The Tacoma City Council is short on members who’ve run successful businesses or at least understand the private sector. That’s a serious problem.
The private sector pays for the city’s public services and provides most of its jobs. If Tacoma’s private businesses don’t thrive, neither does the city.
Not everyone is a fan of private employers, though, as evidenced by the initiative on Tacoma’s November ballot that would abruptly raise the city’s minimum wage from $9.43 to $15. Its drafters either didn’t understand or didn’t give a damn that a sudden 58 percent raise in the wage floor would kill some small businesses, drive others to leave and throw people out of work in the bargain.
Support for the 15 Now initiative is a good proxy for how much a City Council candidate worries about Tacoma’s business climate – or understands rudimentary economics, for that matter.
There are three contested seats in this year’s city council election. All three races include candidates – Anders Ibsen, Suzanne Skaar and Tom McCarthy – who were early supporters of the initiative. (Ibsen and McCarthy have backed off somewhat.)
These three are smart and personable, but their leanings toward the fringe of progressive politics don’t bode well for Tacoma’s job-creating private economy.
As it happens, all three have strong opponents from the city’s liberal mainstream, a fact that makes these races easy to decide.
In District 1 – the West Slope and most of the North End – Ibsen is seeking re-election after a first term in which he personally antagonized many of the people he worked with. Seven of his eight council colleagues have pointedly endorsed his challenger, John Hines.
Hines, a teacher and football coach, is a union booster and Democrat who’s well-aligned with the politics of this district. Unlike Ibsen, he’s likely to develop effective working alliances with fellow council members.
In District 3 – Hilltop, Central Tacoma, part of South Tacoma – Keith Blocker faces part-time Pierce College instructor Tom McCarthy.
McCarthy’s an involved citizen and energetic community activist. He also hails from far left field. He earned notoriety in 2007 for suing the City of Tacoma for $2 million and forcing it to spend more than $100,000 before a jury rejected his claim.
His grievance: He’d been briefly jailed after a protest at the Port of Tacoma where he refuse police orders to remove a backpack. The police feared – reasonably – that the backpacks he and other protesters insisted on wearing could have been used to smuggle chains or weapons to the demonstration site.
Tacoma needs dissenters like McCarthy – but not, in his case, running city government.
We much prefer Blocker, a program director for a nonprofit that works with middle school youth at risk of failure. Blocker has a compelling life story: He grew up poor and sometimes homeless in Philadelphia, eventually making an extraordinary journey from hip hop performer to graduate of the University of Puget Sound.
He’d be a strong voice for the disadvantaged on the City Council.
The race for Position 7, a city-wide seat being vacated by David Boe, pits attorney Conor McCarthy against Suzanne Skaar, who works for a Tacoma-based charity that provides schooling for orphans in Tanzania.
Conor McCarthy has a broad record of community involvement and a firm grasp of Tacoma issues. His pragmatism and smarts are what the City Council needs.