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Candidates meet for Eggs and Issues
The Bremerton Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Eggs and Issues of the campaign season Tuesday morning at the Cloverleaf Sports Bar & Grill on the city's east side.
The kickoff candidate forum featured District 5 Bremerton City Council candidates Dino Davis and Deirdre McKeel.
Keith Ranburger, a third candidate whose name will appear on ballots, has announced he is dropping out of the race.
Davis has lived in West Bremerton since 2001 and works as a Realtor. He said his extensive volunteer work and business dealings prompted his run for city council.
"We need a more sustainable and viable business district on Callow," Davis told the early-morning gathering Tuesday.
"The Charleston District used to be a thriving business district and there's really no reason it can't be again. All of the elements are there, we have some fantastic restaurants down there and some great businesses, Kitsap Sports is returning. It can be an urban village, a center that you can walk to where families can spend a day or an evening."
McKeel grew up in Poulsbo, but said she began following developments in Bremerton at an early age. She said she went to Olympic College, got an apprenticeship at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where she still works, and has lived steadily in Bremerton since 2009.
She volunteers at the West Hills STEM Academy and noted the high percentage of youngster that are eligible for free and reduced lunches there and in District 5.
"We have to start thinking outside the box," she said. "It's really important that we challenge ourselves and I believe I have the ability to do that based on my background."
Both candidates spoke at length in response to questions about sidewalks, crosswalks and overall public safety and largely gave similar responses.
"We need to have that same zeal up in the neighborhoods (as we do downtown for) fixing the potholes, re-striping and concentrating on public safety," Davis said.
McKeel agreed that walkability is very important.
"The residents I've spoken to, and in my own experience, walkability and public safety are paramount," she said. "Crosswalks – we need them painted. Our children really do need a safe route to school."
The candidates also agreed that any decision to remove trees on Fourth Street or elsewhere should be left to professional arborists in consultation to with public works.
When asked about ways to streamline and improve the permitting process in Bremerton, slightly different answers emerged.
McKeel talked about permitting being a double edge sword in Bremerton because it generates revenue for the city.
"There are buildings that need to be torn down," she said. "This is one of the things I strongly believe in. either by lottery or, by a particular selection process, allow people to go in through review process and tear down those buildings without costing them an arm and a leg. They know they need to be torn down. There's a lot of aging structures in this community that need to be removed and I believe this can incite changes in our neighborhoods."
Davis, meanwhile, talked about the need for more staff to speed things up and improve the process."I truly believe that we have some of the finest public works and permitting professionals in the county," he said.
"Our people are top-notch.What there aren't is enough of them. There's the issue. There is such a workload that comes into that office and it is such a tough job to do. We need a couple more people at the front lines."
Both of the candidates also weighed in on Bremerton's Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes.
"This has been on the horizon in Bremerton for a long time. As a youngster I remember reading about the flight of JCPenney's and then Sears … I really believe, in a heartfelt way, that in a micro-economy like this, that B&O tax needs to be extinguished and out of our code. It just needs to be eliminated. But then we have the secondary problem — it represents about two percent of Bremerton's revenue."
Davis' response was similar.
"Everybody loves the idea of getting rid of taxes without really presenting anything," he said. "As a rookie, if you will, politician and somebody running for office, I don't have a specific platform for getting rid of the B&O tax. It is a regressive tax that doesn't help businesses come to our community, but it is about 2 percent of our budget so what do we do?
"Well, we need to look at other ways of getting income. We can't just line out B&O. It's just too big, almost $3 million I believe at this point."