Camas City Council member Bonnie Carter, Ward 2 Position 1, was appointed to council in 2015, and was elected to a full term in 2019. She is now running for re-election, and explains what she has learned and why voters should retain her. Lacamas Magazine asked her several questions, and here are her answers.
What are your campaign priorities?
First, clean water for Lacamas Lake, and improving its overall health, specifically in areas we can affect. In November 2019, I suggested we use Fallen Leaf Lake as a pilot project to see if it would clean up the bigger lakes. Steve Hogan decided to lead that effort. Then we had COVID, and now we have tools and items to start treating the lakes. We have some things to reduce algae blooms in Lacamas Lake.
Second, we are alsoo dealing with PFAS in Camas water well 13, and when it’s above the recommendation we take it offline and then we work on it. It has detectable levels of PFAS, and we were told by Ecology to notify people that it’s not safe. It’s offline and we’re looking at options to remove the PFAS so we can use it again. Well 13 goes into a collective with all the other wells. We are looking at options on how we can remove the PFAS. We have to hire an expert who specliazes in this clean up so they can monitor this. We do test all the wells. We should also be looking at other entry points into the system.
Third, public safety. Coming up soon we will need to take fire issues to citizens and talking to them about a replacement fire station headquarters as the current one does not meet code. If there’s an earthquake it might be the one to fall down first. It means a capital bond to build a new HQ, and we are looking at sites and how it will work for the community. We have about a year to educate the public on this issue.
We also need to address the agreement with Washougal with the governance of the fire department, and we will launch an RFA Exploration Committee to determine what governance looks like so it doesn’t compete with library or police. It will be funded on a separate tax. That is another year-long education process.
It would be great if we could just finance everything with existing funds, but the reality is we’re having a hard time keeping up with inflation, as 85 percent of City of Camas expenses are salaries. A public entity is forever in the service business. Garbage pickup services, clean water, good roads, public safety, etc.
We’re not flush in cash. We also have a lot of expenses, and the state issues a lot of unfunded mandates.
I still see Camas being an amazing, charming little city it always has been. Enjoying our parks and doing events that bring people together. I see them drawing in families.
What has surprised you the most being on Council?
Government is slow. Everything has to be a public process and that takes time. We only meet twice a month as a council. We don’t have a huge staff. We have to wait for staff to take the time to do all that. It’s frustrating. An easy fix takes a long time.
We went fast in 2019 with the pool bond. We set the vote before we had all the information from city staff, and we didn’t have enough time. Former Camas Mayor Shannon Turk paid the price. All the hate mail, the threats. You can disagree but do you have to be vicious? We all live here together. We’re on the same team.
We moved here before downtown Camas was fixed. We moved here for the schools, the parks and the location. To be near the airport. Look how our community improved downtown. It took time to do that. But the results are amazing.
Pool bond debacle: what happened?
In retrospect, staff came to us and told us the health department wouldn’t reopen the Crown Park pool and that leaving it as is in Crown Park it was a liability. So we opened up ourselves to kids jumping over the fence. Staff should have come and said let’s come up with a replacement, and we should have done that. We didn’t.
We heard what staff said about the pool, it was beyond its life expectancy and everyone was angry. They told us to leave the park alone. We were told to get away from the park so we left it quiet for a couple of years, and then we went back and did more planning for Crown Park.
The old Crown Park pool wasn’t inclusive. It wasn’t ADA compliant. There were a lot of concerns.
We could have done it differently. We should have had a replacement pool plan in place before we tore it down. We regret that.
Understanding the public process
It’s a tricky process. People want things done quickly, but sometimes I think they’re missing information. People are busy. They don’t want to take the time to understand the public process. To clarify, we have to apply for grants to make all the improvements we want. We plan for 20 years out and update that every 10 years. We make plans to be able to adapt. We wait often for grant money from the state and the feds. The city isn’t flush in cash.
Council members have to learn how these things happen so we can be the voice for the people. We are elected to make budget priorities for the people, because we’re one of the people.
I want to run again because I know the process. Ramp up is hard. It’s never gonna be a good time to leave. When you see all the steps and you have this opportunity to make a vision change. You want to see things come through. That’s what is important to us. Not running again you worry if someone else will have the passion for a project to see it through. A change in council can change how staff does their work.
We are here for streets, clean water, keeping the lights on, public safety, roads, The fun stuff is trails, a new pool, splash pad, those are the fun parts, and we live in a great town.
To learn more about Carter, visit www.carterforcamascouncil.com