A trio of candidates looking to replace a longtime Kennewick city councilman would push Benton County to spend its multimillion-dollar public safety sales tax reserve fund to support city police.
It’s one of the contentious issues influencing the race to fill the at-large Position 6 seat on the city council.
The five candidates in the Aug. 6 primary are Ed Pacheco, Brad Beauchamp, David Spaulding, Uby Creek and Brian Griffin.
Paul Parish, who’s held the seat for since 1996, is not seeking re-election.
The Benton County Auditor mailed ballots this week. The top two will advance to the November general election.
The city and county have grappled over using money in the public safety reserve fund to support the Metro Drug Task Force over the past year.
The county’s voters approved in 2013 a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to beef up local law enforcement.
The county receives 60 percent of the money generated by the tax. Kennewick, Richland, West Richland and Prosser split the remaining 40 percent.
Local governments widely credit the money for more law enforcement officers across the region and for supporting the court system.
But Benton County came under fire for accumulating a reserve fund that once approached $16 million.
The county is set to spend nearly $21 million in the current biennium, some of which comes from the fund.
However, county records show the fund will end the biennium with more than $12 million.
Pacheco, Spaulding and Beauchamp have said Kennewick should be more aggressive in its dealings with the county.
Creek wants a collaborative solution, while Griffin could not be reached.
Pacheco, who helped lead the sales tax campaign, said would direct the Kennewick city attorney to look into suing the county to release the money to law enforcement.
“How can we be too safe? How can be be too protective of our children?” he told the Herald. “I’m frustrated that the city council hasn’t gotten a little more aggressive.”
Spaulding said that as a voter, he understood back in 2013 that he would pay more in taxes to enhance law enforcement.
While much has been done, he told the Herald that he feels the promise hasn’t been fulfilled, and that the massive reserve fund isn’t what voters thought they were supporting.
“Maybe we do need to be a little more forceful,” he said. “That’s people’s money.”
Beauchamp, pronounced “Beach-um,” said he understands the excess money was allocated to the county, not the city.
But he said the city should press the county to cooperate with police and fire agencies who have legitimate public safety needs.
“We should work in harmony,” he said. “The county should release those funds.”
Creek said she favors breaking through the “red tape” but she prefers a more subtle, collaborative approach.
“Getting angry doesn’t help,” she said.
▪ Beauchamp is a real estate developer with an interest in residential infill projects in Kennewick.
If elected, he said his priorities would be essential services with an emphasis on evaluating planning and public works to encourage the growth of business in the city.
He is endorsed by the Benton County Republican Party.
▪ Creek is an outreach coordinator at Kennewick’s Eastgate Elementary and a longtime volunteer.
She served on the mayor’s Diversity Commission and is on the board of Mirror Ministries. If elected, she said her priority would be collaborative problem solving, and bringing a diverse voice and skill set to the council.
▪ Griffin is a real estate professional. He is interested in guiding growth as the city expands and ensuring that the community is engaged as it develops parks and infrastructure on the waterfront.
▪ Pacheco is a Hanford Patrol K9 officer and chairman of the city’s planning commission.
He previously ran for city council in 2015 and 2017. He said his priorities include essential city services, strong planning and continued investment in the Southridge and Vista Field areas.
▪ Spaulding brings a background in retail management and running a small business. He is a founder and officer in several local nonprofits, including Wheelhouse Community Bike Shop in downtown Kennewick.
He is interested in transportation equity — reducing the region’s reliance on private vehicles to access jobs, health care, recreation, shopping and other essential functions.
Voters asked candidates for their views on dangerous dogs during a recent forum organized by the Benton-Franklin League of Women Voters.
The 2019 Legislature passed a bill prohibiting local government from banning specific breeds of dogs unless they offer owners a process to exempt their animals. HB 1026 takes effect Jan. 1.
Kennewick dropped its pet licensing requirements several years ago. City officials are working to revise its breed-specific rules to comply with the new law.
Beauchamp said he recently broke ground of a development with covenants that ban dangerous dogs. But he wondered if the city really needs to look at the subject.
“Are we having a problem?” he said.
Pacheco said animals only learn what their people teach them. Pacheco said he’s reported aggressive dogs to law enforcement when they got out of their yard.
Creek said she’s not an animal person and has a personal fear of dogs. She said they should be kept where they can’t harm anyone.
Kennewick marijuana ban
Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana through Initiative 502, although voters opposed it in Benton and Franklin counties.
Kennewick and most of its neighbors passed local bans to keep marijuana businesses, including retailers, producers and processors, at bay.
Benton County passed a ban, but not before four legal retailers opened shops in unincorporated areas, including Finley.
Beauchamp said he would continue the moratorium.
Creek said she’s personally opposed to it, but is torn between respecting the will of voters statewide and the fact that it remains illegal at the federal level. She wants a community conversation.
Pacheco said he is personally opposed to recreational marijuana, but acknowledges legalization is gaining ground across the country.
He would support medicinal marijuana, but he thinks Kennewick residents would object if the city approved recreational marijuana in some zones.
Spaulding said he wants more of a conversation. He said that citizens address it at council without a response.
“I’m not a fan of inaction,” he said.
Despite the number of candidates, the Pos. 6 race has been a cheap one so far.
No money has been raised or spent in the race as of Wednesday, according to the public Disclosure Commission, which oversees campaign rules in Washington.
Pacheco, Spaulding and Creek registered as “mini” filers and will raise less than $5,000.
Griffin and Beauchamp indicated they are running full campaigns, but neither has reported receiving any contributions.
Creek’s campaign first appeared in the PDC database Wednesday. May 31 was the deadline to register.
Creek attributed the delay to technical issues related to new software.
How to vote
Washington elections are conducted by mail.
Voters can return ballots at official drop boxes or by mail, using the envelopes provided. Postage is prepaid. The Benton County auditor mailed ballots this week.
They must be returned or postmarked by Aug. 6. All races appear on the primary ballot regardless of the number of candidates. The outcome of races with two or fewer candidates is advisory only.
July 20 is the deadline to register by mail or online. Aug. 6 is the deadline to register in person at the county auditor’s office.
For more information about the election or the online voters guide, visit bentonauditor.com/Current-Election.