New York Times Sees Much of America Through Yakima Politics
The New York Times came calling a few weeks back. A lot of the hosts and guests who appear on the various programs on 1280 AM News Talk KIT refer to the Times as "fake news," so I was intrigued and a little suspicious when reporter Dionne Searcey said she wanted to interview me for part of a story.
She said the demographic trend watchers at the Times noticed some similarities on paper between Yakima and a number of other communities around the country, so she had plans to come here and tell the tale of the political changes that have come about.
In my mind I was thinking that the short term changes in the City Council's make-up were by virtue of the ACLU lawsuit. Where there were initially three Latina council representatives, now there would be only one, thanks to a last-minute burp of votes that tuned a 70-plus point Election Night loss into a 21-vote win a few days later for District 1 candidate Eliana Macias.
Ms. Searcy seemed quite nice and fairly well informed on Yakima, having worked at The Seattle Times for a few years before being stationed for a while most recently in Africa. We had a couple of lengthy phone chats and then she flew out to talk more to me, and with Mayor Kathy Coffey, some folks in agriculture, in the community at large and of course, with Dulce Gutierrez, who was the feature of the piece.
My message to Ms. Searcey was that the natural changes that were seen to be happening around the country due to immigration, "enlightenment" or whatever, weren't really happening here yet. I suggested that the ACLU ruling opened a fast lane for liberal opportunists who happened to be Latinx (that's the new word).
I maintain Yakima's struggles politically are more ideological. Right vs. Left and not Anglo versus Latinx. I explained how all across the region, conservatives routinely win elections 60% to 40% even in the minority/majority 15th legislative district.
My belief is that Yakima doesn't want to be Seattle. Yakima says if you want to live and think like a progressive liberal Seattlite, feel free to do so, but don't demand that the rest of us join you -- and if we don't, that doesn't make the rest of us racists or troglodytes.
Fighting ICE flights, promoting Sanctuary Cities, not cooperating with INS -- these are some of the issues the newly ordained Hispanic leadership tried to bring to the table at City Hall. That's 40% thinking. Sixty percent of Yakima favors the rule of law. Yakima believes in the importance of ag labor, certainly, but also in reasonable and legal immigration. Those issues caused divisive community clashes, scolding and hard feelings at City Hall's "horseshoe" that are now spilling over the consideration of Yakima changing from a council/manager to a council/elected or "strong" mayor form of government.
Some communities may be in a natural evolution with older white voters giving way to younger immigrant voters. But in my opinion -- which I guess is why I was in the New York Times -- it isn't happening here. Yet. The time may come as more grassroots Latinx leaders come forward and capture the interest and active involvement of the significant under-registered and under-voting Latino population. But not yet.
So I'm not sure why I'm even in the article or why the article is a story to tell.
Sure, cheers to Dulce Gutierrez for making her personal mark ... but what will her legacy be? Her handpicked replacement, Ms Macias, barely won against a highly controversial young "white guy." Of Dulce's fellow Latina leaders, one -- Avina Gutierrez -- failed to get out of the primary in minority/majority District 2, which ultimately went to a young white guy (Jason White). The other -- Carmen Mendez -- chose not to run in District 3, but Latina Berenice L. Ponce did run and she failed to get out of the primary with just 22.5% of the vote.
Do Yakima Hispanics deserve representation? Absolutely. Does liberal ideology deserve a free pass to City Hall? No. So there is the crossroad. Yakima isn't like those other cities. Yet.
Read the article and let me know what you think. Thanks.