Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Puyallup City Council


Puyallup council candidate Tom Smillie tells his side

Tom Smillie, a candidate for Puyallup City Council, was understandably irked by an editorial last week describing him as “temperamentally unfit” for the council.

We were concerned about his loud role in a wild council meeting in 2009. Smillie called us after the editorial appeared and explained why he flew off the handle that night; to his credit, he also acknowledged that he’d gone too far.

I asked him to send a note I could post here to explain his side of the dispute. Here goes:

My outburst came after a few council members brought up a district line change that would have put one of my council members out of his district, I would have to have been speaking at public comment time of two minutes that comes after public hearings are opened as opposed to citizens comments that come at the first part of council meetings I was upset that some council members were presenting boundary lines that they had come up with and were ignoring two staff drawn maps that did not remove Mr. Dill from his district if he chose to run for another term.

The classic word is gerrymandering and that is what I called their move to change boundary lines to remove George from his district. My tone was over the top and condemning of their actions, but I was not threatening to do any physical harm to anyone, but I made it clear that if they followed through with and redistricted George out of his area, I would march to the soles of my feet were bloodied to get them unelected.
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Our choices for Puyallup City Council

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.
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Proposition 1: A seamless, modern 911 system

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Suggestion: Read the article below, written by the Pierce County sheriff and a leader of the county’s fire commissioners.

Done? Now you know why The News Tribune’s editorial board is endorsing Proposition 1, which would enact a tenth-of-one-percent sales tax to create a seamless, countywide, all-digital 911 dispatch system. This would add a penny to a $10 purchase.

Proposition 1 would fix two big, interrelated problems that have long plagued the county’s police officers and firefighters – and the citizens who depend on them.

Problem One is the county’s fragmented, patchwork system of dispatch agencies. Many counties have one or two dispatch centers that handle all emergency calls: This creates greater efficiencies and economies, with modern GPS and digital mapping technologies letting dispatchers rapidly direct first responders to emergencies.

But turf wars among agencies and local jurisdictions have saddled Pierce County with an antiquated multiplicity of agencies and centers. Four separate “primary call centers” handle 911 calls, which in turn relay all fire and emergency medical calls to two additional centers run by fire departments.

Problem One led to Problem Two. Over the years, the fragmented agencies have bought different kinds of radio equipment – mostly analog systems that are now obsolete – that don’t always talk to each other and sometimes (in dead spots) don’t talk at all. Below, Paul Pastor and Larry Nelson spell out some of the tragic and near-tragic consequences.
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Our choices in Puyallup council, school board races

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Puyallup City Council’s personality-driven feuds could cool considerably with the introduction of several new faces this fall.

The selection of a new city manager last year has already done much to de-escalate the tensions among council members. But the factions – or at least a public perception of them – seem destined to endure as long as the nameplates on the council dais remain the same.

That is guaranteed to change come January, when the council gets at least three and possibly four new members, thanks in part to the city’s new term limits.

The wild card is Nicole Martineau, who chose to run for an at-large seat rather than defend the District 1 position the council appointed her to last year.
She’s facing heavy opposition from three other candidates, but none is better than Steve Vermillion. Read more »


Puyallup City Council doesn’t need term limits

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

It’s about time the Puyallup City Council debated imposing term limits – if for no other reason than to give the idea a full hearing before shelving it.

Council members have unsuccessfully tried to broach the question of term limits twice in the last two years. Each time, the debate was checked before it began.

Now it appears the council may be warming to the idea. On Tuesday, council members asked city staff to prepare a resolution authorizing an advisory vote in November. The council – which has the final say on term limits since Puyallup residents don’t have the power of initiative or referendum – will consider placing the measure on the ballot at a future meeting.

Term limits do guarantee turnover in elected offices. But whether that turnover or the mechanism by which it is achieved is always a good thing depends on who’s doing the judging.

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George Dill was no politician, and thank goodness for that

George Dill lived long enough to see voters confirm their faith in him, but not long enough to begin his second term on the Puyallup City Council. He died last Thursday of a heart attack at age 75. His death is a loss for Puyallup residents who value civil dissent, attention to detail and straight-talking leaders.

Dill was known in his community as a dedicated food bank volunteer and the kind of councilman who finds out what’s on voters’ minds by getting out and talking to them. He was also known inside Puyallup and out as part of a three-member council minority that has battled the council majority over several issues, most notably the job performance of City Manager Gary McLean.

But Dill was not a flame-thrower, and his reserved nature helped lend the minority credibility. He was a sincere, low-key guy who first ran for council because he was upset about the lack of a stop sign at an intersection near his house. He continued to focus on neighborhood-level complaints – speeders, lack of sidewalks, storm sewers, parking hassles – during his time in office.

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Puyallup should keep faith with taxpayers

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Recessions rewrite many rules, but never the one that dictates elected officials keep faith with their constituents.

The Puyallup City Council and city residents are facing questions of accountability as the council mulls how to deliver on a promise while keeping city government coffers healthy.

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Tent cities: There’s got to be a better way

Why would a guy who cares about the homeless be against a tent city for the
homeless? Let us count the reasons.

David Curry, who runs the Tacoma Rescue Mission and finds room for a whole lot of homeless people at his inn, came by yesterday to update us on what the mission’s doing. He said he was glad the Puyallup City Council recently opted not to let homeless advocates erect a 40-tent city in the community.

Here’s his take:

“I’ve never been a fan of tent cities. I don’t think it’s humanitarian.”

“What we do is we put somebody in a tent and say, ‘Now you have a tent.’ It’s a little condescending.” It just “maintains people in misery.”

“I understand the argument.” Tent cities might make sense in a place like Lima, which has 5 million people below the poverty line. In Pierce County, though, roughly 1,800 people are homeless. “That’s is a manageable problem.”
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