Puyallup: News

Q and A with the Puyallup City Council Candidates

Election season is in full swing now that ballots are beginning to arrive in local mailboxes. The Puyallup Herald recently conducted a question and answer session via email with each of the candidates running for Puyallup City Council. This is the first in a two-part series featuring each of the candidates. This week features Dean Johnson and Steve Vermillion for the at-large position, as well as Pat McGregor and Robin Farris for the District 1 position. Next week will include District 2 candidates John Palmer and Keith Sherrill as well as District 3 candidates Robin Ordonez and Tom Swanson.

At-large position

Dean Johnson

Q: What do you see as the biggest issue/issues facing Puyallup?

A: The growing homeless issue in our downtown core is very controversial and generates a very polarizing passion of emotions from two drastically different points of view.

The public safety and overall well-being of our citizens, businesses and tourists should always be held in high regard and should never be compromised or ignored.

As a result this fact, I believe I am uniquely positioned to address this issue in a very meaningful and constructive way based off my perspective as a sixth-generation family resident of Puyallup as well as my professional background as a local minister here in the Pierce County region.

Q: What in your mind makes you the best fit for Puyallup City Council?

A: I am the only candidate who is clearly endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans. I believe our City Council should look out for our citizens not a specific political party when it comes to our city business.

I was recently endorsed by The News Tribune as the candidate that would best serve our city within this position. A full copy of the endorsement can be viewed on the paper’s website and was published on Oct. 13.

I am grateful to be part of a family legacy of six uninterrupted generations of Puyallup residents that date back to 1892 starting with my great, great grandfather, Perry Summerfield, who helped found the incorporation of our city as well as serving on the very first Puyallup City Council.

I currently work at the flagship Nordstrom in downtown Seattle and utilize the Sounder train as my main source of transportation both to and from work. In addition to my extensive experience within the retail sales management industry, I also served 20 years as a local pastor for several churches here in Pierce County.

Q: What change would you like to see in Puyallup?

A: I want to see a vibrant downtown, with every storefront filled. To achieve this goal, we should bring together all the public and private stakeholders to form a task force to develop a vision that also takes into consideration neighborhood concerns, affordable housing, parking and transportation.

To work efficiently toward this goal, we must elect city council members who will get to work serving the public. The incumbent has wasted countless staff hours as well as tens of thousands of dollars appealing to hide the emails he admits writing through his campaign website where he conducted city business after taking office. He will not disclose them despite court-ordered judgments. The city is now facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs and fines as the incumbent continues to fight in appeals. His confrontational leadership style is opposite my approach.

This race will determine whether the Puyallup City Council finally interacts civilly, ends wasteful spending, and ensures public transparency. I believe in wise stewardship regarding the proper use of tax funds that are given to us by our hard working citizens and businesses. I request the honor of your vote, and your support will make a true difference for our city.

Read more here:http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/editorials/article39238254.html#storylink=cpy. We need to get back to “looking out” for our citizens not our personal addenda. We need a new leadership approach that transforms our image from leaders being viewed as a “politicians” to ones who are truly seen as sincere “public servants”

We could meet these challenges with respectful communication combined with public accountability to ensure an open and ethical form of government

I humbly request the honor of your vote knowing that your support will make the difference for all our city come November 3, 2015.

Steve Vermillion

Q: What do you see as the biggest issue/issues facing Puyallup?

A: The biggest issue facing Puyallup is infrastructure, above and below the ground. Previous councils accumulated $107 million dollars in debt, the majority of which was not funded by a “tax based” payback source. As such, the principal and interest payment each year which was close to $7 million dollars, which came from our General Operating Fund. This means every year the city had $7 million less to put towards our infrastructure. In 2017, we will have our first major opportunity to convert debt payment to cash for projects. Our roads are congested due to unconstrained development in unincorporated Pierce County. New and wider roads are necessary to ease this congestion. Many neighborhood streets are in dire need of resurfacing. Our underground utilities are the same — they have been neglected for the same reasons. We have a plan in place to repair these — the council has to ensure it does not redirect funding for the “pretty things” at the expense of our basic needs.

Public safety is the second major issue. Our police station, jail and leased court house need to be replaced. The facilities are old, out dated and create a cost burden for their operation, repair and leasing. Puyallup is no longer what some refer to as “Mayberry RFD,” the small community where one can leave their doors unlocked and crime is minimal at best. We are seeing stronger trends in crimes against people and property, a rise in drug use, with the drug of choice being heroin, and low-level gang activity is beginning to surface. It is paramount to the safety and well-being of our community that we maintain a resourced and strong police force and associated services within our community.

We have great nonprofits that team up and individually work to prevent homelessness in families, to assist victims of domestic violence and shelter families with children. Over the last several years, an attempt to make Puyallup the homeless shelter and service provider for East Pierce County has created a negative impact on our community both in support services being demanded, public safety and general nuisance issues for our businesses and citizens to contend with. The Freezing Nights program, albeit it well intended, attracts homeless people from outside our city and our state to Puyallup. Freezing Nights tends to nearly 70 people per night and then the next morning drops them off in our downtown core for the “city to take care of.” The New Hope Center, albeit controversial in nature, is making a bit of difference given the statistics they provide. However, its location has a negative impact on our schools, businesses and residents located in the immediate area. The state and county need to step up and provide or acquire facilities to deal with the homeless people who have mental and drug issues. The city is not resourced to handle these issues. No one has the answer on how to solve these problems otherwise homelessness would not exist.

Q: What in your mind makes you the best fit for Puyallup City Council?

A: Each candidate or council member certainly feels that they are the most qualified to hold the position for the next four years. I will offer to the citizens that to be a successful council member, one needs to be engaged with the citizens, involved in the community and involved in shaping the future of Puyallup by serving on committees, boards and commissions that directly or indirectly influence Puyallup’s future. Below are the committees and commissions that have a direct influence over Puyallup’s present and future. As a council member, I have championed the new Splash Pad in Pioneer Park, brought the Pierce Transit Community Connector Route 425 to Puyallup, which connects the South Hill area to downtown Puyallup. I helped conceive the new extension to the Riverwalk and Foothills Trail which runs along East Pioneer and is known as the “JEB III Way.” Worked towards improving neighborhood safety and sidewalks. My service on the Pierce County Regional Council brought funding to Puyallup for the widening of Shaw Road from 39th Ave SE to 23d Ave SE. Collectively, all council members worked to reduce our debt burden.

Most of all I have worked towards making government a resource instead of a hindrance. Outside the council, both my wife and I are engaged in our community through volunteer work. In 2012, the Puyallup Fish Hatchery was mere days away from being leased to a commercial fish production company on a 50-year lease. If that occurred, the city would have lost a historical facility that has been in our community since 1946. They would have lost the ability to walk the grounds, to see the fish in various stages of life and to enjoy the wealth that nature offers. Myself, Patty Carter and Georga Prossick spend long hours in negotiation with Fish and Wildlife and convinced them we had a better option — creating a nonprofit to operate a learning center.

Although the city declined to be part of this effort, the three of us moved forward with the vision, gaining other committed volunteers along the way until you now see what a treasure the community has been given. In the 2016/2017 academic school year, each fourth grade class will have the opportunity for a field trip to the hatchery and the education center as part of their science/STEM classroom learning. I am a member of Communities in Schools and have worked with young first and second grade students at Karshner Elementary School to improve their reading comprehension skills. On the weekends for a 36-week commitment, I coach youth bowling at Daffodil Lanes and volunteer at our fish hatchery learning center. My track record is proven and I have lived up to my promises and commitments.

▪  Pierce County Regional Council

▪  Pierce County Regional Council 2013 Budget Committee

▪  Pierce County Regional Council 2014-15 Transportation Committee

▪  Pierce County Regional Council 2015 Operations Committee

▪  Puget Sound Regional Council-Growth Management Committee (2012-2014)

▪  Puget Sound Regional Council-Transportation Committee (2012-2015)

▪  Zoo-Trek Board [Point Defiance Zoo and Northwest Trek] (2014-15)

▪  Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners (2012-2015)

▪  Board-Vice Chair (2014-15)

▪  Pierce Transit Executive and Finance Committee-Chair

▪  Pierce Transit -Citizen Transit Advisory Group [CTAG] Committee

▪  Public Transportation Boundary Area Committee (2012)

▪  Member of the Puyallup City Task Force for PT route 425 within Puyallup

▪  Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee

▪  AUSA Sub chapter Member (2012-current)

▪  Clarks’ Creek Elodea Task Force Member (2012)

▪  Committee for State Auditor’s 2012, 2013, 2015 City Audit

▪  Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation-Founding Member and Board Member

Q: What change would you like to see in Puyallup?

A: I along with many people in Puyallup like our community the way it is presently. We have a solid downtown business core, strong viable businesses in our South Hill corridor, we have an excellent and ever expanding medical community and we have a diverse housing spectrum for citizens of all ages and economic status. There are those groups that want to transform us into another Kirkland- or Kent-type city. We need to grow and diversify our city but not become something that doesn’t fit our community’s desires.

District 1

Pat McGregor

Q: What do you see as the biggest issue/issues facing Puyallup?

A: Public safety: I am concerned about the crime that has come here to Puyallup. Our Puyallup Police Department does an outstanding job of protecting our community. However, if people are or feel unsafe, they will not live in a community, frequent its businesses or send them to our schools. We need to ensure that any policy that has a potential to harm citizens have a public safety component. I would like to see a staffing analysis of our Puyallup Police Department to determine our staffing needs and ensure that we are keeping up with population and crime trends in the city.

Homelessness services: Puyallup has seen an increase in its homeless population over the last few years. While there are many programs that serve this population, there needs to be a balance between serving a high needs population and the safety of the community. The solution is not to “boot” the homeless out of Puyallup, but rather ensure that programs are able to meet their specific needs and have the capacity to do so. I support an ordinance that creates clear regulations on providers so each are on a level playing field and accountable to the citizens. We can do both — provide quality programs and protect our citizens. These are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Smart growth planning: Puyallup has a diverse business climate, from retail to services like hospitals and colleges to manufacturing. Each type of business has unique needs. We need to create a transportation plan that uses multi-modal forms of transportation and a clear plan to fund those projects. Partnerships with county and state agencies are important, as traffic does not stop at the city limits. For some businesses, freight mobility and people being able to access a business are important. In others, zoning and land use are issues. This, coupled with a growing population are why we need to plan smartly for these important issues. They are all dependent on one another, so each are equally important. As a city council member, I will seek practical solutions that protect our neighborhoods (it is why I moved here) as well as create a positive business climate.

Q: What in your mind makes you the best fit for Puyallup City Council?

A: As a school principal, my role is to build relationships, facilitate process and solve problems. It is a job I enjoy and also something I would bring to the city council. I am able to make tough decisions that represent all, not a special interest group. The best result comes when we are all heard during a process. I don’t join factions and understand all the “cogs” in a process. I understand how one decision affects many things, so chasing one idea is not always the best strategy.

Q: What change would you like to see in Puyallup?

A: I would like to see our council work together on a common set of priorities that reflect the values of our city. Once you chase a pre-determined solution, you are leaving people out of the process. My personal politics are reserved for my own ballot, so your voice is important in the solution. I do not join camps, I look for solutions that get the business of the city done and represent you, our citizens.

Robin Farris

Q: What do you see as the biggest issue/issues facing Puyallup?

A: Homelessness: The greatest issue for the citizens I’ve spoken with is the increasing number of homeless citizens in the city. I believe that we must have a coordination of effort, data collection mechanism and work with Pierce County and state representatives to address the gaps in services.

The cities with the greatest success in reducing homelessness have a local or regional task force with the primary functions of collecting data and analytics of homeless citizens, and secondly to coordinate efforts with agencies, programs and volunteers that serve to alleviate homelessness.

The state database, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), is coordinated through the county. Data collected in 2015 should be compared to 2014 for population growth and management.

Currently, the gap in services is the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse issues. There needs to be a continuum of care. I believe that the city can take a leadership role in resolving this gap by actively engaging in state and county programs.

Public safety: The City of Puyallup is lucky to have an extraordinary police department. My goal is to ensure our police department has the resources available they need to keep our community safe.

Public safety is critical in ensuring our city maintains its small-town charm. In order to maintain our public safety and plan for the future, it is critical now to develop a long-term plan to provide the Puyallup Police Department with facilities that support public and staff safety.

Ultimately, meeting the needs of our public safety sector is important to our city’s foundation.

Strategic approach to budget process: A strategic approach to the budget process includes maintaining a sustainable and balanced budget, managing budgeting priorities, and providing budget accountability to our citizens.

The City of Puyallup maintains a balanced budget, which is a statutory requirement. However, a balanced budget is not necessarily a healthy one. A balanced and sustainable budget ensures that the real costs of services and city revenue are balanced.

Fiscal policy is developed based on constituent input and city council member’s best judgment. At the end of the budget year, city leaders have a responsibility to report expenditures in a clear and meaningful way for citizens.

Q: What in your mind makes you the best fit for Puyallup City Council?

A: The first thing is I have proven leadership in a government environment. I served during a time when there were significant personnel and budget reductions. Motivating my teams, divisions or departments to think creatively resulted in cost-conscious solutions and an improved quality of life for my troops.

One example is an idea from one of my chiefs. He believed that he could develop a certified training lab that with a small investment would result in greater professional competency for our IT staff. His vision was realized within a year and we had 135 certifications before I transferred. This training would have cost more than $1 million without the training lab. The morale improved and we reduced our open daily trouble tickets from 125 to zero.

Puyallup is my hometown. My grandfather moved to Puyallup nearly 100 years ago. Our family is deeply rooted in the community. The people I grew up with are like family to me. So the issues that we face as a community are very personal.

Finally, the city council position is very time intensive. I am retired and plan on working at this position full time. I can provide a higher level of support for the citizens who live in District 1.

Q: What change would you like to see in Puyallup?

A: I would love to have a city council who is respectful to each other, staff members and to those who live or work in the community. Leadership is not a zero-sum game. If we are not all winning, we are all losing.

Secondly, we can’t afford to bury our head in the sand for problems that impact the quality of life. Right now, the city is not budgeted for life-cycle maintenance for our roads. We have to look at the cost of not maintaining our roads compared to the increased future costs resulting from inadequate maintenance.

We need to work together to find a solution for our homeless that supports them in a manner that minimizes the impact on citizens and business owners. I have spoken to many citizens who are on the verge of moving to another area because of the actions of a small portion of the homeless community. Unfortunately, if we don’t get our arms around the issue, we will start to lose businesses, have more home for sale and property values will decrease. City leadership must work with all stakeholder to find inclusive solutions.