West Richland’s latest city council contenders are wrestling with an age-old question: How to thrive without losing its safe, small-town character?
Candidates Kate Moran, Fred Brink and Steven Shupe say they want the challenge and are facing off in the Position 6 primary.
It’s the rest of Councilman Scott Whalen’s term, after he resigned for medical reasons. The top two will square off in November to serve through 2019.
Shupe was appointed in February to fill the post until the election could be held.
Moran wants city leaders to be more transparent and to seek more public participation.
She does not like the council policy that restricts comments to three minutes per person, with no back and forth with council members, at the end of council meetings, she said.
People should be allowed to talk before council members vote on issues during the meeting, she said.
And she thinks attendance at council meetings has declined because people do not believe their opinions are heard.
Moran is the only West Richland candidate to file itemized election donations with the Public Disclosure Commission. Shupe and Brink do not plan to raise more than $5,000, which triggers itemized reporting.
She said she started reporting her donations before reaching $5,000 as part of her belief in government transparency.
“I hate shadow money,” Moran said.
When Steve Lee, a candidate for the Kennewick City Council and owner of marijuana retailer Green2Go in Finley, donated $750, a sign went up on Bombing Range Road accusing her of being “backed by pot $$.”
People are free to donate, but that does not mean a candidate agrees with them, Moran said.
City staff took down the sign, apparently because it did not meet city code restrictions for election signs, including size restrictions.
Her campaign is based on listening to West Richland residents.
West Richland now does not allow marijuana sales. But Moran questions why city leaders would make that decision in a 4-3 vote in November 2014.
I want citizens’ voices heard.
Kate Moran, West Richland City Council candidate
“I want citizens’ voices heard,” she said.
A citywide vote would show whether residents favor retail sales of marijuana or the ban. Either way, she would support the public’s wishes, she said.
She picked West Richland as her home last year after moving to the Tri-Cities in 2015. She took a job as a training specialist at the Hanford vitrification plant after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, where her duties included nuclear reactor operator and military funeral honor guard.
She found the town to be dog friendly and with large lot sizes.
She is concerned about the lack of daytime jobs in the city and believes a balance can be found between country living and growth. Only 2 percent of employed people in West Richland work in the city, she said.
Fred Brink said he would bring a law enforcement background to the council.
He’s also a Navy veteran and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who had a 24-year-career with the FBI. He’s currently employed as a national security program manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
“I will always work to ensure the safety of our city,” including working with the police department and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, he said.
He’s concerned about a pot store planned to open in a pocket of unincorporated land near West Richland land, saying that West Richland police will be called to respond to incidents near the store.
He predicts that West Richland’s high ranking in the state for safety and as a good place to raise a family will drop if the marijuana store goes forward.
He has lived in West Richland for eight years, with his family choosing it as the best Tri-City town to raise a family in.
The city needs to look at long-term economic stability, he said. It has benefited from recent home construction but also needs businesses that would fit the character of the community in areas such as Belmont Boulevard, he said.
Better dialogue allows city leaders to better understand the issues, needs and concerns of our citizens.
Fred Brink, West Richland City Council candidate
He’s interested in working with the chamber of commerce to find the right businesses, but not big box stores.
He’d also like more transparency in city government. Citizens are saying communication between residents and city leadership needs improving. One way would be to hold town hall sessions, perhaps twice a year.
“Better dialogue allows city leaders to better understand the issues, needs and concerns of our citizens,” he said.
Brink has community service experience as chairman of the West Richland Planning Commission, vice chairman of the West Richland Salary Commission and citizen representative to the Benton County Law and Justice Council.
Steven Shupe has served on the council since February when he was picked to fill a vacancy.
He brings experience in infrastructure to the council, including as the former director of public works for the Hanford nuclear reservation, responsible for managing and upgrading its aging infrastructure.
I understand what aging infrastructure looks like.
Steven Shupe, West Richland City Council candidate
He understands the value of maintaining systems rather than making costly repairs, he said.
One of his priorities is law enforcement, saying he wants to maintain the safety and security the city now enjoys. The police department needs to be visible and well supported, he said.
He supports the city’s ban on marijuana sales, and is critical of the county and cannabis board for allowing sales in the unincorporated island. There should have been significant communication with the city early in the process.
He pointed out that West Richland voters were overwhelmingly opposed to the statewide initiative that led to the legalization of marijuana in the state.
West Richland has large projects in the works, including developing the Yakima River park and a new municipal services facility under construction.
“I would do my best to not acquire new debt,” although he has no objection to the current projects, he said. The city needs to look for a good return on its investment.
Shupe has served on the West Richland Planning Commission and says growth has to be managed wisely. Development is needed to minimize the burden placed on residents, but should be considered on a case-by-case basis, he said.
He’d favor the addition of a nice hotel with a restaurant to the city, he said.
Council members are paid $500 per month, plus a $50 monthly vehicle allowance.