11-20-19 UPDATE:

YAKIMA, WA - After Tuesday's city council meeting it's now up to voters to decide whether they want a strong-mayor form of government as opposed to a more ceremonial mayoral position.

Four council members voted yes on the proposal, however during the meeting it was clearly stated that the proposal violates state law.

Councilwomen Dulce Gutiérrez, Carmen Méndez and Kay Funk all mentioned issues the measure brings such as it's going to cost about $5,000 to put the measure on the February ballot.

Before voting on the measure four motions were brought up and voted on, none passed.

The motions were...

- To add that current council members refrain from running for mayor.

- To include language on the ballot that would state if the proposal is approved it's likely to result in a civil rights lawsuit.

- To include on the ballot how much city expenses would increase over the next 10 years.

- To move the measure to the November ballot.

Three versions of the strong mayor proposal were submitted the one that was voted on was drafted by Bruce Smith: Yakima Valley Business Times Publisher, Mike Leita: Yakima County Commissioner, and Dave Edler former Yakima mayor.

Their version of the proposal violates the open public meetings act, something the cities attorney advised council about.

"It would be far better to have a document here that was consistent with the law rather than create a instant conflict with the law," said Jeff Cutter, City Attorney.

Shortly after that statement councilwoman Gutiérrez said the entire document violates Washington's Voting Rights Act.

Gutiérrez also brought up how if the measure passes the mayor would be making more than the police chief who makes close to $150,000 a year.


11-7-19 ORIGINAL STORY: 

YAKIMA, WA - The city of Yakima is moving forward with the idea of a strong mayoral plan.

Not all council members are on the same page, four of seven members voted to move forward with the plan.

During Tuesday's city council meeting the changes a mayor-council government would bring were addressed and those changes are...

Mayor-Council Changes

- Voters elect the mayor

- Mayor hires city administrator

- Mayor has veto power

Both the mayor and city administrator collaborate in....

- Day-to-day operations

- Budget & legislative proposals

- Responsible for hiring and firing of department heads

After all this information was presented many locals said they don't want the change.

"We had an example of over 20 individuals who came here today begging us, asking us to not move forward with this," said councilwoman Carmen Méndez.

People on both sides of the issue spoke up during Tuesday's city council meeting, majority saying they do not want a strong mayor system.

"I'm asking that you not only refuse to put this proposal on the February ballot, but I'm urging you to protect our city and actively oppose this strong mayor proposal to keep Yakima fair and equitable for everyone who lives here," said Sam Johnson, Yakima resident.

Many who spoke up argued it would hurt the voice of the Hispanic community.

"The strong mayor government, it breaths corruption, it does not enhance Latino representation."

"To weaken the voice of the Latino community."

"It gives power to the few and silences the many in our community."

Councilwoman Dulce Gutiérrez agreed with many on this, "Not only are the rights of the Latino community violated but so are the rights of elected officials."

Many mentioned the ACLU lawsuit Yakima faced back in 2014 in which the city lost millions of dollars for disobeying voting rights. Gutiérrez expressed how by considering a strong mayor system this same issue would make it's way back.

"Here we are, four years later, and after all of that dust has settled you guys want to change the rules, typical! All we are asking for is an equal slice of the pie, we're not asking to take the whole pie, which is historically something that the white community has had, the full pie, and we just want one equal slice of the pie for every district, and I shouldn't have my powers be diluted or violated as a Latina council member who represents a majority Latino district by a mayor who comes in with additional powers, who I know will mostly be elected by West Side residents and the affluent community here. Do you think a Latino has a realistic opportunity of ever being elected a city wide mayor or in any in any city wide position? No!"

Four council members voted yes to placing the strong mayor topic on the November 19th agenda and together all members will coordinate to put that measure on the February 2020 ballot.

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