Rebuilding trust among public officials and addressing the city's crumbling infrastructure are the top priorities for Battle Ground's city council candidates.
Eight candidates are vying for four city council spots during the Nov. 5 general election. And as the date draws near, the candidates are jockeying for position amid a growing political divide stemming from a dustup at city council last month in which Councilor Philip Johnson publicly castigated councilors Adrian Cortes and Mike Ciraulo for co-authoring an opinion column suggesting their colleagues had acted unethically by holding closed-door meetings.
Ciraulo, a former mayor who's challenged by political newcomer Lyle Lamb, said he doesn't expect the political schisms on council to bleed over into his election.
He said he'd recently talked to Johnson and the two agreed that the disagreement amounted to "background noise."
Ciraulo and Lamb also have an understanding to run clean campaigns that are focused on the issues, Ciraulo said. For the 50-year-old division chief of Clark County Fire and Rescue, those issues boil down to keeping taxes low and finding a way to solve the city's transportation problems.
He'd like to lobby for more financial assistance to improve South Parkway Avenue. The city estimates a full fix to the road would cost roughly $3.5 million and require federal dollars to complete. He said he'd look for ways to fill funding holes.
"I don't want to wait for a child to be hurt or, God forbid, killed … before we head down that path," Ciraulo said.
Lamb, 37, is a U.S. Postal Service and Clark County Republican Party precinct committee officer. He is a proponent of lower taxes and taking a more austere approach to the city budget.
Dollar-for-dollar, the candidates are reporting higher contributions than in any of the other races. As of Oct. 1, Ciraulo has raised $6,814 to Lamb's $4,134, according to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission.
Lamb isn't the only new name on the ballot.
(Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
Retired electrical engineer Steven Douglas Phelps, 65, is a first-time candidate running against Battle Ground's longest-tenured councilor, Bill Ganley.
Phelps is a proponent of term limits and said the council would benefit from adding new members with fresh perspectives.
While Phelps characterized Ganley, a councilor since the mid-1990s, as a "great guy," he said the councilor too often stayed "above the fray" and flip-flopped on issues.
He said that was apparent at last month's tense meeting when Johnson excoriated Ciraulo and Cortes for implying the other councilors violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act.
Neither Mayor Lisa Walters nor Ganley, the senior councilor, worked to restore order after councilors began raising voices and lobbing accusations. Battle Ground City Manager John Williams notified the council Wednesday that an internal investigation found no evidence that any of its members violated the act.
"Battle Ground is starting to be perceived as being really different," Phelps said. "The challenge I see is, the council lacks leadership."
Ganley, a high school teacher, said animosity is not getting in the way of city council functions.
Ganley said he brings a historical perspective to city council. He plans to emphasize public safety, boosting transportation infrastructure and economic development. He opposes the car tab fee.
The division is an issue in other Battle Ground races.
Mike Dalesandro, 33, criticized his opponent, Mayor Lisa Walters, as an "ineffective leader" for not taking a bigger role in curbing Johnson's comments at the city council meeting.
"I think, in the end, it shows a little bit about my opponent and her leadership ability," Dalesandro said. "I thought she should have stepped in and calmed things down."
Walters declined the opportunity to respond to Dalesandro's comments.
The city's first female mayor, Walters has publicly worked to raise awareness about suicide prevention and drug abuse issues in her city.
Over the summer, she announced she would step out of the race, citing personal reasons, before changing her mind later in the week.
But Dalesandro said he'd focus on road maintenance, possibly using the city's bonding authority to pay for the projects.
Meanwhile, Councilor Alex Reinhold faces former Councilor Chris Regan.
Regan served for two terms before losing his seat in 2011 to Johnson. The council, he said, is as contentious as he'd ever seen it.
"The shenanigans that are going on in the city right now are almost comical to watch," Regan said. "I think the council right now is polarized."
The 48-year-old retail store manager said his goal on council would be to promote commercial and residential development.
Reinhold, a 49-year-old truck driver, said road maintenance was atop his list of priorities. He points to Southeast First Street, behind Andersen Dairy, as one road that needs work.
"That's something we're going to have to do grants on, unfortunately," Reinhold said.