Kennewick candidates disagree on marijuana, new arena


Two men with nearly a half century combined service on the Kennewick City Council are seeking another term.

But both are being challenged by residents who say the city is ready for a change.

Councilman Bob Olson faces retired Army Lt. Col. Matt Boehnke in the Nov. 3 election, while wedding officiant Diane Crawford goes up against Councilman Paul Parish. Both positions represent the entire city.

Mayor Steve Young also is on the ballot but is unopposed.

Olson, 83, sees several projects needing completion. Chief among them for the 28-year council veteran is the $24 million Ridgeline Drive overpass at Highway 395. He sees the need for more options for traffic in the Southridge area, particularity when a new 2.4-mile extension of Hildebrand Boulevard connecting to west Kennewick opens next year.

The state has awarded the city $18 million for Ridgeline Drive, but the city must still find $6 million in either local money or grants.

“We’ve got the whole Southridge area coming out at a light and a roundabout,” Olson said. “I think that’s a real critical component of our program the next few years.”

Boehnke, 47, a Kamiakin High School graduate, returned to the area after 21 years in the military and served as director of the HAPO Over the River Air Show at this summer’s Water Follies.

“I want to continue to be in leadership in the community that brought me up the right way,” he said.

Parish, 79, said he always works to make Kennewick a better place to live. The 20-year councilman takes pride in the way the city has managed its growth.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job as a councilman,” he said. “I’m a proactive person. I believe in open government. Let’s say I’m running on my past performance.”

The city has been missing representation from half the community because the council is made up of seven men, said Crawford, 63, will leave her part-time accounting job, if elected.

“I think women look at a big picture, and see things in the future, where we’d like to go,” she said.

Parish finished first in a three-person August primary, with 2,782 votes, or 48 percent. Crawford was second with 1,863 votes, or 32 percent, beating out Ed Pacheco for the right to move on to the November election. Parish defeated Crawford in 2011, with 8,424 votes, or 64 percent, to her 4,773 votes, or 36 percent.

Boehnke is the only candidate showing he has raised money, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. He raised $4,894 as of late September, including $950 donations from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Tri-Cities Housing Council and Tri-Cities Association of Realtors.

Council members serve four-year terms. They are paid $992 per month.


Both challengers would like to see Kennewick reconsider the council’s unanimous vote last year to ban recreational marijuana businesses, a ban supported by Olson and Parish.

Boehnke is concerned about whether a ban is legal. He questions whether the city can tell a business licensed by the state that it can’t open.

Olson stands by his decision.

“If you look at what’s happening out of Colorado, what’s happening with the emergency room visits,” he said of the Rocky Mountain state that voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. “And what we are starting to see in Washington, it was a bad, bad deal. We dropped the marijuana rock in the pond. I don’t think we looked at what the ripples would be.”

Parish points out that 56 percent of Benton County residents opposed Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana. He said city officials are concerned because it is a cash business, and Kennewick has heard complaints about outdoor growing.

“I respect the voters’ rights in Washington, but I also believe in home rule,” he said. “It’s really an experiment. Maybe it’s a good one, maybe it’s a bad one.”

Using county vote totals can be misleading, Crawford said. She voted against I-502 because she felt the proposal should have been better planned, but favors marijuana sales now that it is legal.

“A city that has a ban is denying the state much-needed funds,” she said. “We need to work with the state to regulate it, so it will be a win-win situation.”

Vista Field

Working with the Port of Kennewick on redeveloping the former Vista Field Airport site is another issue the city will work on in coming years.

Crawford is pleased with the work done so far. She is excited about the plans for a performing arts center to be built in a development with a combination of housing and retail.

“It looks like the city and the port are working well together,” she said.

Important work lies ahead in getting legislative support for a local revitalization bill to help improve access to Vista Field, Parish said. A similar plan for Southridge provided $500,000 annually in state money that was used to build roads.

“We’re working with the ports and the chambers and everybody else in the Tri-Cities to try to get it done,” he said.

Boehnke is concerned a proposed 800-seat performing arts center at the Vista Field development might not be large enough for the community.

Boehnke, a Tri-City Americans season ticket holder and player host, also would like to see the city review building a new arena or renovating the 27-year-old Toyota Center.

“When can we upgrade and get something we can use for the next 25 years?” he said.

Olson doesn’t see a new arena as realistic at this time.

“Unless we get a private party who wanted to put something together, I can’t see us having the resources to do that in the very near future,” he said. “We’re looking at a $30 million charge, and that’s pretty stiff.”

For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom