Gateway: Opinion

From the Helm: This election season has been extraordinarily nasty

Tyler Hemstreet, editor
Tyler Hemstreet, editor The News Tribune

Let me preface this column with the fact that I don’t have much history covering the Gig Harbor election scene in my nearly four years serving as editor of this newspaper.

I don’t have a whole lot to compare this year’s election season to in regards to how much voters are spun up over issues or how much mudslinging there has been between candidates in certain races. But by the tone of some letters to the editor, comments on Facebook, interviews with candidates and overall word on the street, this election season has been nasty.

There have been candidates who haven’t been completely transparent about their educational background, a political action committee-backed campaign mailer with some misleading or flat-out wrong facts about the current mayor, and local debates at forums that include more finger-pointing than focusing on the issues.

It’s not a pretty scene for a city that prides itself on being a serene and quaint place with small-town charm.

I’ll borrow a good line from reader Tom Borgen, a past president of Gig Harbor Rotary, on the loss of civility around town this election season: “Civility is more than just being polite, its about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground for dialogue and listening past one’s preconceptions.”

But that’s not to say voters don’t have a shortage of issues to get riled up about. There are folks unhappy about the process behind the City Council approving the purchase of the Masonic Lodge property, the handling of the proposed One Harbor Point project, the city’s use of development agreements, the handling of the placement of a Nativity scene on city property, and yes, we can’t forget the traffic congestion.

Voters want someone to blame. Some want to see immediate changes in policy and/or infrastructure. Others want to see each and every suggestion and comment addressed directly at the City Council meeting.

But let’s be honest. No amount of magic-wand waving will solve the issues Gig Harbor faces in the coming years. There is no logical way to stop traffic gridlock right away. Developers are still going to want to pitch projects to the city, and those who ultimately make the decisions must try to consider the needs of the entire community — not just those who show up at Council meetings armed with a diatribe — when it comes to approving the projects.

The city can’t just close the gates on people moving here, and leadership can’t be satisfied with keeping the status quo just because it’s what a select few who have been living here more than 20 years desire. The city is growing, and people want to live here.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to all the candidates running for City Council and mayor. There has been a lot of great dialogue, and I’m encouraged by the excitement that can come with an infusion of new energy at the Civic Center.

The exciting piece of the election is that we have a handful of candidates running for office who haven’t been involved in an official position of public service in city politics. That can be a cause for concern and a reason to be optimistic for the future.

So let’s bring back the civility because it might be a slow, contentious and twisty road.

Tyler Hemstreet: 253-358-4150, @gateway_tyler

Election results

The first batch of Tuesday’s election results were released after the print paper went to press. For a recap of the Gig Harbor City Council, mayoral and Peninsula School Board races, see the Nov. 16 edition. Or for immediate election results, visit https://results.vote.wa.gov/results/current/pierce/.

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