A series of Tuesday evening candidate debates scheduled at the North Beach Senior Center kicked off Aug. 27 with Ocean Shores City Council Position 7 incumbent Eric Noble and challenger David Linn.
And in a political climate that has seen increasing divisiveness, harsh rhetoric and scorched-earth tactics, nationally and all the way down to the local level, these two candidates were respectful, sometimes even friendly toward each other, leveled no accusations against one another and were in broad agreement on most of the questions they faced. Their differences were more in terms of how to accomplish some of the goals they both endorsed.
One example was lot clearing. Linn’s campaign has emphasized his call for strict oversight and enforcement of the city’s lot clearing codes and the permitting process. In the debate, he called the present situation, in which an improving economy has stimulated a local building boom and tripled or more the number of lot clearing permit applications, “a severe problem.”
The City Council in June approved hiring a lead planner (the position not yet filled) and more than quadrupled the lot clearing permit application fee to $110. But Linn said of the pace of nearly 400 applications by the end of this year, “we don’t have the staff to do that … we can either slow down … or hire more people…. If we have to hire five more people to do this … then we have to hire five more people to do this” He also said “the planning department should be self-sustaining,” and advocated raising permitting and oversight fees to a level that would support that.
Noble said that, despite a few recent, well-publicized violations, less than 5% of permit holders were actually in violation. Linn said the number was much higher. Noble said he thought the Council actions were good moves toward alleviating the problems. He also cited his experiences in some California municipalities with permits running “thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars,” and said he would not be in favor of that.
Jeff Moyer, the Senior Center’s director, said, “The first debate was well attended. The audience was respectful and asked many insightful questions. Numerous people agreed, sometimes it is easy to ask others who to vote for, but this was really helpful. Therefore, I hope many more citizens take advantage of the debates to make informed decisions.”
Moyer moderated the debate, which featured some prepared questions, some surprise questions and some written audience questions.
Among the many things the candidates agreed upon was their answers to the question on maintaining Ocean Shores’ “quaintness” as the city grows.
Linn cited the need for careful planning and monitoring “to preserve what brought us here,” and a strong detailed city vision to create the action steps to ensure what we want actually happens.
Noble said the city’s comprehensive plan “is very old, very basic and very simple,” and some of it doesn’t work anymore for what Ocean Shores is and where it’s going.” He added that the city needs the professional guidance the city planner will provide and added, “I’m pretty passionate about trying to keep the culture of our quaint, quirky beach town but at the same time allowing development to happen….”
As presently scheduled, the dates of upcoming debates are as follows:
Sept. 10: Ocean Shores Council Position 4, Jon Martin and Lorraine Hardin.
Sept. 17: Ocean Shores Council Position 3, Richard Wills and Frank Elduen.
Sept. 24: Ocean Shores Council Position 2, Kathryn Sprigg and Michael Darling.
Oct. 1: Ocean Shores Mayor, Crystal Dingler and Susan Conniry.
Oct. 8: Ocean Shores Council Position 6, Bob Peterson and Chuck Anderson.
Oct. 15: Hospital District 2, Position 2, Lynn Csernotta and Richard Thompson
Oct. 22: Port District Commissioner #2, Tom Quigg and Tim Carr (not yet confirmed).