Political party leaders spar at Port Angeles Business Association meet

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Two top Clallam County Republican and Democratic Party leaders sparred over national issues but found some common ground on the ongoing, lengthy Rayonier site cleanup Tuesday at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting.

Pat Johansen, chair of the newly merged Clallam County Democrats and the party Central Committee, and Dick Pilling, recently elected to his third term as county Republican Party chair, spoke for an hour before more than 35 PABA members and guests at Joshua’s Restaurant.

Pilling, of Port Angeles, and Johansen, of Sequim, each gave 10-minute presentations that largely centered on party philosophies followed by five-minute responses before taking questions from meeting participants.

Johansen succeeded former Central Committee Chairman Matthew Randazzo, who has taken the job of special assistant to state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

The state Department of Ecology has overseen cleanup of the Rayonier site east of downtown Port Angeles since 2000.

Pockets of contamination — PCBs, dioxins and other toxic chemicals — were left by the mill when it closed in 1997 after 68 years of operation.

“Can we solve the lingering environmental crisis that is Rayonier?” asked Johansen in her opening remarks.

“Could research and regulation have prevented this threat to our community and health?

“As Democrats, we tend to look more toward up-front prevention rather than expensive, late-term problem-solving.”

Rayonier cleanup

Asked if the political parties would put pressure on Rayonier and Ecology to complete cleanup of Rayonier’s 75-acre industrial waterfront parcel, Pilling and Johansen both lamented the length of time it’s taken to clean up the site.

“There is no end in sight,” Pilling said.

“Rayonier is doing what they have to do to ensure the survivability of their company.

“It’s tragic that we allow 75 acres to lay unused.”

Rayonier is fulfilling its duties to stockholders, Pilling said Tuesday in a later interview.

“If I was Rayonier, I wouldn’t be in a real hurry to spend a lot of money fooling around with the DOE.

“I would continue just playing them along.”

About 90 percent of contaminated soil at the site east of downtown Port Angeles has been trucked away, though contaminated-soil extraction last occurred in 2006 in an overall cleanup effort that has cost Rayonier $26 million, Rayonier officials have said.

The process is made more difficult by a “pro-environment government,” Pilling said at the breakfast meeting.

“What we can do as a party is, we don’t have a lot of options,” Pilling said.

“We are forced to go along by encroaching government that places demands on us.

“I don’t know that that’s such a huge toxic wasteland down there.”

Johansen said citizens should hold the Port of Port Angeles and county officials “especially accountable in making something happen here.”

Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s regional manager for the state Toxics Cleanup Program, will discuss the Rayonier project and other area cleanup issues at PABA’s Feb. 26 breakfast meeting.


Pilling and Johansen differed sharply on the two-thirds legislative majority, or a majority vote of the people, that is required for all tax measures.

Voters statewide overwhelmingly affirmed the threshold in November by approving Initiative 1185.

It was similar to already-approved Initiative 1053, which was under legal challenge.

The two-thirds majority “is very important,” Pilling said. “The people should decide whether they should be taxed or not.”

The threshold “is a violation, in some ways, of majority rule,” Johansen responded.

Johansen said the county Democratic Party has not taken a stand on the new Ecology water-use rule that took effect Jan. 2 for the eastern half of Water Resource Inventory Area 18 from Bagley Creek to Sequim Bay.

The water rule sets in-stream flow standards to guarantee that water is available for marine habitat and for human use and consumption.

“We ultimately pay the price for not being cautious with water rights,” she said, adding that party members will have meetings to discuss WRIA 18.

Pilling said the party platform does not delve into WRIA 18.

“The general opinion is that there is no problem, that this is a solution wildly in search of a problem, that there’s plenty of water for all,” he said.

Second Amendment

Johansen and Pilling adopted different angles on the Second Amendment.

It was not designed to protect people’s hunting rights but “to protect homes from our government or future governments,” Pilling said.

“Any aspect toward regulation or limitation of gun rights I disagree with, and I think most of my party does, too.”

Johansen said her father was a World War II veteran who would not allow guns in the family home.

“I am not a constitutional scholar, but neither are most of the folks who claim to be experts,” she said in her prepared remarks.

“Frankly, I respect the Bill of Rights too much to let the National Rifle Association own the Second Amendment,” Johansen added.

“In that same vein, the ACLU does not own the First Amendment, either.

“We all need to be cautious.”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 12. 2013 5:47PM
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