Our Voice: We all live with decisions that we did not vote for

July 30, 2013 

Two completely separate election items lead to the same conclusion: People who live in parts of Benton and Franklin counties outside the Tri-Cities are not being discriminated against when it comes to the ballot.

Aquatic center

At first glance it seems strange that all voters living in our region would not be included in the vote on a regional water park.

However, the Regional Public Facilities District is made up of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, so residents in those cities will be the ones casting the votes.

This process has been a long time coming and required legislative action. The Legislature limited participating entities to those that already had a PFD, and designed this regional approach as a means of financing civic projects for urban populations.

The regional PFD started as a great possibility. What could we do if we pulled together? Aug. 6 will answer that question.

If the aquatic center is approved, everyone who shops inside the taxing district will pay the additional tax, including those who couldn't vote on the measure and those who didn't bother to return their ballot.

But that's part of the appeal of using a sales tax for public projects -- everyone who shops here helps pay for the improvements, diluting the cost to residents.

Plenty of nonvoters will pay -- people under 21, visitors from near and far, noncitizens, felons and folks who never bothered to register.

There needs to be a logical boundary for participating in the election, and it can't be everyone who might be charged the higher tax.

Pasco city government

It's a similar situation for people who live outside of the Pasco city limits who want to reform the city government.

In November, Pasco voters will decide two issues: one would reduce the size of the city limits and one would change the form of government from a city manager hired by the city council to a strong mayor elected by the voters.

Both of these measures are on the ballot because a vocal and active group of nonresidents have been busy circulating petitions.

If you're not a resident of the city, you can gather signatures but you can't sign the petition or vote on the measure.

You also shouldn't be allowed to write ballot statements.

In fact, it's astounding that people who don't live in Pasco have been the driving force to get the measures on the ballot.

We don't share much common ground with Roger Lenk, a leader behind both measures. Each proposal he comes up with seems more about lashing out at Pasco than improving local government, but we will grant that he is thorough.

Which is why we're surprised he thinks he ought to be able to write the ballot statement for a measure he can't vote on.

The smart aleck response from us is that if those in the county want to vote on city measures, the should request annexation -- the very thing they are trying to avoid.

The more civil answer is that since this is a matter regarding the city of Pasco, the residents of Pasco will decide on the outcome. People who live in Kennewick, Richland or Franklin County's doughnut hole, don't get a say.

We have a diverse group of voters. Every ballot issue is going to leave part of the population unhappy regardless of the outcome.

It's called "the will of the people" despite the fact that not all the people share the same will.

It works well if not perfectly.

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