Jim Cooper’s anticipated coronation as the next Thurston County Commissioner by the political establishment bodes ill for long-suffering residents.
County’s open commissioner seat (District 1) this year. This political seat has become a primary goal for Jim Cooper. However, on the road to the political coronation, there are many hazard signs which should concern the residents of Thurston County. If voters learn the truth about Jim Cooper, his road to power will get rougher.
In Thurston County, Washington State, the political process dominates the local scene for many reasons. First, the state capital of Olympia is located here and it is estimated that over half of households contain at least one taxpayer-supported income. Government agencies proliferate in the Olympia area and surrounding communities, so Thurston County’s biggest business is government. This is why local political races generate so much attention.
The election of 2016 will have a major impact on Thurston County politics because for the first time in many years there are two open
seats without an incumbent this year. The third seat is currently held by Commissioner Bud Blake who won election in 2014 with a 9-point margin as an Independent. Most political observers expect the Thurston County Commission to have a non-Democratic Party majority after this election cycle for the first time in several decades. In politics, this is a big deal.
However, this hasn’t prevented the Thurston County Democratic Party from initiating a long-anticipated coronation ceremony for current Olympia City Councilman Jim Cooper. Political insiders have attempted to stack the deck in Cooper’s favor. Until recently, this might have been enough to ensure ultimate victory. However, Jim Cooper brings a carload of baggage to this political race, and many local Democrats are nervous. Here are some predictable expectations from a Jim Cooper Commission:
- Unsavory close affiliation with a convicted felon and stock swindler – who might try to become hired staff in Thurston County
- A relentless push for the “Max Tax” agenda – an insatiable appetite for more tax dollars
- More pointless regulatory abuse and intrusive exploitation of vulnerable citizens
- Political payoffs, poor management, bad choices, abusiveness towards staff
Jim Cooper’s political past foreshadows his political future in Thurston County.
Close ties to local convicted felon and stock swindler
Jim Cooper’s right hand bagman in this political process is Joe Hyer, a former Olympia City Councilman who was convicted of selling illegal drugs in a school zone in 2010. His arrest and conviction derailed Mr. Hyer’s plans as the Thurston County Democrat’s nominee to fill a vacancy as Thurston County’s Treasurer in 2010. Despite the conviction, he remained the treasurer for the Thurston County Democrats for many months. This probably made sense if a drug dealer was the most mathematically capable party member at the time.
Originally, Joe Hyer was listed as the treasurer for Jim Cooper’s campaign, but he has now been reclassified as some kind of financial advisor. The felony conviction for selling drugs in a school zone is a well known feature of Hyer’s impressive resume. The voters of Thurston County may be less familiar with Joe Hyer’s more recent charges for stock and securities fraud in 2014, which included making false statements to prospective investors, failing to disclose the true financial situation with his bankrupted business – Alpine Experience, and illegal sale of securities. Unlike the felony drug conviction, Joe Hyer was only fined $1750 + investigation expenses for the illegal securities fraud project (which he agreed to pay in 2015) and it doesn’t appear he was arrested or served jail time for this particular crime. It does pay dividends to be politically connected in Olympia.
The stock and securities fraud project is problematic for Jim Cooper because it appears Jim Cooper was actively involved in the fraudulent stock company. See this letter detailing these concerns sent by local researcher and citizen journalist Missy Genson in January this year to a variety of political insiders in the Democratic Party. Jim is quoted in local articles where he claims to be on the board of an organization that his finance advisor, Joe Hyer, owns. Jim Cooper appears to have avoided any criminal sanctions for his role in that venture, but his experience with Olycentro (and Olympia Gear Exchange) appears to be the majority of his “business” experience on his resume. Although Joe Hyer may not be the first convicted felon to be employed in Thurston County, he might be the only one who committed securities fraud. It still isn’t clear what role he would be expected to play in local government if Jim Cooper is elected Commissioner.
Desperately Seeking Maximum Taxation
In addition to the questionable role a convicted felon might play in a Commissioner Cooper administration, another question involves Jim Cooper’s view of government. Fortunately, for the voters of Thurston County, Jim has a well-documented political history as a City Councilman in Olympia and many public statements about a variety of issues. A common theme for Jim Cooper has been the fact that he believes there is not enough money for local government, and whatever money a resident might have – Jim is sure he can spend it more wisely.
Jim Cooper has campaigned for an income tax, and currently supports a special income tax for the residents of the City of Olympia. He has voted for every utility tax increase (Olympia has one of the highest in the state), property tax increase, sales tax increase, excise tax, fee increases, license tab increases, and any other tax that has landed on his desk as an Olympia City Councilman. Jim Cooper is an active proponent of bigger government, and it will be expensive. He views the residents of Thurston County as the piggy bank for his future central planning schemes. It is certain he will support every pocket gopher tax, septic system tax, and any tax or fee he can invent in the future. Jim Cooper has an impressive history of leading the “Max Tax” scene in Olympia, and he plans to bring this attitude and experience to the Thurston County courthouse.
Supporting the Nanny State – Bigger, more abusive Government is always the Goal
Jim Cooper is well-known for supporting intrusive government policies that grow the bureaucracy at the expense of common sense and freedom. It is difficult to find anything that Jim Cooper doesn’t believe the government should regulate. He has actively agitated for more aggressive land use policies targeting farmers and rural residents. He supports criminalizing minor code violations enshrined in Thurston County’s Title 26 plan. “Intrusive” and “abusive” are excellent adjectives for Jim Cooper’s view of government.
Insider dealing, political rewards, poor choices in office
- Thurston County’s $61 million jail (called the “ARC”) which sat empty for five years.
- The mismanagement of the 3400 building and how Thurston County managed to spend 18 years and $8 million to make this $4 million empty building worth $2 million.
- The $12.6 million Maytown lawsuit, where a jury found Thurston County’s actions “shocked the conscience”
- Commissioner Sandra Romero’s record $200 million damage to Thurston County’s future.
The list of historic incompetence is long, and Jim Cooper is likely to continue making poor decisions like these (if he can get one more commissioner on his side) and he is likely to create new scandals. For example, as City Councilman, he advocated giving away a $2 million empty building in Olympia away to a business where his wife, Thomasina Cooper, worked for $1. At the last minute he recused himself from the vote, but he had advocated for this insider deal throughout the process. After this transaction, Jim’s wife was hired by Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall to work in the elections division to help supervise the ballot counting for Jim Cooper’s anticipated coronation/election. To Jim, the taxpayers of Olympia always come last, and it is unlikely this will change if he is Thurston County Commissioner.
When Jim Cooper was fired by unanimous vote of the Executive Board from Together, it was in part due to the staff threatening to quit en mass unless Executive Director Jim Cooper was fired. This threat to fire was particularly significant because even current Commissioner Cathy Wolfe (Jim Cooper was her Treasurer in her last political campaign) voted to remove Jim from that job. Apparently the Together staff had complained about how they were treated under Cooper and how he rarely showed up to work.
To be fair to Jim, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, and he probably learned his management style from his father, who was the former Mayor of the City of Edmonds. Jim Cooper’s father, Mike Cooper, helped produce some epic harassment lawsuits (which the city lost) while he was in charge, and he was voted worst boss of the year by city staff at the time. Mike Cooper currently works at the Mountlake Center Community Senior Center, where the staff aren’t quite as outspoken. For the Thurston County staff who are hoping to escape the abusiveness of Sandra Romero or Cathy Wolfe, it appears that electing Jim Cooper would not be much of an improvement.
There is hope for Thurston County
Fortunately, for the residents of Thurston County, the future doesn’t have to be Jim Cooper grim. There are choices for this commissioner seat, and every other option is better than the spectre of Jim Cooper in the Courthouse. Four other candidates exist as options. Diane Dondero , Allen Miller , John Hutchings , and Jon Pettit are all running for the same seat as either Democrats or Independents (no Republicans this cycle). I will write another article comparing these candidates for this same commissioner seat, but any of them are better than the poor political choice offered by a Jim Cooper candidacy.
Secondly, Thurston County’s current Commissioner Bud Blake has proven to be a steady, calming influence on the county commission, and he holds office for two more years.
Finally, the third and final commission seat for Thurston County (District 2) is a much simpler race with former sheriff Gary Edwards running against the Democrat’s sacrificial candidate Kelsey Hulse. Most political observers give Gary Edwards the edge in this race if for no other reason than the huge outpouring of financial and volunteer support Edwards has received so far. His extensive experience compared to the light resume of Kelsey is also likely to be viewed favorably by Thurston County voters.
However, despite the good news that Thurston County, for the first time in many years, will probably begin next year with rational local political leadership, complacency would be a mistake. Voters should select any candidate except Jim Cooper. We also need to send a message to the Thurston County Democrats that political coronations are not welcome in local, democratic, government. Thurston County residents can’t withstand the suffering a Jim Cooper Commission would inflict.
Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.” It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people. It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government. It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.” Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed…
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