This is unprecedented. Puyallup has never seen big-money, corporate influence in its local politics – until now. We are seeing 3-4 times the amount of money spent in this year’s city council races than ever before.  Why?  Out-of-state warehouse developers have launched a Political Action Committee (PAC) with the very misleading name Friends of Puyallup (FOP) to promote city council candidates they feel (or know) will give them unfettered access to valley farmland.

We were tipped off about this when The News Tribune published the story in late September.  Through October 20th, there are just six contributors to the PAC, giving a total of $60,200 for political persuasion in a city council campaign of just 40,000 residents. This number does not include additional independent expenditures redundant PACs are making in support of the same candidates. FOP itself has:

• $25k from the St. Louis, Missouri developer;
• $10k from the state realtor’s PAC;
• $10k from the land owner outside Puyallup;
• $5k from the state builder’s PAC;
• $5k from the property manager in Tacoma;
• $5k from the engineering firm in Kent;

FOP was started by Running Bear Land Partners of Clayton, Missouri (St. Louis) which proposes to add seven more warehouses between Shaw Road and the Puyallup River. From our understanding, Running Bear is a subsidiary of the Michelson Property Management & Investment Corporation which owns Viking JV of St. Louis, Missouri, now building the current warehouse next to the Shaw Road overpass.

Running Bear, along with the Neil Walter property management company of Tacoma, launched the PAC with a $30,000 contract to New Media Northwest, a “full service political consulting and marketing firm” from Salem, Oregon, plus $7,000 to Nelson Reporting, also of Salem, for “polling” and other sophisticated mechanisms to sway public opinion.

Their directive:  promote three candidates friendly to the warehouse project, and attack candidates insisting on environmental and traffic mitigation for 1,750 additional semi-trucks on Main Street every day. It’s hard to believe those numbers. Let’s look more closely at the 1,750 increase in semi-trucks per day. That is the actual number Running Bear suggests in its proposal, noted in paragraph 9 of the city’s summary. Doing the math, that is:

• 73 extra trucks per hour if they go around the clock, or 146 trucks per hour working a 12 hour day;
• 1.2 extra trucks per minute, or 2.45 extra per minute working a 12 hour day;
• 1 truck every 49 seconds, or 1 new truck turning onto Shaw & Main every 25 seconds if deliveries in and out of the warehouses operate an average 12 hour day.

And they want to operate the warehouses BEFORE new road capacity is added. Traffic already backs up South Hill and across 410 through Sumner. That’s why the city of Puyallup balked at the county’s carte blanche approval of the project, bringing them to court and winning every appeal up to the State Supreme Court.

Running Bear’s recourse to losing in court? Stack the city council with candidates who will not challenge them. Classic corporate takeover of local politics, happening throughout the country and world. Our city’s effort to require environmental review of several additional warehouses now hangs on a slim majority of support in the current council.  With a couple friendlies already on council, Running Bear just needs one or two more. 

Check out one of our blog posts for a sample of the pseudo “polling” that FOP is doing to brainwash voters into voting for their heavily funded candidates. FOP has already started its “persuasion” campaign by advertising “polls” that make candidates and council members look bad who insist on environmental review and infrastructure requirements (roads) before warehouses are built. They’re worried the city can stop these warehouses … with the “right” council members.  They know how important this election is, how unpopular the warehouses are, and how much control local councils have over land use decisions.

Their candidate in District 1, Curtis Thiel, was not their first choice, but he edged out their preferred candidate in a contested primary. Of course, he has fallen into their favor (follow the money), as can be seen on the “expenditures” tab of of the FOP Public Disclosure Commission report. Their candidate in District 2, Paul Herrera, is the candidate they’re supporting the most, with $7,000 of direct expenditure on top of the above mentioned online and robocall “polling” among other means of persuasion.

Their candidate in District 3 is even more embedded with FOP: $5,000 of its contributions came from the Associated General Contractors of Washington Builders PAC, where District 3 candidate Curt Gimmestad, himself a developer with a very large (by Pierce County standards) construction company, sits on its board of directors. FOP is turning around and contributing more than $3,000 of direct expenditure to Gimmestad’s campaign, plus an unspecified several thousands of dollars for online advertising and polling.

District 1: Farris v Thiel

In addition to how much regulation they might insist on for warehouses, other outside forces seem to be the key difference in this race for city council in a district where the homeless issue is front and center, and where a fellow council member not up for election is looking for control.

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Dist 2: Palmer v Herrera

This is a clash between an independent incumbent leading the fight against warehouses, and the republican party’s challenger with FOP ties and passing his party’s recruitment litmus tests: changing Puyallup’s form of government, and acting tough on homeless despite expensive legal losses.

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D3: Witting v Gimmestad

In a district most affected by warehouse traffic, for a seat vacated by the councilman who cast a 4-3 deciding vote in 2013 to allow the Van Lierop warehouse now being built, it’s a republican developer hand-picked by his party, facing an independent favoring oversight and infrastructure.

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If you want to keep big-money influence, as well as warehouses, out of Puyallup, join the Real Friends of Puyallup Facebook page. Tell your friends to “unlike” the Friends of Puyallup (with the first 300 “likes” adopted from a page it took over on Aug. 7), which is simply promoting candidates Thiel, Hererra and Gimmestad. On the other side, candidates taking a strong stand against unfettered warehouse development include Robin Farris (District 1), John Palmer (District 2), Ned Witting (District 3) and Heather Shadko (At-Large).

Please consider a donation of any amount.  Puyallup Voters for Integrity does not accept contributions at this time outside of Puyallup, Sumner & Orting zip codes whose residents will feel the effects of FOP warehouse traffic. No candidate or party contributes to, authorizes or controls this Political Action Committee which is registered at the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, with first contribution/expenditure filing date of Oct 18, 2019 when website was launched by volunteers. Opinions and subjective characterizations are included in the text, but when facts are presented, we want them to be accurate. If you find any errors, please email us with original-source evidence for correction.

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