In this 21st century, our country is more polarized than ever politically, with heels dug in on both sides showing little chance of being bridged with rational dialog and compromise. In fact, things can get so nasty – as illustrated by the Trump/Clinton race for the presidency – that Americans often turn away in disgust when watching the nightly news or rolling through the latest trending political story on Facebook. A consequence of this is a lack of qualified candidates running for office. It actually makes sense – sad sense – that qualified people avoid putting themselves in the fray and risk everything from personal attacks to facing the wrath of a disgruntled populace as we’ve seen happen at Town Halls held by legislators across the country. The ones that suffer most from this weakening candidates’ pool are the voters.
Tacoma is not immune to this, either. In the race for mayor we don’t have the best people possible on the ballot. Tacoma needs a dynamic, inspirational mayor, a seasoned, outspoken leader for what Tacoma needs and deserves as the city continues to search for its identity. Victoria Woodards has 30 years working in public service and one-on-one with Tacomans of all economic and racial groups, Woodards represents a much wider perspective of what Tacoma is.
An Army veteran, she jumped into serving her country straight out of high school and virtually has not stopped serving in both paid and volunteer positions. She is endorsed by nearly 40 elected officials including current mayor Marilyn Strickland and two former Tacoma mayors, six of the eight currently serving Tacoma City Council members, three members of Congress, nearly 170 community leaders and a host of labor unions, community organizations and civic groups.
In comparison, Jim Merritt brings a non-political background to the table, with no insider skills. His aim to “take the door off the mayor’s office” is a red herring in that there is no barrier between city government and the people – folks walk in to city hall all the time and have no beef with how they’re treated. In addition, Merritt’s biggest claim to fame is his work on Union Station and other spotty architectural jobs while the rest seem to be fluffed up, vague p.r. that makes him look like the greatest mind Tacoma has ever seen.
On the other side of the coin, the unfortunate news that broke this week concerning Woodards being accused of embellishing her education certainly did her no favors in seeking the mayor’s seat. What it did was just reinforce the reality of this race for mayor: one candidate admits to not being clear and upfront about her education, and the other candidate takes credit for what seems like everything Tacoma has accomplished over the past 30 years.
Ultimately, it will be up to the people of Tacoma to decide which candidate assumes the mayor’s seat. And with this choice comes responsibility that all of us must share, meaning don’t just cast your vote and walk away. Stay informed and involved in your government. Attend public meetings at city hall. Check out the city’s website to stay up to date on what’s going on. Read the Tacoma Weekly for stories on what’s happening in city government. Just don’t let cynicism win, for it is the great immobilizer. Let’s move forward as the vibrant city we are and elect a mayor who will work for the betterment of Tacoma and all of its people.