– A Yelm Community Blogger Editorial:
City leaders in Yelm are cognizant they are on the verge of a plateau in the city’s phenomenal growth, as the allocation of water rights is topped and new permits will soon be few. They have come to understand the city must mature where further growth has to be in a sustainable and responsible manner, as development methods of the last decade are can no longer be supported. No surprise then that most candidates for mayor and city council mention the brewing confluences of water issues, Public Works infrastructure needs, and how to fund these. Economic viability coupled with supporting the city’s budget revenue stream with taxes/fees has been the centerpieces of the council to-date in guiding and developing the city’s future — a goal candidates have committed to re-examine if elected Nov. 7, looking outside the box to other innovative revenue sources.
Other campaign issues are transportation (Bypass completion), diversifying the economy, homelessness and public safety.
Three candidates in contested city races stand out and deserve to be elected, including Joe DePinto seeking a term as mayor. DePinto is challenged by Interim Mayor JW Foster, appointed by a divided council when former Mayor Ron Harding resigned with no explanation mid-third-term just over a year ago. Foster inherited a government in turmoil and the need to fill a vacant city administrator position. While he is well-liked and has done an admirable job in bringing stability to city hall, Foster does not possess the years of experience DePinto has acquired working in the state legislature and in understanding public process, to where often times in the last year, DePinto had to correct Foster on proper procedures.
In the two contested City Council races, Cody Colt is the better candidate than Russ Hendrickson vacating his Position 7 seat to run for Position 3. And James Blair brings a voice and platform with a new perspective the council needs over Terri Kaminski, who has worked for over a decade on the Planning Commission and is aligned with past policies that now require a new mindset.
Running unopposed are Tad Stillwell and Tracey Wood.
Candidate Joe DePinto, Mayor of Yelm
Photo credit: City of Yelm
Joe DePinto was raised in Yelm and attended Yelm schools, New Market Vocational Skills Center and Eastern Washington University, then returned as a “product of Yelm.” He has over 6 years experience working in our state legislature with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and as executive legislative assistant to Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, a huge benefit when he is elected mayor.
“I understand government, I understand higher levels of government, I understand government best practices and I want to bring those best practices here to Yelm,” DePinto said. “Things that we are not doing, things that we could easily do. There is so much potential here that I have seen since I was a kid.”
DePinto differentiated himself from opponent JW Foster at the Yelm Chamber of Commerce Forum saying that Foster has been on the council and as interim mayor for a total of 7 years and never once brought-up the issue of public transparency (omitted in the NVN story). He has challenged Foster’s full-time mayor advertising, as Yelm’s mayor by ordinance is a part-time mayor paid $30,000 a year. DePinto also supports term limits here to allow the opportunity for new minds, new ideas to serve in public offices. DePinto listened to constituents in wanting a YMCA here, and initiated a conversation with Y management, working with city staff to get this idea off of home-plate. DePinto has taken stands to avoid additional taxes/fees on residents, suggesting other potential revenue-stream development, often times voting singularly against imposing new taxes/fees. Joe brings a youthful vitality and focused interest in seeking alternative and innovative solutions to city funding issues and examining areas of cutting expenses, instead of the usual taxes/fees increases on residents.
Michelle Obama said: “Being President Doesn’t Change Who You Are, It Reveals Who You Are”
How true with Joe DePinto, for in his almost two years serving on Yelm’s council, Joe has grasped being a beacon of light in standing-up for the public he serves, open government, transparency, and following proper procedures!
Click here for DePinto’s video.
Candidate Cody Colt, Council Pos. 3
Photo courtesy: Cody Colt for Council
In the Position 3 race, Cody Colt says his experience as a history teacher has taught him the quiet content person gets little done. His platform is for transparency, bringing a voice to new ideas, easing business restrictions, and making infrastructure a priority. Colt said, “We continue to grow yet nothing is being done about the system which supports that growth.”
Colt brings a unique perspective with his almost 9 years of military experience serving in the U. S. Navy and was stationed in Turkey at the beginning of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’ With city leaders touting almost 40% of Yelm’s population comprised of military families, Colt would an additional military representative whose views this city council sorely needs.
And in this era of no longer tolerating abuse by public officials, the time has come to defeat Councilor Hendrickson arrested for domestic violence during his term, yet the then-complicit city council did nothing to censure him. While laudable that he was defending his daughter, elected officials are held to a higher standard of personal responsibility and integrity in representing themselves on behalf of the public interests, and resorting to violence has no place when a phone-call to police would suffice. Further, this had an effect on the city due to a conflict of interest, where the City of Yelm had to hire an outside attorney to prosecute the Yelm councilman. He has also had some contemptuous outbursts of anger expressed at council study sessions, another inappropriate method for en elected official to handle disagreements. And why did he not defend his Position 7 council seat, moving to Position 3 when Littlefield announced she was not running again and no opponent had yet filed for Pos. 3? Hendrickson is like shifting sand in not defending his post, a relic of past thinking. Character in elected positions still matters!
Colt is the best choice.
Candidate James Blair, Council Pos. 7
Photo credit: Elect James Blair
The first 2017 Yelm candidate to announce he was running for the city council, James Blair brings a thoughtful approach to city government with his clearly enunciated stands. James believes in family first saying,”Our community in Yelm is like a family, and I will always put the best interests of that family first.”
What’s important to Blair: Public Safety, Business development, Personal liberty and property rights, homelessness and housing.
James has a background in manufacturing and transportation, a skill-set that will be useful on the council.
While opponent Terri Kaminski has been a dedicated public planning commissioner, she is too aligned with the way Yelm has operated, for over a decade she has interfaced with city officials, an adherent to past policies that now require change, a new vision. Kaminski is in the Foster campaign’s Facebook splash page photo, so clearly has not differentiated herself as an independent voice. A councilor candidate aligning with the mayor candidate is so ‘yesterday’ here.
– Bottom line:
Yelm has been one of the fastest growing cities in the state with much promise for the future. However, the city must get the public involved in discussing the “elephant in the room,” the Public Works infrastructure in need of at least an estimated $17 million in upgrades and maintenance.
I’d like to see Yelm’s leaders take the Public Works issues and water allocation limits more seriously as a city-wide business issue, where ultimately they bring the best community minds to the table in a new summit-like partnership to deal with these matters before emergencies with extensive repair costs arise.
Meanwhile, business development, traffic and other growth issues in Yelm can benefit from having people with passion and new ideas on the City Council. It’s about the future!
Those best equipped to deal with these facets are Joe DePinto for mayor and Cody Colt and James Blair for council.