By Jack Mayne
After a contentious objection by one member of the Normandy Park City Council, it appointed former Mayor Jonathan Chicquette to the city planning commission.
The voice vote was four aye, with two abstaining and one member absent.
It all took place during a meeting that went a little over two hours, but was derailed by one Councilmember who objected to the fact that his daughter was not appointed.
Normandy Park Mayor Sue-Ann Hohimer told the Council at its March 10 meeting that she personally met with and interviewed candidates for the city planning commission. She said she thought it was important to understand the current makeup of the commission as she went about choosing a new commissioner. “I really wanted to know what the people who are currently serving felt what might be a nice balance.”
She said she determined that one attribute would be someone “gifted in communications … just knowing that we are going to have a lot come down the pike.” Then Hohimer said she met with planning staff members who helped her consider the applicants.
“Then clear guidance emerged.” She said it was finding what the residents said the city needed and the staff what it wanted. The candidates, she said, “were really diversified.”
Based on all of that, Hohimer said she compiled three questions that “I sort of felt for the skillsets that are needed right now.”
The questions and the interviews suggested that former Mayor Jonathan Chicquette was the person she was appointing to the Normandy Park Planning Commission. Deputy Mayor Michelle Sipes-Marvin moved for Chicquette’s appointment.
Councilmember Earnest Thompson asked the Council’s legal counsel if his being a relative of another prospective appointee would require him to recuse himself from voting but was told the circumstances were such that recusal was not required.
Thompson said the current commission is “filled with older, white people” while noting the description fits him, a former member of the planning commission.
He noted that some describe Normandy Park as a community of older white people and said that the city has all caucasians in all roles. Other cities say Normandy Park has this image as “an exclusive, white, elitist city,” while “we want to project our diversity.”
Thompson said the Councilmembers knew after the November election he was coming on the Council, yet the appointment of a new planner was set for a time after he was seated.
Woman of color
Almodine Paradise Thompson, 25, was elected to be speaker of the University of Washington Senate, “not an easy thing to do to get yourself elected…so her communications skills are par excellence,” said Councilmember Thompson.
She works for Sellen Construction Co., he said, the largest locally owned general contractor in the Pacific Northwest.
“Her experience outweighs almost anybody on the (Normandy Park) Planning Commission.” She also went to a local school, Thompson told the Council.
“She is a woman of color, you have an opportunity here to show to the world, show to the other communities around here … that we are not racists, yet we believe in diversity, which you say you support.”
Thompson told the Normandy Park City Council that his daughter “exceeds every single category you could conceive of … you have an opportunity here to show to the world ….”
The racist card
He said people ask him if the mayor is a racist. This is where things started to fall off the tracks.
“I don’t know. But it certainly looks that way to many people in other areas, he said before several on the Council seemed to recoil, then Councilmember Mike Bishoff said “you accusing the mayor as being a racist is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard you say,” as Thompson said “this is what people have asked me. What do I think? I think …” but was cut off by the mayor, adding she did not want to hear anything more from Thompson.
“That is really offensive on so many levels,” said Mayor Hohimer. “We don’t know whether anybody actually asked you that question. You could have just mentioned that to get your point across.”
Councilmember Susan West, a former Normandy Park Mayor, said she was sorry the matter “has gone in this direction.” She said she didn’t want to be a part of the situation so would abstain from voting on the planning commission member matter.
Sipes-Marvin said Mayor Hohimer is married to a “great man who is of color and whose children are of color … so for people even to allude that our mayor, who is a woman … who does incredible things.” She said she came up with her own decision, adding that the qualifications mentioned by Thompson were not included on the application his daughter had submitted. Sipes-Marvin added she is “sorry this came up so contentious. We are better than this as a city and we should be ashamed …. This is not who we are, this is not who I am.”
“We already had a nasty election which we are recovering from,” Sipes Marvin said.
The Council voice vote subsequently confirmed to select Chicquette to the planning commission.
Below is a link to the city’s video of the Council meeting – coverage of this agenda item begins at approximately 1:42:41: