. We do have developers that want to develop, but they don’t want to abide by the rules the state lays down. We can’t ignore state guidelines, we still have to enforce them ... So we’re constantly talking with developers, but whether they want to develop or not is their choice. Our job is to let them know what the guidelines are.”
Croft, however, claimed that people he has spoken with “say they do nothing but butt heads with the city of College Place and their program for development. They say nothing about the state requirements.”
He went on to recount problems a developer he did not name was having with the city’s planning department.
“His frame of mind was there’s no way to get around the City of College Place’s red tape. It’s too difficult,” Croft said. “And again, this is where the experience plays in, and I’m new to this ballpark but I’m here to play ball. So I want to make sure that something is definitely looked at down the road in the development process.”
After Newby and Croft finished, the forum moved on to a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with the Walla Walla City Council candidates Jim Barrow, Paul Mobley, Richard Morgan, Robert Smith and Allen Pomraning. A sixth council candidate, incumbent Conrado Cavazos Jr., was unable to attend the forum, said moderator Bob Withycombe.
Topics ran the gamut from business development to infrastructure repairs to supporting the city aviary to how to handle gang violence. Even the issue to how to handle the legalization of marijuana under Initiative 502 was raised, as well as how to deal with the aging Mill Creek flood control channel that runs under the city’s downtown area.
Also speaking at the start of the forum was Walla Walla school board candidate Sam Wells, who presented a statement and fielded several questions. His opponent, Joshua Gonzales, was not able to attend the forum but did present a statement on the goals of his candidacy read by Withycombe.
Another candidate forum sponsored by the American Association of University Women and the Grandmother’s Roundtable is planned for later this month. It is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Walla Walla Community College and will involve the candidates for the Walla Walla City Council and the Walla Walla School District.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.