Kennewick Council: Moak and Hempstead

By the Herald editorial staff

We have our differences with the Kennewick City Council, and results of the primary election indicate that voters share some of our concerns.

But we're also convinced the city will be best served by a mixture of experienced hands and fresh faces on the council.

Today, we're taking a look at two of the five city council races facing Kennewick voters. In these particular contests, we believe the incumbents are the best choice for the city's future.

Moak vs. Hubbard

Mayor Tom Moak is and has been an excellent representative of the city of Kennewick.

We enthusiastically recommend him for re-election.

He has an unrivaled record of involvement in public issues, especially those involving improvements for new Kennewick development and preserving and honoring the city's heritage. His involvement goes well beyond his 12 years on the city council.

Moak's view of the work of the council is rosier than ours, but it's unfair to single out missteps without acknowledging accomplishments.

Kennewick has accomplished much during Moak's time in office --the Three Rivers Convention Center is one outstanding example. Improvements to Columbia Park are another.

But there have been gaffes -- the most obvious is the continuing saga of the carousel. And the $3 million judgment against the city in the suit brought by the municipal golf course operator.

Moak's opponent is John Hubbard, a retired Hanford engineer. He is a capable and affable man. In the primary, he outpolled Moak. Hubbard received 31 percent, or 538 votes, in his first-time run for office.

Moak, who has been mayor since January, collected 495 votes, or 29 percent. Two other candidates divided the remaining 40 percent for Position 3 in Ward 3.

We think the 71 percent of the votes that went for the three challengers reflects many citizens' concerns that Kennewick's municipal government is too ready to spend their money.

Hubbard is a good candidate.

But we think Moak's long history of working for progress while protecting the past in Kennewick has been exemplary (he was Kennewick Man of the Year in 1995), and his brief time as the face of the city as its mayor has been a real achievement for him and for Kennewick.

Brown vs. Hempstead

Sharon Brown wants to unseat James Hempstead. Less than three minutes into our hourlong interview with the candidates, her vexation with Hempstead and the rest of the council was clear.

This statement from the Benton County online voters guide sums up Brown's candidacy.

"I have been increasingly dissatisfied with the way Kennewick City Council is running the city. Their ill-conceived and poorly planned actions have resulted in a $3 million verdict against the city on a case that never should have been tried, $860,000 spent on a carousel that is in storage," and the list goes on.

We share many of Brown's frustrations, and we're not completely satisfied with Hempstead's defense of the council's record.

The money spent on the carousel is an investment that keeps the city's options open, he said. If the community decides it doesn't want the antique amusement, sale of the hand-carved horses alone would more than recoup the city's costs, Hempstead added.

As far as the $3 million judgment against the city goes, Hempstead said the council acted on its attorney's advice and was surprised by the verdict. The case is under appeal.

But Hempstead stands on 12 years of experience and service to the city. He asks voters to look at his entire tenure -- not just the hot topics of the day -- and to ask themselves if Kennewick is better now than it was in 1998.

He says the current council is the most productive Kennewick has ever had and that it works closely as a team. In the plus column, Hempstead points to park improvements, a regional economic plan and infrastructure upgrades that leave the city "positioned very well for the future."

A lot of Brown's criticisms about the council are on target, but they tell only part of the story.

Brown is articulate and intelligent. She might even make a good addition to the council. Her experience as an attorney would no doubt be an asset.

But criticism seems to be the extent of her campaign. If she has any new ideas to bring to the council or a better vision for Kennewick's future, she hasn't done a good job of presenting them.

The Herald editorial board recommends Tom Moak and James Hempstead for Kennewick City Council.