Sandpoint council candidates debate issues

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SANDPOINT — One of the most diverse selections of Sandpoint City Council candidates in recent years made their case at a public forum Tuesday night.

The forum drew an audience of several dozen to listen as nine candidates detailed their vision for Sandpoint’s future. With three seats open, there will be some tough choices ahead for local voters Nov. 5.   

Throughout the evening, candidates had the chance to weigh in on key local issues while also establishing their own platforms at beginning and ending of the forum.

Frank “Christian” Schwab is emphasized reducing city regulations on small business while taking measures to create local jobs. He backed his candidacy with 18 years of budgeting and accounting for nonprofit and private sectors as while as three years of local free market activism.  

“It’s extremely hard to find a job in Sandpoint,” he said. “They’ve all moved to Ponderay.”

Mark Remmetter, meanwhile, is concerned by a recent upswing in crime and places the police and fire departments at the top of his priorities. While his recent retirement gives him plenty of time to devote to the job, he said his career helped him build skills that emphasized collaboration, communication and compromise — all useful traits on a governing body.

“Sandpoint has always had that small town charm, and that’s something I want to protect,” he said.

Shelby Rognstad was appointed two years ago to finish out Mayor Marsha Ogilvie’s council term after her election as mayor. He believes the council’s work during that time speaks for itself. In particular, he emphasized the restructuring of the police department under Police Chief Corey Coon, the approval of the downtown streets plan, new zoning codes and moving the North Idaho College campus downtown as key developments.

“This is a very exciting time for Sandpoint, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of it,” he said.

Mose “Mo” Dunkel is a lifelong Sandpoint resident who wants to give back to his community. Because many of his peers have had to move away from the town, he hopes to improve the ability to find a job and live in town. He backs his candidacy with experience managing 15 employees at his family business as well as volunteerism in youth activities.

“I want to do anything I can to not only make Sandpoint people’s first choice, but also (make it) a viable choice,” he said.

Bryan Dillon is another individual with long ties to the area. As a father of three and self-employed, he is confident he has both the time and the commitment to be an asset to the council. He announced a strong opposition to the expansion of coal trains in the area while promoting the expansion of local education.

“I plan on living here a long time, and I want to make it a better place,” he said.

As executive director of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, Shannon Williamson has worked with the council on issues like the proposed coal train expansion and milfoil treatment. However, she wants to add her voice to the many issues that council members tackle. She feels she has a reasoned and research-oriented approach that would fit in well with established city officials.

“It struck me how well the City Council works together,” she said. “I think I’d be able to contribute to that process.”

Bill Aitken is a a local parent and small business owner who is taking a special interest in downtown revitalization and community enhancement. He believes those goals are achievable through business-friendly policies, pushing for the return of downtown streets and the establishment of a local community center.

“My approach will always be to gather as much information as I can and then base my actions on that information,” he said.

Bob Camp has filled in his share of time in public efforts like the historic preservation committee. However, he believes there’s a disconnect between the city and small business. He feels his communication and problem-solving skills could be valuable assets in bridging that divide.

“I want to be a voice for the business and property owners out there,” he said.

Finally, Bill Litsinger said he’s emphasizing public safety and economic development. He also placed an emphasis on getting residents involved in discussions over big issues through personal meetings and outreach. As the host of two local radio programs, he reinforced the importance of not only voicing an opinion but also taking action.

“I’ve always told people if you’re going to complain, then complain first but be a part of the process later,” he said.

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