Below you'll find the questions I sent to County Commissioner candidate Sissi Bruch, along with her (unedited) answers. Thanks to Sissi for participating here this way. Now, read on...
1) Why are you running for County Commissioner?
Glad you asked. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, rich in history and natural resources. Though it sometimes feels like paradise, the present and future of our county present many challenges. Our poverty rate is 13.5 % and 33% of the population have incomes below $25,000. Violent crime has doubled since 2000 and similar increases have been seen in the rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect. Furthermore, justice costs continue to increase at alarming rates, we’ve lost more than half of the manufacturing jobs, and we have around 2,800 fewer jobs than we did in 2000. Add that to the impacts of global warming, changing demographics (increase in Latinos and elderly), and a 40% increase in poverty of school age children - that makes for a fairly complex set of issues that will require collaboration, research and transparency to reach workable solutions. I believe I can bring that to this position and that is why I am running for County Commissioner.
2) What uniquely qualifies you to be a good County Commissioner?
I believe that my education and my experience make me a highly qualified candidate. First, my education encompasses a Bachelors in psychology, a Masters in landscape architecture, and a Ph.D. in urban planning. Secondly, my experience includes 10 years in private practice during which I worked with contractors, developers, and engineers to plan, design, and build a variety of projects such as schools, golf courses, housing, and commercial complexes. This was followed by 10 years in academia where I taught the theory and practice that supports all design and development. I covered site engineering, planning and design, ethics, and the application of local ordinances to projects. Now, I’ve spent the last 5 years working for a Native American tribe as their senior planner and the last 2 and a half years as a member of the City Council in Port Angeles. This has given me insights into issues that I believe not only impact Port Angeles, but the entire county.
3) What local/political insights does your experience as a City Council member give you that you think are pertinent to being a County Commissioner?
I believe the issues dealt with by all of our cities are not unique and could/should be addressed in a more regional manner. Take, for instance, our trash. Every city has to deal with its trash. Forks ships its trash to a different place than Port Angeles, and both pay significant amounts to haul it away. Could or should the county work with our neighboring county to come up with a local solution that saves on the shipping cost, reduces our carbon footprint, and maybe even gain some energy in the process? I believe that we need to start to thinking more locally and more sustainably when addressing our issues.
4) As someone who is socially liberal and concerned about the environment, how do you propose to advance issues in those areas given the views of the other two Commissioners?
I have always found it important to listen and understand the views of the people I work with. Most of the time we ultimately want the same thing, but the methods of getting there are drastically different. I believe that both of the other two Commissioners want a place that is healthy and safe for their grandchildren. If we can start with understanding our similarities, we might be able to move forward. Talking the same language also helps. When I worked with developers, they were interested in making as much profit as possible from a piece of land. Our firm was able to show them that by being more environmentally friendly, they could actually gain more financially. I don’t believe that jobs and the environment need to be at odds.
5) What role do you see local resource extraction industries playing in local politics? Are their interests fairly represented, overrepresented, or underrepresented?
I don’t know how much the local resource extraction industries influence politics, but I suspect that is well represented. I do believe that the forest industry is a major player in our county and accounted for $641,600 in timber revenue in 2013, but this was 10.8% lower than in 2012. Our industry is changing and we need to plan for these decreasing revenues. We do have other extraction or resource harvesting industries/businesses that are emerging that I believe are less represented. The salal/floral industry and the harvesting of mushrooms and seaweed are just some examples of potential new opportunities.
6) What are the three most important issues facing Clallam County today? What about in the next ten years?
I believe that the three most important issues revolve around education, infrastructure and resource use. I know this may sound like a cliché, but I truly believe that our youth are our greatest assets and our current educational system is not preparing them well to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The graduation rate has gone from 78% (2003) to 33% (2011-2012) – although this includes on-line students, this clearly is showing a problem. The average age of the engineers that sent the first man to the moon was 26. It is youths’ unlimited energy and optimism that we need around here. They teach us much and we must engage them if this county is ever to reach its true potential.
As to infrastructure, we need to make sure that basic services are updated and healthy as this is critical to economic development in this county
When it comes to resource use, besides practical and sustainable use of our natural resources, we need not forget that our most important resource is our people. Our economy in this county is changing from manufacturing and extractive to more social services and administrative (businesses and government jobs).
In the next ten years I believe we have to turn our attention to climate change. Debating whether and to what extent it is man-made diverts our attention from quantifiable evidence that it will impact us regardless of how or what we think about the issue. Clallam County is one of the most vulnerable in the state to the impact of global warming and we need to be ready to protect our people and our infrastructure. To see forecasting maps of raising water levels in Puget Sound should activate everyone to action and commitment to planning and preparation.
7) If you are not elected as a County Commissioner, will you run for City Council again?
I don’t know, but this does not impact my current decision. Regardless, to do this job right, one must spend a lot of time and as I am still working, this leaves very little time for other endeavors. Researching and understanding the issues is the base for making good decisions. I would certainly appreciate a group of folks to help me with this job and to help educate the public on why I voted one way or another. The more everyone knows, the better Port Angeles will function.
8) What do you envision your campaign looking like? Will you take corporate donations? Will you place a limit on how much you intend to spend?
Interesting question. I read on your blog that some folks have already assumed that my campaign will be "milktoast" even asserting that I will be a pushover compared to my opponents. Others are seemingly more interested in my divorce status or even how I chose to announce my candidacy.
Truthfully, never having run a campaign of this size, I am not exactly sure what it will end up being. I plan to talk with as many voters as I can, and try to understand the issues that are affecting this county from their point of view. As to fundraising, there are responsible corporations that might support me, but during my run for City Council, I only received donations from individual voters. I do not have a limit set on how much I will spend. It will actually depend on how much I can raise and how well my message is getting to out. Ideally, I would prefer to avoid any expenditures, but this seems impossible in this election climate.
9) Is sexism a problem within local governments in Clallam County?
This is one issue where I have very little information, but I will seek more. I did have a disturbing conversation with one county employee that pointed to this, but I still need to do much research regarding this topic. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.
10) Anything else you'd like to add?
I had a professor tell me that you get the government you deserve, as was quoted often already on this blog. This stuck with me and it became the impetus for my participation in government. I knew I could not whine about our government without putting myself out there. I’ve learned that most issues are more complicated than they seem on the surface. One will never be able to please everyone, but I know that the decisions that I make today do affect folks in the future and I spend the time to really weigh the issues so that I can sleep well at night.
In addition, we need progressive and innovative people to get involved in government. I never aspired to politics, but I realized that this is what I need to do to help create a plan that supports people, the economy and the environment. I need everyone of you that reads this blog to get involved - volunteer, donate, and take election day off to help get out the vote.