Turk, Tweet seek Camas Council seat

Candidates have widely different views

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

While Shannon Turk and Margaret Tweet reside in the same Camas neighborhood, when it comes to their opinions on local issues, there are few similarities between them.

Tweet, a Camas resident since 1997, believes: more public process needs to take place on a wider variety of local and regional topics; the formation of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association isn’t the best way to accomplish economic development or use city dollars; and that in the current economy city leaders should focus on funding necessities and not amenities.

Appointed to the council in July, Turk, on the other hand, says she is satisfied with how the city is currently being operated and doesn’t see a need for any major changes. She also supports what she describes as a “balanced” approach to budgeting, is supportive of the mission and goals of the CWEDA, and is cautious about overspending on public outreach efforts that might not produce results.

When Tweet moved to Camas, she almost immediately got involved in local library issues, lobbying the Camas and Fort Vancouver Regional Library District boards to have public input time at the beginning of meetings, instead of the end to improve accessibility. Both changed their policies.

Tweet said public access to local government is important, and something she continues to encourage.

“I feel very often citizens are treated like an interruption,” she said. “From seeing different jurisdictions and how they operate, I think I’ve learned what can make it more accessible and transparent for people and improve accountability.”

Tweet said examples include having public hearings on important issues, even if not required by law, as well as televising meetings, and adjusting meeting schedules so that the public is better able to get in on discussions.

“If elected, I would want to seek ways to invite public input, to encourage it, to make time for it,” she said.

Turk, who moved to Camas in 2002, said between the city’s ward meetings, website and newsletters, the public can be informed.

“I think [the city is] doing a good job of getting the information out there,” she said. “Could it be done flashier? Maybe, but it would take money to do that and I don’t think it would provide the benefits when compared to the cost.”

Turk supports spending money on surveys every few years to gauge public opinion.

“Periodically using a community survey to make sure you are on the right track every few years is money well spent,” she said.

As the city makes its way through 2012 budget planning, Turk said the experience and knowledge of city staff will lead to a well-thought-out document.

“I always trust that staff has done their due diligence and their work to be sure that they are presenting the best budget that comes forward,” she said. “So when there are budget issues, I always trust that they wouldn’t be asking for it if they didn’t need it. I take the same approach with the cuts.”

Turk said she encourages collaborative input on the budget from all levels of city government, and from the citizens, so that the right decisions are made.

“I would advocate a balanced approach,” she said. “You don’t necessarily want to cut from all departments the same way.”

Tweet would like to see the city approach the budget in a way that eliminates what she describes as “unnecessary spending.”

“In this economy, I think the city needs to be conservative and cautious, and focus on needs and necessities,” she said. “Take the same measures that households are and business are to hold the line on unnecessary spending and to cut back, even, on nonessentials.”

Funding for employee and elected official travel should be scrutinized, Tweet said, and there should be no increases in employee salaries and benefits.

Earlier this year, the city negotiated five union contracts that included no pay increases for 2011, although three of the approved contracts did stipulate 1 percent pay increases in 2012. There were also some vacation and sick leave and health care plan adjustments.

Both candidates view economic development efforts as critical, but differ on the desired approach.

Tweet supports economic development methods including streamlining the city permitting process, and keeping fees low.

In addition, rather than forming the CWEDA with the cities of Camas and Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal, Tweet said the port should have kept its previous economic development director position. She explained that this is a better way of operating because the economic development director is overseen by the voter-elected board of three Port commissioners.

“I think the goal of economic development could be accomplished through the port in an accountable and open way to the public through their economic development director,” she said. “The structure has already been in place for that. There is no need for a new structure to serve the Camas-Washougal area.”

In 2011, both cities contributed $50,000 to the effort, while the Port chipped in $100,000.

Turk said she backs the CWEDA partnership, and its goals and objectives to support current businesses and bring others to the area.

“I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “You can’t have enough economic development.”

There are a couple of issues the Tweet and Turk agree on, including that a recent proposal by the Community Center Development Committee to create a Metropolitan Parks District to help fund the construction and operation of a community center should be decided by a vote of the citizens.

“I support a public vote,” Tweet said. “The question about whether it is an amenity or a necessity, I think it will be evaluated by the people.”

Tweet would like to see an MPD that is run by an elected board, and a facility that does not duplicate current services offered in the community, or compete with private enterprise.

Turk, a management analyst for the City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department, describes herself as a strong supporter of parks.

“I will support an MPD if that is the recommendation that comes out,” Turk said. “If we can secure some funding for parks, that could relieve some of the pressure on the general fund for public safety.”

Turk added that details of the proposal would need to identify how a new community center would impact the budget and other services the city provides, and how it would be funded and sustained into the future. User fees should also be kept at a minimum.

“We would need to try to get the biggest bang for our buck, with minimal impact to the average citizen,” Turk said.

They also agree that the trial consolidation efforts currently underway between the Camas and Washougal fire departments are steps in the right direction.

“They are both providing the same service, they are both in the same financial situations,” Turk said. “It is possible that the combination of services can reduce costs and allow for better coverage and so far the first report to council is that it seems to be working well.”

Other issues Tweet said she would address, if elected, include advocating for putting the issue of light rail in Clark County in front of voters. She has been an outspoken critic of the Columbia River Crossing project, and questions the need for such an endeavor now or in the near future.

Tweet also supports the Camas Public Library’s planned efforts to update its Internet policy. She is in favor of a policy making pornography not accessible to anyone on any library computer.

“That would make the library more comfortable and user friendly,” she said.

The Camas Library currently filters all computers, but people ages 17 and older may choose to have access to legal sites unfiltered.

During her time on the City Council, Turk said she hasn’t seen any major problems that need to be addressed or corrected, but she is keeping her eyes open for smaller issues that might need attention.

“There is always room for improvement,” she said.

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