Voters are lucky to have a choice between two solid Lakewood citizens for the District 6 seat on the Pierce County Council. The diverse district has the large urban city at its core, but stretches by land as far as DuPont and Parkland and by sea to Anderson and Ketron Islands.
Incumbent Doug Richardson is the stronger of the two candidates. In the final year of his first term on the council, he was selected to be its chairman, and it’s easy to see why. As the most moderate voice of the council’s Republican majority, he provides even-tempered leadership and an important swing vote at times.
Whether discussing plans for economic development from state Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma, or his amendments to the Shoreline Management Plan — what he calls the signature achievement of his first term — Richardson is conversant in all things Pierce County.
As a former Army Reserve brigadier general and initiator of the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership, he’s the ideal point man for JBLM. It would be difficult to find someone better suited to the ongoing wave of service members transitioning from the base into District 6.
Challenger Linda Farmer, the communications director for Pierce County Library System, would like to see the council become more user-friendly. Her civic participation includes serving as a Citizens for a Healthy Bay board member and the now-defunct 2016 County Charter Review Commission.
But Farmer’s laudable civic interests can’t match the skills Richardson has gleaned on the County Council, plus 17 years on the Lakewood City Council, including seven as mayor.
If voters give Richardson another four years, we’d like to see him use his swing vote wisely on what may continue to be a bifurcated council. Under the county charter it takes a supermajority of five council members to approve new taxes or tax increases, and the council has spent too much time rebuffing a modest sales tax increase for mental health services.
In nearby District 4, voters would be hard-pressed to find a more compassionate and consistent voice for the region’s mentally ill than Connie Ladenburg, a Tacoma Democrat. She’s seeking a second term representing most of Tacoma on the west side of Interstate 5, plus residents of Fircrest and University Place.
Ladenburg proposed the Pierce County Behavioral Health study published Tuesday in an effort to confirm what our overcrowded jails and emergency rooms already show: that citizens with crippling mental illnesses or substance abuse problems are not being adequately served. She supports a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to attack the problem head-on.
This year, Ladenburg also proposed sensible fireworks rules and, as chair of the county economic development committee, subscribes to an important vision of regional partnerships with Kitsap and Thurston counties to stem the flow of jobs north to King County.
Her opponent, retired Tacoma architect Kit Burns, launched a successful independent write-in campaign in the primary election. He cites last year’s county administration building fiasco as the reason he’s running. Give him credit for the chutzpah needed to take on a name-brand incumbent in a safe district.
Burns’ understanding of public works projects is indisputable, and he falls back on his architectural background as evidence of problem-solving prowess. But he has no experience in local government offices, boards or commissions, and he presents no compelling reason to replace Ladenburg’s advocacy for the county’s most vulnerable citizens.