4 vie for 2 seats on Pasco City Council

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City Herald October 31, 2011 

PASCO -- Voters will choose between two Pasco City Council incumbents who say they thoroughly research and consider issues, and their challengers who claim they will be a voice for change.

Rebecca Francik, a 15-year incumbent, will face off with John Talbott, a former Spokane mayor, for Pasco City Council District 5 position in the Nov. 8 general elections.

Andrew Johnson, a former real estate agent, is trying to unseat Al Yenney, who is finishing his first term in the District 1 position.

All Pasco voters can vote in both races. Pasco council members earn $1,000 a month.

Francik v. Talbott

Talbott, 77, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1982, said he would encourage the city to seek a new city manager. He believes the city administration runs Pasco. He was mayor of Spokane between 1998 and 2000.

The council needs to become more involved with residents, he said.

Francik disagreed with Talbott, saying the council runs the city. And it doesn't make sense to fire someone who is helping the city succeed.

Francik, a librarian at Rowena Chess Elementary School, said she is involved with the public and serves on the Tri-City Regional Public Facilities District and the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.

Francik's No. 1 priority is economic development. Pasco is uniquely situated with railroad, barges and roads for economic development, she said.

The city has been working to drive this with projects such as the Pasco Processing Center, a partnership with the Port of Pasco, she said.

Talbott said the city needs to aggressively market Pasco so it can become the economic driver of the Tri-Cities.

Pasco's downtown has tremendous potential, but Talbott said the city has been giving lip service to revitalizing it. Setting up the Pasco Downtown Development Authority, a new public corporation, is the right move, he said.

With the proposed doughnut hole annexation, Talbott said he is opposed to forced annexation using water agreements. And he doesn't think Franklin County will agree to a negotiated agreement with the city and Franklin Fire District 3 for a planned annexation of the two-mile area.

Francik said she thinks a negotiated agreement would allow the county, city and fire district to plan in a cohesive, logical manner to determine what would be best for residents in the long term.

Over time, it is more efficient for the city to provide services to that area, which the county included in the city's urban growth boundary, Francik said.

Talbott said he opposes proposed school impact fees because they would shut down the development of new housing. The current overcrowding in Pasco schools was caused by poor planning, he said.

But Francik said residential development isn't bringing in enough new revenue to pay for the services the residents of those homes use, including schools. It is more reasonable to have a set, predictable amount with a school impact fee ordinance instead of mitigation, negotiated between each developer and the school district, Francik said.

The city has planned well, but Pasco has had unprecedented growth that has continued for a long time, she said.

Talbott, who has two children and three grandchildren, said because he is retired, he can commit as much time as needed for the city council job.

Francik, who has seven children and three grandchildren, said she knows how to dig for and evaluate information. She isn't ideologically married to concepts and said she is willing and able to make strategic decisions for Pasco.

Francik said she is pleased with her record on the council, which includes lowering the city property tax levy rate since 2002, reducing the crime rate by 60 percent, managing rapid urban growth and collaborating with other public agencies.

Talbott said he thinks Francik has done a great job. He said he is running against her because he lives in that district.

"I have a passion for serving the people," he said.

Yenney v. Johnson

Johnson, 60, said the city was remiss in not addressing the medical marijuana gardens legislation. The city should have set up a registration program and determined land use rather than waiting to see how other cities address the issue.

Yenney, 65, owner of Al's Repair in Pasco, said he sympathizes with those who need access to medical marijuana, but the city didn't have much of a choice due to unanswered questions with the new law.

Johnson said he thinks the city needs to encourage commercial growth in east Pasco, which may mean changing zoning and marketing attributes.

And downtown, which Johnson likes to call El Pasco, is a good opportunity for the Hispanic community to come around an area and make it into something unique in Eastern Washington, he said. The city can help by making the area more pedestrian friendly.

Yenney said a council committee should focus on commercial and industrial growth, and welcome new businesses into the area. The city needs to determine why some businesses have moved out of Pasco and needs to become more business friendly, especially toward small businesses.

Pasco needs to secure water rights to make sure the city has enough water for the future, Yenney said.

With annexation, Yenney said he isn't sure whether the city can afford to provide services to doughnut hole residents.

Yenney said he doesn't like forced annexation and is open minded about negotiations. However, he is upset that the negotiated plan would not need a vote from citizens.

Johnson said he would support annexation if those living in the area want it. The negotiated agreement process seems reasonable, he said.

Johnson said he opposes school impact fees, which would drive up the cost of homes. Instead, he thinks taxpayers should not be required to pay for education of foreign nationals and noncitizens.

Yenney said he is against retroactive fees, which is what a school impact fee would be. Yenney said he stands for small government and property rights.

Johnson said he also would like to see improved code enforcement in the city, particularly with abandoned shopping carts and signs on city poles.

Johnson, who has four children and three grandchildren, said he is running against Yenney because that is the council district he lives in. Johnson said he would be a loud voice for citizens on the council.

He is a past trustee of the Franklin County Historical Society, served on the Franklin County planning commission's steering committee for the comprehensive plan and is finishing a term on the Washington State Mineral Council.

Yenney, a Vietnam veteran, said he researches state law and ordinances that relate to issues council debates. He has earned the advanced municipal training award from the Association of Washington Cities.

Yenney, who has two children and two grandchildren, is active in Kiwanis, the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition.

* For more election stories, go to www.tricityherald.com/election.

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