A newly formed commission will advise the city of Kennewick on ways to improve relations with the Latino community after a firestorm triggered by the private Facebook posts of Councilman Bob Parks.
The city council voted unanimously this week to establish a new Mayor’s Commission on Diversity. Three council members were absent for the vote: Mayor Steve Young and Councilman John Trumbo were scheduled to be out of town. Parks was absent due to illness.
Councilmen Greg Jones, Don Britain, Matt Boehnke and Paul Parish voted to create the new commission.
The mayor introduced the commission concept at a recent workshop session.
City administrators proposed establishing the commission to settle threats of a Latino boycott against Columbia Center because of Parks’ online comments. In March, he re-posted a meme of Bernie Sanders with the words, “I went to Yakima today. Now I know why Donald Trump wants to build a wall” superimposed on the image.
Parks added, “wait until he sees pasco” to the comments. He later said he intended to target illegal immigration, not Latinos. His Facebook page is no longer public.
Applicants for the seven positions on the commission will be screened by the city’s interview committee and the city council.
The group will be charged with engaging residents and businesses, identifying gaps in services, improving communications and services, identifying ways to promote diversity, encouraging citizens to get involved with city government, recruiting candidates for city council, boards and commissions, and making recommendations to the council on how to best engage its citizens.
The city is developing a special application form for the diversity commisison, which it will publish and advertise to the community.