The city of Olympia is at a crossroads. Voters have a unique opportunity to change the tone and focus of the Olympia City Council and select an agenda that's going to move the city and this community forward.
At the Nov. 6 general election, it's critically important for voters to elect a team that will work together and who will come up with reasonable solutions to the many issues facing the capital city and not get sidetracked by narrow, political agendas.
It's important for the region, as well. With Cabela's opening its doors next month and Great Wolf Lodge soon to follow, bringing millions of visitors to the region, with continued population and housing pressures, with the challenges to clean up and develop the port peninsula, it's essential that voters elect people who will break down existing barriers and work in collaboration with other elected officials.
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Here's what the city of Olympia needs:
It needs a City Council that can be a cohesive team that sets priorities and gets them accomplished. It needs a council that can balance the demands of growth against protection of the environment. It needs a council that understands the need to streamline the city's permitting process and lower or eliminate impact fees to spur market-rate housing downtown. It needs a council that focuses on local issues, that doesn't get tied in knots over divisive and unnecessary national or international issues like the war in Iraq or passage of a meaningless nuclear free zone ordinance. It needs a balanced council focused on professionalism, where council members treat one another and the public with respect and dignity. It needs council members who understand that to increase city revenue they must increase economic development. It needs a city council that can get things done!
Voters who share that vision will vote for Doug Mah over Meta Hogan for mayor; Craig Ottavelli over Matthew Green for council position 2; and Rhenda Strub over Jeanne Marie Thomas for position 3 on the Olympia City Council.
Mah vs. Hogan
Hogan, 28, deserves credit for living out her personal beliefs. She left her job as advocacy director at Bread & Roses to run for mayor with a firm belief that she can make a difference in the community through collaboration and integrity. While we appreciate her youthful exuberance and her passion for the poor and disenfranchised, Hogan simply lacks the leadership experience necessary to direct the council and empower the community at this pivotal time.
Mah, 42, a policy manager at the state Department of Information Services, has six years on the council and will be its senior member in January. He epitomizes the professionalism the council desperately needs. He led the way for solutions in the Public Facilities District funding squabble and provided the leadership to get a community kitchen in operation when the kitchen to feed the hungry closed unexpectedly. He understands the need to work with adjoining jurisdictions. He is leading the way to build a fourth fire station and will work clean up Budd Inlet. Mah will run a tight meeting, work for collaboration and model the behavior necessary to pull the council together and get the community headed in the same direction.
Voters should elect Doug Mah as Olympia's next mayor.
Ottavelli vs. Green
Green, 39, an unemployed environmental planner, had his chance on the council and blew it - badly. After a nasty confrontation at a council session, Green was relieved of his committee assignments and suspended from his interjurisdictional duties. An investigation found a pattern of five incidents where his abusive, demeaning and profane behavior against women constituted a violation of the city's anti-harassment policy. He's wrong on many of the issues (nuclear-free zone ordinance, conference center, pedestrian interference ordinance) and would be as divisive as TJ Johnson has been. Green has forfeited the respect necessary to be a community leader.
Ottavelli, 37, is founder of OrgSupport, a resource for nonprofit organizations. His community activities include a six-month term as a community representative on The Olympian's editorial board. Ottavelli is energetic, articulate, passionate and committed to building bridges on the council where they don't exist today. He has the leadership experience on the Thurston Regional Planning Council to make things happen. Look for him to use his skills to bring consensus on a fourth fire station and as a catalyst for downtown housing. He wants to get things done instead of studying issues to death. This is an easy choice for voters. Elect Craig Ottavelli on Nov. 6.
Strub vs. Thomas
Voters are fortunate to have two well-qualified candidates running for position 3 on the City Council. We were disappointed when Thomas said this run for public office is her single opportunity and that she's not interested in a future appointment to the council should one occur. That seems like a lack of commitment.
Thomas, 53, a consultant who is a project manager for the state Department of Employment Security, was president of the South Capital Neighborhood Association. While we appreciate her work there, we fear that Thomas would get the city bogged down in bureaucratic processes. Her answer to downtown housing, for example, is to hold a housing summit, pull the interested parties together to identify barriers then get to work on a solution to bring a mix of housing to the city's business core. That's more of the same. We're looking for actions, not more planning and studies.
Strub, 52, a self-employed environmental consultant, brings a strong passion for public service and a "get things done" attitude to her run for the City Council. Strub is absolutely right when she says that what's needed downtown is not more subsidized housing, but people with money in their pockets to shop in the stores, go to the theater at night and dine at downtown restaurants. She said, "We need more retail customers, not more social service customers."
Amen to that.
Through her professional experience, Strub understands the need to weigh good jobs vs. environmental protections. She knows the needs of businesses and how that relates to the city's regulatory duties. She has proven experience as a Thurston County planning commissioner. She would "wholeheartedly" welcome the military community to Olympia.
Voters looking for action will vote for Rhenda Strub on Nov. 6.