Franklin County's doughnut hole residents prepare 2 new petitions

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 6, 2013 

Residents of the area of Franklin County known as the doughnut hole are gearing up to battle the city of Pasco on two new fronts.

The group Citizens for Lifestyle Preservation has started two new petition drives -- one to reduce city limits to remove the portion of the doughnut hole annexed by Pasco on Jan. 1 from the city's boundaries. A second petition would change the format of city government from one run by an elected city council and a city manager employed by the council to one with an elected city council and an elected mayor overseeing day-to-day operations.

Roger Lenk, a leader in the citizen group, said about 100 signatures have been gathered since the group started knocking on doors on Saturday.

The group has set a goal of collecting enough signatures within two months to send the city limits petition to the ballot and the change of government petition to the city council. The council could change its form of government without a ballot measure or could send it to voters.

"(The change of government petition) is actually the petition that is most popular," Lenk said. "That's the one that strikes up the most conversation and that people really show an interest in."

He said the idea is not to target any particular city official or elected representative, but to switch to a form of government that is more directly responsible to the citizens -- and one already in use by the majority of Washington cities.

Under the mayor-council format of government, the mayor is elected directly by the people. That person then can choose to employ a city administrator to handle the details of operating city government. One local example of that format is Connell, which has an elected mayor and a hired city administrator.

Or a mayor can choose to run city operations without the help of a city administrator, such as Mayor Donna Noski in West Richland.

"We want somebody accountable to the people -- somebody who has to stand before the people every four years and say, 'This is what I've done for you,'" Lenk said.

Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton said the group will need to collect 888 valid signatures on each petition, or 10 percent of the 8,886 people who voted in the last municipal election.

Signatures can come from any Pasco resident, but only from Pasco residents. Residents of the doughnut hole outside of Pasco are not considered valid signers for the purposes of these two petitions, Beaton said.

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