Voters in District 3 have a choice between a pair of Hilltop small business owners vying for a spot on the Tacoma City Council. Incumbent Keith Blocker and opponent David Combs are both well attuned to gentrification and other challenges in their district, an area that includes Hilltop, Central Tacoma and parts of South Tacoma.
The district includes some of the poorest and most racially diverse parts of the city. It’s why both Blocker and Combs cite reducing homelessness, expanding affordable housing and nurturing safe, business-friendly neighborhoods as reasons for running.
The Link light rail expansion will soon slice through the heart of District 3, attracting more businesses, residents and potential problems. Such a rapid transformation requires a fully committed ambassador. No half-measures will do.
Political newcomer Combs, 36, is clearly eager to roll up his sleeves. Energetic and engaging, we believe him when he says he knows the names of people who sleep homeless near his clothing shop.
But Blocker, 38, who is heads and shoulders more poised and knowledgeable than when he ran for the open seat in 2015, has the backing of all seven of his colleagues on the current council, plus the mayor. He gets our endorsement for a second term, too.
While four years in city government have taught him the wheels of public policy move grindingly slow, he’s undeterred. Residents in District 3 are getting priced out of their neighborhoods, a concern he says he’s heard loud and clear while helping tighten eviction practices and shape the city’s new Affordable Housing Action Strategy.
Blocker’s determination to curb homelessness stems from experience being raised by a single mom on the economic fringes of Philadelphia. It’s why he pushed for the Dome District homeless stability site and recently sponsored a plan to prohibit tents in city parks — a ban that mercifully won’t be enforced until the city works with service providers and charities to expand shelter options this fall.
Disadvantaged youth in his district are given top priority. Blocker lends his full support to Project PEACE, a Tacoma Police community outreach program formed in the wake of deadly officer-involved shootings around the country and region.
Disadvantaged business owners are also top of mind for him. Blocker, a consultant who advises political campaigns and specializes in diversity training and management, was lead sponsor of a study that found disparities in city contracts awarded to women- and minority-owned businesses. What the city does with that study remains to be seen.
Combs, who’s lived in the Hilltop neighborhood more than 20 years, says he, too, has faced housing insecurity. He promises to be a more visible councilman around the district than he claims Blocker has been.
Combs has a heart for small business and credits the city’s Spaceworks Program for turning his entrepreneurial dream into reality. No doubt his work with Hilltop Action Coalition and the Hilltop Business Association will pay future dividends. We encourage him to develop his leadership chops through organizations like these.
At least voters in District 3 can rest easier knowing that if the incumbent is reelected, another forceful advocate stands ready when Blocker terms out in four years.
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)
Sunday: Position 8: (Kristina Walker v. John O’Loughlin)