I’m getting better at not taking the bait, not feeling the need to defend or challenge every printed swipe at city council.  I’ve been on council for 4 ½ years and we aren’t perfect and we’ve made mistakes for which we deserve our lumps but I still feel defensive when attacks, subtle or overt, aren’t justified.The latest comes in the letters to the editor section of the Yakima Herald Republic.  A Mr. John Harris of Yakima is exercising his right to show his support for legislative candidate Ben Shoval.  All well and good--until he takes a poke at council by repeating the essence of the talking points about the supermajority tax vote.  That’s wrong and can’t go unchallenged.

John Harris

To the editor — Last year, local businessman Ben Shoval worked with Yakima Councilmen Bill Lover and Rick Ensey, Business Times publisher Bruce Smith and initiative sponsor Tim Eyman to make it harder to raise taxes in the city.

These well-known conservative leaders and dozens of volunteers worked hard to gather enough signatures to put on the ballot a measure that would require a super-majority vote of Yakima City Council to increase taxes. (Most of the council, led by Mayor Micah Cawley, voted to nix the proposal.)

Yakima voters disagreed with the council, though, and approved the idea by a two-to-one margin.

Ben Shoval, a Republican, is now running for the 14th District House seat currently held by Charles Ross, who is running for Yakima County Auditor.

We need an anti-tax leader like Ben Shoval representing us in Olympia.

In Response:

Mr. Harris…a point of clarification if I may from someone who was there.  Feel free to support Mr. Shoval if you are so inclined but how about supporting him by way of facts and an accurate presentation?

Technically speaking I suppose a person could say a 5-2 vote for a tax increase is “harder” than a 4-3 vote but it really depends on the philosophical makeup of the council or community.  The practical truth is that the couple of times that any tax has been raised in Yakima in the past half dozen years, it has been on a 5-2 vote.  There is local NO tax and spend mentality to overcome--No hard fought barrier of tax protection needed for local government.

As is often the case, the fear of the specter of raising taxes makes for a pretty good talking point in a campaign and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that was motivation behind this effort.  Don’t forget that Councilman Ensey himself said that the measure wasn’t necessary with the responsible current council but his concern was for the decisions made by future councils.  Why then has the current council been portrayed by Smith, Eyman and Shoval as "obstructionists".  Why has the current council been falsely accused of not wanting Yakima to vote on it?  Perhaps because that too makes for a convenient and convincing rally cry for candidate-speak?

The majority of council said they agreed on a need for a supermajority for congress and the state legislature but that it was a solution in search of a problem on the local level.  Council felt that if the citizens of Yakima wanted it, they could demonstrate that by bringing it to the ballot by way of the initiative process.  Signature gathering  is one of the two constitutionally provided ways to bring matters to the voters and council made NO effort to prevent or obstruct that in anyway despite what Mr. Smith and Mr. Shoval have said in the past.

Their efforts to gather 75-hundred signatures have been self described as “heroic”.  You would think they just completed the Sherpa run to the summit of Everest--hyperbole for the sake of politics.  Seriously, “Hey Yakima, want to make harder to raise your taxes, sign here”.  Know anybody who couldn’t get sufficient signatures with that approach?  So much for council “nixing the proposal”.

So I guess as I ask for accuracy from you as you describe the circumstances and council actions surrounding the supermajority vote, I should also ask for total accuracy in your overall presentation.  You wrote “Ben Shoval, a Republican” which is technically true but for political purposes, which is your purpose, it’s not as accurate as Ben Shoval, former John Kerry Democrat now turned Republican…


We expect selective detail from candidates but not from simple, honest, grassroots writers of letters to the editor.  By all means support Mr. Shoval if you will, but don’t try to pull the Yakima Council down in an effort to lift him up—that’s Bruce’s job.