Olympia City Council Position 5 Candidates

Incumbent Lisa Parshley vs. Wendy Carlson vs. Talauna Reed

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.

Note: Campaign contributions and expenditures are the amounts reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission as of July 16.

Wendy Carlson

Occupation: Retired community corrections officer, state Department of Corrections

Raised: $18,828. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $5,582

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

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

Lisa Parshley

Occupation: Veterinarian

Raised: $24,327. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $17,253

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

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

I am running for re-election because I love Olympia, it is my home. Serving on council has simply been a way to give back to my Community. Working on all our intersectional city’s issues such as homelessness/housing, COVID recovery (health, economy, and community), climate mitigation, public safety, and social justice, and equity while making sure our city performs its duty to have working waste and wastewater systems and serviceable streets and parks for all has been so rewarding and fulfilling. Our community has done so much good work but there is yet much more to be done, I would like to continue helping with all these endeavors. 

What does an Olympia City Council Member do?

  • City Council is the policy arm or legislative of city government.
  • City Council is responsible for developing intergovernmental cooperation and action.
  • City Council has fiduciary responsibility, including providing a balanced budget. 
  • City Council is responsible for our community derived comprehensive plan (strategic plan) being fulfilled and ensuring actions taken by our city government fulfill and are sufficiently called out in the comprehensive plan. 
  • City Council interacts with our community advisory committees and commissions as they propose, review policies, and codes and ordinances. 
  • City Council acts to connect community members to staff when needed, a conduit to the appropriate city staff member when a community is in need. 
  • City Council hires the city manager (administrator of the city government), hearings examiner (quasi-judicial arm of the legislative body), and police auditor (Part of the RCW for Council City Manager form of government).

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

Serving on council has simply been a way to give back to my Community. Working on our city’s issues such as homelessness/housing, COVID recovery (health, economy, and community), climate mitigation, public safety, and social justice, and equity while making sure our city performs its duty to have working waste and wastewater systems and serviceable streets and parks for all has been so rewarding and fulfilling. 

Our community has done so much good work but there is yet much more to be done, I would like to continue helping with all these endeavors.

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)?

What sets me apart from my opponents is experience.

  • I helped create a regional climate change mitigation plan (adopted countywide)
  • I wrote and led the adoption of a regional declaration of climate emergency
  • I helped create a regional sea-level rise adaptation plan (adopted countywide)
  • I Chair Olympia’s Public Safety Committee, overseeing the process to reimagine and rebuild public safety
  • I worked with other Finance Committee members to plan how we use American Rescue Act and CARES Act funds to target relief to small businesses, specifically women- and BIPOC-owned, which were hit the hardest in the wake of COVID-19
  • I introduced the original referral to create what would become our region’s first Social Justice & Equity Advisory Committee, a permanent committee made up of community members to advise the council on diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • I have worked at the city level, and regionally, to create partnerships and strategies to help us get through the housing crisis with the goal of ending homelessness

This not only sets me apart but shows that I can work collaboratively with regional partners, community stakeholders, and council colleagues to accomplish things that align with community values and priorities.

 In this time of overlapping crises, we need leaders who can work effectively on council and in the community; who can be thoughtful and see how various issues connect and intersect; and whose vision is bold and courageous, while working collaboratively to move the needle on big issues facing our community. I am that leader, and that’s why I’m running for re-election.

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. 

In all honesty all our city and regional issues are equally important as they are intersecting in a way that compounds them all. Issues from social justice and equity to houselessness/housing, COVID recovery, to climate change to public safety reimagination. They all impact our community and quality of life in our community. 

If, however, I had to choose which was my priority I would pick climate change for we have 9 years until we reach a point of no return. We have 9 years until we reach the date of our first stated goal in mitigation. Yet in the last 6 years our greenhouse gas emissions have only increased every year. If we do not change and mitigate climate change all of our other issues will be impacted; people of color and of lower income will be most impacted, those houseless will suffer repeatedly from extremes of weather, our housing crisis will likely worsen with climate refugees, and economic recovery will be harmed. 

Luckily, we have a regional climate mitigation plan, climate adaptation plan, and a sea level rise plan.  Action items within these plans will provide a reduction of our region’s greenhouse gases. In the last three years I was honored to have been a part of the effort to develop and finalize the climate mitigation plan. Additionally, I wrote and lobbied to get climate change declared an emergency in Olympia, Tumwater, and Thurston County. 

What needs to be done from now until 2030. We need to pursue each action item within the climate plan seriously and without shying away from difficult decision. We need to work with the legislature help develop needed action at the state level. Regionally we need to enact the actions items that will provide a regional consistency in code such as point of sale energy efficiency audit. As a city we need to support with budgetary considerations and adequate staffing our climate program manager who will be helping build policy, ordinances, and helping to design our city’s climate mitigation strategy.

We are going to need bold and courageous leaders to enact our regions plan and that will work regional to help Thurston County be a part of the climate change solution. In the past three years, I have been part of the effort to build this plan and know what it will take to get these actions enacted. If re-elected it will be the work of my term get this plan underway and a part of our comprehensive plan and the work of future city councils. 

As each person must do their part to avoid climate change each region must do its part. If every region in our state and our country works to achieve the goals we have set forth and accepted (45% of 2015 greenhouse emissions and by 2050 reduce these to 85% of 2015 levels) it is possible we will avert climate catastrophe. 

https://olympiawa.gov/community/climate-change-response.aspx

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

One thing we have done well: Supported and developed public participatory process to develop plans and action for our biggest issues. For example, our One Community Plan (homelessness response plan) was developed through participatory leadership process using a work group of community members from all sides of the houseless crisis. In February 2020 council passed this plan with pride. Had COVID pandemic not occurred I expect we would be a lot further along with enacting the plan.  Currently, we are using the same method of community workgroup and participatory leadership to help Olympia reimagine our Public Safety. 

One thing we could have done better: improve our communications and communication systems for the city. Inadequate communication leads to two things in a community, distrust of the community to the city and the perception that the city is not achieving any action on those issues most important to the community. Without communicating the actions of the city clearly it can easily lead to misconceptions of where the city’s actions are current at and where they are going. It also reduces the ability of the community to adequately judge the actions of the city and council; whether they fulfill the priorities of the community or need course correction. Lastly without inadequate communications the community’s ability to communicate with the city are reduced. 

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.

The city’s diversity and equity work are a “1” in a scale where 1 is the most important. Equity and social justice are interconnected to all our current declared crises (houselessness, climate change, COVID) and issues facing the city (housing shortage and small business recovery).  

Over the past year, Olympia has finally begun to take a hard look at how we do business as a city through an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens. This started with hiring our city’s very first Equity & Inclusion Coordinator, Olivia Salazar de Breaux. If I have my way, we will have a DEI department to continue the work of equity and social justice from within our city and out in our community. I was also proud to be the one to write and sponsor what would become the Social Justice & Equity Commission, a citizen-led advisory board to help guide our city on these important issues. I am fully committed to continuing this work. Equity must be baked into every part of what we do as a city including our Comprehensive Plan and our budget. Social justice and equity must become our city’s business.

We have four hundred years of racism to overcome, it will not be overcome in months or even years. It will take the sustained work of the city and council and our community to see the dismantling of the racist institutions and systems of our country. 

Say three nice things about downtown Olympia.

  1. Downtown highlights our local businesses and restaurants, they reflect the character of a city and community.
  2. We have some of the best local musicians and artists
  3. We have unique city experiences such as the Arts walk and procession of the species that truly sets us apart from other areas.

Talauna Reed

Occupation: Interfaith Works shelter staff member; community organizer

Raised: $15,182. Find a full list of contributors here.

Spent: $11,809

Campaign information: WebsiteFacebook

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

I never expected to find myself running for Olympia City Council.  I was called to action after the murder of my aunt Yvonne McDonald.  During the process of community building and organizing for Black Lives Matter and like many others witnessing residents in the city of Olympia become increasingly more and more fatigued and frustrated as the decisions made by Leadership failed to meet our most urgent needs and disregard for public input become the norm, I wanted to expand my activism to city hall from a different position.  I realized that the needs and interests of everyday Olympians have been ignored by the Olympia City Council for far too long. This city is in crisis (homelessness, in dire need of long term affordable housing, facing mass evictions, rising costs to purchase homes, environmental and land use issues and the constraints of Covid 19) and the residents of Olympia have lost hope that current leadership will act in our best interest. I want to  offer my education and expertise to rebuild this capitol city. Additionally, I am running because I am accepting the invitation made by Mayor Selby on June 5th, 2020 during her press conference in response to the murder of George Floyd, for people of color and other historically marginalized people to be at the head of the decision making tables.  At the end of the day I love this community and want to serve at another level.

What does an Olympia City Council Member do?

An Olympia City Council Member should be an advocate for the people of Olympia.  They should prioritize the lives and security of the people they serve and not simply be there to uphold the monied interests of the city.   Now what I will do as a council member will be quite different from the status quo.  I will adhere to the philosophy of “Nothing About Us, Without Us” and make sure that I meaningfully include the community in the decision making process as well as inform the public of whose interests the city is actually serving. My voting and advocacy will align with the residents who will be most impacted by the specific decisions. As a council member I will continue to have conversations with folks. I will actively seek out service providers, developers, business owners to partner with our residents, not just city staffers and hired consultants, so that the needs of our unique city are being met. 

There are so many other things, but I look forward to being a part of the local law making process. I will lead with honesty, transparency and accountability.

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

My choice to run for position five was strategic.  It is my goal to bring true diversity to this council and I did not want to run against another person of color.  I recognize that I am running against an incumbent who is very entrenched in party politics and who’s financial resources I will never be able to compete with, however, I want to empower Olympians to make the change they have been waiting for.  We can start by removing individuals from office who have  played a significant role in the deterioration of our community. I trust the voters of Olympia and know that they will vote based on their commitment to social justice and the greater good, and not based on which campaigns can hire expensive consulting companies and paid staff.  

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)?

What sets me apart from my competition is my lived experiences, community activism, organizing and ability to bring folks together from all types of backgrounds peacefully to work towards a common goal.  I have experienced first hand the inequalities in our systems, from housing insecurity to the discrimination found in our justice system and can use these experiences to teach others.  

I am not a career politician.  I am a real person, a single mother, a social worker, a renter, and a person who has made mistakes and overcome great obstacles. I believe that I will better represent those Olympians who are often ignored or purposefully silenced.

I have a degree in Organizational Management and can utilize my education to assist with restructuring how this city is being managed currently. 100% of my donations are from individual people. I organize and advocate for all people, not special interest groups. I will not stand silent and allow racial injustice to destroy families here in our community. 

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.

Housing.  Housing .  Housing.  After making countless phone calls, knocking on doors, and having countless discussions with folks that live in Olympia, the biggest concern that I have heard is that so many Olympians fear that this city will become a place that they, their friends, and their neighbors will no longer be able to afford to live in.  So many folks are finding that they have to move further and further out, often to places like Yelm, or Chehalis, because they can no longer find an apartment they can afford to rent, or ever have the chance to buy a house in the city that they love and work in.  People are also worried and traumatized by living in a city where homelessness is at a crisis level and that folks are not living in humane and ethical conditions in a city they believe could and should do more.

  1. Implement Affordable Housing Impact Fees immediately and stop tax exemptions and sweetheart deals to wealthy developers.  With all of the new wealth and growth coming to Olympia, these folks should be paying their fair share and be required to build permanent affordable and low income housing.  Everyday Olympians voted to tax ourselves to pay for housing, shouldn’t wealthy developers be held to the same standards?
  2. Make building low income and affordable housing the first priority of the city and not simply an afterthought.  Create a Housing Authority for the City of Olympia so that we can use federal funding to build social housing with wrap around services immediately.
  3. Raise the minimum wage to at least $15 dollars an hour within the city of Olympia.  By raising the wages of our service industry workers and other working poor, we will be able to lift many folks out of poverty and allow them some desperately needed financial security.  Higher wages in addition to a greater stock of affordable housing will give Olympians the ability to live and thrive in the city they call home.

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

I appreciate the council’s vote to create a city wide moratorium on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Keeping folks in their homes should be the focus of this city and we should take this a step forward by making sure that the majority of federal funds received by the American Rescue fund be used to help bail out folks who are at risk of losing their housing caused by no fault of their own. 

I would change the way that this city refuses to hold the police and other city officials accountable for acts of racism and violence.  I would start by creating a citizen oversight committee with actual power to trigger an independent investigation into police misconduct.  I would bring the OPD under the oversight of the City Council instead of the City Manager.

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.

Diversity and equity is at the forefront of my campaign, so I would of course say that it is a 10. I would qualify this by saying that it needs to be more than just lip service or symbolic.  It’s not enough to hold inquiries after inquiries, and panels after panels.  Listening without action is not helpful and is actually harmful to folks who already have to fight daily to just be alive.  The city needs to actually have the voices of the underrepresented be included in the decision making and make policies that are equitable and sustainable.  But diversity needs to extend to more than just calling marginalized folks to City Council meetings, it needs to extend to the actual hiring processes, which vendors and contractors the city hires, and who is in the actual leadership roles, not just symbolic gestures.

Say three nice things about downtown Olympia.

  1. Downtown is beautiful and so are the people and both deserve better leadership.
  2. I watched my children grow and thrive in this town.  I appreciate the people who have been a part of our lives and helped nurture them. 
  3. But the thing I am most impressed with about my city of Olympia is the Mutual Aide I see happening here. Watching so many people in this community come together in solidarity to help one another inspires me and reaffirms my faith in the goodness of Olympians.
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By Mindy Chambers

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