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Council candidates struggle to say something nice about each other
Former Bremerton City Council colleagues Faye Flemister and Roy Runyon, who are both vying for the seat to represent an expanded District 6 in this November’s election, seemed hard-pressed to say something nice about each other during an Eggs and Issues debate this week.
The traditional “say-something-nice-about-your-opponent question,” which comes just before closing remarks, seemed to temporarily flummox both candidates.
“Ummm,” Flemister, who holds the seat and responded first, said, before a roar of laughter. “I just gotta do one, right?
“Mr. Runyon is persistent,” she said.
Runyon, who served on the council in the District 4 seat for five years up until January when he moved to the same newly expanded district that Flemister has represented for one term, also had trouble with the question.
“The thing about Faye is she is a business owner,” he said. “She understands what it takes to run a business and I think that’s great. Talk about needing persistence and determination, you know, toughing things out. So, I really appreciate that about her. It really builds strength that comes from within deep inside.”
Runyon, though, didn’t leave it there.
“But we need more than that …” he said before being drowned out by the audience with a mixture of moans and laughter.
While the tail end of the debate was the most obvious example of the chilly relationship between the candidates, it was far from Tuesday’s only example. They seemed incapable, in fact, of even being able to look at one another.
At one point, the candidates were asked about what city council members have endorsed each of them and how their colleagues would describe them.
“Anybody who really knows me, knows how I operate,” Runyon said. “I do my homework, I ask tough questions and I hold people accountable. People are intimidated by that. My fellow council members are intimidated by that. But that’s okay, I’m not there for them, I’m there for the citizens. I don’t go along to get along.”
Runyon said he thinks his approach earns him respect, but underscored his point that people who aren’t adequately prepared to debate him end up getting intimidated. He said that the council needs leadership, “even if you sometimes have to drag them by the nose; they need to wake up.”
Flemister, though, wasn’t having it.
“I’m not intimidated by anybody,” she said. “I stand my own ground. I’m a big girl and can handle the tough questions. I’m endorsed by all of the city council and I do believe I have earned their respect as well as the administration’s respect.”
When asked about legislation that each of them sponsored during their time on the council, the candidates continued to take different approaches.
“I haven’t sponsored any legislation,” Flemister said. “As far as helping the city, one council member, unless you have respect from your professional colleagues, you can bring anything you want across the table. But it takes the full council and administration to get things done. So, I haven’t done anything by myself and I don’t take credit for anything by myself because I’m not accomplishing anything by myself.”
Flemister later talked about working with others to minimize the number of jobs lost during her first budget cycle on the council, working through the contentious effort to locate a methadone clinic in downtown Bremerton, the creation of Lillian A. Walker Park and other proud accomplishments.
Runyon, meanwhile, agreed it is often difficult to line up people and votes, but cited several examples, including his successful effort to get the council to reduce the mayor’s salary.
Runyon also talked about developing the first energy conservation plan of any municipality in the county shortly after taking office and trying to get legislation passed to allow residents to have four chickens within the city limits. He said the latter effort took eight months and the threat of a citizens initiative to make it a reality. He also noted that he helped restore $15,000 in funding to the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance and got money made available for the Kitsap Entrepreneurial Center and the Bremerton Farmers Market.
Flemister and Runyon also differed when it came to answering questions about government transparency and accountability. Flemister said she thought it was important for voters to weigh in on an amendment to the city’s charter that would allow the council to meet outside of Bremerton’s city limits. Runyon, on the other hand, urged voters to reject the proposal.
Flemister said that the city’s website, procedure for public records requests and public meeting structure lend themselves to open government.
“I think we’re already focused on being transparent,” she said.
Runyon, though, said that a voter-approved reduction in the number of council districts, disbanding a parking committee and allowing the council to meet outside of Bremerton all lead to reduced transparency.
If re-elected, Flemister said some of her biggest priorities will be continuing work at Lillian Walker Park, maintaining a sustainable budget and road maintenance.
“I intend to win the election to continue what I have started,” she said. “I think the city council needs my voice and I think I bring integrity and honesty and transparency to that board. I think I’m a value player. In order for this game to be won, if we can call it a game, I need to be one of the starting players.”
Runyon also expressed optimism about his chances in and laid out four pledges. He said he will improve Bremerton’s quality of life; enhance the business climate; control the cost of government; and champion open, transparent and accountable government.
“I do my homework and I hold people accountable,” he said. “If that frightens you, don’t vote for me.”