This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Tacoma voters could change the direction of city government this election, with a majority of the nine-member City Council potentially at stake.
Tacomans will elect a new mayor and three new council members next month to replace term-limited officials. With that many seats up for grabs, the next council is bound to look and act differently than its predecessor.
And should either Councilwoman Marilyn Strickland win her bid for mayor or Councilwoman Julie Anderson take Pierce County auditor, the new council would have to fill the vacancy. Up to six of the council’s nine seats could change hands.
Last Sunday, we endorsed Jim Merritt for mayor, albeit with regret that we couldn’t somehow also endorse Strickland. Merritt is a visionary and a consensus-builder.
In the other citywide race to fill departing Councilman Mike Lonergan’s at-large position, we are endorsing Victoria Woodards. But again, we were impressed with the other candidate, Keven Rojecki.
He’s a Sea-Tac firefighter who works as a lobbyist for the Washington State Council of Firefighters in Olympia and appears to have friends in high places. (Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him to the state Gambling Commission, and Congressman Adam Smith has endorsed him.) Rojecki doesn’t display the blind loyality to the firefighters union that his day job might suggest, and he’s a smart, personable candidate.
We just wish that Tacoma and Rojecki knew each other better. He joined the North End Neighborhood Council in March, but before deciding to run for City Council, his only connection to the community was through his kids’ school and activities. He is virtually unknown in local circles.
In contrast, Woodards graduated from Lincoln High School, has lived all over the city and is deeply involved.
Woodards has worked for two Pierce County council members and is the elected president of the Metro Parks Board. She’s produced Wright Park’s Ethnic Fest since 1999, has co-chaired the Tacoma Civil Rights Project and was a chairwoman of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs.
In short, Woodards has been in the trenches. She has the kind of appreciation for and understanding of Tacoma and its neighborhoods that is only developed over time. Woodards would be an engaged and energetic councilwoman.
In the race to represent District 5, which includes parts of South Tacoma, the South End and the East Side, we had previously endorsed John Miles, a state Department of Revenue employee who didn’t make it through the primary election.
Joe Lonergan was our runner-up to replace Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, and he easily earns our endorsement for the general election. Lonergan, son of Councilman Mike Lonergan, works as an advertising sales representative for The News Tribune.
The younger Lonergan shows a sincere regard for neighborhood concerns. He’s served on the South End Neighborhood Council and on the Wapato Park Advisory Committee. We think he’d show the same independent streak that his dad has, and that’s a valuable asset for any council.
His opponent, Beckie Summers Kirby, is the wife of state Rep. Steve Kirby and has been a member of the Tacoma Public Library Board and Human Rights Commission among other civic service.
Our primary concern with Kirby is her joined-at-the-hip relationship with some public employee bargaining units, especially at a time when public sector workers are fighting to be sheltered from many of the hardships facing workers in the private sector. Many good elected officials are supportive of unions, but that’s different from being a crony of the unions – and Kirby’s history suggests the latter.
In the District 4 race on Tacoma’s East Side, our endorsement remains unchanged. Marty Campbell is the best choice to replace departing Councilman Rick Talbert. Campbell, owner of Stadium Video and Buzzard’s Discs, would give the council a much-needed small business perspective.
He is chairman of the Cross-District Business Association and has led a city committee that studied downtown parking solutions. Campbell’s experience and contacts in the business community are especially valuable as the city decides how to regroup in the wake of Russell Investments’ departure.
Opponent Roxanne Murphy, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, has been active in many East Side community groups. She’s a promising candidate, but she can’t beat Campbell’s combination of community activism and business advocacy.