Predicting what matters most to Tacomans is a slippery business as voters weigh four City Council seats in the November general election.
Many folks give little thought to local governance most of the year, apart from everyday frustrations like potholes and car prowls.
Others are absorbed with big-picture issues like homelessness policy and interim Tideflats industrial regulations. This is the vocal minority who give passionate testimony and endure marathon council meetings like one last week that went over four hours.
But there are some parts of the Tacoma narrative that have wide voter appeal, and all eight candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot know these cornerstone concerns well.
One is supporting family-wage jobs so more people can work in Tacoma. Another is supporting housing options so more people can afford to live here.
That’s certainly true in the race for City Council Position 1. John Hines, a Tacoma Public Schools instructional facilitator, and Nathe Lawver, a labor union political director, are vying to represent the North and West End. The winner will replace term-limited incumbent Anders Ibsen.
Both candidates are smart, capable and energetic. Both have deep Tacoma roots (a lifetime for Hines, 25 years for Lawver) and local college degrees (Hines is a UPS Logger, Lawver’s a PLU Lute).
Deciding between them was a close call. But we’re going with Hines, who won our endorsement in 2015 and has become a more well-rounded candidate since then.
His growing affordable-housing expertise is a good fit for District 1, which has the highest average rent in Tacoma and second-highest in Pierce County ($1,992 a month, area code 98407).
Hines, 37, is a former high school teacher and football coach whose current job puts him in schools all over town, helping teachers make classes equitable and accessible.
After losing to Ibsen by just 809 votes four years ago, Hines beefed up his resume by joining the boards of the YWCA and Tacoma Public Library, where he’s addressed the local affordable-housing crisis. There have been successes and setbacks; both have opened his eyes.
Hines helped oversee planning for the YWCA’s $23 million, 54-unit complex for domestic violence victims, which broke ground this summer.
On the library board, he’s watched plans grow cold for an apartment building on a city-owned lot next to the downtown library. Hines now says the city should’ve sold the site to the Tacoma Housing Authority instead of a private developer.
Of his second run for City Council, Hines told us: “I come at this from a public service rather than a policy background.”
Lawver, 44, has a longer record on the policy side, owing to strong union and political ties. He works for Laborers Local 252 and is a former chair of the Pierce County Democratic Party.
Such connections could make Lawver an effective council member. So could his organizing efforts on progressive causes such as Tacoma’s $12 minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.
The difference between the two candidates may be style as much as substance. In their interview with us, Lawver emphasized his broad base of endorsements while Hines highlighted the thousands of doors he’s knocked on.
Going back to those cornerstone concerns of the Tacoma narrative, we think Lawver would excel at supporting living-wage jobs while Hines has the edge on affordable housing.
Both cornerstones carry about equal weight. But given how much Hines has grown as a two-time candidate, we think he could do a lot of heavy lifting in Position 1.
OUR TACOMA CITY COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS
Position 1 (John Hines v. Nathe Lawver)
Position 3 (David Combs v. Keith Blocker)
Position 7 (Conor McCarthy v. Courtney Love)
Position 8 (Kristina Walker v. John O’Loughlin)