In University Place, one issue overshadows this election: the achingly slow progress of Town Center, the public/private development on Bridgeport Way the City Council envisions as a way to expand the tax base.
Critics note that the project has only one visible result so far – the City Hall/library building and the parking garage under construction. Defenders argue that Town Center is now well-positioned to capitalize on the economic recovery with its “shovel-ready” infrastructure.
Incumbent and current mayor Linda Bird has taken most of the heat on the issue. Her opponent, real estate consultant Javier Figueroa, has made Town Center central to his campaign for Position 1.
The News Tribune’s editorial board endorsed Bird in the primary because she has been part of a council majority that has been a force for dramatically positive change in University Place. One need only look at its parks, sidewalks, streetlights and other amenities to see what Bird and her colleagues have accomplished for the young city.
Bird, a pioneer of incorporation, deserves another term. Her opponent has not made a compelling case for unseating her. Indeed, some who have served with him on other boards describe him as divisive and inflexible – two qualities that would not serve him well on the City Council.
For Position 3, the editorial board is endorsing first-time candidate Eric Choiniere over incumbent Lorna Smith. Choiniere, who has lived in University Place since 1988, serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and on the Pierce County Citizens Advisory Board. He would be an energetic, thoughtful voice for low- and moderate-income residents.
Smith has contributed much to the city, and she deserves thanks for her service, which includes working for incorporation and 14 years on the City Council. But she increasingly appears to be faltering. We think the voters should replace her – and thank her for her long years of commitment to the community.
For Position 4, there is no contest. Voters would be seriously remiss if they failed to give incumbent Ken Grassi a fourth full term.
Grassi brings a businessman’s sensibility to the council as well as a congenial temperament in dealing with colleagues and the public. A particular interest of his has been finding ways to enhance the city’s appearance through donations, not tax dollars.
His opponent, retired Air Force pilot Carl Mollnow, is not a viable candidate. He’s been a committed citizen, and he assisted the incorporation movement, but he’s also displayed volatile tendencies and lacks the temperament needed to help govern the city.
The contenders for the one open seat on the council, Position 5, could not be more different. Human resources professional and manager Denise McCluskey is reserved and takes a measured approach to issues. Rose Ehart is as outspoken as McCluskey is quiet.
Each woman would bring a different set of skills to the City Council, but we think McCluskey’s years of involvement on city commissions make her the better candidate. She was a Parks and Recreation Commission member from 2002 to 2007 and has served on the Planning Commission since 2007. That and other community volunteer service over the years have prepared her well for the City Council.