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Three newcomers enter races for Auburn City Council
Three political newcomers – Thomas Sauers, Jodi Riker-Yap and Michelle Binetti –have entered the race for Auburn City Council.
Last week Sauers filed alongside Yolanda Trout and Frank Lonergan for Position 4, held for eight years by mayoral candidate Nancy Backus. Riker-Yap filed for Position 2, mayoral candidate John Partridge’s seat, against businessman Claude DeCorsi, and Binetti filed for Position 6 against incumbent Rich Wagner.
The Aug. 6 primary will pare the field for Position 4 to two. The general election is Nov. 5.
A closer look at the latest candidates:
A Kent native, Sauers said he wants to be on the City Council so he can do something about rising crime, aging streets and the city's anemic business climate.
Sauers, a 1986 Kent-Meridian High School graduate, has lived in Auburn for 14 years. He was a Honda mechanic for more than two decades before injuries forced his early retirement. He enrolled in an unemployment training program at Green River Community College from which he graduates next month with a degree in business management. He hopes to work again in the automotive field as a manager or to start up his own shop.
Sauers said he decided to run for City Council out of "deep concerns" for where the City is headed.
"I've seen more crime, I've seen more drug dealing, I've heard gunfire, I've even seen what looked like prostitution on the street corners, and it's getting down to where I live on 37th," Sauers said.
"Stores are going out of business, we've got a lot of store fronts for lease or rent, property for sale. Nobody is attracted to do business in Auburn," he said. "Somebody's got to do something to get out us out of this. What we need is new leadership."
The first order of business, as Sauers sees it, will be to fix the streets and do it right. A lot of taxpayer money, he said, has been spent on streets that are still in wretched shape.
"Another thing I would like to do is to work with our local banks, credit unions and other financial institutions to provide more affordable loans for people in the local community here to get business thriving and get people buying and purchasing," he said. "We need to attract more business to create more local jobs, more revenues for the City."
Sauers said the City, especially Auburn police, needs to do a better, and speedier, job responding to residents concerns.
Sauers enjoys managing and coaching baseball, "loves to get involved" with youth sports programs, is the vice president of Norpoint Soccer Association and will coach boys soccer teams this year. He has two sons, ages 23 and 13.
Riker-Yap wants to spread the news that councilmembers are accessible to the people they serve. And the best platform for getting that word out is on the council itself, she said.
In the three years since Riker-Yap and her husband moved here from Arizona, she has attended City Council meetings and volunteered her time as president of the White River Valley Citizens Corps Council.
But she said it's been harder than it should have been to find and talk to her elected representatives.
"I've gone to the mayor's office a couple times to express some concerns, and I've never been able to see him except once, as a business person. That really doesn't sit well with me," Riker-Yap said.
The City, which is the first real form of government that most people interact with, Riker-Yap continued, must make its leaders more available to talk.
Riker-Yap said that the City should also be doing better things with its money than spending thousands of dollars on sculptures at the same time that its road infrastructure is crumbling
She found it disturbing in 2012, for instance, to watch the City trying to get voters to support a road bond at the time its leaders were throwing dollars at public art.
"I agree that art is important, but if you can't drive there, and you are having to realign your front end every six months because of roads with potholes, something seems lopsided. We need to get our priorities straight," Riker-Yap said.
Riker-Yap, a former EMT paramedic-firefighter, spent her working days employed by ambulance services, fire departments and county governments in Arizona. That was before a truck crossed the center line and struck the ambulance head on in which she was returning after a call.
"I wound up doing the windshield taste test, and it ended my career," she said.
Riker-Yap is the product of a military family.
"I come from a long line of Republicans, but I'm non-partisan. I think we should elect people what they stand for, rather than for who stands beside them," Riker-Yap said.
At the moment she is registering voters as the Outreach Chair for the 30th District Democrats.
"Yes, I'm non-partisan, but Republicans definitely don't want me," Riker-Yap said with a laugh.
She and her husband have six grown children and hope to adopt another by the end of November.
Binetti wants to bring new leadership to the city in which she grew up and still loves.
"I will bring fresh ideas and a different perspective to the City Council," Binetti said. "As our streets deteriorate and traffic worsens, what we hear from City Hall is that nothing more can be done. Taxpayers have been increasingly saddled with subsidizing the golf course restaurant, the Auburn Avenue Theater and an excessively expensive jail."
Only recently, Binetti noted, City Hall learned that King County had identified a potential waste transfer station site in Auburn's city limits but it reacted to oppose the station only after its potential neighbors protested.
"I believe we can do better, that we must do better," she said. "I was born and raised in Auburn and have watched it change and grow over the years. I know what Auburn could be and if elected, I will work to build the coalition to put our city back on the path to fulfilling its promise of becoming a better community for all of us. It is time for a change."
Binetti, an Auburn High School graduate, attended Central Washington University. She is employed by the Auburn School District, is a past PTA president and softball coach. She has completed training as a member of the Citizens Emergency Response Team is a member of the Sons of Italy and the Auburn Valley YMCA. She is active in her church and is a former Sunday school teacher.
Binetti and her husband have six sons. With five of her children grown, she said, she now has time to become actively involved in the decision making for "the kind of future we want for our city."