One candidate is a local transportation visionary who works every day to make Tacoma easier to get around without a single-occupancy vehicle. The other is a retired career city employee who helped Tacoma shed its embarrassing reputation as a contaminated dumping ground.
Neither has run for office before, but each could bring distinct expertise to City Council at-large Position 8.
Whether you vote for Kristina Walker or John O’Loughlin in the Nov. 5 election may depend, in part, on which of their specialty areas resonates most viscerally, and which skill set you think the City Council lacks.
It also may depend on what type of first-time officeholder you prefer: a non-profit leader whose resume ranges from Symphony Tacoma to Downtown on the Go, or a City Hall lifer who worked his way up from the lab to run Tacoma’s Environmental Services department.
Walker gets our endorsement for one main reason: Tacoma’s in the midst of a high-speed urban-planning revolution, and she’s at least two steps ahead of most people when it comes to conceiving a nimble, multimodal transportation system for the future.
Transportation lies at the intersection of nearly every Tacoma quality-of-life issue: schools, job growth, public safety, clean air and water, and more. “We can’t create great affordable housing without great transit,” Walker argues persuasively.
She and O’Loughlin are competing to replace incumbent Ryan Mello, who’s leaving after 10 years due to term limits.
Walker, 39, is executive director of Downtown on the Go, where she’s worked since 2011. The Central Tacoma resident is the 253’s go-to advocate for creative transportation solutions. Urban trails? Check. Bike lanes? Check. Ride-sharing services and electric scooters? Check and check.
And don’t forget Sound Transit’s light-rail extension from Seattle, scheduled to arrive in Tacoma in 2030. Planning will accelerate in the next few years, and Walker notes that selecting station locations will be critical for neighborhood prosperity. On City Council, she’d be well placed to help do it right.
The aptly named Walker is perhaps most focused on pedestrian concerns: safe crosswalks and sidewalks, and a walkable community designed around mixed-used centers. As she envisions things, the City of Destiny will be a city of density.
If you think adding parking spaces is the key to solving Tacoma’s transportation problems, she may not be the candidate for you.
O’Loughlin, 57, is the other choice for Position 8, and the North End resident wisely highlights his dedicated service as a City of Tacoma staffer and manager.
Not many political candidates can say they helped clean up a federal Superfund site; O’Loughlin spent a good chunk of his 31-year career working on the historic remediation of Commencement Bay and Tacoma’s working waterfront.
We appreciate that O’Loughlin wants to keep the waterfront and the rest of Tacoma working. He pledges that living-wage jobs will be his top priority if elected, saying the city should welcome any employers that agree to play by fairly established rules.
There’s no question he would bring a trained eye for bureaucracy, budgets and other aspects of city government that can befuddle council rookies.
But in the end, we kept coming back to transportation leadership as a fundamental area of need for Tacoma — a point made by O’Loughlin himself in his list of campaign issues.
“Our streets move our people,” his campaign website says, “and our growing city must accommodate an increasingly complex and ever-changing mix of mobility options.”
By electing Kristina Walker, Tacoma would take a decisive step in that direction.
TNT ENDORSEMENTS AT A GLANCE
Tacoma School Board: Lisa Keating (Pos. 1); Enrique Leon (Pos. 2).
Lakewood City Council: Linda Farmer (Pos. 6); Paul Bocchi (Pos. 7)
Puyallup School Bond: Yes
STILL TO COME
Port of Tacoma Commission (Pos. 3 and 5)
Initiative 976 ($30 car tabs)
Referendum 88/ Initiative 1000 (Affirmative action)