Letter to the Editor: Thanks from council candidate Stephen Barnes

Dear Editor:

Thanks, Mountlake Terrace, for the welcoming and exhilarating election experience! I have learned a lot! Thanks to all my supporters who passed out brochures, passed on information, visited my site, www.BetterMLT.com, visited the mltnews.com website to learn more or greeted me in a friendly way at the door. There were a few grumpy people, but most were cordial and open to hear something about my perspective on our situation. Some even changed their opinions based on our discussions.

When I helped thwart a campaign of distortions and disinformation for a too expensive City Hall complex proposal this last Spring, I had no idea that I would be joining other challengers in the Fall for a run at a seat on the Terrace City Council! The citizens of Mountlake Terrace made that run a near success and taught me a few valuable things along the way.

The campaign taught me some surprising lessons. We have over 11,500 registered voters in a city of 20,000. But that is misleading: only about 9000 of those registered have ever voted! It was a pleasant surprise to see the large number of voters over 60 who participate. Further, the highest vote count in the recent past was just six thousand six hundred, about half of those who are registered to vote.

How many regularly participate, I asked? A lot more becomes clear when we look at numbers from this election and last Spring’s Special Election. In April, just less than half of actual voters participated on an issue that was clearly of local importance. Our Fall election had a similar turnout – 4,600. The bigger surprise was that, in all three contested races, hundreds of returned ballots did not reflect a vote for either candidate, technically known as an under count. Those uncounted votes played a silent role in each of the contested council seat races. In my case, fully SEVEN HUNDRED of the people who voted on something voted for neither Doug or me. These voters had the power multiple times over to make Doug’s win decisive or make my selection sure, but they let the others make their decision for them. That was the big surprise for me.

Doug McCardle ran a gentlemanly campaign on the merits of the current council’s vision, a downtown core infrastructure financed by you and me, the Mountlake Terrace voters. Based on my observation of him on the Council, I would not have expected anything different. In fact, before the campaign begun, I told him after a City Council meeting that I was running against him, but that it was not personal. I simply did not and do not agree with the direction the current council is taking. Last night (11/19 after the City Council public meeting), I had an opportunity to congratulate him on what appears to be a very slim win.

The finality of the vote hit home late last week. The early statement of the Snohomish County auditor that the initial ballot count only represented about two fifths (that is, 40%) of the projected voters left me waiting for the other 1500 to weigh in. It didn’t happen. Having only lost by about 220 votes and with 700 otherwise active voters on the sidelines, asking to be motivated by the issues, I’m saving my signs. I have packed them away, not throwing them away. I will be back!

Finally, my sincere thanks also to the MLTnews.com staff. Thank you for your open-handed efforts to present both sides of an interesting and controversial election. Alongside the many issues about which 4600+ voters expressed their sentiments, five of the city’s seven positions were up for newcomers and incumbents. You tackled the City Council position races with vigor, presenting initial efforts of the challengers as well as the outside fund-raising of now councilman Wahl. You ran print pieces and even long length video interviews with each of the city’s candidates and printed follow up answers candidates gave. With the Terrace High journalism staff you provided the public with videos of the debate event for those who could not personally attend. All of this gave voters a better handle on known and particularly unknown (such as myself) candidates. THANK YOU for all you did!

Stephen Barnes

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