Election night came as a disappointment to some veteran Kennewick City Council members, but not as a surprise.
Three incumbents were defeated by challengers and the two who held onto their seats either were new to the council or hadn't gone along with the city's large-scale plans for the future.
The issues are well-known to most Kennewick residents:
-- The loss of a $3 million judgment to Gary Long Jr., owner of the Columbia Park Golf Course, for violating a contract the city had with him. During the campaign, some incumbents said they relied upon then-City Attorney John Ziobro for advice.
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-- Investment of $860,000 in an antique carousel, then dithering over where to put it; and most recently contemplating more spending to alter and use part of a proposed new city facility to assemble the stored carousel temporarily.
-- Pushing the Port of Kennewick to close Vista Field and turn the land over to commercial development (with the airport even being proposed as one possible site for the carousel).
-- Discussing $73 million in long-range city development proposals at a time when many residents locally and nationally were worried about the economy and their tax bills.
-- Giving exclusive rights to development of a part of Columbia Park to Aaron Beasley, a Pasco firefighter, for more than a year -- without requiring a dime from Beasley and a group he was heading for the privilege. Beasley proposed building a "Disneyland-like sports and recreation complex" in the park.
In a word, spending was the decisive campaign issue for Kennewick City Council this year.
Even the council's obvious achievements were likely overshadowed in voters' minds by the fact that it took money to achieve them.
The city's growth has been substantial; Columbia Park improvements have been notable; traffic circles have made many intersections safer at less cost, we're told, than installing signal lights; the city's boundaries have expanded and, of course, construction was completed of the Three Rivers Convention Center, an excellent testimonial to the Public Facilities Board but also to the city council.
While voters have clearly opted for a new direction for Kennewick, and not just the council's makeup, they have also lost some highly experienced, well-motivated incumbents.
Soon-to-be-former Mayor Tom Moak has been an excellent spokesman for the city. Long before he joined the council, he was a leader in preservation of the heritage of the city. We doubt losing an election will change his dedication to Kennewick's best interests.
Soon-to-be-former Councilwoman Marge Price served 23 years as Kennewick city clerk and 12 on the council. She also is a registered parliamentarian.
That's 35 years of institutional memory gone from city hall.
Soon-to-be-former Councilman James Hempstead also has 12 years on the council. He points to $83 million in grants and increased revenues during his time on the council. He says growth in jobs across the city has helped add 12 public safety positions without increasing taxes.
Three new members join the four incumbents (two of whom were just re-elected) on the council. With two more seats coming open in 2011, the public should expect to see large changes at Kennewick City Hall.
Clearly the public has been dissatisfied.
Even though the newcomers don't represent a majority, it's likely incumbents will re-examine previous priorities and be more open to change if they don't want to be disappointed at the next election.