Submitted by John Perry.
When I decided to “toss my name into the ring” for Steilacoom town council I had not prepared a position paper. Many residents however, have been reaching out and want to know what is important to me. I am happy to say that I am running for Town Council because in the most basic terms, I want to ensure that Steilacoom maintains its charm. It may not seem like a daunting task because Steilacoom is already quite remarkable. We have one of the best school systems in Washington, the town government is fiscally responsible and has been in the positive for close to two decades. Additionally, town vistas are split between a sunset over the sound or a forested escape near the marsh.
I intend to preserve these qualities. My background differs a bit from the current council members and even my opponents, which will serve to reinvigorate the town’s vision. In this instant, of the three council positions that are open for election, the sitting member I am competing with has nearly 20 years on the council. The other two members, Peter Franklin and Roger Neal (who have already won this election because they ran unopposed) each have eight years on the council and were just granted four more. This town, however, has really transformed into a multi-generational community. This differs from the 1960’s-1970’s, for example, when it was mostly occupied by younger military families during the Vietnam era. I acknowledge this because I happened to discover Steilacoom as a traveling military family. Many families from that era stayed in Steilacoom, and their offspring are here as well.
On my block alone, there are four families whose parents, grandparents and children all live within walking distance (my family included). Sometimes on the same block; they are definitely in the same town. That jumps out to me and paints a picture of the varying age groups the town council must represent. The town council consequently is currently made up of a group of individuals whose age ranges from the early seventies to mid-eighties. I can help bridge the gap that exists currently as there is no council representation from the generation that makes up the average age of 40, reflected in the most recent census.
The Steilacoom 2015 comprehensive land plan is a document that was created with the intent to be the path for Steilacoom’s growth into 2035. That plan is up for review and amendment in 2023 and must be approved by the town council. One of the key data points in the plan is that Steilacoom is expected to grow.
Growth is inevitable; however, it must be managed responsibly in order to strike a balance between acceptable construction practices within the limits of the town’s approved municipal ordinances. It must also preserve the natural forested qualities that Steilacoom boasts. For example, instead of clear-cutting lots, preserve an agreed upon number of mature trees. Instances when that’s not possible, plant native trees/ shrubs to give homes natural barriers and support the local wildlife.
According to the comprehensive plan, Steilacoom is roughly 1400 acres large. In 2015, only 6% of land was available for development which is roughly 84 acres. Additionally, the town’s goal at that time was to create 3,348 more homes by 2035. Through simple math, without regard to any-one homes square footage, this suggests we put an average of 40 homes per acre in Steilacoom. Not only is that impossible, but it also shows that this section of the plan is not accurate and should not be used to validate decisions surrounding growth.
The traffic circle project is a current example of the town’s willingness to improve the local infrastructure and adapt to growth. However, during the design and review period, the town ended up paying roughly an additional $65,000 dollars because of a rumored decision enforced by Pierce County officials, at the convenience of Anderson Islands requested second presentation of the plan. They were invited to the first presentation! The result was updated designs and additional fees. Fees that came out of Steilacoom’s residents’ pockets which in my opinion should have been either Pierce county or Anderson Island’s responsibility. The town council voted whether Steilacoom should have to pay or Pierce County, or even Anderson Island. Four of the five representatives voted that Steilacoom should pay; only Pete Franklin agreed that it was not our responsibility and that Steilacoom residents should not have to shoulder this bill.
In conclusion, my background in biology, environmental management, and my current position in the Department of Natural Resources as a project manager for states facilities and energy efficiency, are added value to the types of decisions which will be brought forward to the future council. These are qualities and experiences that set me apart from my competitors. Qualities that are important, but secondary to the importance of maintaining open communication with Steilacoom’s citizens for their input.
I welcome questions and comments from the public so feel free to reach out. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can learn more on my webpage www.steilacoomjohn.com. I am happy to talk over a cup of coffee and I will be out in the neighborhoods knocking on doors and meeting everyone. I will also have a booth weekly at the Steilacoom Farmer’s Market.