Latino Civic Leaders called off a planned boycott of Kennewick’s Columbia Center mall Wednesday evening.
The decision came after the city of Kennewick made tentative plans to create a diversity commission to address issues raised when an elected councilman’s Facebook posts inflamed the community.
Leo Perales of the Latino Leadership Coalition said his group is convinced that the city is sincere in its plan to discuss issues raised when Councilman Bob Parks reposted an anti-Latino meme on his private Facebook page.
Perales and his team met in private Wednesday with Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley. The boycott threat convinced the city to take concrete actions to repair the damage, he said.
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The threat of a boycott has caught the city’s attention. The lines of communication have been opened today.
Leo Perales of the Latino Leadership Coalition
“The threat of a boycott has caught the city’s attention,” Perales said. “The lines of communication have been opened today.”
The coalition intended to endorse a grassroots movement to boycott the mall in a bid to demonstrate the economic impact of Latino residents. It will encourage its followers not to pursue a boycott.
Columbia Center mall was targeted because it is owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group and is chiefly inhabited by out-of-town chain stores.
“This was never about local business,” said Rick Rios of Latino Rebels.
After hearing from some 100 citizens last week, the city council discussed forming a seven-member Mayor’s Commission on Diversity when it met for a workshop Tuesday night.
The council is scheduled to vote to establish the commission when it meets at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at city hall, 210 W. Sixth Ave. Councilman John Trumbo will ask to delay the vote until the following session because he and the mayor will be absent next week.
The council is scheduled to vote to establish the commission when it meets at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at city hall, 210 W. Sixth Ave.
If authorized, the commission will engage with residents and businesses, identify gaps in services, improve communications and encourage citizens to serve on the city’s boards and commissions, and apply for its jobs.
It will also encourage citizens to run for city council. Parks’ term expires at the end of 2017.
Mayor Steve Young released a statement saying that it is time to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
“Over the last several weeks we have heard from many in our community regarding challenges facing our community’s diverse population,” Young said.
“We embrace the passion of those who want to work together for the common good of our city and all the people that make up this city,” he added.
We embrace the passion of those who want to work together for the common good of our city and all the people that make up this city.
Mayor Steve Young
Kennewick residents may apply for an appointment to the seven-member board. The city wants a panel that represents Kennewick’s ethnic makeup — about 70 percent white, 24 percent Hispanic or Latino, 2.4 percent Asian and about 2 percent black.
The mayor said the new commission will also broaden Kennewick’s outreach efforts as it launches a new plan to guide development during the coming 20 years.
Parks triggered an online uproar March 25 when he reposted a Facebook meme created after Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, visited Yakima. The meme includes Sanders’ face with the words, “I went to Yakima today. Now I know why Donald Trump wants to build a wall.”
He added the comment, “Wait until he sees pasco!”
Parks subsequently issued a partial apology and said he was targeting illegal immigration, not Latinos. His Facebook page is no longer public.