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Let next Tacoma council fill empty seats

Post by Kim Bradford on Nov. 18, 2009 at 7:58 pm with 3 Comments »
December 2, 2009 5:37 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Departing Tacoma City Council members should resist the temptation to make a final mark (or two) on city government via the appointment process.

The council is debating how to fill vacancies created by this month’s election. Councilwoman Marilyn Strickland is moving to the mayor’s chair, and Julie Anderson is leaving the council to become Pierce County auditor.

Both need to be replaced, and the question before the council is not only who will fill their seats but who gets to do the picking – the three newly elected council members or the term-limited four who are leaving?

The question is complicated by timing, council members’ schedules, city charter requirements and potential conflicts of interest. The result is a process that is, as Councilman Rick Talbert put it Tuesday, “clear as mud.”

One thing is apparently certain: The council must at least start the appointment process for Anderson’s replacement. She becomes auditor next week; Strickland doesn’t officially vacate her seat until Jan. 1.

Problem is, applications from people seeking Anderson’s position are due Dec. 4. That’s just two weeks before holiday schedules would hobble the current council’s ability to make an appointment.

At least three councilmembers favor squeezing a vote in, arguing that people who have done the job can best identify who would be a good fit.

Two of those council members – Talbert and Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg – have good reason to want their colleagues to make the call since they are expected to throw their hats in the ring.

And that’s exactly the problem with commandeering what should be the new council’s role. Any decision by the current council would inevitably look rigged.

Perhaps Talbert or Ladenburg can make a compelling case that the City Council needs to balance its new faces with some experienced hands.

Let them make that argument – to the newbies voters just elected to help lead the city. Fresh off the campaign trail, they likely have the best handle on what average Tacomans want from their council.

Waiting to fill the council’s vacant seats until the new council members are seated is no punt. It would be a vote of confidence in the new council’s abilities and a show of respect to the voters who elected it.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. I agree wholeheartedly. The members of the Council coming in should make the decision of whom sits with them.
    Ladenberg and Talbert have both had enough time and have accomplished little besides identifying Downtown as their most important place to pour money into.
    The newbees were elected because the people (some of them, anyway) believe them capable of making important decisions to direct the City. Let this be their FIRST decision.

  2. the new council should be making the choice. they are the ones that will be working with the new individuals. talbert and ladenburg need to get over themselves. if they are so anxious to carry on they can volunteer and they need to experience the process from the outside and see how difficult it is to be heard.

  3. Concur with the new council filling these vacant seats. Talbert and Ladenburg should bow out and no longer be an influence. Their time is up!!!

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