Ballots due by Tuesday in primary election; Mayoral candidates speak

Ballots for the Pierce County primary election are due Tuesday, and Bonney Lake is one of four Pierce County cities running a mayoral primary.

Incumbent Neil Johnson, seeking a third term as mayor, faces Councilman James Rackley and political newcomer Mike Munson. The two candidates with the most votes in the primary will move on to the general election in November.

Regarding his second term, Johnson said his most significant accomplishments included the Cascade Water Alliance agreement on Lake Tapps, the widening of state Route 410 and the negotiation, in 2012, of a new sewer agreement with the city of Sumner.

“My goals for a third term would be focused on following through on the downtown plan, Eastown, and continuation of adding more sidewalks and streetlights, continued economic development of midtown and (developing a) firm plan for parks, trails and open space funding,” Johnson said, responding to questions Friday.

Rackley is a retired accountant presently serving his fourth term on city council. Munson is the 16-year owner of West Coast Chippers of Bonney Lake. Both have cited, in advertising or statements, the April election’s failed Metro Parks District measure as motivation to run. The measure would have created a junior taxing district to fund city parks.

“I have lived in Bonney Lake for 50 years,” Munson said. “My great uncle was Allan Yorke of Allan Yorke Park. Furthermore, I have two grandsons and my daughter is a middle school teacher, so I am an advocate for places for kids and families to celebrate (and play).

“That said, the MPD was just bad timing. The response from citizens was not overwhelmingly supportive, so that should have been an indication to the City not to go ahead and spend thousands of dollars pursuing the matter.”

Munson said had some rudimentary ideas for funding parks “while keeping the bottom line in mind,” he said.

Rackley said, in four years, he would like to see the city increase spending on the development of existing parks and for commercial development of Eastown — expected to see construction next year — to continue.

“I would like to (improve) the City’s credit rating to ‘AAA,’ get the Eastown improvements finished, and finish annexation of the area south of Bonney Lake,” Rackley said.

Bonney Lake is one of the fastest growing cities in western Washington, having grown from fewer than 9,700 residents in 2000 to more than 17,300 in 2010. A projection included in a 2010 Parks Element document estimated the 2025 population — in the city’s current boundaries and excluding future annexations — at 29,000 residents. With growth has come development and proposals for future development, not all of which has been unanimously welcomed.

Earlier in 2013, a bill to alter the WSU Forest development agreement and lobby the state for a three-way traffic light returned to committee after splitting the council. More recently, the city’s six-year Transportation Improvement Program — a non-binding road and sidewalks plan each city annually submits to the state — was tabled after citizens expressed opposition to proposed road widening on three downtown streets to accommodate future apartment development.

Johnson and Rackley both said they believed the city could remain a green bedroom community as development continued.

“We have always had some resistance to development and we have mostly been able to smooth things out in the end,” Rackley said. “The Renwood apartments are required for a new Downtown Core, so we will find a way to move forward with the project somehow.”

Johnson said finding a happy medium on development would come down to reviewing the best engineering options and seeking citizen input.

“It will be key that any potential light can improve traffic flow and circulation,” he said. “The biggest issue about adding a new light to any roadway, especially (state Route 410) is the potential congestion it could cause.

“As for the Renwood project, we will need to look at all the engineering options to see what works best, then have an open house for all those citizens in the area to comment on what might work better for them.”

Munson, should he become mayor, is planning to gather a panel of business owners and citizens for input on city matters from a ground level perspective, he said.

“I’m not sure everybody can win all the time,” Munson said. “That said, I will do my best to listen to the people and make a balanced, well-thought decision. I have said before that I believe responsible growth is important. The key word is: ‘responsible.’ High-density housing may not be our best bet for growth when trying to maintain the Bonney Lake charm I grew up with.

“That said, making Bonney Lake an attractive area for future employers will (be) one of my priorities.”