Incumbent challenged in Kennewick City Council race

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldOctober 19, 2013 

Two of Kennewick's more conservative city councilmen are competing for the one at-large seat in the upcoming Nov. 5 general election.

Incumbent Bob Parks, who has served on the council for 12 years, is being challenged by John Hubbard, who is finishing his first four-year term as one of two councilmen representing Ward 3 -- the eastern portion of the city.

Hubbard, 76, is moving out of the ward he currently represents and decided to run against Parks.

That decision led Parks, 43, to rethink his intent of retiring from the council.

"Win or lose, this is my last council election," said Parks, who is a proponent of term limits, something Kennewick does not currently have.

The two councilmen disagree on Kennewick's ward system. Parks prefers to switch to all at-large positions. Hubbard adamantly supports sticking with the ward system. Six of the council members are elected from three wards, with one at-large member.

In the primary, Kennewick residents only can vote for the race in the ward they live in. But in the general election, they can vote in all of the races.

Parks, a nuclear operator at Hanford, was one of the three city council members who in the past voted to abolish the system and allow any Kennewick resident to run for any Kennewick city council seat. He would rather see the best candidate in the city serve, no matter where they live, he said.

Hubbard, a retired Hanford engineer, thinks it is most appropriate to have council members representative of the entire city, he said. He feels the downtown area would suffer if the ward system was abolished.

Hubbard describes himself as an old-fashioned, approachable councilman who tries to build bridges.

As one of three new council members elected in 2009, Hubbard believes the current council and City Manager Marie Mosley have improved the city's operations in the past four years, he said.

Kennewick has done a good job with the limited budget available, Hubbard said.

Parks agreed. "We are running leaner, but also I think we are running better," he said.

Parks also points to successes in his time on the council, among them the city's relatively low crime rate and its investment in Southridge.

He describes himself as a "middle-class working guy" who can stand up and say no even when it means being the "lone voice on council" and who is willing to bring up hot-topic issues important to taxpayers.

If re-elected, Parks would like to see the city work on gaining ownership of Columbia Park from the Army Corps of Engineers, since the Corps' ownership limits what the city can do with the riverfront park, he said. Among the things Parks would like to see include a restaurant and an accessible shoreline.

Hubbard also would like to see some commercial development at Columbia Park, with the goal of making the park self-sustaining, he said. More needs to be done to make it people-friendly so that families can enjoy the park and the views.

Both candidates agree on the importance of Kennewick's efforts to include land south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395 in the city's urban growth area.

"Hanford is closing," Hubbard said. "A lot of good jobs are being lost in the area."

Parks said the urban growth area expansion would help create more industrial jobs that pay above minimum wage, something the city needs.

Hubbard sees another job growth opportunity with the Port of Kennewick's recent decision to close Vista Field Airport for redevelopment, he said.

Hubbard would like to see a business park similar to Richland's Spaulding Business Park, along with chances to keep light industrial jobs and to incubate new businesses, he said.

Parks said careful planning and a lot of community input need to go into deciding what to allow at Vista Field. Among the possibilities he'd like considered is a park on a portion of the site.

"We want to keep the openness feel," he said.

Kennewick council members are paid about $12,000 a year.

-- For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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