Julie Russell and Adam Philbin describe their plan and vision for Washougal
CAMAS — Washougal voters were able to learn about the candidates running for city council position 6 on Wed., Oct. 11 at the League of Women Voters of Clark County’s third of four general election voter forums.
The two candidates are Julie Russell and Adam Philbin, and they are running for the council seat currently held by Dave Shoemaker. State representative Monica Stonier served as the moderator for the forum.
Russell said that she is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oregon and a licensed mental health counselor in Washington. She moved to Washougal from Tigard several years ago. In Oregon, Russell worked on the Tigard water district and was chair of a citizens participation organization.
“I want to maintain that communal atmosphere of Washougal, as well as make the community a better place,” Russell said.
Philbin has been a Washougal resident for 11 years, and has a background as a firefighter. He currently works as the safety and security manager at Shriners Hospital.
“I feel that my experience and knowledge of public safety would make a good addition to the city council,” Philbin said.
The candidates were first asked how city policies in Washougal are affected by income disparities among residents.
Russell said that sewer and water bills in Washougal are “extremely high.” She said that the city council needs to be aware of the high utility bills, and how they affect residents on fixed or low incomes.
“I think we need to do a better job of reducing those fees,” Russell said.
Philbin said that the most significant discussion he saw regarded water bills. He noted that the city has a fund that draws money from water bill late fees and that there has been a discussion on city council for continuing that fund.
“I think that shows that it is a question that we’re looking at, or that the council’s looking at, and something that needs to be continued,” Philbin said.
In Washougal, some streets in older, urban areas do not have curbs or sidewalks. Stonier asked the candidates how those streets could receive improvements and how funding would be secured for the project.
Russell said that creating safe routes for children to walk to school is “an important place to start.” She said that state funding and grants are available, but that projects must balance the amount of money that is available with the amount of work that needs to be done.
According to Russell, part of the improvement project would mean giving priority to older neighborhoods in need of updating.
Philbin said that Washougal needs to make sure that all new neighborhoods need to be built with sidewalks. He also said that state grants and funding are “very important for this.” For areas that may not have existing sidewalks, Philbin said that as streets are improved, adding sidewalks should be part of the improvement project.
Voters in the city of Washougal will also elect a new mayor in the upcoming election. The candidates were asked to describe qualities they would like the new mayor to have.
Russell said that she would want the mayor to have strong leadership skills, and be respectful to citizens and the city council, even in disagreements. She said she preferred a mayor that is fiscally conservative.
“I would like to see someone with integrity,” Russell said.
Philbin said he wants the new mayor to be a “strong leader” that listens to citizens and can “understand what the citizens are actually wanting.” He also said that honesty is an important quality and that the mayor should base decisions on the input of council members and citizens.
Both candidates described what they believed to be the most needed improvements to infrastructure in Washougal.
Philbin said that “the biggest issue is monitoring the growth of the city and having the infrastructure grow with the increased housing.” According to Philbin, current housing growth has not always been accompanied by an equal increase in infrastructure.
“Obviously the streets are a big issue, the sidewalks also,” Philbin added.
Russell said that fixing potholes and repairing roads should be a priority. She also said that the city could use a second overpass. Reducing congestion in transportation and ensuring “good planning” were another needed improvement, Russell said.
To help with improvements, Russell said that the city needed to be “utilizing the fees and funds that we have in a smart way.” To do this, Russell said that she wanted the city to match its available funds with state money or grants.
In closing remarks, both candidates were asked to describe what they hope to accomplish if elected and why they wish to serve on city council.
Philbin said that he wants to serve on the city council to give back to the community. “I would like to make a positive impact on the community,” Philbin said.
Russell said that if elected, she would like to explore economies of scale in the community to try make utilities less expensive in Washougal. “I also enjoy service and giving back to my community,” Russell said.