Who should I vote for in the Enumclaw City Council and mayoral races?
That was the question I had when I attended the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at the Green River College branch campus Oct. 17. The mayoral debate was the same day at 7 p.m. in the Expo Center fieldhouse. I was both pleased and troubled by those experiences.
I was pleased because there were two candidates for each position. This has been a rare occurrence for at least the past decade or more, when there was usually only one candidate per seat. There were young and retired, two women and one biracial candidate. Representative democracy works best when citizens of all ages and views get involved in the political process. Apathy can be the death of good government.
I pondered why Enumclaw is seeing more candidates. My guess is that the polarization of politics in the nation’s capital has raised awareness of the political process. President Donald Trump, with his unorthodox style and abrasive personality, probably has helped people get more involved in government. It’s a matter of self-preservation. Those on both sides of the political spectrum feel the republic is in danger. President Trump is helping to banish complacency in the nation.
I was pleased to hear the candidates speak and state their views. I gained a greater understanding of who they really were. My impression of all the candidates is that they sincerely care for the city and want to make it better. I didn’t see any big egos out to aggrandize themselves by getting into the public spotlight as I have seen on the national and statewide political levels and in previous local elections.
I was especially pleased to see that both candidates for mayor came across as reasonable, caring people. There was little debate and no name-calling or accusations, but a great deal of respect for the opinion of the other candidate. Both candidates are thoughtful, courteous and respectful human beings. Both would serve the interests of the city well.
I was less pleased with several things: first, neither Blain Thomas nor Kyle Jacobson – running for council Position 5 – came to the forum. This will make it more difficult to decide whom to vote for. I’ll have to spend some time reading the voters’ pamphlet and going to their websites to see what they have to say about themselves.
Second, I saw several cultural attitudes expressed by the candidates about their fitness to be elected.
The length of time as a town resident was a major reason given to vote for certain candidates. This is a sore point for me since I ran for council re-election against a hometown candidate whose family had lived in town for more than 100 years, while I was viewed as an outsider. I had only lived in town for about 19 years at the time. There is a clear and distinct attitude that one council candidate expressed: “Being here (a native son/daughter) is important to locals.”
There is an advantage to having lived in town your whole life, but there is also an advantage to coming from outside. People who move here see things that locals miss because Enumclaw is all they know. There is no contrast that adds diversity and new ideas.
Another emphasis that bothered me was the push for improving business. This makes sense since the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum and the mayoral debate. While I agree that business is important, the needs and desires of non-business residents also matter, but have often been forgotten or ignored. Besides, as one candidate noted, most business owners do not live in town.
The question of stormwater fees is a case in point. Aided by conservative council members, businesses with large parking lots have resisted creating a stormwater utility because it would increase business expenses. They have ignored the fact that the rain runoff causes an overload to the sewer treatment plant, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars taken from the city’s general fund. This is not right.
Ballots and voter pamphlets have arrived. Nov. 7 is fast approaching.
There is much to be pleased about in the Enumclaw elections, but there are issues that need to be addressed and old prejudices rejected. Vote for the candidates who best represent the interests of the whole town, not just the lifetime locals or business interests. We the people are the ones who decide whether we will have good government or not.