With a little more than a month remaining before the Nov. 6 general election, The Herald Editorial Board resumes its endorsements regarding ballot measures and a range of races voters will see later this month on their mail-in ballots.
Having already made some endorsements prior to August’s primary in several races, we’ll complete the ballot this month with congressional and legislative races, ballot measures and initiatives. Toward the end of the month we will publish a recap of all endorsements.
A few words about The Herald’s endorsement philosophy: The board’s intention is not to tell readers for whom or what to vote — though we do offer a recommendation in each race or issue — but rather to explain what we see as a particular candidate’s strengths and abilities in representing their constituents. While a candidate’s position on issues does play a part in our consideration, we prefer to support the candidates we believe will best represent and serve their communities and will work most effectively with fellow officials, lawmakers, constituents and others.
In the case of a ballot measures, our intention is to inform and determine how the pros and cons of a measure might tip the scales to one side or the other, allowing voters to make the final consideration.
Sometimes, the voters don’t agree with our recommendations, which is why we’re returning to two races for the Snohomish County Public Utility District.
Neither of our initial recommendations — Bruce King for Position 1 and Kathy Vaughn for Position 2 — finished among the top two in the primary, but in each case we have no reservations in making endorsements among the remaining candidates on the general election ballot.
Along with making decisions that determine rates and other matters for more than 350,000 electrical customers in Snohomish County and Camano Island and for another 20,000 water customers, the three-member board of commissioners for the Snohomish PUD is responsible for ensuring the stability and security of the county’s electrical grid and providing oversight for what has become a regional leader in the research and development of energy technologies and energy efficiency.
Position 1: Current board member Sid Logan is facing challenger Mary Rollins. Logan was appointed by the board last March following the resignation of Dave Aldrich. November’s election will determine who completes the remaining two years of the post’s six-year term.
Rollins, a civic-minded community organizer and Democratic activist, in an earlier interview showed a clear understanding of the PUD’s and the board’s responsibilities to deliver sustainable, affordable and environmentally responsible power and water services. She also expressed an interest in representing ratepayers, particularly lower-income families.
Logan, who has an engineering background, worked in the oil and gas industry before moving to Arlington in 1999. He worked for several years with the Arlington School District, first as a bus driver but advancing to its operations manager in 2008, a position he held until his retirement in 2016. It was his work with the utility to improve the school district’s energy efficiency that led to his interest in serving on the PUD board.
While some have criticized the PUD’s range of projects to explore different emerging energy technologies, Logan noted some investments have paid off, such as the PUD’s MESA battery work, which will be key to the PUD’s micro-grid and solar installation project now under construction in Arlington. There’s value to ratepayers in the PUD’s research and development, though it requires a watchful eye by the commission and the willingness to pull the plug on projects that aren’t necessary or beneficial, as the board did earlier this year in shelving the Sunset Falls hydro project.
With the departure of Kathy Vaughn at Position 2 after 24 years of service, the PUD board would benefit from Logan having had more than a year to get up to speed as a commissioner, as well as his commitment to ratepayers and the PUD’s programs in providing financial assistance to low-income families and promoting solar installations at homes and businesses within the district.
Position 2: Despite losing Vaughn’s experience and institutional knowledge on the board, Position 2 won’t have to go without a strong understanding of energy and environmental concerns, provided voters elect Rebecca Wolfe to the six-year term.
As we noted before the primary, Wolfe offers a long list of community service, including time on the Edmonds Economic Development Commission, that city’s committee on climate protection and other environmental and conservation efforts. And she has prepared herself for the position by earning a master’s degree in environmental law and policy from the Vermont Law School. She also holds a doctorate in leadership studies from Gonzaga.
She also has made extensive research of Northwest power policy and recent studies that show that energy efficiency has slowed the pace of growth in demand for electricity, which she says should guide PUD decisions, as it did with Sunset Falls.
Wolfe would be an advocate on the PUD board for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, even as the PUD pushes to increase that portfolio past the current rate of 98 percent from hydropower and renewable sources.
Wolfe also was an early voice of opposition to the board’s decision not to open up to the public its search process for a new general manager. Wolfe, while not objecting to the board’s final choice of John Haarlow, did protest a process that failed to introduce the public to the board’s four finalists for the position, as is common practice for public agencies. Wolfe’s attention to transparency and openness is needed on the PUD board.
As we explained in our earlier endorsement, the editorial board cannot recommend David Chan to voters. Chan currently is a commissioner for Fire District 1, yet he has announced his intention to remain in that position as well as serving on the PUD board. Both positions make significant time demands of commissioners; the constituents of each district deserve an official who can devote the time required to each. Nor were we satisfied with Chan’s dismissal of a comment — caught by a “hot mike” during a fire commission meeting that suggested the district hire Mexican immigrants because they would be cheaper — as satire.
Voters can confidently elect Wolfe to the PUD board.
Update: The editorial has been updated to reflect the number of PUD electrical customers to more than 350,000.