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Buckley voters will decide two races for City Council seats
There has been no shortage of verbal darts thrown in the race for the Position 2 seat on the Buckley City Council.
The incumbent, Cristi Boyle-Barrett claims her opponent may lack the proper temperament to serve a public body and alleges he could be pushing for a project that benefits him directly. Challenger Marvin Sundstrom claims the incumbent is helped by an entrenched buddy system and has made it clear he considers her the weakest link on the seven-member council.
Voters are left to cut through the rhetoric and elect one to a four-year term.
“Buckley is going in a fine direction,” said Boyle-Barrett, a longtime rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. As evidence of the city’s success, she points to the city’s expanded wastewater treatment plant, completion of the Buckley Youth Center and adoption of new comprehensive plan that will guide the city into the future.
And, as an advocate for public safety, Boyle-Barrett notes the city has been moving forward with plans for a new fire station, a project that has been in the talking stage for years.
Refuting allegations by her challenger, Boyle-Barrett is adamant that the current council is a free-thinking bunch.
“We’re not a rubber stamp for government,” she said, allowing that council members try to work together to get things accomplished.
“It can’t be us against them,” she said, referencing Sundstrom’s reputation as a thorn in the side of city government. “There has to be some give and take.”
Boyle-Barrett said city government is doing “the best we can, with what we have,” pointing to the slow economy and resulting lack of excess city funds. When budgets are tight, she said, police and fire services must remain a priority.
It was that philosophy, Boyle-Barrett said, that led to her support of the recent dismissal of Buckley’s sole planner. The decision wasn’t based on performance, she said, but rather the diminishing need for a planner’s services.
“When there’s no planning going on, it’s an excess,” Boyle-Barrett said, noting her belief that Buckley will do just fine with its planning services handled by an outside consultant.
Addressing concerns about rising utility rates, the incumbent noted that most utilities are simply a break-even proposal, with income balancing expenditures.
By keeping her in office, Boyle-Barrett said, the public will be getting someone “who reads everything front to back,” including the pending 2010 operating budget.
“I have always made my decisions on what’s best for the city,” she said.
Sundstrom claims to have attended nearly all of the city’s council meetings during the past decade, though he’s always appeared as a citizen. He previously attempted to join the council, placing his name for consideration when a vacancy occurred. He did not receive the appointment, furthering his belief that city administration would cringe at the thought of him joining the council.
Sundstrom is critical of the way much has been done at Buckley City Hall and rails against his opponent in particular.
“When you run against an incumbent, they have a record, good or bad,” he said. “If she had a good record, I wouldn’t be running.”
Sundstrom is critical of the city’s escalating utility rates, complains that revenues are used inappropriately and believes current council members are too easily swayed by city administration.
“The city doesn’t have a revenue problem,” he said, “we have a spending problem.”
Part of the trouble, he believes, is a council that doesn’t ask enough questions. After attending budget meetings, he said, “I wouldn’t want them balancing my household budget.”
Anyone who challenges the established order, he said, is in for trouble, pointing to the city planner as an example.
“She understood the rules for being a city planner and they didn’t,” Sundstrom said, stating his belief she was let go not for budget reasons, but because she questioned the way things have been done.
If elected, Sundstrom said he would push for a review of the city’s policies and procedures with a goal of making everything more straightforward and understandable.
For example, the municipal code “is so archaic it’s pathetic,” he said.
Another goal would be to reorganize the council’s committee structure so it’s more effective. Sundstrom believes council members have allowed themselves to become too weak. He notes, “the council is supposed to set the agenda” for the city. In reality, he said, “they have taken a back seat to the mayor.”
Buckley’s problem are not insurmountable, he said, “but it’s not going to happen unless we get some better council members.”
McNally, Howard vie for seat
By John Leggett
Incumbent Mark McNally and challenger Bryan Howard are vying for the Position 7 seat on the Buckley City Council.
Howard, who has lived on the Plateau for more than 16 years, believes Buckley needs dedicated council members with the knowledge and experience necessary to ensure efficient and cost-effective government in today’s economy.
Howard has several degrees in business administration and is about a month away from earning a master’s in public administration at the University of Washington.
Additionally, he is a fire and police chief, supervising all aspects of those departments including budget, policy and personnel.
Howard promises that, if elected, he will take the time to seek public input because, “not very many people show up to the public hearings at the city council meetings, and when they do they seem rather hesitant to speak out.”
To combat that, he plans to spend time in the restaurants and coffee shops, gathering public opinion and finding out what is on the citizens’ minds.
“I believe that managing growth is a hot topic in Buckley, as is the planned closure of Rainier School, which I think offers a real service to the state’s most vulnerable population,” Howard said. “I think it would be a real tragedy if it were to be chopped from the state’s budget.”
Howard currently is on Buckley’s Planning Commission and is a volunteer firefighter.
McNally spent six years in the Navy and did three tours of duty in Viet Nam following high school. Additionally, he is a professional firefighter/emergency medical technician who has been on the city council for two years. He believes the city needs to have council members who represent the citizens’ interests.
“It has been personally frustrating for me to spend 40 hours a week researching the issues put before the council, only to be told that the executive branch doesn’t want to hear what I have to say,” he said. “In a recent meeting I called for a point of order three times and never got it.
“I feel that the line between the legislative and executive branches of government should be black and white, but I have been told that I am wrong and that it is often gray,” said McNally, who adds that public opinion doesn’t seem to be an administrative priority either.
McNally is a strong advocate for land management and planning for the future of property use in Buckley. “I along with several other council members, am of the opinion that it was a huge mistake to lay off Associate City Planner Suriya Rasheed,” he said.
“We have had so many different city planners over the last decade that Buckley is in turmoil and seems to have lost its sense of direction. Suriya, in the meantime, was doing a fantastic job of getting things back on track and suddenly the decision was made by the admin and finance committee to eliminate that position for budget reasons...without even first running it by the other city council members.”