Olympia City Council member Cheryl Selby is a longtime Olympia resident and business owner with a resume that proves her commitment to the city she wants to lead. We endorse her for mayor this fall as the candidate with the best background that fits the city’s needs at this time.
But based on primary election results that gave Selby 70 percent of the vote, we think voters were a bit quick to dismiss her opponent, Marco Rossaire Rossi. They should take some time to get to know him.
Those who have heard Rossi speak know already that he’s smart, articulate, and a powerful voice for bringing underrepresented, low-income residents in our community into the political process.
Rossi ran as part of an Olympia for All slate that champions a $15 minimum wage, and he’s the only one of three candidates from that movement still on the Nov. 3 ballot. His voice addressing needs of the city’s lower income residents would be a valuable addition to the City Council if he were to gain that role.
The rival candidates come from two very different walks of life. Selby is establishment; Rossi is outsider.
Selby, 54, is a Bellevue native who has lived in Olympia for more than two decades. She started as a youth programs instructor for city parks in 1994 and now is a shop owner and member of the City Council.
She co-managed an Olympia school bond campaign, ran a sober driving program for city probation services, and has served on numerous boards that dealt with everything from medical issues to the symphony, the Boys and Girls Club, the Olympia Downtown Association, Rotary, and the Thurston County Democrats.
We look to Selby as a bridge between downtown entrepreneurs and policy makers who want to see a thriving downtown that also is supportive of the downtrodden.
Selby also is plugged in to several ongoing city efforts to improve the downtown, including involvement in Sidewalk’s rapid-rehousing effort that tries to link newly homeless people with housing. As a member of the city council’s Finance Committee, Selby has claimed credit for getting money in the budget to hire an economic development specialist, and she initiated the city’s outreach this year with the Auto Mall dealers who have been growing restless.
That outreach to car dealers didn’t stop the Olympia Toyota dealership from announcing that it plans to move to Tumwater. But Selby clearly had her eyes open early on to the Auto Mall enclave on the west side of town, and she understands clearly the important role it plays as a source of city sales-tax revenue.
Rossi, 34, is no newcomer to town, though he grew up in Vermont and spent four in the Chicago area as a student. He’s involved with nonprofits, including some that work with people who are homeless, and his day job is as a certified medical assistant for Planned Parenthood.
Rossi favors a minimum wage increase that would be phased in over several years, much like Seattle’s. Selby favors a statewide $12 minimum wage rather than a city-by-city wage rate, which she would push through the Association of Washington Cities.
Selby worries that the wage rate – even if phased in over seven years as Rossi suggests – would put Olympia employers at a competitive disadvantage with Lacey and Tumwater.
Other elements of Rossi’s platform are intriguing, such as his call for district elections for City Council. This could lead to more representation from corners of the city he thinks are left out of such discussions as where to put the city’s park investments. He cited concerns about commercialized districts with residents such as Harrison Avenue, downtown and the Pacific Avenue area.
If Selby is elected, as most expect, her council seat would come open. There may be others who step forward to seek appointment to that seat, but we think Rossi would make a strong successor.
Editor’s note: This post was updated to clarify Marco Rossi’s job description and how long he lived in Chicago.