Five months to the primary and the campaign season for local politics is already underway.  There are lots of folks running for a variety of positions but is one race worth watching as much for who is running as it is for the activities behind the scenes.

What follows is a letter to the editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic.  It may be legit and sincere, I don't know for sure ... but since this article is an opinion piece, not a news story, let me share my opinion.

The letter sounds like it was written and rubber stamped by Bruce Smith of the Business Times.  He claims auditor candidate Charles Ross as his best friend and Smith loves to play with politics ... not run and serve, just influence and control.

He has stated these misleading arguments in just this same way many times in the past.  I suspect this is part of a larger campaign to help Charles win by misrepresenting Micah, perhaps even going so far as to include trying to prevent him from being elected mayor. More on that when the time is right.

This is upsetting because I believe Charles is better than that ... at least at this point I still believe that and I want to believe it. I, too, like Charles Ross.

So time will tell as each new wave is released.  For now, here is  the letter written by Roger Barney ... and since I believe in fair play, I have added some of the background, the detail and context he somehow managed to omit. Imagine that.

Roger Barney
Yakima To the editor — As Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley begins his climb up the political ladder to higher office, keep a couple things in mind.

He voted to increase utility taxes. He voted to impose fees on downtown property owners who had rejected the same fees. He voted to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote a plan that would probably reduce parking in downtown Yakima. He voted to prevent citizens from requiring a two-thirds vote of the City Council to increase taxes.

Micah Cawley votes to increase taxes and he votes against making it harder to increase taxes. He should not be elected auditor.

In Response:

To borrow from the approach of Mr. Roger Barney … As the systematic and orchestrated attacks on Micah Cawley continue, (they started months ago in another newspaper) keep a couple of things in mind.

Facing the cuts required by a weak economy and a $1.5 million budget deficit, six members of the council, including Councilman Ensey, voted to increase the utility tax … the tax hadn’t been increased in many years and is still lower than many comparable cities. Mayor Cawley helped devise the plan that ultimately saw the council actually make those budget deficit cuts and then redirected and dedicated the utility tax increase to the city’s top priority of public safety, not only saving a half-dozen police officers but adding a half-dozen more, helping to fund a second gang unit and more fire protection as well as funding for the Gang Free Initiative.

Mr. Barney says “Micah Cawley raises taxes.” Consider that the Yakima City Council has the authority to levy only the following taxes:
• General property tax, 1 percent increase — has been raised – most often by unanimous vote,
• Retail sales tax — not been raised,
• Utility tax — raised once for Public Safety,
• Gambling tax — not been raised,
• Real estate excise tax — not been raised,
• Admissions tax — not imposed or raised. That is not a record of irresponsibly “raising taxes” as the author hopes to portray.

The downtown business property owners first voted to assess fees on themselves in 2004-05. There is no denying the benefits those assessments provided for the heart of downtown, but in late 2011 when a 60 percent yes vote wasn’t reached the sun set on the Committee for Downtown Yakima. After meeting with the affected businesses, ultimately the size, scope and fee structure were restructured to address the concerns of businesses and again Yakima enjoys the benefits of a clean, well maintained, friendly, graffiti-free downtown.

The most recent vote to move forward with the design for a parking sensitive, uniquely Yakima downtown plaza was a unanimous vote — including Councilman Ensey. Mr. Barney says the plan will “probably” reduce parking. A little fear mongering goes a long way when you don’t have facts. He knows the project is designed to be a game changer for the continuing economic revitalization of downtown and that means there will be some changes but an altered parking plan is not necessarily a reduced parking plan — and — a complete parking study is underway to review and maximize the overall parking future for Yakima.

It’s one thing to be lose with the details, it’s another to not tell the truth. Mayor Cawley did NOT vote to prevent citizens from requiring a two-thirds vote of the City Council to increase taxes. Check the tapes of past council meetings and you will see that the mayor said he didn’t believe this council needed that restriction to be responsible with tax dollars. In the 5/25/13 edition of the YHR Councilman Ensey agreed. “Ensey said he isn’t worried about the current council, which he called “probably one of the best we’ve had in awhile.”“It’s the future councils, the councils 10 years from now, that I’m worried about,” he said.

The mayor also said if the proponents of two-thirds for taxes group felt they had sufficient support, the second option of the city's two-tiered approach to bringing legislation to the ballot was available. The group easily demonstrated the community interest with the signature-gathering option as the system is designed to do. No effort was made to prevent that from happening. The vote simply wasn’t fast-tracked as the group preferred, so they have tried to paint that as obstruction … Bruce Smith, Tim Eyman, Ben Shoval and others taking the lead on misrepresentation.

I bring up Councilman Ensey's votes and comments only because he has written a letter here and blog comments in support of Cawley’s opponent, Charles Ross. I do so to illustrate that despite Mr. Barney’s coached comments to the contrary, Cawley’s votes and conclusions were not extreme and that others who support Ross have made similar votes and reached similar conclusions in performing their duties as a council. There is nothing disqualifying about the votes and conclusion reached.

Charles Ross is a good man and a worthy candidate, as is Micah Cawley. The people of Yakima County are certainly entitled to their opinions and to vote for whom they choose. However, they are also entitled to the facts upon which to base their vote and given some of the people in play, I fear the facts will be in short supply here.

Do your own homework and then vote for the candidate of your informed choice.

Point of disclosure:  Micah and I have been friends, neighbors and co-workers for several years. He deserves as fair a shot in the race as does Charles, nothing more.

I see my responsibility to help keep the facts straight as I know them and to encourage you to make an informed vote

for whichever candidate you think will best represent you as auditor.