2021 Olympia City Council Position 7 Candidates

Incumbent Jim Cooper vs. Tyrone Brown vs. Spence Weigand

Heard around Olympia:

“I don’t know anything about these people.”

What people? These people: The 14 who are running for five seats on the Olympia City Council. Of the five races, four have primary races involving three candidates. In each of the four, two will advance based on the August 3 primary election results.

That’s a lot of candidates, and it is unusual for five seats to be up for grabs in a single year. The races are non-partisan and despite the fact that council candidates run for a position, all are elected “at-large,” meaning city residents may vote in all five races. 

Also in the large number category, and sure to grow exponentially leading up to the November general election, is the amount of money the 14 have raised – a total of nearly $225,000. 

Ballots hit mailboxes this week, along with glossy campaign literature touting candidates’ credentials, accomplishments and endorsements.

It’s a lot to sort through and digest. So The Olympia Tribune decided to let the candidates tell you about themselves in answers to eight questions that delve into their knowledge of the council, their priorities and specific things they hope to accomplish if elected. 

Council members earn $22,000 and a $3,800 benefit stipend per year and serve four-year terms, unless they are filling the remainder of a term for a seat left vacant by a resignation, as is the case this year. The council is responsible for passing the annual city budget and appoints and directly oversees the city manager, who is in charge of day-to-day operations, including those of the Olympia Police Department. Members prepare for and attend weekly council and council committee meetings, serving on regional boards such as Intercity Transit and take constituent phone calls, among their many tasks. In all, that often amounts to more than 40 hours a week, typically on top of their full- or part-time jobs. 

In the past four years, and especially in the recent past, council members have wrestled with the incredibly thorny issues of police reform; public safety; incorporating equity and diversity and inclusion into how the city does its daily business; homelessness and housing; neighborhood zoning; property purchases and use; pandemic-related issues experienced by small businesses and their employees, workers at a high risk due to COVID 19, landlords and renters, and others; and how the city communicates what it is doing. 

These issues, and others that certainly can’t be anticipated now (who, after all, could have predicted the pandemic and its fallout), will be before the council in 2022 and beyond. Who gets elected to the council really does matter – it’s where issues vitally important to our community are debated and decided. 

Also, The Tribune encourages you to vote!

The Thurston County Auditor’s Elections Division has mailed more than 187,000 ballots for the Aug. 3 primary.  
 
If you are registered and have not received a ballot by Wednesday, July 21, please contact the Auditor’s Office at (360) 786-5408 or elections@co.thurston.wa.us.

You may vote by mail (no stamp required) or return your ballot at one of the 29 secure ballot drop boxes available throughout the county. A list of locations and addresses is included in the mailed ballot materials and online at ThurstonVotes.org.
 
Ballots must be postmarked by August 3. Please check mailboxes for pickup times to make sure your ballot will be postmarked by Election Day. If you miss your household’s mail pickup time, ballot drop boxes are open until 8 p.m. on Aug. 3. 
 
You can register to vote, get a replacement ballot and vote using an accessibility voting device at the Voting Center located at 2400 Evergreen Park Dr. SW, Olympia, WA 98502.  Drive-through voter services are available at this location. The center is open:

  • July 14 through August 2, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • On Election Day, Tuesday, August 3, 2021, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Any voter in line at the voting center at 8 p.m. on Election Day can vote. 

The Candidates

League of Women Voters candidate forum: NA at time of publication.  

Note: Campaign contributions and expenditures are the amounts reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission as of July 15.

Tyrone Brown

Occupation: Statewide Organizer for the Tenants Union of Washington

Raised: $1,320. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $568.

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

The candidate did not respond to The Tribune’s questionnaire. 

Jim Cooper

Occupation: CEO, United Ways of the Pacific Northwest

Raised: $29,290. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $16,109

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

The candidate did not respond to The Tribune’s questionnaire. 

Spence Weigand

Occupation: Realtor

Raised: $59,664. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $19,808

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

Why do you want to be on the Olympia City Council?

I would like to positively impact the current condition of our city by focusing on dire, local matters at hand that we overtly face daily as we move through our community. It is not the City Council’s role to try to advance broad global and ideological issues that resonate with one’s political bent.

What does an Olympia City Council Member do?

The City Council’s role is to oversee the City Manager and advise on directive policy actions that he/she should be overseeing and effecting. Also, to come up with and approve the city’s annual budget and to earmark how those monies should be spent.

Why did you choose to run for the position you selected (if you are an incumbent, why are you running again)?

I chose to run for Position #7 because my opponent is the longest serving incumbent on the Council, and the body needs fresh blood and new ideas and an infusion of common sense.

What sets you apart from your competition (if you’re running against an incumbent, why do you feel you would do a better job than them)?

Although the City Council is comprised of non-partisan positions in theory, in practice it is another matter. I believe I would be a stronger collaborator to represent ALL community residents and would be less likely prone to lockstep “like-think.” I am confident my support would come from all “walks of life.”

What is the ONE issue you are most passionate about? What are three action items you would push for on that issue, if elected? Be as specific as possible.

The absolute need for more affordable housing in our city. We need to build up and not out, and have new construction focused on areas currently served by public transit. We should take a harder look at Multi-Family tax Exemptions to ascertain if they are accomplishing what they were designed to do, and to measure whether the end goal we have seen was attainable without the “carrot” being dangled. We should also: A) Consider reduction or elimination of impact fees which are ultimately passed on to the end user. B) Ease restrictions (sprinklers, parking, zoning, etc.) which prevent modest local property owners from increasing the density of the properties they own. C) Allow more residential usages in areas currently dedicated to commercial only. D) Streamline the permitting process to shorten timelines and consider having private, community committee oversight of this function. E) Protect senior communities with restrictive land covenants that keep their zoning classification in perpetuity. Affordable housing is the paramount equity issue in my mind.

What is one thing the existing council has done really well, and one thing you’d do differently?

The voter-approved passage of the Home Fund. I would have gone farther to push to have some of those funds used in the form of Rental Assistance for those on the verge of becoming homeless. Those efforts would pay off more in the long run to combat homelessness.

On a scale of 1-10, how important is the diversity and equity work the city now is engaged in? Please explain why you feel that way.

I would assign this issue a 6 on a scale of 1-10. Mainly because we have more urgent shortcomings to tackle. Of utmost importance and what the City Council should be focused on most in this arena is that “diversity and equity work” is reflected in city hiring and employment practices – which is consistent with the role of the City Council.

Say three nice things about downtown Olympia.

  1. It is friendly! B) It is eclectic and not at all vanilla! C) It has fun shops and restaurants and small businesses run by hard-working, interesting and compassionate people.
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By Mindy Chambers

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