Civic leaders in Pasco and Kennewick reacted swiftly Friday morning to condemn anti-Latino comments posted by a local city councilman.
Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks, who holds an at-large seat, reposted an image of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders with the words, “I went to Yakima today. Now I know why Trump wants to build a wall.”
Parks added the comment, “Wait until he sees pasco!”
The posts triggered an outpouring of condemnation, including an angry exchange between Parks and Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins that led Watkins to unfriend Parks.
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The Latino Civic Alliance and the League of United Latin American Citizens report members are deeply upset and plan to meet to discuss the appropriate response.
“What is going on is unacceptable,” said Gabriel Portugal, spokesman for both groups. “A few members are very, very upset.”
Parks could not be reached to comment on his views, but he acknowledged the growing commentary in a second Facebook post.
“Apparently I’ve caused quite a stir on facebook for supporting trumps border wall? You wouldn’t believe what people are calling me, and so close to Easter. I forgive them for their ignorant views,” he wrote.
While the post appeared on Parks’ personal Facebook account, it triggered a round of soul-searching at Kennewick City Hall. Both the mayor and city manager took steps to distance themselves and the city from Parks.
“It is not the city position in any fashion,” said Marie Mosley, city manager. Inclusion is the city’s most deeply held value, she added.
Mayor Steve Young said he was personally disappointed that Parks wasn’t mindful his comments would reflect on the city.
“We’ve told council members when you’re an elected official, you don’t have a personal life. When you say something, people believe that’s reflective of policy and how people think,” he said.
We’ve told council members when you’re an elected official, you don’t have a personal life. When you say something, people believe that’s reflective of policy and how people think.
Steve Young, mayor, city of Kennewick
Young said he personally apologized to the mayor of Pasco. Relations between the two cities will not be harmed by one man’s online posts, he said.
Young said Kennewick is now considering a new social media policy.
“We’re going to have to,” he said.
The post attracted both support and condemnation.
A vivid exchange followed when Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins, commenting on Facebook, told Parks he was “lame.”
Parks responded online, “You let it happen as the mayor, your problem, I try not to go the either city’s, at least without rocks.”
Reached by phone, Watkins said a friend flagged the post. He opted to sever his Facebook connection with Parks after the “rocks” response, which refers to the 2015 death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was shot by three Pasco Police officers when he threw rocks at them near Fiesta Foods.
“I don’t have time or patience for that kind of stuff,” he said.
Parks’ colleagues on the Kennewick City Council were more guarded in their responses, saying they hadn’t seen the post.
Councilman John Trumbo endorsed Parks’ right to “speak his mind,” though he said his colleague did not speak for the council or for him.
Councilman Paul Parish said the post didn’t reflect on Kennewick or the council, but he declined to elaborate.
“What he said is what he said. Bob is Bob. Take it up with him.”
Parks is a nuclear operator at Hanford and has been outspoken about illegal immigration in the past. He attempted to bring the federal issue of immigration reform to the council without success. He also advocated for an English-only policy for the city.
He was first elected in 2002. His current term expires on Dec. 31, 2017.