OPINION & INSIGHTS
While Tuesday, September 8, 2015 marked the beginning of a new school year, what was also apparent were the “Winds of Change” that have arrived in Yelm and on-display at the Yelm Chamber Forum yesterday.
The following list several examples:
1. Victoria Wortberg introduced as new Yelm Chamber of Commerce Executive Dir.
Wortberg knows Yelm and all of the “players” very well after formerly living in the area and being associated with Yelm citizens in her various positions in the county spanning decades. Victoria comes to the Yelm Chamber from the Washington Center for Women in Business (WCWB), operating under the umbrella of the Thurston EDC’s Business Resource Center, which provides training and counseling to women-owned businesses.
As the website states, “Victoria comes with both the skills and compassion needed for her role. With a master’s degree in public administration, Victoria has owned her own ad agency, been a marketing manager for a national company, served as the corporate director for a national health organization, and run multi-state nonprofits. She is passionate about helping women achieve extraordinary success and supporting the many women-owned businesses that are creating jobs and contributing to the economic growth of our state.”
Congratulations to Victoria and to the Yelm Chamber for their fine selection. I am sure this will be a good fit for both!
2. City Council candidates interviewed
NVN Editor/Publisher and Yelm Chamber Board member Michael Wagar moderated questions of each of the candidates for the Yelm City Council:
Terry Kaminski, Jen Littlefield (represented by her daughter), Joe Baker, JW Foster, Molly Carmody, Tad Stillwell, & Joe DePinto.
Wagar started by noting that Yelm has not had this many challengers for City Council in decades and acknowledged them stepping up to the plate against the current office holders, saying this is for the public good to have choices for Council.
The questions were:
* Tell us about yourself. Who you are, and why you’re running? (3 minutes per candidate)
* Why are you the best person to fill the seat? (1 minute)
* Yelm has been the fastest growing community in Thurston County. What would you do to address this? (1 minute)
* Do you think the Yelm city government is supportive of local business? What would you do to improve relations? (1 minute)
Clearly the left side of the dais seated with Council & Planning Commission incumbents took the stand that all is fine in Yelm and the city is on the right track under their leadership, yet offered no new ideas for the future.
The right side of the dais seating the challengers (Carmody, Stillwell, DePinto) contrasted greatly with fresh new ideas coupled with a passion and understanding of the issues here, which included, yet were not limited to:
– increasing police staffing,
– public safety,
– Yelm B&O taxes charged unfairly on gross receipts rather than net,
– affordable housing,
– “Smart growth” policies and planning,
– better handling and/or capping the city’s high water rates,
– and greater council transparency.
DePinto “hit the transparency issue out of the ballpark” when he said he was amazed to learn from a State Legislature colleague, who is also the city’s legislative lobbyist, that the lobbyist gets his $30,000 salary from Yelm annually and has never been invited by Mayor Harding to speak to the Council on what he does for the city. DePinto said public accountability is the responsibility of Council members and something he will push to restore if elected.
Since the responses went over their time allotment, there was no audience give-and-take and I hope there is some public Town Hall Forum for all to see and hear from these candidates for themselves.
Additionally, while Councilor Littlefield could not attend the candidates forum being a school teacher, she sent her daughter to answer for her. While Ms. Littlfield was an excellent respondent and stand-in for her mother and I told her so, this was inappropriate to have her on the dais, especially that she injected her own views into some of her responses. What would have been best is for the moderator to have read Jen Littlefield’s own pre-printed responses. Having a stand-in was a fauz pas.
3. Secretary of State Kim Wyman was a luncheon guest, yet no asked to speak.
Mayor Harding was seated with Secretary of State Kim Wyman, yet outside of welcoming her attendance, no one knew what was her purpose in coming to Yelm. The full agenda could have been shortened for Mayor Harding to introduce the Secretary and have her speak briefly to this robust audience. That Mr. Harding just sat there and did nothing created all sorts of speculation about the nature of her attendance, since Ms. Wyman was the former Thurston County Auditor and her appointed replacement hired Harding as Deputy Auditor, where he subsequently “double-dipped” two public salaries for a year.
I am certain the new Chamber Executive Director will not have this fauz pas on her watch!
So many key issues kept behind closed doors here for years were brought out into the open by new candidates for local public office on the Yelm City Council. Yelm area constituents will be well-served if there are one or more Town Hall Forums for these candidates to interact with voters!
The Winds of Change have brought a fresh breath of air to Yelm already!