We endorse: In Puyallup, 3 standouts for 2 City Council seats

From the Editorial Board

The News Tribune Editorial Board endorses John Hopkins (left) and Jim Kastama to advance to the general election in the contest for Puyallup City Council District 1, Position 2.
The News Tribune Editorial Board endorses John Hopkins (left) and Jim Kastama to advance to the general election in the contest for Puyallup City Council District 1, Position 2.

Puyallup stands at a crossroads between the farming heartland of yesteryear and the suburban population center of today, hard-pressed to save some of the valley’s dwindling alluvial soil while dealing with modern challenges such as warehouse sprawl and homelessness.

Good leadership is indispensable at times like this. So Puyallup residents should be encouraged that a fine group of candidates stepped up to run for the seven-member City Council, forcing primary election run-offs for two of the three seats up for grabs. The District 1 race boasts a particularly superb field.

The sole Puyallup seat advancing straight to the general election is District 3, Position 2, where incumbent Julie Door faces challenger Jeremy Hamel.

District 1, Position 2

Incumbent John Hopkins has his work cut out trying to fend off veteran state lawmaker Jim Kastama and Puyallup civic stalwart Curtis Thiel.

Running for a second term after being appointed to the council in 2011, Hopkins has served capably as mayor the last two years. (He will surrender the gavel in December, even if reelected, because the mayor’s post rotates on the council.) The longtime electrical contractor now manages several properties.

Hopkins is rightly pleased about the city slashing its debt and the council curbing its infamous infighting under his leadership. The city lately has had a black eye over treatment of homeless people, but Hopkins said officials shouldn’t stop trying to cooperate with New Hope Resource Center, a controversial day-use center for indigent people downtown. He said it could succeed at a different site.

Kastama, by contrast, has no faith in New Hope at this or any location, saying it’s poorly managed. He’s part of a group of neighbors called Clean Up Puyallup that has blasted city leaders for letting the drop-in center operate near an elementary school.

We won’t pick sides in this dispute, but Kastama would surely bring skill and cachet to City Hall after 16 years in the Legislature. He took a break from politics after a failed run for secretary of state in 2012. That was the same year he showed grit with other Senate Democrats in the so-called road-kill caucus; they flipped to the Republican side to pass a budget wired with accountability measures, such as a four-year balanced budget.

Kastama, a strategic planning and technology consultant, continues to evangelize about performance standards, a compulsion that would translate well to the minutiae of running a city.

A general election matchup between Kastama and Hopkins would present a credible choice between two seasoned policy makers.

Thiel is also an appealing candidate, only a step or two behind. A small business owner with an impressive record of unelected community service, Thiel calls himself a strong voice for Puyallup after 40 years here. But Hopkins and Kastama, Puyallup residents of 30 and 57 years respectively, could hardly be called new kids on the block.

District 2, Position 2

First-term incumbent Heather Shadko was well grounded when first elected to the council in 2013, through a portfolio of service on the planning commission, library board and as an environmental volunteer.

Shadko, a Port of Tacoma contracts manager, holds sensible views on issues such as public open space (she defends the council’s warehouse tax), complying with federal mandates and supporting a public safety building. She blends hands-on pragmatism with a booster’s pride in Puyallup as a Tree City, Bee City and overall desirable place to live and work.

She is our only pick for this seat because she’s head and shoulders above the competition.

Cynthia Jacobsen, a community college math teacher with an accounting background, correctly states she represents a different point of view: that of a fiscal conservative with firm convictions on property rights and taxation. But Jacobsen’s grasp of some issues is weak; for instance, she wasn’t familiar with the council’s well-publicized homeless drop-in center regulations.

First-time candidate Keanan Taute is a member of Pierce County Young Democrats and says he’d represent the youth voice in Puyallup. Taute’s positions are thinly developed on Facebook, and he wasn’t available to meet with the Editorial Board.

About our primary endorsements

With ballots ready to hit mailboxes this weekend, endorsement season begins. This local election year seems to have extra gravity, given how the national politics of the last year or so have caused many voters to feel jaded.

The TNT Editorial Board’s primary endorsements are nothing more than informed preferences for the first round of cuts. Since two candidates move on to the general election, we typically (but not always) pick two people per race. This year we’re endorsing in Pierce County’s three largest cities — Tacoma, Lakewood and Puyallup — after doing in-person interviews buttressed by research, knowledge and observation.

Puyallup and Tacoma voters have a lot to weigh in the Aug. 1 primary; Lakewood has no council races with more than two competitors, leaving everything to be settled in November.