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Five Race For Three White Salmon Council Seats

Election 2007

In 2007, there will be five candidates competing for three of the White Salmon City Council seats on the fall ballot.

The lineup will be as follows:

Position No. 1: Incumbent council member Richard Marx is being challenged by former council member Susan Gookin.

Marx, 36, is owner of Bent Nail Construction LLC in White Salmon. He has served on the council for the past four years. Gookin works as a bookkeeper for Digitron, a small business in Stevenson. Gookin, 62, previously served on the White Salmon City Council for four years, and was appointed earlier this year to temporarily fill a vacancy on the five-member council.

Position No. 2: Robert Landgren is running unopposed for the seat previously held by council member John Mayo, who decided not to seek a full four-year term.

Landgren, 53, is owner of Vanguard Nursery in White Salmon.

Position No. 3: Two newcomers to city politics -- Leana Johnson and Mark Peppel -- will go head to head for the right to serve for a four-year term.

Peppel, 55, recently retired after 30 years in the fire sprinkler trade, including the last six years as a superintendent. Johnson, 29, is a staff accountant at Insitu. She moved to White Salmon two years ago after completing a tour of service in the Peace Corps.

With the Klickitat County Auditor's Office sending the general election ballots out in the mail on Oct. 19, election time is nearly upon us. To help voters get a better sense of who the prospective council members are and where they stand on a variety of issues, we asked all five candidates to respond to a series of questions.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What issues do you believe are the most critical to the city at this time?

SUSAN GOOKIN:

Critical issues are water rights/water supply, aging infrastructure (streets, water lines, etc.) that need maintenance and upgrading, getting the city's accounting back up to speed, and getting our Police Department back to full strength.

RICHARD MARX:

Water is the most critical, and everything that it affects. The budget and the abuse of it. Development and how it is running the local people out. All the court claims against the city.

ROBERT LANDGREN:

Water, zoning, accountability, honesty, and the budget.

LEANA JOHNSON:

The most critical issue is to enhance the city's master plan. The water issue is being worked on. When the moratorium on water meters is lifted, there will be another surge of growth. With a master plan in place, this growth can be directed in an organized way for the benefit of the entire community.

MARK PEPPEL:

A long term, safe water supply. Growth with proper planning. Having a working budget to maintain the city. Interaction between all of the cities in the White Salmon River Valley. Re-addressing fire safety and evacuation protocol for our area, which my work background would support.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What approach would you take to deal with the city's ongoing water shortage?

GOOKIN:

I think we have some good people working on multiple strategies on solving our water problems, and they appear to be making good progress. I am pleased that because of conservation strategies, we have been able to keep our reservoirs full through the summer. I would like to see more attention on landscaping that conserves water and is fire resistant. We could encourage a local tour of homes with water conserving landscaping.

MARX:

To deal with the city's ongoing water shortage, first one must go back and find out the truth about the leaks, the source, the hookups, and how all this calculates into it. Numbers have been used to distort the reality about the water system.

LANDGREN:

I look forward to working with Mike Wellman to continue to resolve the water issues, including the goal of affordable water.

JOHNSON:

With the city's ongoing water shortage they have already been researching new sources of water and areas of possible water loss (fixing the pool should help). The city should begin by leading by example with water conservation. Facts and tips on how to conserve what we have should be sent out with the water bill or posted on the city's Web site. I would research possible grants or other incentives to offer to businesses and homeowners who implement water conservative landscaping or home improvements. This isn't a short-term issue. With more people drawing on the limited water supply, and with mother nature being unpredictable, we need to make water conservation a way of life.

PEPPEL:

Continue backing the research Mike Wellman is currently working on. I would like to see research and planning done with all local, state,and federal agencies that may be working with other cities that are having a similar problem. Investigate the possibility of federal grants for infrastructure.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Do you have any ideas about how to handle the community's growth in a way that does not reduce the quality of life for local residents?

GOOKIN:

Part of the way to handle growth is for more citizens to attend Planning Commission meetings, learn more about the process, and offer their suggestions. There are also improvements that need to be made to city zoning ordinances (some of which need to be updated to meet state requirements). We cannot prevent our neighbors from offering their property for sale, but we can have an influence on development standards, and other regulations. Conservation efforts, zoning changes that favor affordable housing, and community green spaces or parks are options. Quality of Life is something that we create by being a participant in our community and making our community better.

MARX:

Stop changing the White Salmon Municipal Code to accommodate special outside developers and outside contractors. Look around and see who is developing -- the ones who were given water hookups unconditionally almost half of the hookups for the city of White Salmon are owned by one developer and the WSMC does not apply to them.

LANDGREN:

As a lifelong resident, my view is we all need to get together and think about what we want to leave our children. The landscape we provide now, will it be the best for their future.

JOHNSON:

Handling the community's growth in a way that does not reduce the quality of life for local residents all goes back to having a functional city's master plan. People move here and live here for the quality of life. That needs to be kept in mind when looking at infrastructure improvements or changes as well as future development. As long as we prepare for the growth, take time to make appropriate decisions and allow the community to provide input then, I feel, the council can make informed decisions to retain the quality of our community.

PEPPEL:

Growth with proper planning. We don't want to stop growth, but we cannot build in areas without proper impact studies. We need to preserve what makes this town attractive. The public needs to be informed and have time to give input on issues. I recommend that more effort be made by officials of the different cities in the White Salmon River Valley to formulate a comprehensive plan.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What is your vision of how the city of White Salmon can revitalize the downtown business district?

GOOKIN:

I have seen other communities with vacant business locations that have window displays in vacant buildings showing building layouts and amenities for prospective businesses, displays that feature products from other nearby businesses, and displays of city historical murals or artifacts. Available land could have attractive signage and contact information. Businesses that are in the process of opening can have signage such as "Coming Soon," framed peek holes in blocked windows so pedestrians can check on progress. Planting strips should be maintained and look inviting. Business signage rules could be examined to see if there are any changes the business community would be interested in updating.

MARX:

If it was more affordable to live here in White Salmon, the downtown would revitalize itself.

LANDGREN:

As a concerned citizen, we have experienced change over the years. Some good and some not so good. I recognize my vision is different from others. What I feel strongly is the fact that the citizens and business owners must come together to plan the future of our downtown.

JOHNSON:

The downtown business district is improving and creating its own unique character; however, it seems to lack a sense of cohesiveness. Meetings with the downtown businesses and incorporating ideas and suggestions from one another to make the downtown of White Salmon more dynamic is one way to continue the improvements. It's not a quick fix. Things take time and involvement in order to improve. It also takes the support of local community members to keep downtown White Salmon alive.

PEPPEL:

I think White Salmon will grow when we make our priority tourist and recreation activities. We need to preserve our village atmosphere and develop restaurants and businesses that support tourist activity. If the Broughton Mill site were developed without stores, gas stations, and tourist amenities, people would be looking for these services and would open up a market for more local businesses.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Do you have any ideas about how to keep housing prices from getting so high that current residents are unable to purchase homes?

GOOKIN:

Within a restricted area, like the Gorge, land value is a growing cost problem for affordable housing. We could make changes to zoning like allowing more upper floor space in downtown businesses for housing, instead of having the space restricted to businesses only. We could allow grandparent cottages built as additional housing on single-family zoned properties, where the owners had sufficient space, or allow apartments above garages or shop buildings, or allow an apartment addition to an existing home. These options would provide additional housing without the cost of acquiring additional land. It might be possible to require an affordable housing unit in developments of a specific size.

MARX:

Refer to my answer in the question about dealing with the city's water shortage. The city of White Salmon has been chopped up for the privileged developers. The system needs to be more fairly open. Too many deals have been held behind closed doors, and the locals are the ones paying for it.

LANDGREN:

We live in paradise! Winter and summer outdoor activities are inviting people to our area -- one of the most beautiful landscapes on this earth. Housing and land are driven by demand, and with the Gorge legislation, this is even more present because of the designated urban areas, which limits our control.

JOHNSON:

Unfortunately, the housing market is difficult to control. The high cost of housing is not limited to the city of White Salmon. It's something that the nation is facing as a whole. There are new developments taking place in our community in an attempt to make a home purchase a reality. This also is dependent upon individual living situations; e.g., one income versus two incomes, children, etc. On another note, while it may be difficult to purchase a home, the rental market is still affordable.

PEPPEL:

It seems that homes here have capped out at a high price tag. Many homes for sale have been on the market for a long time. This should start some prices to drop. Building smaller houses on smaller lots is a way to keep prices down. There is also a role for small pockets of multiple unit developments. Finally, if more business is developed, homeowners' taxes can be lowered.

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