A longtime Pasco city councilman is facing a challenge in the Nov. 5 election from a longtime city employee in the race for the council's District 2 seat.
Councilman Mike Garrison, who has been in welding sales for 39 years, has served on the council for 26 years, including six as mayor. He also has served on boards for Tri-City Development Council and the Hanford Communities.
Aaron Beasley is a Pasco firefighter who is on disability. He also has served as a member of the Pasco School Board and president of Tri-River Sports Facilities, which sought to develop Columbia Park in Richland and Kennewick.
Beasley recently settled a two-year-old dispute with the cities of Kennewick and Richland that resulted from a proposal to build a resort at the west end of Columbia Park. The cities agreed to pay Beasley $400,000, with $215,000 coming from the cities' insurance and $185,000 from Kennewick's budget.
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The city council position is for four years and pays $12,000 annually. The district includes much of the area around Highway 395 south of Interstate 182.
Here's where the candidates stand on the issues:
The city's population has grown 68 percent in 10 years, Garrison said. So he views traffic issues in the area between Road 68 and Road 100 in northwest Pasco as a good problem to have. He said the city has addressed the problem with a planned $1.2 million in median and safety improvements on Road 68 and Burden Boulevard.
"You're going to have congestion no matter where," he said. "What we do, to some degree, is just like Columbia Center Boulevard (in Kennewick). That can be a pain in the patootie. ... I think you will see that, by the end of next spring, we will have a number of those problems taken care of."
Beasley said that as a firefighter, he long saw plans showing that Pasco's growth was headed toward the Road 68 area.
"We could see in the future that was going to be a snag in the system," he said. "And we have to do better planning. If that's where we want to go. If that's where we want to develop, then we have to put the infrastructure in. We have to put the roads. ... Fire engines have to come down the roads, but if you're in (the middle of) traffic at 5 o'clock, it's almost impossible to get through there."
Garrison said he does not support a state gas tax increase to help build a new Lewis Street overpass over the BNSF Railway railroad tracks downtown, but said the city will need help from the state to build the more than $30 million project.
"We know we can't do it alone; we're going to need state and federal help in order to get it accomplished," he said. "We're closer to it now than we were five years ago."
Beasley said an alternative to a gas tax increase must be found.
"Without being on the council, I can't tell you exactly where to get it from, looking at some other avenue or some other venue or taking it from there and putting it over there to pay for it, but that's what the council should be doing," he said.
Pasco voters also will vote on two ballot propositions in the Nov. 5 election. Proposition 1 would cancel two recent annexations by the city and Proposition 2 would change the city's form of government.
On Proposition 1, Beasley said he will go with what the voters say on whether to de-annex a square mile of west Pasco that the city has brought in from the unincorporated "doughnut hole" in recent years. But the city needs to improve its regulations and make policies easier for residents.
"I feel that if the city is offering good service, good infrastructure and good garbage (service), all those things, people will want to be in your city, they won't be fighting," he said.
Garrison said it is "a little ridiculous" that a potential deannexation can get on the ballot with only 10 percent of voters signing a petition.
"I think they're ridiculous to begin with," he said of the propositions. "How a group that is not even part of the city can -- I don't know what they told people when they got them to sign the petition to get it going."
Beasley is supportive of Proposition 2, which would replace Pasco's current council-city manager form of government with one led by a strong mayor. Beasley, who has worked under City Manager Gary Crutchfield for 30 years, said it is time for a change in system.
"If they didn't have a problem with what we got going right now, there wouldn't be a petition," Beasley said. "In 25 years that we have sat here, we've never had a petition like this, but now we do. So there's a problem somewhere. ... I think it would make someone accountable to the public and he would have to address those issues or he gets voted out."
The council could fall into stagnation with a mayor who has veto power over the other members, Garrison said.
"I think that the strong mayor system is bad in a lot of different ways. You're going to have him three years doing a job and the fourth year trying to get re-elected in the same job," he said. "We may have a new mayor come in and decide he wants to change things and you're out, the employee's out."
Beasley criticizes the council's decision to close swimming pools at Kurtzman and Richardson parks and replace them with spray parks.
"I took swimming lessons at the local pool," he said. "If we eliminate those type of things, then the kids will have nowhere to go. A splash park is not the answer, not when we have the big Columbia River sitting here. A splash park is not going to teach kids how to swim."
But Garrison said closing the pools was a decision that had to be made.
"There was no way to bring them up to code," he said. "You can't teach kids how to swim at a spray park, but that is the best alternative that we have."