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Candidates square off at political forum

Rocco Gianni, left, answers a question during the candidate forum held Monday night in Clinton. He and Betty Bond, right, are seeking election to the South Whidbey School District board. Whoever wins will fill the seat being vacated by Jill Engstrom, who chose not to seek re-election.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Rocco Gianni, left, answers a question during the candidate forum held Monday night in Clinton. He and Betty Bond, right, are seeking election to the South Whidbey School District board. Whoever wins will fill the seat being vacated by Jill Engstrom, who chose not to seek re-election.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

Port of South Whidbey commissioner candidate Ed Jenkins had a somewhat dire view of Clinton during a political forum Monday.

Jenkins and his opponent for the Port of South Whidbey Board of Commissioners Position 3, incumbent Curt Gordon, were both asked about the Port’s current role in Clinton and Freeland and how that would change if elected.

“As far as Clinton, I don’t know what to say. We have two Clintons; we have a ghost town Clinton and Ken’s Korner,” Jenkins said.

“The current chamber over the past few years has done nothing and Clinton is now essentially a dead issue with the market and a few businesses that don’t require any retail trade” he said. “How to overcome that; I don’t know if it’s even possible.”

Candidates in three contested races laid out their aspirations in the South Whidbey Record’s forum, which was held in partnership with the Clinton Progressive Association on Oct. 7 at the Clinton Community Hall. About 50 people attended.

Candidates running for positions on the South Whidbey School Board, Port of South Whidbey and South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District each had one minute to introduce themselves. They were asked a series of questions from the moderator, Record Editor Justin Burnett, along with questions from the audience.

Port of South Whidbey

Port candidates Jenkins and Gordon differed in experience and approach to how they would deal with the district’s issues.

Jenkins began his introduction with a critique of his opponent. He cited his own business experience as essential to getting things done quickly, and criticized the current commissioners’ slow-paced decision making.

Gordon said he is seeking re-election because he feels the need to give back to the community. He would like to expand business and revenue to this district without increasing traffic. He said he would work to get more parking in Mukilteo to make it easier to commute for family-wage jobs on South Whidbey, not just for tourism.

Jenkins disagreed, saying he would work to bring jobs here, not focus on off-island commuters. Jenkins attributed his self-described “clever marketing and advertising skills” as his best tool for getting things done.

Gordon said being the Clinton representative is his role on the board and that he would work to solve transportation issues in Clinton with weekend bus options and parking in Mukilteo.

“We need to slow traffic down in Clinton so people can stop and have a burger and beer,” Gordon said.

South Whidbey School Board

South Whidbey School Board Position 5 candidates Betty Bond and Rocco Gianni highlighted their strengths and experiences as educators during the forum.

Bond said her top priority was to work on improving student achievement. To tackle declining enrollment, Bond said highlighting the work of everyone in the district and being more transparent in social media and the district’s website will bring more families to the area.

“I bring a fresh perspective and more experience,” she said. “As a school board member I will always give a balanced and reasonable consideration of every issue.”

Gianni said his top priority would be dealing with enrollment decline. He said he would showcase the work of teachers and students to attract younger families. Gianni said he would work with local businesses and individuals to develop more programs for students. With his financial background he said he would also make sure money goes in the right places and is utilized in the best way.

Gianni responded to a question from the audience on the initial position he was running for on the board, which caused a primary election.

Gianni said he didn’t know at the time his decision would cause a primary election.

“I’m here to do a job. I’m not a politician, I just love kids,” he said. “All I see is the hopes and possibilities in their eyes, that’s the only reason why I’m here. I can’t help democracy.”

Every candidate at the forum was also asked to identify their chief strength and weakness, as it related to the position. Gianni said he was “too passionate,” while Bond answered only the first half of the question. She was the only candidate at the forum to do so.

South Whidbey Parks

In the quickest segment of the night, candidates for the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District Board of Commissioners Position 3 — Captn Blynd and Bob Hezel — both explained their desire to work on the board.

Blynd said he would like to see more partnerships and exchanges between the district and the community. He said he wants to help the board achieve its goals.

The district offers a wide variety of activities but is limited by funding, he said. More could be offered by bringing on people who are willing to provide financing for programs they want. The district could be more effective by bringing in partners, he said.

“The more we integrate the large assets the parks has, the more that we’ll have to do,” Blynd said.

Hezel said he would bring a fresh perspective to the board coming from a different generation. He has reviewed the budget and said the district needs more volunteers and better ways to raise money.

“The parks district already does this, but I think we can do more,” he said.

Hezel would like to offer more skills classes and programs to the public by expanding the sports complex itself without asking the public to give up more money in taxes.

Whidbey General Hospital bond

Finally, representatives from Whidbey General Hospital made a presentation on the proposed $50 million bond measure. Hospital spokesman Keith Mack and Linda Gibson, chief nursing officer, answered questions from the audience about the proposal which would replace inpatient facilities and update technology and hospital safety.

The 51,000-square-foot facility would add a medical/surgical unit, critical care unit, and a birthing center.

 

Community Events, April 2014

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