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Merritt for mayor (if only we could get Strickland, too …)

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Oct. 10, 2009 at 9:00 pm |
December 22, 2009 2:06 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Tacoma’s mayoral contest this year poses the kind of dilemma we wish every race offered: two candidates so good that it is hard to pick between them.

We are endorsing Jim Merritt, but with considerable regret that we couldn’t somehow also endorse his opponent, Tacoma City Councilwoman Marilyn Strickland. Unfortunately, there’s room for only one person in this office.

When we pass over a candidate, we sometimes cite inadequate experience, limited volunteer service or other lack of preparation. We can’t do that in this case, because Strickland is eminently qualified to be mayor of Tacoma.

She is quick on her feet, a formidable advocate, dynamic and public-spirited. She possesses an MBA and substantial experience in both the private and public sector.

Her relatively brief two years on the City Council are buttressed by many years of community service in other capacities. She’s been part of the volunteer leadership of the Grand Cinema, the Tacoma Public Library and other important organizations. She exudes competence, intelligence and decency. She’d make a fine mayor for Tacoma.

Merritt, a prominent architect, has a different and broader set of qualifications. A summary of his community service reads like an index of the grand revitalization Tacoma experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. Name a major improvement to downtown Tacoma in recent decades, and Merritt was probably somewhere close to the middle of it.

Some of the major initiatives he has worked on and in some cases led:

• The creation of the Union Station Historic District.

• As principal architect, the renovation of the Union Station itself.

• The successful advocacy of a city-friendly design of Interstate 705.

• The successful effort to build an attractive cable-stay bridge for Highway 509 instead of the utilitarian slab planned by the state.

• Early work on the redevelopment of the once-blighted Thea Foss Waterway.

Although Merritt has not held public office, he has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to pull together Tacomans with conflicting interests and solve complex problems. He led, for example, the public brainstorming behind the plan to restore the old Asarco site in Ruston near Point Defiance.

Merritt is both a consensus-builder and a genuine visionary of urban design. He’d bring that vision to the mayor’s office, and we can’t think of a better home for it.

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