Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thoughts On Running For Mayor

It’s been an unusual few weeks for me since the last major posting here, which has included two rounds of eye surgery, dealing with two family deaths in three months, as well as embarking on a major political journey. In case you aren’t aware, after a brief flirtation with a legislative run last year, I’ve decided to run for Mayor of Port Orchard.

I’ve lived in South Kitsap since moving here from South Florida in 1975. I started my business in Port Orchard in 1979, and lived on Long Lake for about nine years before moving to Manchester in 1986. Deciding to do this about a year and half ago, I moved into the city early last year and have purchased a residence here.

So why do I want to be mayor?

Frankly, I’m worried about the future of the city and what it means for the long-term safety of my family, my business, my investments here, but most of all, what it means for the future of my 3-year old grandson Bryce, whom Dee and I are raising.

I want for Bryce to want to come home to Port Orchard when he graduates from college. But for that to happen, there needs to be something for him to come home to — family wage jobs and affordable housing for example — not to mention being a safe place for him to live and to raise his family. None of that exists today.

Quite frankly, in surveying the local political landscape, I don’t see anyone else stepping up that has the absolute unbridled passion about the future of Port Orchard that I do.

The mayor’s race is non-partisan. Considering how much I've managed to piss off both parties writing about them over the years, that's probably a good thing for me — and was a major consideration in my decision. However, I’ve been extremely encouraged by the high level of bipartisan support I’ve received since I began sharing my intentions with people about a year ago.

Since announcing publicly a couple of weeks ago, that support has blossomed with endorsements across the political spectrum from groups as diverse as the traditionally Democratic Kitsap County Central Labor Council, Retired Government Employees of Kitsap, and Olympic Peninsula Building Trades Council, to high-profile Republicans like Dino Rossi, Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro and County Commissioner Jan Angel. My kick off event included a highly diverse group of 227 people — and campaign contributions from people of all political beliefs from the most conservative to the extremely liberal. It was an extremely pleasant surprise.

My goal is for Port Orchard to become the safest city in Washington to live, raise your family and own a business.

Without going into a lot of detail, we’re raising Bryce as a direct result of the city’s drug and crime problem. We also know, as grandparents, we're not alone in this situation. In spite of the Port Orchard Police Department doing a great job with its very limited resources, in recent years we’ve gone from having one of the lowest crime rates for cities our size, to 6th highest in the state for violent crime. For Port Orchard to have a higher per capita violent crime rate than Seattle, I believe is simply unacceptable.

I’d like to implement new ideas such as using the RICO statue to encourage building owners not to allow drug activity on their properties, as well as Police Chief Al Townsend’s suggestion to adopt a crime-free multi-housing ordinance similar to the one being used very successfully in Lakewood and Tacoma.

On the business front, it’s been proven lowering crime rates positively impacts a city’s ability to attract families and new businesses to the community. Putting more cops on the street will not only reduce our crime rate, but spur economic development as well.

It only takes a walk down Bay Street to realize what needs to improve in Port Orchard. Developers are lining up to buy downtown buildings and redevelop the last, reasonably priced waterfront in the Puget Sound region. Residents are understandably concerned, yet many still don’t realize that development isn't the cause of growth, but is the response to its consumer demand.

Whether we like or not, change is inevitable. Responsibly managing that change within the narrow confines of the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) is our key challenge. However, we’re only going to have one opportunity to get it right!

The GMA mandates accepting taller buildings and mixed-use redevelopment as a way to keep the expanding population within the confines of the Urban Growth Areas. Quality development along Bay Street of retail and shops at street level, with a variety of living spaces above, will help retain our small-town ambiance, while complying with the GMA and meeting the housing needs of a growing population.

As Bremerton has proven, urban parks make cities much more livable, and a more enticing place for business. I’d like to create desirable amenities by increasing the size of the existing park between the waterfront and Bay Street and expanding the Boardwalk from downtown to the Annapolis ferry terminal, as well as explore the possibility of building a conveniently located parking garage with a walkway to the downtown waterfront.

Annexation is another issue that must be addressed head-on. If Port Orchard doesn't deal with annexation and expanding the city's boundaries, we will become little more than a suburb of an aggressively expanding Bremerton with a shrinking tax base.

Also on my “To Do” list is upgrading the city’s Web site to make it possible to pay city bills (water, traffic fines, etc.) online. Interactive crime mapping and on-line reporting tools are available for municipal websites so citizens can report minor crimes. These also track where sex offenders are located and allow citizens easy access to this information.

There are a lot of other things I want to accomplish, but this isn’t meant to be a full-blown campaign piece. If you want to know more, visit www.electlary.com.

However, after writing my Business Journal column for more than 19 years, I’m going to take a sabbatical during the campaign. I believe it would be inappropriate to continue to observe and comment upon local politics while running for office. Beginning next issue, we will publish provocative guest editorials for the duration of the campaign. The guest editorials will continue until the election is decided. Contact me directly if you think you'd like to write one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Remembering Bob Oke

I attended Senator Bob Oke's memorial service yesterday and was touched by the amount of true respect for the man that was shown by everyone from Governor Gregoire on down. It was also interesting — and very welcome — to see a kinder, gentler side of the governor than we're used to witnessing.

I admired Bob, and one of my fondest memories will always be of fishing in Carl Zimmer's annual salmon derby (remember those — back before the tribes gillnetted all the fish?) at Point No Point with Bob and friends Bill Parnell and Bill Hilton. It was a cold, rainy, windy day, and the three of us were convinced Hilton was going to blow his boat apart — again — only this time, with us in it. Without going into a lot of detail about Hilton and his boat, let's just say you had to be there.

I believe Gov. Gregoire put Bob’s contributions into the proper perspective at the memorial when she said, "Bob came to the Legislature dedicated to the people he served. He was concerned first and foremost about what was the right policy, not what was the right politics."

In the highly polarized political atmosphere that exists today, Bob’s brand of true statesmanship will be missed, but should serve as a shining example for all elected officials of what the term “public service” actually means.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Former Senator Bob Oke Passes Away

Former Republican State Senator Bob Oke of Port Orchard has passed away after a courageous and very public battle against a rare form of blood cancer. He died Monday night, losing his three-year fight against multiple myeloma, a cancer that weakens the bones by targeting plasma cells.

Oke, 66, served four, 4-year terms in the Senate. An unabashed conservative, he was well liked and highly respected by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle before the disease forced his retirement in January.

A 26-year Navy veteran, Oke was an avid outdoorsman who was recognized as a leader in the areas of natural resources and fisheries, and perhaps best known for his relentless efforts to combat youth smoking, as well as his unwavering support for a second Tacoma Narrows Bridge. At one point after his battle with cancer became public, Oke climbed one of the tower walkways to the top of the new bridge.

Oke had been very open about his struggles with the disease, and underwent two stem-cell transplants as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Those treatments helped him hold the disease in check for part of his final four-year term. Although he was absent for part of the 2005 session and sometimes used a wheelchair or cane to get around the capitol, he always kept his fellow legislators abreast of his illness and the progress of his various treatments.

“I have a picture of Bob and Judy on my desk, from the dedication ceremony of the Bob Oke Community Center at Long Lake. As I look at this, I can’t believe he’s gone,” said an emotional Commissioner Jan Angel. “He has truly been my mentor — a man of the highest integrity, devoted to the public’s service. He fought for his beliefs and always sported a smile and a positive attitude even through the toughest times. His strong faith and love of life have always given me personal strength.”

Oke, who was highly religious, received tributes in both 2005 and 2006 from his Senate colleagues, saying at one of the events, "A lot of prayer is needed, and I appreciate your support. You've always been there for me."

“I think our community and our state are better places because Bob Oke chose to serve,” said Senator Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), the man who was elected to his seat when Oke retired. “He was the most devoted husband and devout man I’ve ever met. I’m convinced he’s in a better place.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Updates on Previous Postings

It's been a very busy week for me on a number of fronts, so I'm behind on several things. But I'm finally catching up. Here are some updates on a couple of previous postings...

South Kitsap Commissioner
I've previously published the names of a number of a number of people rumored to be interested in replacing Jan Angel when her seat becomes vacant next year. As of this writing, no Republicans have yet surfaced. Considering how badly the leadership of the local party has worked to alienate most moderates, that's not exactly a big surprise either.

However, one name I have heard mentioned within the past week by a couple of different people is Trent England.
He ran for a 26th District House seat last year and lost in the primary to Ron Boehme. I've not spoken personally with him, but I did come to believe he was perhaps the most qualified of all the candidates in that race — from either side — in terms of understanding the issues, the legislative process, and the needs of the district. And I also have to admit, at one point mistakenly attributing his aloofness to egotistical elitism, when in fact, it turns out he is simply extraordinarily shy.

However, in spite of what I've heard in recent days, Charlie Bermant from the Port Orchard Independent sent me a note today (Monday) which said, "
Trent England was the first person I called when I heard Jan was bailing, he said he was committed to the EFF (Evergreen Freedom Foundation). So I crossed him off the list."

Also, the 26th District Democrats' daily email had a blurb this morning saying Republican Kris Danielson, who is a member of the Human Rights Commission, was also eying the position.

On the Democratic side, rumor has them lining up to jockey for position, but who actually will toss their hats in the ring remains to be seen. Names advanced previously include:

• Monte Mahan According to sources close to him, he's still intending to explore the possibilities. Having worked closely with Monte for four years on the Planning Commission, I believe he's certainly competent enough to handle the job, and as a previous employee of the county he also has a unique insight into the culture inside the courthouse.
• Virgil Hamilton He told me he's more inclined to pursue running for Bill Eickmeyer's seat in the 35th than run for commissioner. A union leader who was active in the pursuit of NASCAR, he believes he can have a much more positive influence in the legislature than on the county commission.
Hamilton is well-liked and respected by the business community, and has done a good job of forging relationships with local business leaders. As a legislator, he'll also be able to enhance his already influential position as head of the Olympic Peninsula Building Trades Council, as well as keep his day job as Business Manager of IBEW Local 46.
• Mike Davis The word on the street is that the former interim Sheriff and current Gig Harbor Chief of Police is very interested in the job, but his wife isn't all that excited about it. I wouldn't rule him out at this point. Personally, I also believe he'd make a stellar commissioner.
• Kim Abel — The current Port Orchard Mayor, who announced she wouldn't run for re-election, says she's going to wait on making a decision. I'm sure party support as well as possible primary opposition will enter into that decision — whatever it may be.
Terrie Battuello — We believe having someone float her name was a possible trial balloon to gauge reaction and possible support. She's been mum on the question and didn't respond to inquiries about her level of interest.

Chris Endresen's Departure — and Replacement
One of the final pieces of business under Chris Endresen's reign will be the repeal of the placeholder zoning for the NASCAR track to make sure the coffin is nailed shut. This will appease the vocal minority of opponents as well as make certain any other kind of economic development that could possibly take place in the county's primary area designated for industrial growth has to overcome hurdles high enough to prevent it.

So after almost 12 years in office, what will be Chris Endresen's legacy?

To many, in spite of numerous positive accomplishments, she will be best remembered for working diligently to chase away a Fortune 500 corporation hoping to bring
the second most popular sport in America, and the millions in revenue it generates, to our county. And let's not forget thumbing her nose at more than 35,000 local residents who signed petitions in favor of the track, and over 400 local businesses and civic organizations that supported it, as well as the labor unions. That, and leaving the county with a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

But don't forget, there are people to whom that represents her crowning achievement.

Make no mistake, Endresen is a very smart politician, Because of NASCAR, she clearly understood organized labor was gearing up for an all-out assault against her (as well as Sherry Appleton, Pat Lantz and Larry — You wouldn't want NASCAR fans living next door to YOU — Seaquist) in 2008. Endresen isn't moving on to a "better opportunity," she's bailing out while the getting is good.

As for her replacement...
Almost all of the people expected to be salivating for Endresen's job have taken themselves out of the running. Sherry Appleton, Christine Rolfes, Mary McClure, Katheryn Quade and several others have all declined to put their names forward. Two thoughts come immediately to mind as to why — the budget, and countywide electability in 2008 — especially considering the mobilization of angry pro-NASCAR forces which is
already underway.

Who we're left with are:
• Anti-growth activist Tom Nevins: I like Tom personally, and enjoy discussing politics with him. But in six years serving with him on the Planning Commission, I can't recall him ever voting in favor of anything that could possibly result in any kind of future development. He routinely either votes "no," abstains if he thinks he'll be on the losing side of a lopsided vote, or suggests some kind of delaying tactic such as Charlotte Garrido's infamous no action alternative, "studying" the issue.
• Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern: This is perhaps the most blatantly opportunistic bit of hypocrisy of this entire circus. For years Stern has bombastically railed against both political parties. Suddenly, out of the blue, he's insipired to pay his 25 bucks and declare he's always been a Democrat in his heart? What convenient timing. I'm sorry Ed, but I just have to call BS on you.
• County Treasurer Barbara Stephenson: Stephenson has seemingly gotten on the wrong side of a lot of the more liberal party regulars — many of whom suspect she's really a Republican in disguise — and that will hurt her chances. However, looking forward to 2008, she has also been elected countywide twice, and has no NASCAR baggage to deal with.
• Senator Phil Rockefeller: He could have the job IF he wants it. However, with the budget a major crisis, and the amount of pro-NASCAR anger he'll face running for re-election countywide in 2008, the question becomes, why would he?

By virtue of their private sector experience, both Stephenson and Stern are certainly more qualified for dealing with the most looming crisis, the budget — than Nevins or Rockefeller. Before being elected Treasurer, Stephenson was very successful banker. She retired, and later was tapped to run the local United Way, bringing in record-setting donations. Stern is an investment counselor that is known and recognized for his business acumen. Nevins is a retired teacher and an engineer. Rockefeller is/was a lawyer.

If it's Stephenson or Rockefeller, the Democrats will have to go through this entire selection process again to name a replacement. If it's Rockefeller, I'd look for Sherry Appleton to move up to Senator and a scramble ensue to replace her. But either way, we should know shortly who it will be. And since I have no particular insight — or political pipeline into the inner sanctum of the Democratic Party — all I can say is, "Stay Tuned."