In what is left of local radio, political coverage is mostly a rehashing of what can be found on other major news outlets. Lost in the sea of big city and national politics are the soap-opera-like stories of the local variety in the small towns and hamlets throughout Washington. Often, there are melodramatic and highly personal shennanigans that would fit right into an episode of "Reno-911."
This past November a couple of small towns saw their mayors lose close contests to people who otherwise would not list politics as something in which to get involved. Both winners were moved to run based on their intense dislike of the sitting mayor or other city officials.
In the 2.5 sq. mile town of Pacific, Mayor Rich Hildreth lost his 3rd race for relection. Hildreth came under scrutiny when he refused to follow up on the arrest of his police chief who had been stopped on suspected drunk driving. But the issue that really upset the tiny electorate was the number of times Mayor Rich attended Emergency Management conventions around the country. Some felt he was building a resume and getting free training for a career after he left office, a charge Hildreth denies. He was defeated by a write-in candidate, 80-something Cy Sun, who was probably as surprised at his win as Mayor Rich was. Hildreth continues to voice his opinion on his blog.
Maybe the most entertaining story of all is in the town of Tenino, south-east of Olympia. Eric Strawn, 35, is heavily tatooed and his usual uniform is jeans and a Bob Marley t-shirt. He occasionally smokes pot from a prescription and wears his hair in a ponytail. He has a police record of misdemenors that include his pot smoking and taking a car radio from his uncle's car detailing shop.
The AP reports, "Strawn, a Tenino native who never finished high school and works at a beef-slaughtering plant ('People ask me, "Oh, you kill cows?" I say, 'I just cut their heads off.' It's a job that has to be done.') readily admitted to having no political experience."
On the first day of work, Strawn arrived at City Hall to find that one part of the building had been gated and locked by the City Clerk to prevent his entry. Behind those locks were court records, some with his name on them. The reason for preventing access to these records? The former mayor, Ken Jones said, "You figure it out for yourself." Strawn fired the clerk, took down the gates, and then ordered some simple padlocks for the file cabinets, to ease fears he might remove records involving him or his friends. Later, a city council member criticized his written tribute to a Tenino military veteran as being full of grammatical errors. Rumors raced through city goverment that he would fire all of them when he took office, so the council immediately passed an ordinance that would take that power away from him. Council members later acknowledged the ordinance was unenforceable because state law gives the mayor such powers.
The people of Tenino appear to be willing to give their new mayor a chance. The previous administration saddled the town with millions in debt to pay for a sewer system. It had "lost touch with the townspeople" according to many residents.
The AP says, "The new mayor has plans for change in the city, such as getting a grant for putting in a bike, skateboarding and basketball area in the city's park and asking the local bank to sponsor the maintenance on the city's historic quarry pool."
Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, and stay tuned!