Election ‘13: Tacoma Weekly queries candidates on the ballot for the general election in November.

// Incumbent Lonergan faces Diaz for Tacoma City Council

Joe Lonergan and Olgy Diaz are campaigning for the Position #5 seat on the Tacoma City Council that represents South Tacoma neighborhoods. The election is Nov. 5. Their written responses are unedited.

Joe Lonergan (incumbent)

What neighborhood issues do you see as your top concerns for your district and what plans do you have to champion them?

Roads, public safety and economic development issues continue to be top priorities for the people South of 56th and for me. I have and will continue to push to mitigate impacts on these things while providing a responsibly balanced budget.

In this past budget cycle, I fought to make sure we maintained our Community Liason and School Resource Police Officers and supported a transition that allowed Fire Stations 13 and 15 to remain open.

The need is great and our resources are stretched, but I continue to successfully advocate for repair and replacement of the residential streets that dramatically impact our neighborhoods. On the transit side, the completion of the Sounder Train has helped some, but a receding Pierce Transit system is hurting our neighbors.

Four years ago, neighbors told me that the closure of Mega Foods and Red Apple had left them without a nearby place to get groceries. Today the Farmers Market, Grocery Outlet and Winco fill that gap. I am proud of those developments and I continue to work regularly with our Community and Economic Development Department to identify further opportunities for economic and job growth throughout the city and specifically in the Fifth District.

What do you see as your role as a district council member in regards to city-wide issues, particularly if they are at odds?

I continually advocate for the Fifth District and making sure my colleagues understand the impact of decisions on the quality of life South of 56th Street. I also strive to be familiar with all parts of Tacoma and how issues impact them. When it came time to talk about extending the Link Light Rail system, it was a challenge just to get the maps to show the city South of the Tacoma Mall. Throughout that process I advocated for alternatives that were both viable and that could possibly see the $50 million-per-mile light rail reach the Fifth District one day.

What experience and perspectives do you bring to the council and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the council?

At this year’s council workshop we did an exercise that placed us on a continuum as to our decision-making styles. I stood alone among my colleagues as an analytical, big picture decision-maker. My big-picture perspective allows me to call attention to the impact of decisions on the city as a whole. I am able to help my fellow council members see the benefits and impacts of what we do and a county and state-wide level. While we are each individually different, the presence of our varied experiences and backgrounds allows us to make more thorough decisions.

What lessons do you think "Tacoma Government" has learned from the recent budget struggles and how are those lessons going to benefit the city in the future?

We have learned that change is not comfortable, but is possible.

We have refined the methods that we use to look at and measure service delivery to further strengthen our evaluation of city efficiency and effectiveness.

During the budget process, I committed to working with the mayor on establishing a taskforce to look at various budget issues. Early this year we established the Fiscal Sustainability Taskforce composed of citizens, community groups, businesses and labor partners to evaluate and make recommendations on ways to move forward with policies that will help us avoid similar struggles going forward.

We are keenly aware of the importance of savings which helped us delay and mitigate cuts for the first years of the recession and have revised reserve fund guidelines.

We are still facing projected challenges in the next budget cycle and we are actively working to reduce and mitigate those by continuous evaluation of expenses and some great economic development successes such as State Farm downtown and Bass Pro Shops in my district. I am confident that these lessons and policy changes together with our active and aggressive business retention and attraction efforts, Tacoma will be on solid footing for years to come.

What else should voters know about you?  

I grew up in Tacoma. I graduated from Tacoma Baptist and then EWU with a degree in Management and Marketing and a minor in Communications. After college, I worked with small businesses as an Advertising Account Executive. During that same time I was involved with community activities including my Neighborhood Council.

Eleven years ago, my wife and I bought our home here in Tacoma. Today, I have two school-aged boys attending Tacoma Public Schools. I am deeply committed to the people of this city, as individuals, as members of my district, and as members of the city as a whole.

How can voters learn more about you and your political platform?

Residents of the Fifth District interested in learning more about my work and campaign can visit http://www.joelonergan.com or email me directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 253-473-1640.

Olgy Diaz

What neighborhood issues do you see as your top concerns for your district and what plans do you have to champion them?

My district is home to some of Tacoma’s lowest-income seniors and young families. It is essential that they have access to more services than other areas of the city, but, in many instances, they have less. I aim to bring more family wage jobs, street improvements and community resources to the fifth district. There is a current proposal under consideration that would require certain businesses provide paid sick time to their staff. I support this type of proposal because Tacomans deserve better work benefits, and many businesses may even see cost savings from greater staff retention and a healthier workforce. Economic development within my district helps improve public safety and community pride by ensuring less empty storefronts. However, it is not just about filling our vacancies with any company, it is about making sure incoming businesses bring in quality jobs. Making sure we have safe and walkable communities is a top priority I hear from voters often. Many students in my district walk to school and would benefit from streets that are safe.

What do you see as your role as a district council member in regards to city-wide issues, particularly if they are at odds?

As one of nine council members, and the only one elected solely by the people of district 5, I believe it is my duty to serve the members of my district first even though much of the council’s work is aimed citywide. My district features many of Tacoma’s lowest income citizens, and I will support services, budgets and policies that help address their needs first. That said, the city looks at matters that affect many parts of the city and I plan to approach all issues pragmatically and thoughtfully.

What experience and perspectives do you bring to the council and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the council?

I currently serve on the City of Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission and work as a Legislative Assistant for State Representative David Sawyer. My day job includes serving as a community resource and relaying community concerns to David. I have firsthand experience working with state policies and hear the priorities of our local governments and organizations. As a social justice advocate, I support policies that give small businesses and South End/South Tacoma residents all they need to be strong and successful. I get along well with most of the current council and will work well with everyone project by project.

What lessons do you think "Tacoma Government" has learned from the recent budget struggles and how are those lessons going to benefit the city in the future?

The city has made huge cuts to all areas of its budget in recent years due to the recent recession, including 217 jobs in the most recent 2013-14 budget. All of these cuts mean fewer road repairs and fewer services for a city filled with many people in greater need today than ever before. There have been some improvements like department restructures and select pay restoration for certain employees taking temporary salary reductions during leaner times. Going forward and planning for projected shortfalls, we should continue to look to the community for input (as was done leading up to the latest budget). It is important to balance the needs of the community with a longer term vision for future development. The first priority should be maintaining funding for projects that have a high return on investment as well as preserving jobs that maintain public safety, such as our police, fire departments and corrections. The council should expand the vision of our city to include improving not just downtown, but also the local business districts in every neighborhood. While economic development should start in downtown, there is no reason the council can’t also look to the business districts.

What else should voters know about you?

Born at Madigan on JBLM and raised in Spanaway, I settled in the South End after college. My family came to the U.S. from Guatemala. If elected I would be Tacoma’s first Latina councilmember. I am a first generation college graduate, earning dual bachelor’s degrees in Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies from UW. I work as a legislative aide in the state House of Representatives and serve on Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission. I am also Vice President of the Pierce County Young Democrats and got my start in South Tacoma politics working to elect President Barack Obama in 2008.

How can voters learn more about you and your political platform? 

Voters can visit my website at http://www.olgydiaz.com. I am also available by email at info@olgydiaz.com or phone at 253-256-5411.

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