If you are among the many Pullmanites who want a more inviting, open and accountable government, and live in City Council Ward 1, you would do well to cast your ballot for Chris Johnson.
Chris (I’ll use his first name to avoid confusion with ever prominent Mayor Glenn Johnson) is running against Ann Parks.
Folks who want to perpetuate the status quo should vote for Parks. She is a go-along to get-along councilor. She voted wrong on the proposal for a few months’ moratorium on new buildings in downtown Pullman, saying infamously that it would send “a bad message.”
Her candidate website call a moratorium an “extreme action.”
Whitman County Watch reports Parks’ expectation for transparency in city government is a 4 on a 1-5 scale. But her reply to another WCW question raises concerns.
WCW: “If you could wave a magic wand and instantly change one thing about Pullman, what would it be and why?”
Parks says she “would create attainable housing for all residents who seek it … .”
Does she really believe in it, or was she only “making nice?” Unlike her stand on downtown development, she wants to have a study that will take a lot of time.
Now, what about Chris Johnson?
His response to the WCW vision questionnaire leads off with “accountability, transparency, and improved council governance.”
I take it that Chris’ concern about council governance involves the City Council taking back authority that it, or previous councils, gave away to unelected employees who aren’t accountable to voters.
Chris’ expectation for transparency in government is a 5.
His “magic wand” answer was for a vibrant downtown. And his answer gets specific.
He says this involves “ ... infrastructure … great roads and transportation (easing of congestion on Grand and Main) … .”
Now for a quick look at the other contested council position. It is an at-large position, meaning that all city voters can cast a ballot in this race.
Incumbent Eileen Macoll is being challenged by Francis Benjamin. Based on Whitman County Watch’s questionnaire responses, Macoll is the candidate that most voters will support if they are concerned about Pullman’s opaque, under-the-table, in-the-back-back room form of government.
Why? Because WCW reports that Benjamin refused to answer the question, sluffing it off as a communication issue.
Communication isn’t important to Benjamin? That would be enough said; but Benjamin’s answer to the magic question flies in direct conflict with openness and transparency. He wrote: “The greatest obstacle is connectedness.”
He doesn’t say obstacle to what, but went on to say, “connectedness is the key to achieving this vision and why connecting neighbors is a passion of mine.”
So, how does Benjamin think he can wave a magic wand and improve connectedness while dissing openness and transparency as just a “communication issue.”
This collision of Benjamin’s ideas is a massive cognitive train wreck. If Chris joins Brandon Chapman on the council there is reason to hope that they would influence Al Sorenson (not on the ballot) and Macoll to join them in changing the character of the council by gaining a majority on the seven-member council.
Brandon and Chris would make a great team for change in Pullman’s management style.
This would, of course, put Mayor Johnson on the spot, giving him an opportunity not only to join, but to lead the open government movement.
And that would be an impressive legacy.
Terence L. Day was a local government and political reporter during an 11-year journalism career before joining the Washington State University faculty, from which he retired in 2004 after 32 years’ service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 509-334-1619.