This Sunday, Nov. 6, The Olympian’s editorial board provides a summary of endorsements for Tuesday’s general election.
Over the past month, the five-member board interviewed 21 candidates, along with proponents and opponents of three of the five ballot propositions, and offered our collective opinion on this page. Letter writers have taken exception to some endorsements and applauded others.
It’s been a spirited campaign season.
Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting a miserable 47 percent voter turnout for the all-mail election. It’s unfortunate that so many registered voters will sit out Tuesday’s election. They simply are giving control over government decision-making to others who have taken the time to study the issues and candidates and cast an informed ballot.
While the election lacks the glitz and luster of a presidential campaign, the decisions Tuesday are nonetheless important because the city council, school board and fire commissioners we elect will make decisions that impact our daily lives.
You can see the editorial board’s full endorsements at theolympian.com/opinion. That’s the same place where you can view videos of community forums for Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater city council and Tumwater School Board positions, along with televised editorial board meetings with initiative proponents and opponents.
Readers should weigh The Olympian’s opinions against their own research. The final decision is where it belongs – in the hands of voters.
Whether you agree with these endorsements or not, the important thing is to vote. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday. Our recap:
INITIATIVE 1125 (TRANSPORTATION)
Tim Eyman is back before voters with yet another transportation initiative, this one focused on tolls. Our biggest concern with I-1125 is the provision that requires the Legislature to set toll rates. No other state in the union vests the Legislature with toll-setting authority because bonding companies prefer an independent toll authority with predictability. Bonding companies would be reluctant to finance projects where funding is set by the whims of the Legislature. We prefer today’s existing toll-setting system where the independent, state Transportation Commission sets the rates after relying on recommendations forwarded by a local citizens advisory committee. Toll rates should be set as close to the users as possible, not by lawmakers trading political favors in Olympia. That’s why voters should reject Initiative 1125.
Our pick: NO
INITIATIVE 1163 (LONG-TERM CARE)
Who could oppose federal background checks for those 40,000 people who are going into private homes to care for vulnerable senior citizens and disabled children and adults? It’s with great reluctance that The Olympian’s editorial board urges a “no” vote on Initiative 1163. It’s simply the wrong time to add to the financial burden bogging down the state of Washington. Proponents and opponents disagree on how much state money is involved. Estimates range from $81 million to a state estimate of $50 million through the 2016 biennium. We simply cannot afford Initiative 1163. At a time of drastic budget cuts, we cannot afford the new training mandate proposed in this initiative. Vote “no” on Initiative 1163.
Our pick: NO
INITIATIVE 1183 (LIQUOR)
Washington voters rejected two liquor privatization measures last year, but undeterred, wholesale giant Costco is back with $22 million to push I-1183, which would create more liquor outlets across the state. We don’t appreciate Costco trying to engineer public policy through a poorly crafted Initiative 1183. We support strong liquor enforcement to protect minors, and we don’t want a liquor outlet on every street corner like the state of California. Initiative 1183 will provide less choice, higher prices and create social harm. While there are good arguments that can be made for privatization, Initiative 1183 would not, as proponents claim, “specifically prevent” liquor sales at gas stations and convenience stores. In fact, Initiative 1183 opens the door to convenience stores and mini-marts through a poorly crafted exemption. In our opinion, I-1183 would increase liquor outlets and increase consumption with the potential to increase teen drinking, alcohol-related collisions and violence. Vote “no” on Initiative 1183.
Our pick: NO
SJR 8205 (VOTER RESIDENCY)
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that any requirement that voters live in a particular place longer than 30 days in order to vote is unconstitutional. This state has a 60-day residency requirement for presidential elections. SJR 8205 is a mere housekeeping measure that removes the outdated 60-day rule from the state constitution and makes the 30-day residency requirement standard for all elections.
Our pick: APPROVED
SJR 8206 (BUDGET STABILIZATION)
Senate Joint Resolution 8206 forces lawmakers to set aside more money when times are good and state coffers are flush. Under this ballot proposal, anytime the state is experiencing “extraordinary revenue growth,” lawmakers would be required to transfer three-fourths of the additional revenue into the so-called “rainy day” savings account. That’s sound fiscal discipline. Voters should vote “yes” on SJR 8206.
Our pick: APPROVED
LACEY CITY COUNCIL POSITION 1
Michael Steadman, 41, a self-employed businessman in the commercial leasing industry, seems to base his campaign more against incumbent Jason Hearn and less about what he would do as a councilman. Hearn, 40, the owner of a media company, took a strong leadership role in getting his council colleagues to get a much-needed plan for College Street improvements off the shelf and into action. Hearn, as chair of the city’s Transportation Committee, will help get those improvements made as funding becomes available. Hearn is a collaborator, embraces Lacey’s diversity and is an incumbent who is doing a good job serving his community.
Our pick: JASON HEARN
LACEY CITY COUNCIL POSITION 2
Joe Mihelich, 38, a customer-service representative for the state Department of Health, shows no depth of knowledge about city operations, and chides his opponent for living in the community for only six years. But in his six years, Lenny Greenstein, 45, an insurance salesman, has thrown himself into community service. Greenstein has served on the Lacey Planning Commission for two years, the last year as chairman. He is president of the largest homeowners association in the county and chairs two different committees for the Lacey and Thurston County chambers of commerce. Greenstein is smart, articulate, and involved. He has done his work at the Planning Commission and is ready to step up to the Lacey City Council.
Our pick: LENNY GREENSTEIN
LACEY CITY COUNCIL POSITION 3
Lacey voters cannot miss on this race. The contest between appointed councilman Jeff Gadman, 50, chief of the county’s appraisal division, and Mark Arras, 48, a lieutenant in the Washington State Patrol, involves two well-qualified, articulate candidates who bring great passion to their run for the City Council. Both are public servants at heart. We like Arras’ experience with budgets in his multiple roles as a State Patrol administrator. Where Gadman gets the nod is both his community service and his eight-month tenure as an appointed council member. Gadman is involved as a leader of his homeowners association and a member of Rotary and has served as a community volunteer for the public school system. Lacey voters should take advantage of Gadman’s broad experience and return him to the Lacey City Council for a full, four-year term.
Our pick: JEFF GADMAN
OLYMPIA CITY COUNCIL MAYOR
With the exodus of Mayor Doug Mah, two well-qualified candidates have stepped forward to run for the vacant position. The race pits Dick Pust, 71, a retired radio station manager and on-air personality, against Councilman Stephen Buxbaum, 56, a part-time faculty member at The Evergreen State College, a private consultant and former manager in state government. Pust’s 50 years at KGY radio have made him a community icon. He is well-liked, is respected for his knowledge of community issues and leaders and sees himself as someone more conservative than the rest of the council. Buxbaum, mayor pro-tem, has the superior experience. In two years on the council, Buxbaum set Olympia up to receive a $2 million community development block grant for community renewal and has put the downtown community on the path toward establishment of an alcohol impact area. It was Buxbaum’s leadership that brought the South Sound area the first intake center for homeless people. Experience counts in a City Council with short-tenured members. Elect Buxbaum.
Our pick: STEPHEN BUXBAUM
OLYMPIA CITY COUNCIL POSITION 2
We commend Democritus Blantayre for his willingness to get involved in city politics and his laudable efforts to involve ordinary citizens in the decision-making process. Blantayre, 31, an independent contractor for a videography company, has based his entire campaign on the proposal to shake up the legislative process by moving to direct democracy. We question Blantayre’s ability to bring about such a sea change in Olympia. Steve Langer, 56, a clinical psychologist, was appointed to a vacant council seat in May 2010. He’s a strong advocate for turning the isthmus property into a public plaza with – perhaps – an amphitheater, food carts, expanded water features like Heritage Fountain, street performers and a showcase for the arts. Langer also gets credit for tackling the problems associated with downtown anti-social behavior and leading the city’s effort to create a community where people are not harassed, where thriving businesses succeed and where people are held accountable for poor behavior. Langer is the superior candidate in this race.
Our pick: STEVE LANGER
OLYMPIA CITY COUNCIL POSITION 3
The campaign of Nathaniel Jones, 56, an asset manager with the state Department of Enterprise Services, seems personal and negative in nature. He attacks his opponent for her initial support of mixed-use housing on the isthmus and bills himself as someone who will bring the community together on important issues. We fear that Jones will fall prey to the tendency in Olympia to study things to death. Rhenda Strub, 56, has served on the Olympia City Council for four years. If re-elected, she will be the longest-serving council member. Her experience is needed. Strub does not engage in “bureaucracy-speak.” She calls it like she sees it and is a strong personality, and that’s off-putting to some people. While we may wish she was more temperate with her remarks at times, there is no getting around the fact that Strub is a hard worker and focused on accomplishments. Strub has a clear vision and the outspoken personality to bring about positive change in Olympia.
Our pick: RHENDA STRUB
OLYMPIA CITY COUNCIL POSITION 7
Brian Tomlinson, 56, an information technology infrastructure technician, declined our invitation for an endorsement interview, saying his opponent has all the money and endorsements. That’s too bad because he’s a credible candidate with positive ideas. Jim Cooper, 36, is executive director of Together, a nonprofit focused on the health and safety of Thurston County youths. Cooper, former chairman of Thurston County Democrats, is extremely well-connected in the community – connections that will serve him well on regional issues. He has a proven track record of bringing people together on difficult issues. He’s pragmatic, articulate and his knowledge of how government works will serve him well. In a council that is likely to have many strong personalities, Cooper will be a voice of reason and calm. We encourage his election to a two-year term.
Our pick: JIM COOPER
TUMWATER CITY COUNCIL POSITION 1
Dave Raatz, 47, a shop foreman and lead mechanic for a trucking company based out of Kent, is one of those candidates who would have a steep learning curve if elected to office. Where Raatz falls short is in experience and a lack of demonstrated willingness to do the hard work it takes to be a council member. He cannot simply put his name on the ballot every few years in hopes of gaining a seat at the table. Stanley, 63, a former social worker, is seeking his fifth term on the City Council. He has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish in the next four years – beautifying Capitol Boulevard, getting a wastewater treatment plant built on the brewery property, seeing the rest of the property redeveloped, and re-examining and updating the Towne Center proposal to draw in new businesses. In this race, experience trumps inexperience. Tumwater voters should re-elect Ed Stanley.
Our pick: ED STANLEY
TUMWATER CITY COUNCIL POSITION 3
Joan Cathey, 67, a Presbyterian minister, has had an unremarkable four-year term on the council. Cathey’s challenger, Debbie Sullivan, has proved herself to be a hard worker. Sullivan, 57, an energy analyst for the Washington State University Extension Office, has served on the city’s planning commission since 2003 – the last four years as chairwoman. Her depth of knowledge on land use and zoning issues will be a great addition to the City Council. She’s committed to bringing new businesses to Tumwater and sees the abandoned brewery property as both a challenge and great opportunity for mixed use development that will serve future generations. Sullivan has everything voters are looking for in a challenger – knowledge, intelligence, experience, enthusiasm and a passion for the future.
Our pick: DEBBIE SULLIVAN
TUMWATER SCHOOL BOARD
Dave Brastow, 64, is a stay-at-home dad with two children attending Tumwater schools. He’s a well-intentioned, congenial fellow who truly has the best interest of all Tumwater students at heart. As likable as Brastow may be, he simply cannot match Kim Reykdal’s credentials for this important elected position. Reykdal, 39, was a classroom teacher for three years and has spent the last 13 years as a school counselor in four South Sound high schools. Reykdal brings to the School Board the perspective of someone in the schools, which is an important voice. Tumwater School District voters are lucky to have a well-qualified, energetic, articulate advocate for kids and student learning running for the School Board.
Our pick: KIM REYKDAL
NORTH THURSTON SCHOOLS