Pasco planners fail to vote on Planned Parenthood clinic

PASCO — The Pasco Planning Commission once again delayed a vote on a controversial Planned Parenthood facility because of lack of a quorum Thursday.

The commission agreed to table the discussion at its meeting in July and had planned to make a recommendation at Thursday’s meeting, but five of the nine commission members were unable to vote for different reasons.

One recused himself early on because of a potential conflict of interest and another had a family emergency and missed the meeting, Rick White, Pasco’s community and economic development director, told the Herald.

Three other members did not attend June’s commission meeting when a public hearing on the issue was held. The commission’s rule of thumb is, “If you haven’t heard, you can’t decide,” White told the Herald.

Commission members Ray Rose and Andy Anderson did not attend the June hearing and member Carlos Perez wasn’t appointed to the commission until July. Members Joe Cruz and Jana Kempf were absent from Thursday’s meeting.

Though minutes and recordings of the June hearing, which aired on public access TV, are available, White said he was advised by the city’s attorney, Lee Kerr, that commission members would have to read a full transcript to be able to vote. A transcript of the June hearing has not been ordered.

White told the Herald that the transcript would be ordered if the commission still does not have a quorum at its regular meeting next month.

Planned Parenthood wants to open a clinic in Pasco on West Court Street near Mark Twain Elementary School. The building, about 60 to 80 feet south of the school’s playfield, was previously used as a real estate office. The location was chosen after a lengthy search because it’s on a bus line and would be accessible to low-income women, Planned Parenthood has said.

More than 40 people showed up at the meeting Thursday, and most were surprised at the change of events.

“They could have planned a bit better,” said Tim Riordan of Richland after the meeting. “(The commission) could have made sure the members committed to showing up so they would have had a quorum.”

Opponents and supporters of the Planned Parenthood clinic had mixed feelings about postponing the decision for another month or longer.

“Hopefully they’ll postpone it forever,” said Estela Trevino of Pasco, who was handing out blue and white plastic bracelets with the words “Pro Life” on them.

Planned Parenthood officials have said the clinic would provide reproductive health care services including cancer screenings and birth control and would not administer abortions.

“It would be like our sites in Ellensburg and Walla Walla, providing the kind of preventative health care that Planned Parenthood is really known for,” Brian Griffith, public affairs field organizer for Planned Parenthood, said after the meeting.

“Every day (the plan is postponed), you’re denying everyone — from little kids to the elderly — basic care,” said Anne Schur, of Richland. “This has nothing to do with abortion, but where (will women) go for pap smears?”

The commission agreed to table the discussion in July as it was about to vote down the proposal after White suggested the decision be delayed for a month so he could write new findings that supported their “no” vote.

The next planning commission meeting is scheduled Sept. 17. The final say on the clinic ultimately will be up to the Pasco City Council.