Election 2011

This is the third in a series of interviews with candidates on the ballot for the primary election in August. Part 2 in the series is here.

Carl Alexander

Carl Alexander

Tacoma City Council, District 1

Carl Alexander is a commercial real estate investment advisor with Northwest Area Real Estate Advisors. He is a member of Kiwanis and Tacoma Elks.

Q) What can you bring to the table as a member of Tacoma City Council?

A) Common sense.

Q) What would you like to see the city do in regards to economic development?

A) Look at the individual communities within the city and then evaluate the specific strengths and weaknesses of each, try and merge these qualities with each other as a whole city so we can be more competitive outside the region.

Take a comprehensive stance on our transportation infrastructure; look at what problems we have now in the system; take positive changes toward fixing them. Look at the basic needs first before we start adding here and there.

Q) As you have spoken with voters while campaigning, what is the concern that they most frequently express in regards to city government?

A) Street repairs and crosswalks. People are tired of being told what they can and cannot do with their own property. Property tax increases even though the assessed value may have been lowered.

Q) What is the most pressing issue the city will face during the next four years?

A) Cutting the budget while getting a reduced amount in taxes

Joe Atkinson

Joe Atkinson

Tacoma City Council, District 1

Joe Atkinson works as a legislative aide in the Washington State House of Representatives. He is a member of West End Neighborhood Council.

Q) What can you bring to the table as a member of Tacoma City Council?

A) I bring to the table a wide level of professional and community leadership experience. As a homeowner, local business owner, government employee and former blue-collar worker, I have a unique understanding of the middle class. I favor balanced solutions and am determined to empower our middle class and reject party politics as usual. I will not continue the practice of putting interest groups above the people.

Q) What would you like to see the city do in regard to economic development?

A) We as a community cannot afford to lose more good jobs, families and companies. Without family-wage jobs we will continue to have revenue, education and urban growth challenges. We have done much to help small businesses like mine while ignoring larger job creators. Companies have packed up and left town, taking families and jobs with them. I reject the notion that we are helpless! We need to send a clear message that we value ‘all’ business, not just ‘small’ business. To start I would like to see a business and occupation tax threshold increase for companies that employ in our city. We either try something new or trust in more of the same.

Q) As you have spoken with voters while campaigning, what is the concern that they most frequently express in regard to city government?

A) People feel our government is wasting valuable resources on pet projects and is not including us on important decisions. The billboard issue is a classic example of making decisions without considering the will of the people. I will foster open government by allotting to share “more” not “less” with my friends and neighbors. I trust my neighbors and will work hard to empower community groups and neighborhood councils by staying active and listening to the people. Having an informed electorate and a responsive government will strengthen our city.

Q) What is the most pressing issue the city will face during the next four years?

A) The budget will be the largest issue we face. This affects all aspects of our city. The current council did not anticipate that the recession would last as it did, and the previous budget was balanced in a way that will make our job next year more difficult. If we are to grow as a city the council needs to reject budgetary gimmicks, put the people above interest groups, set clear priorities (street repair) and make tough decisions.

Anders Ibsen

Anders Ibsen

Tacoma City Council, District 1

Anders Ibsen is deputy director of The Landmark Law Group LLC. He is a member of North End Neighborhood Council.

Q) What can you bring to the table as a member of Tacoma City Council?

A) We need leaders who understand the concerns of our neighborhoods and the local issues that matter most. I have been active in our community and have the experience through my service on the North End Neighborhood Council and the Pierce Conservation District to understand the importance of providing better transportation options, especially for our elderly citizens; improving our infrastructure and fixing our broken roads; and partnering with our police officers to reduce crime. As a lifelong Tacoman, I feel a direct stake in our city’s success, and want to devote my life to helping improve our community.

Q) What would you like to see the city do in regard to economic development?

A) Our city needs to invest in our small businesses by partnering with local business districts to clean up blighted properties, and continue programs that encourage start-up and small business growth. The key to retaining employers is to offer them clean and vibrant neighborhoods. The city should work with our schools and community members to make Tacoma an attractive city for businesses and their employees.

Q) As you have spoken with voters while campaigning, what is the concern that they most frequently express in regards to city government?

A) I believe that we need more leaders who listen on the council. That is why I have doorbelled this district three times to talk to voters about what issues are most important to them. The overwhelming response is that people want the city to focus on the basics like good roads and a strong police presence. I will be an advocate for my constituents’ issues and will continue to be an accessible listener if elected

Q) What is the most pressing issue the city will face during the next four years?

A) Tacoma has done a respectable job of managing its budget during this recession, but we need to do more to create jobs here in our community. With unemployment stubbornly remaining high, the city needs to actively invest in our communities to encourage small businesses to grow and create the family-wage jobs we need.

Karen Smitherman

Karen Smitherman

Tacoma City Council, District 1

Karen Smitherman has been a teacher in Tacoma Public Schools for 35 years and has served as chair of Pierce County Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Q) What can you bring to the table as a member of Tacoma City Council?

A) On City Council, my role is to make sure the micro (the people of my district) are represented fairly, efficiently and favorably in the macro (citywide) vision. Ultimately, West and North Tacoma most benefit when they are part of a robust macro vision.

I served with the B.E.S.T. program. I was jointly employed by Tacoma Public Schools and Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. I brought together the Chamber, K12, labor and higher education to pursue apprenticeship programs in our schools. This is a micro start to the sort of program I would like to see on the macro level: bringing people together to cooperate on problem solving for the good of all Tacoma.

Q) What would you like to see the city do in regard to economic development?

A) The Elks project. Grace Pleasants has a strong record in local development. I am willing to give some leeway when developments are truly invested in the communities in which they are developing. This is a critical building in a critical area of downtown. Certainly I will not tolerate infinite foot-dragging or carrot dangling, but so far I am much more excited than concerned.

Q) As you have spoken with voters while campaigning, what is the concern that they most frequently express in regards to city government?

A) Billboards. I represent a district where people value hometown feel and a natural environment. Over and over I hear that these billboards are the antithesis of everything our community values. They are pollutive, really. It is important that the City Council keep its promises as an elective body, and ensure that its dealings with corporations benefit Tacoma’s true bottom line: its citizens.

Q) What is the most pressing issue the city will face during the next four years?

A) Transportation. No one knows the sting of the recent service cuts like senior citizens. My district has more senior citizens than any in Tacoma. They needed buses to access critical services, healthcare, family and loved ones. My priorities are twofold. First, we must work to assure that the recent levy failure is not repeated. Second, we should investigate alternative funding sources, but cautiously. The vehicle licensing tab issue could eventually come in front of voters, were it expanded, and we know that would be a harder sell than a levy. But, fundamentally, we need to make sure the buses are there for people who need them, and to retain our image as a modern, urban city.

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