By Jan TomlinsonEditor’s note: A version of this column appeared earlier in the Herald and one our website. We’re running this unedited version because some of the editing changes in the earlier column may have inadvertently altered the author’s intended meaning.
PASCO VOTERS: DO NOT let the City of Pasco take away your right to vote on important matters like they did to your fellow citizens in West Pasco. On November 5th, voters in the City of Pasco will decide on whether two areas in West Pasco that were annexed into Pasco in 2009 and in January, 2013, should be removed from the City's boundaries. These areas, known as "Road 76 and Court" (annexed in 2009) and “Riverview Area #2” (2013) were annexed without giving the affected residents the opportunity to vote freely on the annexation. Instead, the City used Powers of Attorney (POA) agreements signed by 60% of the residents who gave up their right to vote on annexation in exchange for receiving city water. The remaining 40% of the annexed residents, who mostly have their own wells and septic systems on small acreages, were also encompassed within the annexed boundaries without a vote. The City requires County residents who are hooked up to a water system purchased by the City to sign the POAs in order to receive the only potable water they have access to. This “exchange” of voting rights for water was often not disclosed to property buyers until they were signing the papers at the title company, or even worse when they went to the City to have their water turned on. Subsequent owners are bound by these irrevocable POAs. The City’s annexation policies before these last two annexations was to wait until at least 10% the residents of an area voluntarily petitioned the City for annexation. At least there was some approval by the residents. After that petition, the City would then use the POA agreements to determine if 60% of the residents had signed the POAs, and therefore they had the majority of the residents “approving” the annexation. After a failed annexation of a neighborhood north of Argent between Roads 84 and 98 failed City had to drop the matter. Following that failure, the City changed their policy requiring that minimal 10% approval of the residents. For the 2009 and 2013 annexations, the City self-initiated the process, and despite overwhelming opposition by the affected residents, and their request for a right to vote, the City Council pushed forward with annexing these two areas. West Pasco was placed within the Urban Growth Boundary in 1992 when the population of Pasco was around 20,000 and gradual growth to the west may have been appropriate. The City's population has more than tripled in 20 years, and the direction of city growth is now predominately to the north around the major commercial area established along the congested Road 68 corridor. While there has been some development in West Pasco, the area is still a low-density rural area with many pastures and large parcel sizes. This is not the right time to annex these low-density rural areas into the city. The infrastructure including water treatment facilities and narrow road conditions cannot support unrestrained and haphazard growth. It will be costly to ALL Pasco taxpayers to bring these areas up to City code at some future date. These annexations, taken by the Pasco City Council under the strong direction of the unelected City Manager, are a questionable manipulation of local residents’ voter rights and violate the fairness of our democratic society and will eventually have an impact on ALL Pasco City residents.Your fundamental voting rights and right to live where you choose should never be taken away. Please vote YES to ACCEPT Proposition 1.w Jan Tomlinson moved to the Tri-Cities with her family in 1965. She has a masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from OSU. She continues to live at her home on her 2.33 acres on Road 60 in west Pasco.