Pasco voters have choices with three council seats on ballot

Bertha Alicia Coria
Bertha Alicia Coria

Pasco’s population boom might have slowed down some, but the build-out continues with the city helping frame the future development of nearly 500 acres west of Road 100.

The six people running to either retain or win a seat on the Pasco City Council admit the city’s growth needs to be managed efficiently. But some question if the downtown core, in spite of ongoing revitalization efforts, is being overlooked as the city extends the infrastructure in west Pasco.

Bertha Aranda Glatt, Bertha Alicia Coria and David Milne all say it is time for new people to bring fresh ideas to the council and the community, and they’re the ones who can make Pasco flourish even more.

Longtime council members Matt Watkins, Al Yenney and Rebecca Francik acknowledge the city has faced some challenges, but believe Pasco is on the right track and are eager to follow through on the long-term projects they helped set in motion for the betterment of Pasco.

Pasco City Council members are elected to a four-year term. They receive a monthly salary of $1,000.

The mayor, who is elected by council members, receives $1,300 a month.

Ballots for the general election must be postmarked, in the Franklin County Auditor’s office or in a designated dropbox by 8 p.m. Nov. 3.

At-large position

Glatt is challenging Mayor Watkins for the seat he has held for 12 years.

A proud Pasco resident since 1971, Glatt is impressed by the city’s vision for areas like Road 100, but thinks safety should be more important than growth. She is a former social worker now working for St. Luke’s Center of Occupational Health & Education in Kennewick.

Pasco is personal to her and, though she recognizes she isn’t groomed for the job, Glatt says she is guided by her heart because she feels her city needs to be more representative of the people it serves.

Pasco needs to capitalize on its resources and the diversity, but that also means educating city staff through prejudice training, Glatt has said. She believes the February fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes could have been 100 percent prevented with better mental health services and police training.

Watkins says he does not think the shooting by three police officers was race related, but recognizes it did spark a conversation and led to more interest from Pasco residents in civic issues.

A software engineer for Lockheed Martin, Watkins said while Road 68 has been wildly successful with the constant addition of new businesses, he knows there are traffic issues that have caused problems for both consumers and residents of that area. He says he would like to see Road 100 modeled after Columbia Point in Richland.

Watkins says he appreciates how many people ran for council seats this election cycle, but what the race comes down to is whether voters want diversity and enthusiasm or a known commodity. He said he thinks he is the better person for the job.

District 1

Yenney, who is seeking his third term, is being challenged by the youngest Pasco council candidate, Coria.

Coria graduated in 2014 from Pasco High School where she was a member of her school’s DECA club. She now is a substitute paraeducator working with children with disabilities in the Pasco School District, while also taking classes at Charter College.

Coria said she is running mostly because the kids she sees in school are the future of Pasco. She also finds encouragement that her district has a Hispanic majority at just over 50 percent, and thinks it would be “nice to have equal representation on the council.”

Coria is a member of Tri-Cities Community Solutions, a group that has held rallies and protests regularly since the Zambrano-Montes shooting. She told the Herald the Pasco Police Department “is currently fine as it is,” but thinks there needs to be more officers who can speak Spanish.

Her focus is on the increased homeless population, which could be served with the creation of “tiny home villages,” and the need to nurture Pasco’s existing growth patterns by helping newer residents who are struggling to find work or secure a home.

Yenney considers himself the “common sense council member,” explaining that he researches every proposal before him instead of making a decision “based on what I feel is warm and fuzzy.” And even if he is in the minority on a vote, Yenney says he will jump in 100 percent and make it work.

Semi-retired after owning Al’s Repair in Pasco since 1971, he is a member of Pasco Kiwanis and believes both council members and residents alike should be active in the community they call home.

Yenney said he is a supporter of the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission and thinks the plan for an expanded new men’s facility is a plus for downtown Pasco, even if some people don’t want a mission in their back yard.

The key to the downtown revitalization is for the businesses to become financially viable, then they will have a tendency to help with the vision, he said. The Downtown Pasco Development Authority is making headway in interacting with businesses, he said, but property owners and tenants also need to talk with each other to clean up the area and attract more customers.

District 5

Milne recognizes that incumbent Francik “has better answers” because she has been on the city council for 19 years.

But the owner of Milne Nail Power Tool & Repair on West Lewis Street says if Francik came into his comfort zone, he would “blow her away on tool questions” since he has been doing that for 20 years.

Milne says he knows how to balance a budget, can listen to issues and always believes in having an honest exchange with people. Despite being busy with Boy Scouts, Rotary and coaching Pasco Youth Football, he says he still has the energy to help Pasco move forward.

As he sees it, the city keeps building more houses, but doesn’t seem to be able to attract businesses. And while he lives in west Pasco and knows that is the target expansion area, it frustrates him as a downtown businessman that the city is not encouraging store owners to move into the downtown core or doing more to keep them.

Francik, the council’s mayor pro tem, is a librarian at Rowena Chess Elementary School in Pasco. She says the next four years might be the most exciting times to live and work in Pasco as the city completes several projects that long have been in the planning stages.

She points to her performance record, including helping to reduce the city’s bonded debt, property taxes and the crime rate, and says the decisions she makes benefit the quality of life for Pasco residents both now and in the long term.

Francik said she does not think Pasco has a race problem and, when talking with Hispanic families who are feeling underrepresented, encourages them to attend civic meetings and vote in elections.

Streaming video of the Pasco Candidate Forum can be viewed at www.pasco-wa.gov/PSCTVforum.

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

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer