Editor’s Note – An Investigative Report:
One of the nation’s leading legal experts, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst since 2002, wrote a thoughtful piece published in The New Yorker calling for a presidential pardon of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, “about a case that has become perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history.”
Toobin’s story “Why Obama Should Pardon Don Siegelman?” asked this key question:
“Why do local contractors support mayoral candidates?
Why do real-estate developers give to prospective (and incumbent) governors?
Because they want something.”
This question reminded me of Mayor Harding’s Achilles heel –
lack of transparency in the the public process
– From the Nisqually Valley News, January 12, 2007:
“With one whole year as Yelm’s mayor under his belt, Ron Harding has performed many official duties, including attending new business openings and community events… When he attends the special ground breaking for Yelm’s new golf clubhouse next week, instead of scooping up a handful of dirt with a symbolic golden shovel, he’ll get to sit in a big machine and scoop dirt with a real bucket. Harding was invited by the developing duo of Doug Bloom and Steve Chamberlain, who bought the golf course and dilapidated country club. They are now creating a first-class space for regional golfers to enjoy. Tahoma Terra Country Club’s ground breaking ceremony is 1 p.m., next Thursday, Jan. 18, at the site of the former building on Mosman Street, two blocks off First Street and State Highway 507.”
– From the following two Nisqually Valley News editions.
The NVN reported in its January 19 and 26, 2007 editions about Yelm Mayor Ron Harding turning over the first blade of dirt in the new Tahoma Valley Golf Clubhouse owned by Thurston Highlands Associates Steve Chamberlain and Doug Bloom and who were also featured in the February Yelm Chamber Prairie Viewpoint. Yet in the January 19, 2007 NVN, the owners of the golf course, also the developers of Tahoma Terra and Thurston Highlands, offered to give the city water rights if half of the available water could be used for the Tahoma Terra development.
– Mayor Harding made no effort to avoid an appearance of a conflict-of-interest.
The city funded the developers’ private water study without a contract for repayment.
The developers defaulted, left the city with over $100,000 in debt, unpaid taxes and fees and with the capped golf course well unusable, due to the expense to bring it online.
Additionally, when Senior Water Rights holder JZ Knight brought a lawsuit against the City of Yelm for approval of development plats without proof of water availability, the developers and Mr. Harding blamed Knight for the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city expended to defend their case, while doing all they could to intimidate Knight in the media. Knight took her cause all the way to the WA. Supreme Court and won – the result was that Yelm had to follow the law and not toss aside rules in favor of developers.
– Now, the City of Yelm is at it again, blaming a property owner for the city’s legal bills.
Sara Foster’s case is against the Dept. of Ecology granting a more-than-doubling of Yelm’s water rights to continue growth with developments. Recently, the WA. Supreme Court accepted to hear this case as well, a rarity with two cases from the same town accepted by the state’s highest court.
– Further, the WA State Auditor has told the City of Yelm that in a city of Yelm’s size,
they must publicly post bids for proposed contracts over $10,000 so everyone can have equal opportunity to have the information to participate in bidding for city projects. There is supposed to be no favoritism nor lack of transparency in the public process.
– Bottom Line:
While Mr. Harding does not like me speaking out on these issues and says I have something against him (I genuinely find Ron likeable, I do not appreciate his politics/avoidance of the public process),
Toobin’s question is pertinent to be asked here, in a city bent on again doubling growth within 10 years:
“Why do local contractors support mayoral candidates?”
Let me state on-the-record I have no issue with developers, for they bring value to towns and cities.
However, I draw the line when there is a quid pro quo as the mayor and his staff make commitments and promises to developers that they may not be able to deliver. I also take issue with developers who are too dollar hungry for their plats to be approved by the city and turn a blind eye to all reason, becoming naive or ignorant to deliberately cross a line in their coziness with city officials. All of this is done without transparency behind closed doors and when the facts emerge, the messenger is badgered, verbally attacked and belittled (as in the Knight case).
– UPDATE: May 1, 2015
“Department of Health Approves New Water Connections for Yelm”
“The Washington State Department of Health has approved new water connections for the city of Yelm.
The city now has 594 new water connections available for residential and commercial growth, up from less than 100,” quoting the NVN.
Mr. Harding can no longer deny my assertions of his single-mindedness about growing this city. Yelm’s population has almost doubled during his tenure and could top the 10,000 population mark during his current term [ends in 2017].