Yakima’s Plaza Future Now In The Hands Of Voters
Does Yakima have a vision for the future or does the status quo and the lure of a potential parking spot (when you go downtown once a month) hold the power over progress?
Excuse me if I get a little cynical here but years of process and promise, thousands of hours of planning and research, the commitment and good will of hundreds of residents and 9-point-seven-million dollars in donated money and the potential of 70 million in economic development have all been placed in jeopardy by four city council representatives. By a vote of 4 to 3 the Yakima City Council decided to put the continuation of the Yakima Central Plaza into the hands of the voters.
Jason White offered the motion (hand written by Bruce Smith?) and Kay Funk, Holly Cousins and Dulce Guiterrez joined Smith, er... White in voting to put the previously decided decision on the November General ballot for yet another decision. Council members Kathy Coffey, Carmen Mendez and Brad Hill voted to fulfill their promise to the citizens of Yakima.
Recap - Past council voted to approve. Huge public turnout (a form of vote?) forced the new council to agree to honor that approval "IF" .... IF the money could be raised and not just "the" money but 20+% more money than ever...not 7 but 9 million dollars and with the clock ticking.
The people of Yakima responded and 9-million and 700-thousand more came in and on time. (another form of vote?)
Everything was on track to break ground this year (as contracted) until Bruce Smith and PDP -protect downtown parking group - threatened a lawsuit over land use of the parking lot based on 40+ year old ordinances.
Council narrowly voted to proceed and would deal with the lawsuit if filed.
A council vote on a simple but necessary directive to staff to move ahead to the next step in the process was scheduled for a council meeting - a meeting that councilman Brad Hill couldn't attend. Rather than show honor and respect for their missing fellow councilman and the constituents he represents, as well as for the technical importance of the vote, the opportunistic council opponents proceeded to vote anyway, ending in a 3-3 tie and derailing the entire process . (After that vote, council graciously decided not to vote on anything "important" with Hill not there to weigh in!)
That delay seems to have created the opening for Smith's, I mean White's call to trade the lawsuit for a public vote. (sorry, it's just so easy to get those two mixed up, isn't it?)
And here we are --A-G-A-I-N !!!!
So what drives four council members to ignore all the effort, persistence and generosity displayed over that past few years? What nudges them to abdicate their elected responsibility in a representative republic to vote ON BEHALF of their district?
Is it a desire to do "the will of the people"? Is it to duck taking heat for being responsible for making a decision that some might find unpopular? Is it that some might want the city money dedicated to the plaza for other personal pet projects? Do some council members know more about downtown economic revitalization than the successful professional experts who helped formulate the original plan? If so, with all due respect, what are and where are the counter proposals for the potential of 70 million in economic development?
I could go on and on and that's part of the problem, good people are getting burnt out trying to do something fantastic for the community in an up and down process that has gone on and on.
No good deed goes unpunished, right?
Well, let's finish this -for now- with this.
If EVERYBODY who voted FOR White, Funk, Cousens and Guiterrez votes Against the plaza that adds up to 3,463 "NO" votes.
And if EVERYBODY who voted FOR Coffey, Mendez and Hill votes In Favor of the plaza that adds up to 5,317 "YES" votes and a 60% plaza victory. But hey its only June 19th and a lot can happen between now and, well, next week .....?
Who could blame the generous donors of nearly 10-million dollars to decide to take their money and go home. Let's hope not. Let's hope the same spirit that rallied the funding rallies the voters and Yakima finally gets the Plaza it deserves --as have DOZENS of other forward thinking communities.
So, Councilman Brad Hill joins us at 8:30 Wednesday morning to review all this and we hope you'll join us.