Currently, in Southwest Washington and the Portland (OR) metropolitan area, the City of Washougal (WA) is getting a lot of attention in the press due to what seems to be a significant scandal involving one or more of the city’s elected officials. The gist of this is that the Washington State Auditor’s Office is conducting a special investigation involving unaccounted for expenditures of over $100,000 and other alleged “mismanagement issues”, by the city’s Mayor, Stacee Sellers.
Since Congressional Candidate Jon Russell is an elected member of the Washougal City Council, his political opponents within the Republican Party are eagerly manipulating this to reflect negatively on Russell. Though this is personally disappointing to me, I can’t say that it’s surprising. Ironically, I believe that stepping back and looking at the facts (not the innuendos) here would lead a reasonable person to the conclusion that Jon Russell’s related conduct indicates that he is exactly the sort of person we should have in the office he is seeking – i.e., U.S. Representative from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
Here are some of the facts I have in mind:
Russell has been in the Conservative minority since joining the City Council. Shortly after his initial election he began to develop concerns related to the matter currently being investigated. This included that:
- Expenditures were signed off by whatever council members were available.
- City Department Heads were instructed not to speak directly to council members; all communication was to go through the Mayor.
Although Jon raised these concerns, due to the council’s Progressive majority and their loyalty to the Mayor, Jon was unable to rally support for his alarm. However, Jon remained vigilant. For over two years, Jon has requested P&Ls for city events that the administration had sponsored … the very events now being investigated. These requests remain unfulfilled. Just this year, Jon asked to be appointed to the finance committee and immediately upon joining that committee, he began bringing forward a motion that would require the committee to routinely scrutinize every city expenditure. Again, the council’s Progressive majority was unwillingly to join in making this commitment.
Thankfully, fairly early-on, Jon recognized the importance of being able to voice his concerns from a greater position of strength. With that in mind, he began developing a strategy to achieve a Conservative majority on the City Council. In 2008, he was joined by another Conservative. This past Summer, yet another Conservative was added. And, it’s likely that next week’s election could lead to Jon being in the Conservative majority on the City Council. From that perspective, Jon issued the following statement to supporters:
“My objective is to work through our city administration’s chaos and to bring a clearer picture to the citizens of Washougal. I am convinced that, with a newly–elected Conservative majority coming in January, we will provide a responsible path out of the disaster permitted by the current progressive administration.”
And he added:
“This experience has given me a deeper appreciation for what I am trying to do on a national level. We need sweeping government reform, which brings more accountability to government and places more scrutiny on government than on individuals. Too much control in the hands of the few will always result in disaster and corruption. As your next Congressman, I will fight for open and transparent government. The people deserve to know the truth.”
It should be noted that one of the most recent developments in this matter is that the Washougal City Council has now passed a resolution censuring Mayor Stacee Sellers, expressing “disapproval of her behavior and her lack of effective communication.” Jon Russell voted for the resolution and in doing so, expressed his belief that additional action should be taken, saying, “I don’t think censure is strong enough.”
I think the facts that I’ve outlined above speak for themselves in supporting my earlier statement that “Jon Russell’s related conduct indicates that he is exactly the sort of person we should have in the office he is seeking.” However, I’d like add a personal observation to emphasize why it adds up that way for me. I’ve been in business in a Sales role for most of the past four decades. During that time, it’s not been uncommon for me to be confronted with a situation where a prospective customer tells me that, in comparing what I’m offering to what a competitor is offering, they can’t find a decisive difference. In those cases, I’ve almost always found it to be effective to get the prospective customer to consider who they want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with when there is trouble. No matter how good your company, your product, etc., if there are human beings involved, there will be problems. I make sure my prospective customers know that when problems come, there is one thing in particular they can count on that the competitor can’t offer. That difference is me … I will be there for them. That’s what I see Jon Russell doing in this matter. He suspected problems and he voiced his concerns. He took actions to prevent the problems he suspected from occurring. He developed a strategy meant to give authority to his actions. And, when trouble came, he stood firm to do the hard work the citizens of Washougal are relying on him to do.
In summary, I’d like to touch on a couple of aspects related to my disappointment with the actions of Jon’s political opponents within the Republican Party who have so eagerly manipulated this to reflect negatively on Jon. In one instance, the question was raised, “If Jon is unable to stand up to the mayor of a small town of some 9,000, how would he ever stand up to the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C.?” Of course, this question is a bit short-sighted, since I expect Nancy Pelosi to be an ex-Member of Congress and for her party to be the minority party after the elections of 2010. However, it does raise an interesting hypothetical question: “What would Jon Russell be doing about a similar situation in the current U.S. Congress … oh say regarding Charlie Rangel … if he was the Representative from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, instead of Brian Baird?” Well, I know what we’ve heard from Baird on this … nothing! And, based on what I’ve outlined above, I’m pretty confident Ms. Pelosi would be hearing from Jon Russell regularly.
Finally, I want to offer some advice to Jon’s political opponents within the Republican Party who have so eagerly manipulated this to reflect negatively on Jon. Take a look at all the Comments left by readers of what you’ve published on this. No doubt, I haven’t found all that has been written along these lines but of the ones I’ve found, I haven’t found one single Comment that supported the author’s position. With that in mind, I would encourage you to consider what I have termed the “Hoffman v Scozzafava … Wake-Up-Call …”. As the old folk song says, “The times, they are a changing” and you should be giving more sober thought to how your words and especially your actions, fit in with the current political landscape.