A council veteran and an Army veteran face each other in the race for Position 3 on the Richland City Council.
Sandra Kent has been on the council since her appointment in 2008 and subsequent re-election. She’s a lawyer, a sensible, thoughtful person and, as her history shows, someone who works for compromise while diligently following her own conscience.
Kent, a 20-year Richland resident, is employed as deputy chief counsel at Mission Support Alliance and chairs the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District.
She is tactful, careful about what she says and a sincere public servant.
Her opponent, Lloyd Becker, is, on the contrary, gruff and outspoken.
We like both of these candidates.
The Herald recommends voters return Kent to her position on the council where she is a positive agent for change for the better, and someone who works well with other council members.
She works so well with others, in fact, we think this may be an area where she falls a little short of achieving her own goals — especially one that we share with her.
It is on the issue of the arrangement council members have built for themselves at City Hall. The council’s “pre-meetings” take place in a room with the seating capacity of an old-time telephone booth.
We exaggerate, of course. But the fact is that discussions in the “pre-meeting” room seem to us to be as close to non-public as the council can get without violating the state open-meetings law.
She’s not particularly comfortable doing this but is quick to point out that the meeting is open to the public, that the city in addition has a webpage where citizens can keep up with what’s going on in the council pre-meetings and that no votes are taken in the smaller room.
In discussing this issue she listed a number of things that might be done, each of them starting with, “We might try … ” We’d rather see her use her organizational and leadership skills to lead the council away from this “we know best’ arrangement. We suspect a large percentage of voters feel the same way.
Kent’s instincts are good; she needs to speak up more.
On the noisiest issue Richland City Council has created for itself, she seriously considered pushing for a user toll on the Duportail Bridge, but in the end voted with the rest of the council for the extra $20 car tab. She said she realized the expense of a toll bridge made it an unworkable option.
In supporting the controversial car tab, she said she considered all the work done by community leaders and legislators to finally secure state and federal money for the project, and worried a delay in securing the local portion would put the whole project at risk.
That bridge is what brought her Becker, an opponent of considerable merit.
He is a retired and proud former soldier in the U.S. Army. His issues are the bridge and those pre-meetings.
His main quarrel is with the new license tab fee to support annual debt payments on a $4 million bond — the shortfall the city is currently facing in its bid to build a $38 million bridge across the Yakima River at Duportail Street and to support street improvements in the city, according to Herald reports.
“There are better sources of funding out there,” he said. “They want to steal $20 out of Grandma’s pocket.” He said the council could have saved up the public’s money to build the bridge, among several other suggestions.
His target is the council at large, not just Kent, whom he treated with courtesy throughout the Editorial Board’s session with both of them.
“You won’t endorse me,” he confided pleasantly to one editor on leaving the Editorial Board meeting. But he said he’d make a positive difference in Richland’s government even if he doesn’t get elected.
We believe him.
As to the pre-meeting meetings, he said earlier in his campaign, “People are not being included in the conversation with the city.”
That is a message that should resonate with every Richland Council candidate running this time and next time, too.
So, as Becker surmised, we recommend Sandra Kent for re-election to her seat on Richland City Council, and we hope Becker keeps watching them all. As we say before every election, everyone who runs for office does us all a favor.
The Herald recommends Sandra Kent for Richland City Council Position 3.