PROSSER -- Two newcomers to Prosser City Council politics will face each other for the Position 3 seat in the November general election.
Deb Brumley, a former newspaper editor with council experience in Oregon, will face Linda Gorst, widow of a longtime planning official of a Western Washington community.
The two, who both have a variety of community service under their belts, are vying for a seat held by Jason Rainer, who did not run for re-election.
Gorst filed in the spring for the seat but withdrew soon afterward. She believed she would need surgery and be unable to campaign or serve on the council and asked to have her name withdrawn. However, her prognosis changed and she did not need surgery. She is still in the race, though the Benton County auditor's website and voters' guide say otherwise.
The winner will be asked to make decisions in a city that values parks, lacks cash and faces a shortage of housing and oversee a proposed 2014 total operating budget of $16.8 million.
Prosser, like many cities, faces budget restrictions as costs outpace revenue. Over the past five years, officials have reduced the City Hall work force from 49 to 36. Earlier this year, the city laid off five police dispatchers to contract with a regional emergency call center in Richland.
However, Prosser also is willing to invest in quality-of-life improvements, including the construction of an aquatic center two years ago. Other proposals have included expanding a skate park and building a bike and pedestrian trail system.
The city lacks rental housing. In 2011, city officials approved a change to the growth plan to allow a controversial suggestion by Catholic Charities Housing Services to build low-income apartments in a previously rural area along North River Road. However, the Yakima nonprofit has not submitted a formal proposal yet.
Council members are paid $40 per council meeting and $20 per committee or association meeting.
Brumley lists community safety, maintenance, communication with residents and economic growth as her priorities. She also would throw her support behind finishing projects that current elected officials already have committed to.
However, she said she is cautious when it comes to big ideas.
"I am not a fan of large-scale projects that are not necessary or over imagined," Brumley said.
Gorst puts a high priority on police patrols, parks and investment in tourism. She admitted cuts would be hard, but if city revenues decrease, cuts must happen, she said.
"We can't run on a deficit," she said.
Gorst also advocates a continual search for cutting waste.
Quality of life
Brumley said the city needs to improve services to senior citizens at the community center. She also supports a plan to improve neighborhood sidewalks and lighting, perhaps with funding through local improvement districts, as well as an arts and science competition alongside some of the summer street festivals.
Brumley also advocates a long-range strategy to develop the Yakima River waterfront with trails and a golf course. She says it would be important to apply for grants for recreational goals and combine taxpayer money, grant funds and private investment for the right project.
The city has a responsibility to provide a safe and clean environment, Gorst said. To do that, she suggests the city partner with civil and social groups. For example, the city has supported Share Fest, an annual community cleanup project led mostly by area churches.
Both candidates say they need more information about Catholic Charities Housing plans before discussing details. No formal proposal has reached the city yet.
Generally speaking, Brumley is cautious about high-density housing.
She said the impact to schools, sewers, police and roads needs to be gauged before the council approves any projects and she would want more data about Prosser's housing needs before making any decisions.
"I am not in favor of hurry-up city projects to provide dense housing, no matter the income level of the residents or who the landlord is," she said.
Gorst promises to study any proposal carefully.
Housing needs must be addressed through careful zoning, she said.
"It is not the purpose of the city to build housing or run businesses, but they can make it easier," she said.