LETTER: SeaTac Councilmember Joel Wachtel shares his thoughts

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]

Opinion by Joel Wachtel

I am a sitting Councilmember on the SeaTac City Council. This letter is my personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the City Council, the opinion of the city or anyone but me. I take full responsibility for the information contained herein.

I moved to Washington in 2013 from New York to retire and to be near my grandchildren. Prior to 2014, I had no desire to be a candidate and had never run for a political office. I had never joined any political party. I first became a political city activist when in 2014, the SeaTac City Council was considering enacting a 6 percent utility tax. I examined the city budget and did some investigation into the city finances because of my experience as an entrepreneur. My research indicated the former City Council was not handling the city’s finances properly.

My opposition to the utility tax led to my meeting the four individuals who would go on to unseat the then-Council majority in 2015. I discussed the city’s finances with these individuals and discovered that each candidate had a belief in fiscal conservatism and also felt that the finances of the city were not being handled properly. (In the three businesses I created, I actively avoided debt, and I believe that the city should do the same.) These individuals all worked at regular jobs, all owned homes, all cared about the city, and all were running non-partisan campaigns.

The election of 2015 was a spectacle of partisan politics, with one side being funded by monies from outside the city in enormous sums; the other side had a fraction of the funding.

The well-funded side was ripe with mailers that predicted mass budget cuts in the city, a tremendous rise in crime and giant cuts in services to residents if the opposition were elected.

The incumbents lost the election by significant margins. At the last City Council meeting of their term, that Council unanimously repealed the very utility tax which was the main issue in the election and, by doing so, left the city with a $2.5 million hole in its budget.

However, the incoming Council was not only able to locate the finances to handle the deficit, but completely retired the entire $2.5 million deficit within 90 days of being installed in office. Evidently, the utility tax was not actually needed! None of the dire warnings of the previous council ever came true.

The new Council had run their campaigns promising to run the city in a fiscally responsible manner. They were as good as their word. They made no cuts to any service. Instead, they increased the number of police officers on the force. They passed an employee code of ethics and a Council code of ethics, something that had been requested for years. They also passed a citywide diversity resolution.

So much was accomplished that I am forced to attach a two-page list of their accomplishments to this letter for you to review at your convenience (see below, or download a PDF here).

I ran for Council because I was asked to do so by some of the current Council. I never before truly understood the term “public servant” but now I do. I am proud to have served my community and I am proud of the work this council has done!

However, I can honestly say that I do not like politics.

The practice of having, organizations not directly associated with a candidate making up stories to undermine the Council is unsavory to say the least. Similarly, packing the City Council chambers with outsiders who are not residents of the city to disrupt the Council feels like a protection racket (“Hey buddy, if you join this team and do things our way, we can make these problems go away!”). The tactic of challenging major growth projects that will unquestionably benefit the city, without valid reasons, while hiding the actual benefits of the project is the way “snake oil“ used to be sold. These outside instigators are actually hired guns, organized by politically motivated groups to create theatre to showcase their made-up issues to move their agenda into the spotlight with little or no concern to the majority of the residents in the city. People seeking to advance a political agenda often misstate the facts regarding “the law”. The City Council is bound by the laws of the State and face severe penalties for breaking the law, instigators are not bound in any way! These instigators refuse to dialogue, but make demands that will ultimately cost taxpayers dollars, because delaying a project or fighting frivolous litigation (even if the City wins), can cost the taxpayers millions of needlessly wasted tax dollars.

This city belongs to the residents! It belongs to the people who have invested their lives and taxes in the city and the people who have supported the city for generations. They all have a right to have a say in how the city is run, without people and organizations from outside the city with their agendas trying to manipulate the outcome of local elections for their political purposes, while not even trying to engage within the system.

Residents, however, also have a responsibility to understand what happened in the past and how their taxes were utilized or wasted. Residents have a right to question how a Council runs the city. But they must not be swayed by rumor, innuendo, unidentified mailers from unknown PAC’s (Political Action Committees) or nonresidents coming to their door to sell them a candidate or a political position for their own purposes. Local politics should be local. Every decision made by the City Council is discussed many times in public forums and the documents presented and examined are available from the City Clerk upon public request. If a local candidate is unknown to you, then you should contact them and meet them! You should sit down with them and ask them to explain their position on issues that you think are important. Because in the state of Washington, politics is the theater of the absurd!

All residents and nonresidents can contact any councilmember, the city manager or any department director in the city to ask any question they want to be answered. I strongly urge that residents start learning about what has occurred in the city over the past five years and how it has affected them. One such item is the fact that the city has gone from a $2.5 million deficit to a $25 million surplus in three years, without raising city property taxes. By making SeaTac easier to do business in, the council has generated significant revenues from business sources which allow us to upgrade our sports fields, add new sidewalks to areas that have none and solve airport centric problems like illegal parking in our residential neighborhoods! Those are just a few of the many things the City Council has done for its residents in the last three years! It is time for local politics to be run on results and not on party lines.

– Joel Wachtel

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One Response to “LETTER: SeaTac Councilmember Joel Wachtel shares his thoughts”
  1. Kathleen Brave says:

    Thank you Joel. Not only for an excellent article but also for running. The council members who are seated now are the best we’ve had in a very long time. They have done more for this city that many others all put together.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly about outside influences coming in to do no good but only to cause trouble and distraction.
    I am very proud of you all. Keep up the good work.