Candidates try to spark in the dark

City of Langley candidates for mayor Neil Colburn, center, and Will Collins, right, present reasons Langley voters should choose one of them to be their next mayor. At left, Virginia Jones Price, member of the League of Women Voters, moderated the discussion between candidates at the Thursday evening event. - Jennifer Conway
City of Langley candidates for mayor Neil Colburn, center, and Will Collins, right, present reasons Langley voters should choose one of them to be their next mayor. At left, Virginia Jones Price, member of the League of Women Voters, moderated the discussion between candidates at the Thursday evening event.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

A power outage Thursday evening didn’t keep local candidates — or voters — from talking politics.

Armed with battery operated camping lanterns and flashlights, the League of Women Voters still gave local candidates for office a chance to speak to voters at a candidates forum at South Whidbey High School.

First up to the table was Cheryl Telford, assistant director for community libraries and technology for the Sno-Isle Regional Library System. Speaking in favor of the library levy restoration measure, Telford explained how libraries positively influenced her life as she grew up.

“All my life I have loved libraries,” she said.

Telford, an Oak Harbor resident, said cuts will be made if the levy fails for the second time. She said the system could face an $800,000 shortfall, which would close all Sno-Isle libraries for a one-week period and reduce materials purchases.

In addition to the one-week closure, Telford explained some libraries would be forced to close during their current Sunday hours while the Clinton library would have to close on Saturdays.

Hospital candidates unwilling to speak

After a brief caucus between Langley City Council candidates, a parks commissioner candidate and the hospital commissioner candidates, hospital candidates Amy L. Ayers and Paul Zaveruha declined to speak. Citing unfavorable conditions due to the power outage and weather conditions, Zaveruha asked for forum to be rescheduled until next week so more South Whidbey residents could attend.

“We would like to give them an opportunity to be present,” Zaveruha said.

From the dark, one of the approximately 30 people who attended — Island County Democrat chair Grethe Cammermeyer — wanted to know why the people who had made it to the forum were being punished by attending and not getting to hear Ayers and Zaveruha speak.

Ayers and Zaveruha eventually did answer a few questions from the audience, and agreed to schedule another forum.

Ayers was asked how she planned to be an effective hospital commissioner when she had a no-vote of confidence from Whidbey General Hospital Physicians. She said through the process of disagreement and discussions, better decisions are made that are reflective of several opinions instead of one.

When asked specifically how she could create better healthcare service for South Whidbey residents, Ayers said wants to find a new location for Whidbey General South, the hospitals adjunct facility near Ken’s Korner.

“Funds for that need to be identified,” said Ayers. “A better building site needs to be found.”

When Zaveruha was asked about a possible conflict of interest between his position as a the hospitals emergency medical services director and being elected as a hospital commissioner, he said the issue is a distraction from the real issues. He asserted that as long as he recused himself from certain issues, there would be no conflict.

“I will stay within the confines of the law in every regard,” he said.

He said he would give up his personal income as the EMS director, and recuse himself from any specific issues that would benefit him directly.

“Across the country this is a common practice,” he said.

Tapert speaks alone for parks

Allison Tapert, a South Whidbey Parks and Recreation commissioner candidate, gave a short synopsis of why she feels voters should support her in the election.

“We have some excellent parks,” said Tapert. “I’d like to see us continue that.”

Tapert said she would like to see several additions to the parks on South Whidbey, including a public pool, and playground equipment and a shelter and picnic area for district’s Sports Complex.

Tapert — who was appointed as a commissioner last spring — said she would promote raising money for a pool through private entities and social groups instead of pushing for a tax-supported pool.

“I don’t want to see taxpayers get his over the head with something like that,” she said.

Linda Cotton — who is also running for the for Tapert’s seat — was not present at the forum.

Langley council resembles musical chairs

In an unusual situation, Langley City Council member Jim Recupero and Kirk Gardner are both running for the same seat while one seat remains vacant, having no applicant files for the position.

Gardner said the awkward situation has made him feel bad, because he had intended to file for the vacant position created by outgoing councilman Ray Honerlah. Instead, Gardner said a mixup at the auditor’s office has him running against Recupero.

“I do not wish to compete with Jim,” said Gardner. “What I hope is that you will elect him.”

Gardner said he hopes the city council will them see him fit to fill the vacant position. He he said he made the decision to run because he cares deeply about Langley and it’s future.

“It was very difficult to find this type of environment,” he said.

Recupero, who was appointed to his position last year, said he would continue to make decisions based on what’s best for Langley as he has for the past year on the city council.

Recupero said he recognizes Langley will need to grow, but looks forward to doing that slowly.

The entire forum was not held in the dark. Just when the last two speakers at the forum, Langley mayoral candidates Will Collins and Neil Colburn, sat down at the table, the lights came on.

Collins said he feels he has proved he has the time, energy and the will to be mayor.

“I look for solutions outside the box,” he said.

Colburn stressed his experience and knowledge of the way the city operates, and said he knows both he and Collins would bring different management characteristics to the mayor’s seat.

“I think we would have a different style,” he said.

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