Camas candidates vying for county and city councils as well as the Camas mayor’s seat attended the Camas Youth Advisory Council (CYAC)’s 17th annual candidate forum last week to answer questions crafted by Camas youth.
Candidates invited to the local youth-hosted forum typically gather at Camas High School each October, but CYAC members, including moderators Julia Bintz, Lily Dozier, Ingrid Larsen, Walter Scholdorf and Victor Wu, chose to host this year’s forum at the Camas School District’s new Discovery High, a projects-based learning school that opened to Camas students in 2018.
Candidates at the Oct. 24 event included Gary Medvigy and Adrian Cortes, vying for the Clark County Council District 4 seat; Deanna Rusch and Shannon Roberts, running for Camas City Council’s Ward 1, Position No. 1 seat; Camas City Councilman Greg Anderson and his write-in opponent, Margaret Tweet; and Barry McDonnell, one of two write-in candidates hoping to unseat Camas Mayor Shannon Turk in the Nov. 5 general election.
Turk was slated to appear at the candidate forum, but had suffered a death in her family that day and was unable to attend. Camas City Councilwoman Melissa Smith, the second write-in mayoral candidate, also was unable to attend the CYAC event.
Many of the evening’s questions directed toward Camas candidates focused on the city’s expected growth and how the candidates would balance a burgeoning population with livability issues.
Camas Councilwoman Deanna Rusch said she realized the city was mandated by the state’s growth management act to reach a total population of 35,000 by 2035, which meant adding another 10,000 residents to Camas over the next 15 years.
“There is a smart way to do this,” Rusch said, pointing to the council’s current efforts focusing on gathering citizen input about the city’s North Shore area, which is expected to shoulder the bulk of Camas’ growth over the next decade and be a mix of new residential, commercial and industrial lands. “We are looking at fire, police, all of the infrastructure that will be needed, and we are reaching out to citizens right now to see what they want to see (happen with development in the city’s North Shore area).”
Roberts said she wanted to see more affordable housing included in the city’s plans for growth.
“We have to take everyone into consideration — those who make $100,000 a year and those who don’t,” Roberts said.
The CYAC members asked City Councilman Anderson and his write-in opponent, Tweet, how city leaders could improve communications with citizens.
Anderson, who has been a council member for 22 years, said the city does have a reputation for being involved with its citizens and reaching out to the community for citizen input on projects — including the bond measure on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters to approve bonds up to $78 million to build a new community-aquatics center.
“We’ve been hearing for more than 20 years that a community center with pool is in the top five (wants/needs for citizens),” Anderson said, referring to the bi-annual surveys of thousands of Camas citizens that have consistently shown residents asking for a community-aquatics center.
He added that the city regularly does surveys and hosts open houses to gauge citizens’ concerns on various city projects, and said council members have renewed ward meetings, meant to open one-to-one, in-person dialogues with constituents.
Tweet, who has lived in Camas since 1997 and said her experience working with public groups included being a member of the Grass Valley Park Committee, on her homeowners association (HOA) board and on the HOA’s landscaping committee, said she did not believe the city’s leaders were being open about the bond proposal.
“There is a sense of manipulation,” Tweet said concerning the city’s open houses on the bond proposition. “There are marketing ploys being used.”
Tweet also said she was concerned that the city had removed video of a July 15, 2019 city council meeting from the website about the bond measure and said if she were elected to the council, she “would ensure public records are accessible to citizens.”
McDonnell, who threw his hat in the ring as a write-in candidate in early October, was the only Camas mayoral candidate present at the CYAC forum. He also spoke about the proposed community-aquatics center bond and said he believed city leaders had “rushed it” to voters without fully explaining the financial impact to taxpayers.
“By rushing it, there were a lot of questions unanswered,” McDonnell said. “The costs to operate (the community center) were not submitted. And they have tied it to ballfields and parks, which brought some confusion. It should just be a community center.”
McDonnell said he also was concerned with issues such as bringing more affordable housing to Camas, monitoring development and putting together a visioning committee to look at how Camas might maintain its livability amid the projected and mandated growth.