A strong turnout of Upper County voters attended the League of Women Voters candidate forum Wednesday to listen to Roslyn mayoral candidates discuss some of the pressing issues facing the small town.

The race between three candidates appears on Aug. 6 primary ballot.

For the vast majority of the evening, the three candidates — Jeri Porter, Doug Johnson and incumbent Brent Hals — were in complete agreement on topics including staving off the threats of wildfire, keeping Roslyn’s quaint feel intact and dealing with a constrained budget.

Johnson moved to Roslyn in 1975 after taking a teaching job at the high school and has also worked as a timber thinner, teacher in four county schools and ran small businesses twice. He raised his family in Roslyn, and served on the Roslyn City Council in the 1990s.

Porter was born and raised in Roslyn and is part of the sixth generation of her family to live there. She was on the city council for eight years and was mayor for eight more after that, leaving in 2008.

Incumbent Hals has lived in Roslyn for 25 years, works in Cle Elum and said he hopes to continue some of the policies he’s been able to implement.

Planning commission

All three candidates agreed that Roslyn’s Historic Planning Commission is very important to maintaining the character of the town. Johnson stressed it has to continue to be a group effort, and not just one or two people making the decisions.

“Character is very important to me, and even if you have a great person making those decisions, you may not get a great person again,” Johnson said. “It’s important to have many people working together. I think that’s how we maintain what we have here.”

Porter and Hals agreed, with Porter pointing out the work the commission has done is “invaluable.”

Wildfire

With the Jolly Mountain Fire threat fresh in the candidates’ minds, wildfire was a reoccurring topic of discussion during the forum.

The candidates talked about state Route 903 and its role in safely evacuating people from Roslyn, Ronald and beyond. Hals said emergency evacuation is currently on Second Street, and the city is currently working with public works to try to get a street extended all the way to serve as a third option, in addition to the Coal Mine Trail becoming the egress for emergency services.

Johnson suggested other exits that hook into the Suncadia system.

“We need to work together on plans so gates are open when necessary,” Johnson said. “Those are the available exits.”

Candidates also agreed on the need to firewise as much as possible, recommending more education be available so people can learn how to protect their property.

Water shed

The candidates agreed that one of the major issues facing Roslyn is the need to own the land that houses its water shed. According to Hals, the Nature Conservancy said the land is worth about $800,000, and it would not be fair to bill the tax payers to buy that land.

“That’s not easily paid for with a grant, it would probably take more than one grant and more than one grant cycle,” Hals said. “It’s absolutely worth it, and that land needs to be thinned (for fire risk) as well.”

Johnson agreed.

“I don’t think we can continue to overload the citizens of Roslyn with more bills,” Johnson said.

Porter added, “People have a right for water, it’s a conundrum. … We could go to the Legislature, they would be more than helpful to secure that region.”

Tourism

The candidates were asked what they thought of Roslyn’s tourism, and whether or not it was a detriment to the community.

Porter said she gets excited to see the traffic, and loves when people “ooh” and “ahh” over the feel of the city. She said she’s proud of what the city is doing with tourism, but it would be good to diversify the economy.

“That’s why they’re coming,” Porter said. “However, if we could attract some kind of business to get a better tax base. … I would say that diversity from tourism would be good.”

Johnson pointed out that in the late 1980s when the ridge was threatened with logging, the citizens successfully turned the economy into tourism-based instead of extraction-based.

“This is what we asked for,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it would be nice to get more parking downtown, especially in front of the post office and back east of city hall.

“That would take some pressure off the city streets. I think it would be great if we could get more businesses in town,” Johnson said.

Hals said he doesn’t know if the city could slow down tourism per se, but it shouldn’t be the city’s only source of progress. His ideas were to utilize some of the light industrial zones to attract businesses with better living wage jobs.

“Those kinds of things are very important to what we accomplish,” Hals said. “I don’t see us becoming Leavenworth, but I don’t see it slowing down.”

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