Yakima Businesses Concerned About City Council Performance & Behavior
Memories fade, the players change, new challenges arise so it's difficult to say anything with absolute certainty but in my 30+ years of observing, reporting on, participating in and now commenting on the Yakima City Council, this is the first time I can recall an organized business group - The Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce - calling out the city council on its behavior as being bad for business and for the city in general.
The Chamber Board shared their concerns last Tuesday at the regular business meeting, however if you have watched or attended any council meeting over the past couple of years you know exactly what they are talking about.
Backstory - The ACLU lawsuit that changed the city's district voting system was touted as being the solution to bringing government closer to the people and a way of securing greater Hispanic participation. In theory perhaps but not yet in reality.
Yakima did elect three Latina council members but one of them won in a non- minority majority race. Another won with just a couple of hundred votes and was easily defeated two years later in her first bid for re-election after a contentious term as mayor by a white male literally - Jason White. The third Latina also won her district with virtually no opposition with just a few hundred votes and the the full support of One America and the west side liberal machine.
Old news-Why bring this up again? I bring this up because though their election made electoral history, the results of this judicial gerrymandering has played a big role in all that with which the Chamber of Commerce is concerned. District councilmembers personal agendas, pet projects, petty differences & alliances, catty behavior, have all played out in the faces and antics at the council horseshoe. But perhaps the biggest change is in the politics of the supposedly non-political body.
In practice and in participation, Yakima is a conservative community. Still. But it is being governed by a majority with liberal values, ideology and approaches.
The change in elections ushered in a fast track for liberalism to take a majority on the council without facing the scrutiny of a citywide conservative vote and that, in my opinion, more than anything else, has been the biggest part of the problem.
OK -But that's all in the rear-view mirror. That can't be changed. What happens moving forward?
How do we get strong personalities to accept that they represent more than a handful of people in their districts and to look at the bigger picture. How do you get a council that ignores its voters on marijuana or that discounts history and community safety on pitbulls, to set aside personal desires to serve the wishes of the majority of citizens of Yakima. How do you get a council who says the plaza project is too expensive and essentially breaks its promise to work with the generous benefactors of the project by serving up a public vote in hopes the public kills it, so they can move ahead spending even more money on a swimming pool that will cost more to build, more to operate and serve fewer people without any of the aspects of economic development and tax revenue.
Good luck with that.
Before the redistricting, the citizens of Yakima had some leverage on the council in the threat of an individual recall vote. Now the recall for any individual council member can only come from the district that council person represents. With the apathy and lack of engagement suggested by just a few hundred voters in several districts, the chances of that happening are small, so council members can operate as they are, unchecked.
The Chamber of Commerce is sincere in its concerns. There are consequences. Will this be enough of a wake-up call.
Talk about it with us Friday morning at 7:15 On A.M. 1280, NewsTalk KIT.