What’s Behind The Latest Move To Kill The Plaza Project
Is this the beginning of the end for Yakima's Downtown Plaza? I hope not. We deserve this great economic development tool and community "living room". I'm not giving up but there is now a pretty big hill to climb. Let's review recent history that lead to today's radio program.
A year ago plaza proponents were told that if they raised 9-million dollars without state and federal grants that the project would proceed. The community responded and by year's end the giant and unprecedented fundraising task was accomplished. Full speed ahead, right? Wrong.
Back on March 6th, assistant mayor Dulce Gutierrez made a motion to kill the project. So much for that promise to move ahead huh? Why the drastic change madam assistant mayor? What motivated such a community betrayal? What made you decide to go back on your word? Oh, we'll get to that.
At that time council members Jason White and Holly Cousens voted to join Gutierrez to end the 5+ year old project with one million, two-hundred thousand City dollars already invested. Council members Kathy Coffey, Carmen Mendez and Brad Hill voted to honor their obligation and continue the project. Swing vote is Council member Dr. Kay Funk. She said she had some concerns but that the project was too far along and it wouldn't be fair to terminate it. Motion to kill the plaza fails 4 to 3. Full speed ahead, right? Wrong.
On June 19th councilman Jason White offered a motion to put the future of the plaza up to a public vote -in yet another effort to kill it. Cousens and Gutierrez dutifully got in line with White in favor of a vote and Coffey, Mendez and Hill lined up again against. Swing vote again is Dr. Funk. What would she do? Would she hold true to her word - that the project was too far along to stop--that fairness and respect mandated it be allowed to move ahead? OR would she change her mind and join the council plaza haters with a "put it on the ballot" vote? Full speed ahead, right? Wrong.
Tonight the city council considers a measure to put the plaza up to a public vote. 3 of the 4 council members who voted to put the plaza on the ballot hope the vote kills the project. Jason White, Holly Cousens and Dulce Gutierrez say they have their reasons and all are tied to lack of money but are they really? We'll use their own words to explore that in the audio that follows. See if you think their reasoning hold up.
The 4th vote to put it to a vote belongs to Dr. Kay Funk. Three months ago she voted to let the project live with the prospect that is could be successful and "wonderful". Now, three months farther down the road from that, she voted to join those who want to kill it with a public vote. What changed? What's going on? What's the truth?
Hear for yourself. The comments are from the March 6th meeting to kill the project as well as the June 19th vote where Ms. Funk changes her mind. I would love to hear your thoughts.
But I would rather you show up at council tonight and demand to know why a mutually agreed to, priority city initiative got sold out in this fashion? Demand to know how council can be believed on anything moving forward. And ask council if a lack of money is really the issue, because if it is, why spend 50-thousand on a public vote when a new Funk motion does it for free? Why search for 35-thousand dollars to fund an Eastside pool project design that will ultimately a cost millions to build and that will promptly fail to pay for itself -as all pools do- triggering additional tens of thousands of dollars in maintenance and support? Consider that a pool costs 3-5 million or more and serves perhaps a few thousand people for a 3 month period. While the Plaza costs 1.8 million and serves everyone in Central Washington year round, has the potential to pay for itself like other plaza projects do and is designed to act a lure for up to 70 -million more in economic development. IF money is really the issue, how does this make sense?
If you missed KIT's radio show this morning, then you really should listen to this. And then do the informed and responsible thing.