A diverse, urban city the size of Lakewood, whose population of 60,000 places it second only to Tacoma among Pierce County cities, ought to have a pool of people ready for public service. It should run so deep that voters never lack for choices on Election Day.
Alas, that’s not how things shaped up this year for three seats on the Lakewood City Council. While voters have a choice between two good candidates for the open Position 6 seat, there’s only a nominal challenger for the Pos. 7 incumbent and no challenger at all for the incumbent in Pos. 4 (who also happens to be Lakewood’s mayor).
From that limited slate of candidates, The News Tribune Editorial Board endorses Linda Farmer, Paul Bocchi and Don Anderson in the Nov. 5 general election.
Let’s deal with Anderson first. He’s served on the council since 2008 and as mayor since 2013, handling both jobs competently and confidently. He’s running unopposed for Pos. 4, so why say more?
For Pos. 7, Paul Bocchi should be a shoo-in for reelection. The Lakewood resident of 21 years has solid public service credentials not only as a two-term councilman, but in his day job as a budget analyst for the Pierce County Council. He also filled a brief appointment on the County Council in 2003.
Asked about his biggest accomplishment, Bocchi cites Lakewood’s adoption of a rental property housing safety program after what he calls a “bruising battle” a few years ago. Property owners were largely unhappy with new inspection rules. But Bocchi helped lead this bold effort to protect tenants in a city where more than half of residents are renters and where slumlords have operated with impunity.
If reelected, the Oakbrook resident says he would work to bring sidewalks, parks and other quality-of-life investments to neighborhoods beyond Tillicum and Springbrook. Other top-of-mind concerns include reducing the crime rate and increasing local housing stock.
Bocchi is opposed by Siabhon Ayuso, a single mother of three making her first run for council. She’s an affordable housing activist fueled by personal experience, which no doubt resonates with many in Lakewood. But Ayuso’s campaign website highlights several national progressive causes — such as Medicare for All and tuition-free college — that call into question how well she understands the role of a City Council member.
We would’ve liked to hear specifics about Ayuso’s vision for Lakewood, but she didn’t attend her scheduled meeting with us.
For the open Pos. 6 seat, we’re sticking with our primary election endorsement of Linda Farmer. A policy wonk and public-relations pro who works as chief communications officer for the state Department of Enterprise Services, Farmer says she wants to see the ideas outlined in the city’s Comprehensive Plan come to fruition.
This isn’t the most glamorous task in the world, but it’s crucial stuff for a city that’s not yet 25 years old and still finding its way.
Farmer, a 16-year Oakbrook neighborhood resident and former member of the Pierce County Charter Review Commission, also speaks with a clear voice about key values of government transparency and accountability.
She faces off against Ken Witkoe for the seat being given up by two-term incumbent Marie Barth.
Witkoe’s community involvement is hard to match, including service as a reserve police officer and on the city’s Public Safety Advisory Committee. The 15-year Lakewood resident calls public safety “the great equalizer” because it touches everyone. He works as a video production instructor at Bates Technical College in Tacoma.
Lakewood residents chose well by sending Farmer and Witkoe through a crowded primary election field of six candidates.
It’s too bad voters don’t have much choice in the other two Lakewood contests up for grabs this year.