For twelve years, a Republican majority has controlled the Pierce County Council, including several recent years marked by frequent dysfunction. On issues where other Washington counties have moved in step with public sentiment, such as marijuana legalization and mental health funding, our leaders have been stuck in mud.
A change in direction is needed, and a solution can be found in the northeast and southeast sectors of the county, home to two of the four council positions up for election this fall.
The seat now occupied by term-limited Republican Joyce McDonald is open in District 2, which ranges from the Port of Tacoma east to the outskirts of the Puyallup Valley. We took the rare step before the primary election of supporting a single candidate, rather than the customary one from each party.
Our sole endorsement went to Carolyn Edmonds, a poised Democrat from Northeast Tacoma, to the exclusion of state Sen. Pam Roach, a volatile Sumner Republican. Edmonds remains the better choice in the general election, though we appreciate Roach addressing what had been a big strike against her: that she would enjoy a double scoop of public salaries totaling $153,000.
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“It is not my intention to hold two seats at once,” Roach told us in a weekend email, adding that if she wins in November, she will resign from the Senate the same day she’s sworn in on the council.
Edmonds has put in more time in District 2, having moved from King to Pierce 8 ½ years ago and burnishing her credentials in the methodical way she did up north. There, her active citizen role in Shoreline led to 1 ½ terms in the state House followed by one on the King County Council. Here, she has worked as a Realtor, co-chaired her neighborhood association and recently finished six-month duty on the county Charter Review Commission.
The breadth of Edmonds’ experience, her professional temperament and inclusive approach to unincorporated areas, small towns and bigger cities combine to give Roach her most formidable opponent in years.
Roach changed her voter registration address from King to Pierce last year, just in time to be eligible to run in District 2. Her Sumner residence still fell inside the legislative district she’s represented for 26 years.
It looked for months like Roach would try to do both jobs and that nothing could stop her except County Charter Amendment 44, a proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot that would ban dual office holding. Now Roach wisely says one elected post is enough.
The other strikes against her are not so easily dismissed — chiefly, a long history of disrespectful treatment of staff and colleagues of both parties, which has isolated her at times in Olympia.
It’s too bad Roach behaves with such petulance, because it masks an undeniable work ethic and what-you-see-is-what-you-get appeal. Her legislative district’s many anti-tax conservatives know she has their backs. (Is it any wonder she’s the darling of initiative maven Tim Eyman?) And we wish more lawmakers had her gumption on open-government issues.
But her combustible persona — some might call her a fireball, others the gas can — would only worsen what’s wrong with the County Council.
Voters also would do well to try a new direction in District 3, where suburban sprawl meets the Mount Rainier foothills. Councilman Jim McCune, a Graham Republican known for zealous defense of property rights and a Jerry Falwell-esque moral code, is running for a second term.
McCune faces Dennis Townsend, perhaps the most impressive challenger we’ve seen in a council race this year. The well-spoken Spanaway Democrat knows the complexities of growth from his 15 years on the Bethel School Board and stint as a county planning commissioner in the mid ’90s. Townsend shares McCune’s focus on public safety, but has a sharper sense that mental health funding is a big piece of the puzzle.
While McCune means well with crusades against drug houses and human trafficking, he’s been an instrument of county gridlock and a promoter of divisive and distracting sideshows, such as hanging an “In God We Trust” plaque in council chambers.
Townsend, a retired telecommunications engineer, says he was motivated to run by costly county governance errors. One example is the “scenic highway” designation, pushed by McCune, that banned licensed marijuana businesses on a stretch of state Route 7. The county recently gave up and paid a legal settlement.
“I’m trying to bring things back to center,” Townsend told us — a goal worthy of an amen and our endorsement.