Scroll down for specifics of last night’s council session.
The Oath of Office of City of Yelm Mayor is at bottom below.
– Editor’s Note:
What I witnessed of last night’s city council session was the way a council should operate, and in my opinion, for the first time since Kathy Wolfe was mayor in the 1990s. Four engaging councilors who were well-prepared on the issues asked tough and thorough questions and challenged the Public Works Director and City Administrator at various times, kept the mayor on-process, listened to the public intently, and even if they disagreed with each other, voiced their concerns without fear of retribution, took action, and were leaders. The shining star last night was just-inaugurated Councilor Cody Colt who brought a new, fresh set of eyes to issues and was unafraid of speaking-up. He was well educated on all of the nuances of the water/sewer rate increases proposals and asked potent questions exactly where needed. I was very impressed with Tracey Wood last night and in recent months. He has come into his own and unafraid to speak his mind, seemingly since Harding left. He’s been spot-on in his support of the public’s interests and shined last night. Councilors Carmody and DePinto were stellar, as usual. While this was over a 2 hour meeting, much city business got accomplished, including solicitation regulations (pan-handling) and a public hearing on raising water/sewer rates. The sewer rate increases passed. And nice to see citizens come in and challenge the city council on raising water/sewer rates, all raising excellent points, including questioning why a Community Center was built partially using water/sewer funds after being voted down twice, and now the city must raise water/sewer rates significantly.
Last night’s take-away:
This elected mayor is in a different position than as an appointed, interim mayor following in Harding’s footsteps. Foster had 49.4% of voters that did not choose him and a council that clearly demonstrated they will not slam-dunk and vote in lock-step with this mayor’s influence. Will be interesting to see the discussions in the Study Sessions ahead. This was NOT a “complicit” council like others since 2001, rather had a synergy that for the most part, was like a fine-tuned engine.
While everyone acknowledges Foster is a good guy, good guys do not necessarily make good mayors, as this city has seen in the past. One thing was crystal clear last night, the city’s Legislative Branch (council) will be exercising their proper role as leader, especially being the checks/balances of the Executive Branch (Mayor, City Administrator). And now the Judicial Branch will be changing with a coming new city attorney contract (was announced last night that city attorney Brent Dille is leaving his firm), which is good news as Yelm has not been well-served in recent years from what has become another relic of the Harding era that needed to go.
Changes are afoot in Yelm governance, something I am VERY pleased to witness.
– With JW Foster, new councilor Cody Colt inaugurated last night, changes are afoot
* 49.4% of Yelm voters did not vote for Foster, so he needs to unite voters.
The Oath of Office of City of Yelm Mayor is at bottom below.
* With 49.4% voting for DePinto as mayor, the new council should select DePinto as Mayor Pro-tem.
* After an acknowledgement of departing councilor Littlefield’s service, Foster’s first order of business as Yelm’s elected mayor was directing Pubic Hearings on monthly Sewer Fees and Water Consumption rate increases.
* Colt was very focused, Public Works Dir. commended his great question last night. His clear understanding of the process was refreshing and the manner of comments he raised was superb!
* Colt, DePinto, Wood and Carmody all raised outstanding questions during the water/sewer hearing. Yelm citizens raised several issues at the Public Hearing and while the sewer rate increases passed, the water rate increases were put on-hold until the new councilor can be fully briefed at next week’s study session as recommended by councilor Curry.
* City Administrator Grayum announced city attorney Brent Dille will be leaving his firm (from where he has represented the city) to go on his own. This will require the council to be presented contract proposals on this vacancy soon.
* Dictionary.com’s word of 2017: complicit
“Complicit” is the word I have used many times about previous councils, and as is foreseen, may no longer be applicable with this new council, as admirably demonstrated last night.
* Yelm will be out of available water allocation during this mayor’s term at the city’s rate of permit issuance, halting growth. Foster finally acknowledged this major issue Nov. 3rd:
“‘If the powers that be say ‘Yelm, you’re not getting any more water,’ then Yelm isn’t going to get any more water and we’ll figure out how to survive as a municipality without growth, that’s just the way it’s going to be,’ Foster said,” quoting the Nisqually Valley News (NVN).
* The council’s November 7th Study Session highlighted disagreements on strategies of economic development with excellent points raised by councilors Littlefield and Wood. They noted that rehashing the same policies that have not worked is not wise, i.e. like currently a high-cost proposal hiring a company to craft economic development recommendations. After all, this is a “bedroom community” with no industry, manufacturing, or corporate diversity.
Brilliantly expressed by Councilor Tracey Wood: “I believe it (Buxton) is a complete waste of our money. Somehow there is a vision here that we need to become a large city and..that is not the communication I am getting from the citizens in the community I am in contact with. I think we’re spending money that is not in the best interest of our citizens.”
* What is Yelm’s Plan for the future?
Is there one and has the public been educated and informed?
Growth here is set to become stalled during the next 4 years as Yelm reaches the city’s maximum water allocation from the Dept. of Ecology.
How much can this city tax and raise fees on residents until they’re forced to leave?
– Bottom line:
* “Establishment candidates like Foster were disfavored due to low voter turnout plus Republicans taking a hit this year. Foster aligned himself in February by highlighting a large number of endorsements from Republicans plus Republicans turned Independents, which may have dragged his vote count lower.
* On Oct. 23, 2017, I called on the mayor-elect to form a committee of the best minds in the South Sound to immediately deal maturely with developing a revenue stream impacted and limited by water availability. The days of issuing permits as a city cash register are over. I recommend Foster appoint DePinto as Yelm’s water czar to immediately form and lead such a committee. This is of vital importance!
– Oath of Office by Mayor Foster on November 28, 2017
“I, JW Foster, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and the laws of the State of Washington, and I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of City of Yelm mayor, according to law to the best of my ability.”