By the time I got to my computer last Wednesday it was too late to meet the deadline for the November 7 edition of The Chronicle. For what it’s worth, then, here’s my delayed response to the recent election. I know of no one who is ever completely pleased with all of the results of an election. I’m no exception.
First of all, I was surprised and saddened by the small number of people gathered in the county courthouse Tuesday night — those wanting first to hear the individual results of the voting. I should have suspected the low turnout when I arrived and was able to find a parking space almost directly in front of the courthouse doors. In previous years that lobby was packed with candidates and their friends and you could feel the excitement and anticipation hovering over the crowd. I felt none of that on Tuesday and it made me sad.
Most of the candidates were — no doubt — sitting at home in front of their computers, ready to join their friends in the living room as the results began to appear on their screen.
You’ve had a week to read all of those results in this newspaper, so you won’t be surprised to read that I’m sorry for the defeats of two long-time local politicians (and personal friends) who have served — with honor — the citizens of Centralia.
Ever since the council/manager form of city government replaced the three-member commission form about 35 years ago, they’ve been actively involved in managing the city. I’m, of course, referring to Lee Coumbs on the city council and Bonnie Canaday, who ran, this time, for Port of Centralia commissioner. I considered her to be the ideal candidate for the Centralia port district post because I know, from serving with her on Centralia’s City Council, that she could be a pivotal vote on reigning in what I call “the bigger is better” philosophy that seems to prevail these days. I feel I’m not the only Centralia resident whose point of view includes the Centralia Station project in that category.
As for the loss of Lee Coumbs on the council, if you’ll remember, Lee was the first mayor of Centralia under the brand new council/manager system of city government and has been serving the city and its citizens ever since. As I frequently like to brag, I’m the last living mayor to have been elected directly by the citizens of the city under the old three-member Commission form.
We had to deal with every small day-to-day decision instead of setting a general policy and hiring someone else to carry it out. This is, by no means, a reflection on Centralia’s current City manager nor his efforts. He’s respected as being one of the best.
My reaction to Initiative 976 is simple — people want safe transportation, roads and bridges. They just don’t want to pay for them. We know that the reason the initiative got onto the ballot is only because Tim Eyeman was able to get enough donations from citizens — wealthier than you and me — to hire individuals to stand in supermarket parking lots and talk people into signing little-understood petitions.
I’ve asked this before: has anyone ever challenged the legality of having paid petitioners gathering signatures to promote a ballot measure?
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.