This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
For the foreseeable future, Pierce County government is likely to be all about making do with less, slogging through the present economic agony while still providing police protection and other essential services for citizens.
The County Council, which writes the budget, is where much of the action will be. Its spending decisions will shape county government, sparing some programs at the expense of others, approving labor contracts and otherwise making ends meet with excruciatingly tight revenues.
County voters are about to pick three fresh faces for the council’s three open positions, which represent districts 1, 5 and 7. Our recommendations:
• The citizens of District 1, which covers Sumner, Bonney Lake and the vast hinterland to the east, have an excellent choice between Republican Dan Roach and Democrat Pat McElligott.
McElligott, a Tacoma fire chief and Orting resident, boasts a long history of community service and union leadership. He’s gregarious and an effective deal-maker.
We think he’d be a fine addition to the council if elected, but we have misgivings about his tight connections with public unions. Some of the decisions facing the council will involve trade-offs between public services and what have been generous union compensation packages. McElligott might be willing to take hard stands against labor when push comes to shove, but it’s a question mark.
In any case, Roach – a Bonney Lake business owner and Republican state lawmaker – is an excellent candidate who appears quite capable of hard budget decisions. He’s been a thoughtful voice in the House of Representatives’ Republican caucus, and his nine years of legislative experience have given him considerable knowledge of the district’s problems. We recommend his election.
• In District 5 – which covers most of Tacoma south of South 56th Street, plus Parkland and parts of Spanaway – Tacoma Democrat Rick Talbert is an easy choice. He’s been a problem-solver during his two terms on the Tacoma City Council, where his experience prepared him well for the council. He has a firm grasp of job creation and public transit issues, which are especially important to this district.
His opponent, Tacoma Democrat Audrey Chase, has been an active, public-spirited community advocate and leader, but she can’t match Talbert’s credentials.
• The race in District 7 pits University Place Republican Stan Flemming against Democrat Betty Ringlee of Gig Harbor. Either would effectively represent the district, which includes the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas plus University Place, Fircrest and part of Tacoma’s West End.
Ringlee is a three-term veteran of the Peninsula School Board; she spent eight years as former Councilmember Karen Biskey’s assistant, and has considerable experience and expertise in land-use planning, a matter of great importance to the two peninsulas.
Flemming, a doctor, is a long-time University Place City Council member and has an impressive record of public service. He has also served as a state lawmaker. He possesses a rare understanding of local government and community problems, and he connects easily with those he works with.
We think he’s the stronger candidate in this race, but the well-qualified Ringlee made it a tough choice.