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Our choices for Puyallup City Council

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
October 20, 2011 6:21 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In the past few years, Puyallup City Council meetings have become notorious for contention and disruption. Some of the candidates running for election this year go so far as to call it “embarrassing.”

After the Nov. 8 election there will be at least three new faces on the council. “Works well with others” isn’t usually at the top of the list of candidate qualifications, but it should be a consideration in this case. Policymaking bodies can’t do their best work without a modicum of civility and decorum.

Here are our choices for the contested positions:

At-large: Steve Vermillion is, hands down, the best qualified of the candidates for this seat.

His opponent, Nicole Martineau, was appointed to the council early last year, and she’s done a reasonably good job. Much of her involvement in city affairs has come recently. Vermillion has formidable credentials, including a career as a highly decorated retired military officer.

The tone of Vermillion’s campaign has disappointed us; it’s been nasty at times. But there’s no denying his leadership qualities and impressive qualifications for the council.

District 1, Position 2: We endorsed downtown businessman and Puyallup Mainstreet director John Hopkins in the primary, and he still has our support. A gracious, intelligent chap (he’s a naturalized citizen from Great Britain), he likely would contribute to a more temperate atmosphere.

That wouldn’t be the case with his opponent, retired railroad employee Tom Smillie. At a notorious 2009 council meeting, he was one of the citizens who began shouting at council members so angrily that the police were called in.

According to the videotaped recording of the meeting, Smillie said, “You people want to be un-elected? You just signed your death warrant as far as that goes . . . I will march until the soles of my shoes have holes and blood runs out the bottom, and you won’t get elected again.”

Smillie later stormed out of the meeting while pointing at four members of the council and said, “You’re done, you’re done, you’re done, and you’re done.”

Scary guy. Smillie is temperamentally unfit for any public office. Voters should elect the affable and well-informed Hopkins.

District 2, Position 1: Current Planning Commission chairman John Palmer faces former commissioner Charley Stokes in this race. We’ll go with Palmer, a smart and knowledgeable candidate.

A senior policy adviser with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Palmer is much more current on the issues facing Puyallup, particularly ones to do with growth and livability. Even Stokes, a retired Boeing production supervisor, admits he’s having to bring himself up to speed. He would be OK on the council, but Palmer is the stronger choice.

District 3, Position 1: Two fairly well-matched candidates, both who have served on the Planning Commission, are squaring off in this race: retired county engineer Robin Ordonez and Tom Swanson, assistant to County Council member Joyce McDonald.

This is a close call, and either candidate would be a fine addition to the council. We give the edge to Ordonez. He’s been a capable, well-prepared member of the Planning Commission for the past four years and he’s taken a more balanced approach to development issues than his opponent, who has leaned heavily toward developers.

Ordonez’s background in public works makes him a valuable asset on the commission, and it would serve him and the city well on the council.

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