Growth, housing, lake water cleanup, and policing discussed in candidate forum
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Clark County held its initial Voters Forum Saturday afternoon, giving voters in Camas their first look at four candidates running for Camas City Council Ward 3 Position 2.
In this round, the LWV only hosted candidates who will be on the Aug. 3 primary election ballot. It was the first of four forums to be held for primary election candidates.
The forum featured candidates for Ward 3 position 2 in Camas — Alicia King, Leslie Lewallen, Jennifer McDaniel, and John Svilarich. Each debate opened with candidates being allowed to state their qualifications and why they are running for office. They had one minute for each question, and 90 seconds for their final statement.
The top two will advance to the November general election.
Camas Ward 3 position 2
The first question was about the candidates’ talents and skills they offer the voters.
Alicia King mentioned her passion for Camas and the fact that she is excited so many citizens are getting involved in the community. She felt it was her turn to step up and serve the community. Lewallen highlighted her experience as a lawyer and prosecutor, clerking for Supreme Court justices in two states, plus her expertise in the environment, zoning, and Growth Management Act law. She’s also involved in the drug detox facility issue next to Dorothy Fox school.
Jennifer McDaniel promoted her nine-year experience as a member of the Washougal City Council. She says she offers “steady leadership” and values communication, collaboration and honesty.
John Svilarich has been in the community for almost 20 years. He has volunteered with neighborhood associations, the school district, the port, and other nonprofits with long-term steering committees. “No one running for this office has worked more with Camas than I have,” he said.
Candidates were asked if residential developers who want to build in Camas should be required to include a small percentage of affordable housing.
• McDaniel acknowledged there is a lack of affordable housing in the city, but cited the recent Housing Action Plan to encourage diversity, affordability and access for people of all incomes. She favores a developer tax exemption for building “income restricted units.”
• King mentioned developers don’t like to be told what to do, as their focus is on profit. She favors making affordable housing a requirement.
• Svilarich spoke about builders wanting to build bigger, more expensive houses because there’s more profit in it. He would like to see more density, allowing ADU’s (auxiliary dwelling units), saying the zoning needs to be fixed.
• Lewallen agrees there’s a problem but it’s really an unaffordable housing problem. She mentioned high-priced consultants encouraging Camas residents to “mow down our countryside” rather than looking at using the downtown area and the mill property to provide cheaper housing right where buses and services are located.
What is the city’s responsibility when it comes to maintaining important recreational waters such as Lacamas Lake, the candidates were asked.
“There’s a failed biofilter that is actually a critical and huge source of pollution into Lacamas Lake ,” said Lewallen. She also mentioned that the city may be impeding efforts to fix the biofilter and that the Lacamas Shores Homeowners Association has a legal obligation to fix and maintain the biofilter. “The city needs to allow them to do that before we have another lawsuit in front of city hall,” Lewallen said.
Svilarich spoke of the lake being part of a regional complex watershed. “It’s not as simple as just cleaning out a biofilter,” he said. Pointing to daries, golf courses and other homes. He emphasized the city and county should be working together.
McDaniel acknowledged the toxic algae issue but broadened the discussion to protecting all the public lands. She specifically mentioned the North Shore development and trails and parks for all citizens to enjoy.
King mentioned the lake is what attracts people to Camas; “it’s the focal point of our city.” She mentioned that the city has already obtained grants for funding cleanup, but it won’t be a quick process.
Candidates were asked what policies they would promote and pursue to promote social and racial justice in Camas.
• Svilarich said our country was founded on ideals for justice and equality for all, but said we need to step back and ask if we’re living up to our ideals. “Are the things we’re doing working or not,” he asked. He mentioned the city has a steering committee doing work on equality and diversity, and he looks forward to seeing the results of their efforts.
• McDaniel wants the city to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion. “ I don’t believe we’re reaching out enough to our BIPOC, LGBTQ residents and other underrepresented community members,” she said.
• King believes Camas has just hit the tip of the iceberg. The way to respond is with “education, listening, and talking,” she said. She suggested having cultural fairs to celebrate diversity in the community.
• Lewallen agreed that diversity needed to be promoted more, emphasizing “we have laws that protect us from sexism, racism, and minority groups.” She said if there is someone in city hall acting inappropriately, it’s a leadership problem that needs to be addressed.
The candidates were asked what suggestions they have for improving recruitment, retention, and accountability of the city’s police force.
• McDaniels believes Camas has an excellent police department and has never had a problem with them. She doesn’t believe the city has a problem with either recruitment or retention, and says the officers are doing their jobs in a respectable way towards the citizens.
• King spoke about her dialogue with a school resource officer and described the experience as “awesome.” She would welcome more opportunities for citizens to interact with police officers.
• Lewallen spoke about working with police officers all the time as a prosecuting attorney. She would like to see more funding and better outreach with the community to support police officers. “We need to show them that we appreciate their service, and that we want them and need them,” she said.
• Svilarich thinks Camas doesn’t need to improve the police department. “I’ve never had an accountability issue or an incident that I couldn’t get resolved quickly,” he said. The only issue he sees on the horizon is police officers retiring.
Ballots will be mailed this coming Friday. People can register to vote, either online, or in person up to the day of the primary.