In the Oct. 14, 2009, edition of the paper, a letter written by Mr. Randy Martin was published. I was struck by two things in his letter. First, I was confounded by his inference that a local business owner, just because he or she lives outside the incorporated city boundaries, has no right to campaign for, support or have an opinion on the candidates for mayor. Secondly, I was surprised that he wrote fabrications and misinformation about Chuck and Celia Bender.
As I drove down Cole Street today, I made a mental note of the businesses, their owners and where they live. In less than one mile’s drive, I counted over a dozen businesses where the owners operate their businesses in town, but they live in “unincorporated Enumclaw.” Their children attend Enumclaw schools. They shop and spend money here in Enumclaw. They employ dozens if not hundreds of local residents. They are members of local service organizations. They are vendors to the city. Each of these businesses is a taxpaying entity, essentially a nonvoting citizen of the city.
Each of these businesses pays taxes. Each pays for utility services for water, gas, garbage and sewer from the city. These businesses are licensed by and regulated by the city, and these businesses must work with local regulatory officials from the building, fire, and police departments when remodeling, building, adding alarm systems, opening a new venture, etc. Each of these businesses attracts visitors to Enumclaw who spend money here. These businesses are the backbone of every major fundraising drive for the local schools, sports programs, civic projects and similar causes.
Mr. Martin implies that it’s not fair that Mr. Bender, a local Enumclaw business owner, be allowed to exercise his First Amendment rights of free speech just because he lives in the unincorporated part of the city, rather than inside the incorporated city limits. His family attends school and church in town. They pay taxes and use city services, employ local residents and operate a business on Cole Street.
What is apparent is that Mr. Martin doesn’t seem to personally know the Benders. If he did, he would know that they are exactly the sort of people our community needs to be vibrant and alive. They donate their time and money generously to a wide variety of very worthy local causes. They are members of the Rotary, they are active fundraisers for local youth programs, they have been involved in Scouting, they helped raise funds for the hospital and they have been active in helping save and restore family-oriented local civic events. They don’t just talk about things to help our community, they act on their beliefs (something I wish more people did).
Mr. Bender has a truly unique perspective on the interests of the local business community because he is the founder of the nonprofit Mount Rainier Independent Business Alliance, an alliance of 40 businesses employing over 500 people. Their goal is to make Enumclaw area businesses stronger. His leadership has forged what seems to be a productive and strong working relationship with many people involved in city government and with the Chamber of Commerce. When Mr. Bender speaks on matters relating to the city’s conduct, how the city operates the services he and his fellow MRIBA rely on, or how the city plans on investing on the business community’s behalf, he speaks on behalf of a large number of businesses who all have a right to express their feelings about how city government affects all our pocketbooks.
What was most concerning about the letter was Mr. Martin suggestions that there is some ulterior motives for Mr. and Mrs. Bender’s involvement in local activities, specifically the electronic reader board and the holiday celebration. The facts are that the city approached Mr. Bender about the reader board, not vice versa. Mr. Bender arranged for people to work with the city, and assist the city (at no cost and no potential profit) to explore the options available to help all the city’s businesses.
And in terms of the parade, I would simply say this: The Benders are involved with a larger group of people who are taking on this significant undertaking, while trying to create a unique and new family event that includes an entire day’s set of activities including photos with Santa, games and other fun events that bring us all together during this special time of the year. Through this event, the organizers (of which there are a great many people involved) are attempting to help Enumclaw stay a small, intimate community. Rather than go the Sea-Tac or the Supermall to get a little holiday cheer, they simply suggest that maybe we’d all be a little better off if we shared locally with our neighbors.
Please do not misinterpret this letter – it is not an advocacy for either mayoral candidate per se, I’m not specifically endorsing either candidate in this letter. But if you want to know how the local businesses feel about the mayoral candidates, I suggest you look at the endorsements each candidate has from the local business community. As a business owner here in town, that is what I did. Based on the list of endorsements, there seems to be an almost 3-1 ratio of support for Liz Reynolds by local businesses.
While Mr. Martin is well within his rights to share his opinions, people simply need to understand that his opinions shared were not facts and seemingly not verified or confirmed in any way. He suggested sinister motivations and impugned the integrity of people who work very hard on all our behalves. I’m not sure he knows the Benders. I do, and I’m glad to count them as friends. We are all better off with them as neighbors.