We get it. City council races aren’t flashy, but electing the men and women who sit on Tacoma’s eight-member council has significant consequences. Endorsing candidates is not a job we take lightly.
With half of the council seats on the Nov. 7 ballot, plus a new mayor in waiting, a good group of candidates have stepped forward, including some game for the challenge of representing hardscrabble neighborhoods on the East Side and South Tacoma.
We give our endorsements to Kevin Grossman in District 4 and Chris Beale in District 5.
The East Side of the city, District 4, has what we call a good problem: Voters must choose between two strong candidates. Grossman and Catherine Ushka are vying to replace Marty Campbell, whose two-term limit is up this year.
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We vetted all candidates through an interview process and a third-party verification system, and the decision between Grossman and Ushka was tough. But the ball was tipped in Grossman’s favor for the August primary, and we’re sticking with that pick.
East Side neighborhood councils have made it clear their top priority is cleaner, safer and more attractive neighborhoods. Drive through the McKinley District and see that over 10,000 square feet of concrete has been replaced with 6,000 trees and plants.
Volunteers put in over 20,000 hours to clean up McKinley Park, pulling out 2,500 hypodermic needles, 50 tons of garbage, and 250 tires. Grossman, a former Shoreline city councilman, would add business acumen to that East Side momentum.
Past performance in the Hilltop neighborhood, where he and partners repurposed the long-derelict Browne’s Star Grill property, along with the Porchert building next door, proves Grossman has the skill set to revitalize underserved areas.
And his ability to scrutinize issues from homelessness to transportation shows us the property developer won’t just be a one-issue councilman. Grossman, 57, was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to serve as vice chair for the state’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board and has a slate of ideas that could serve the 4th District and the council well.
His opponent, Ushka, 49, took the lead in the August primary. Decades of community service have given her solid leadership experience. As president of the Tacoma School Board, she watched graduation rates climb from 50 to over 80 percent.
Ushka’s resume is impressive: She’s served as vice president of the Tacoma Charter Review Commission, as a member of the city’s Human Services Commission and was on the steering committee for Eastside Community Center.
But Grossman has the edge when it comes to revitalization, a skill both the City Council and East Side neighborhoods could use. Unlike Ushka, he’d bring abilities and perspective currently underrepresented on council.
Voters on the southern edge of the city, District 4, narrowed a crowded field in the primary election to two finalists: Chris Beale and Brian Arnold. The choice for who should replace term-limited Councilman Joe Lonergan is clear to us.
Civic experience and a firm grasp of local issues give Beale, a senior planner for the City of Puyallup, a distinct advantage over insurance agent Arnold.
Beale, 32, earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from University of Washington Tacoma and has put it to use, not only in his nine years working at Puyallup City Hall but in his six years on the Tacoma Planning Commission.
Beale stands for all the things you’d expect from a young, progressive: livable-wage job growth? Check. Affordable housing? Check. Advocating for the environment and greener technology? Check and check.
We part company with him in his support for the “all-in” vision of a municipally owned and operated Click network, one that would bring retail internet, cable and phone service to the open market. But you can’t question that he’s demonstrated his devotion to District 5.
Beale, who’s lived in the district six years, puts his ethos of what he calls “shoulder-to-shoulder” activism into practice: he’s served as vice-chair of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council, a member of the Pierce Transit Citizen Advisory Council and board president of the non-profit ForeverGreenTrails. He also rolls up his sleeves and gets to work; he says he spends one Saturday a month at a South Tacoma park cleaning up trash, clearing weeds and planting native plants.
Arnold, 45, is a Farmers Insurance agent who’s lived and worked in the district for 11 years. While a small business owner’s voice would be good for council, and his belief that South Tacoma is neglected by City Hall seems sincere, Arnold lacks Beale’s fluency on several issues facing the city at large. Arnold also didn’t participate in our third-party background screening process.
Checking their records
The TNT Editorial Board is partnering with CandidateVerification as part of our endorsement process this year. The Bellevue-based nonprofit watchdog coordinates background and resume screenings with the candidates’ consent.
For Tacoma City Council Districts 4 and 5, three of the four candidates signed up for a background check (Brian Arnold declined) and no red flags came up.
To see the full database, go online to Candidate