WENTACHEE — Retired history and civics teacher Jim Bailey will face a challenge for his seat on the Wenatchee City Council from government reformist Democritus Blantayre.
Bailey is seeking his second full term on the council and is the only council member facing an opponent in the November general election. Councilmen Tony Veeder and Keith Huffaker are running unopposed.
Bailey, 68, described himself as a “political science geek” who enjoys the challenges and diversity of helping to run the city. He also wants to give something back to the community where he has lived most of his life and raised his family.
Blantayre said he is running on the sole platform of getting rid of the City Council form of government and shifting, instead, to a direct democracy where all citizens propose and vote on any legislation.
Bailey said he is proud of the city for helping to craft a solution to the Town Toyota Center’s financial troubles.
“While it has been extremely stressful dealing with the Town Toyota Center, it has been rewarding to … see us be able to come through that,” he said. “It could have gone very, very bad for us.”
Now that the city is no longer pouring money into the arena, the city can turn its attention on other challenges, Bailey said. Sales tax in the city has either been flat or declining for several years, and with car dealerships moving across the river to Douglas County, the downward trend is likely to continue, he said. So the city needs to focus on retaining the businesses that are here, and trying to grow new business.
The city also needs to find a way to invest in its infrastructure, such as paving streets and replacing old fire trucks, he added.
“These will be challenges in light of the economic forces,” he said.
Blantayre said he believes all the challenges the city has faced in recent years and will continue to weather in the future could be avoided by a change in government. He said that in a direct democracy, the people would decide what laws to enact, how much money to spend and how much to tax themselves.
He said that system of government has been working for centuries in Switzerland and is still being used in some cities in the Northeastern United States. He said the television show “American Idol” is proof that people will weigh in en masse on subjects that they care about.
“My objective is to get into City Council and then dissolve it,” he said.
His idea is that anyone could propose legislation, most likely through a Website, and then every citizen could vote on it. That form is government is more responsive to citizen needs and better reflects what a community wants, he said. It is also less corrupt because there are no elected politicians.
“It is the most effective political system available,” he added.
Blantayre said he believes people don’t pay attention to what their elected leaders are doing because they don’t think their voices are heard.
“Give people that power to make decisions and they’re more interested because they can exact change,” he said.
He said the building of the Town Toyota Center and the ensuing taxes needed to help pay for it are prime examples of local government going against what its citizens really wanted.
“I think direct democracy is the solution to political problems at all levels of government,” he said. “I can’t just surrender to the ridiculous political system we have today. I think I have a duty and an obligation to humanity to try and bring about something that I see as a solution to the problem.”