Lakewood City Council candidate Lisa Ikeda (left) listens as Mayor Claudia Thomas answers a question during a Lakewood United forum Thursday morning. Master of ceremonies Mike Stevenson is in the center.
Lakewood City Council candidates Lisa Ikeda and Claudia Thomas squared off Thursday during the weekly Lakewood United meeting at Burs Restaurant. The audience of about 50 heard incumbent Mayor Thomas and challenger Ikeda agree on more issues than they disagreed on.
Mike Stevenson served as master of ceremonies and laid down ground rules for questioners and speakers, giving equal opportunity for both to express their views.
In opening remarks, Ikeda said she became active in the community when she started a remodel on her coffee shop in Ponders. Dealing with permitting was one factor and then seeing the neighborhood problems got her further involved.
Thomas, who last year was elected mayor by her fellow council members, said she enjoys working on the council, has the time for it and serves on several regional boards and committees, most importantly the regional transit board.
Asked what the city should do to improve the school district, both candidates indicated the city has been involved with the schools in joint meetings. Thomas said the city encourages residents to volunteer with students and help provide after school support to encourage social needs.
Ikeda responded to a question about whether she would interact with the city’s diverse communities by explaining that she considers herself part of the city’s enthic diversity. “My mother was Japanese,” she said. Ikeda indicates she has met with several minority groups in the community and will continue doing so.
Community activist Dennis Haugen asked both how they would discipline the city staff when they provide the council inaccurate information.
Both candidates responded that council members hire the city manager and it is that person’s responsibility to take care of any discipline that is necessary. If the city manager is at fault, the council would need to meet with him.
In her opening remarks, Ikeda mentioned her desire to have the mayor elected rather than chosen by the council. Asked to explain that further, she said she wanted to see the mayor elected as in Tacoma and Puyallup. She was not advocating a shift to a strong mayor and away from the city manager & council system currently in place.
Thomas answered a question about the city’s interest in bringing public utilities such as the water company under city ownership by saying that she was very happy with the manner in which water and fire services were rendered and she didn’t see any need for a change.
Asked about the city’s casinos, Ikeda said she is opposed to gambling and she doesn’t attend gatherings that are held at casinos. She added that state law allows them and they had been grand-fathered into the city now.
Thomas said gambling is a state-mandated business & the lottery is found everywhere in the community. She added that closing them would be a business loss to the city.
Both Thomas and Ikeda said they see the public’s perception of the community changing with city improvements. Redevelopment is good for the city, Ikeda said, adding that city help for the low income residents who might get displaced is needed.
Thomas sits on the transit board and she noted that construction on the commuter train station and parking garage is currently three months ahead of its building schedule “but three years behind its original plan.” The parking facility will be open in 2008 but the trains won’t get there because the City of Tacoma is arguing about where to run the tracks at Pacific Avenue.
She explained that in the interim, plans are to have express buses from the Lakewood facility to the trains in downtown Tacoma.
Commenting on a recent meeting at city hall about street ends and access to lakes, Ikeda said there was a great deal of interest as evidenced by a near capacity crowd at the session. She said she likes the idea of selling off small parcels and use the money to fund development of small parks on the lakes where there is adequate space.
Thomas said she appreciated hearing from the public on the issue . “We need to put this issue to bed. The law is clear on the issues and we just need to follow the law to its conclusion.”
Next Thursday, Clover Park School District director candidates Carole Jacobs, an incumbent, and Dan Livingston will meet with Lakewood United to present their views and answer questions. Kristy Roy will serve as master of ceremonies. Meetings start at 7 am and are open to anyone interested.