It’s been said that Yakima suffers from a self-image problem — that we, as citizens, are often the city’s worst critics. And that all too often, we’re loudly doing just that. Criticizing.

But there are three women who want to change that. Bridget Russel, Jessica Moskwa and Laura Rankin are a trio of Yakima aficionados — three locals who love Yakima … and aren’t afraid to talk about it.

The trio felt frustrated about Yakima naysayers who “permeate the conversation,” said Russel during a recent interview at Gilbert Cellars, where both Moskwa and Rankin work. Russel, 41, and Rankin, 27, grew up in Yakima and after traveling and living outside of the city have returned, realizing its benefits. Moskwa, 31, is from Cleveland, and with an interest in the wine industry moved to Yakima in 2005. The three formed a friendship and dreamed up the idea for “I Heart Yakima” over Christmas last year.

“It really solidified ... Just chatting about why we’re all here and what we love about this place,” said Rankin.

I Heart Yakima is a three-phase plan that begins with what they call a “grass roots movement” to make the conversation about Yakima a positive one. A second phase includes developing funding for the organization — including membership opportunities — and the third phase would evolve I Heart Yakima into an incubator for new Yakima businesses.

Right now, though, I Heart Yakima is a manifesto — a “love letter” to our city. The declaration can be found in print (go to Gilbert Cellars or Mighty Tieton) and online (go to iheartyakima.com). Moskwa and Russel say so far more than 160 people have signed the manifesto, including members of city council and gubanatorial candidate Jay Inslee, who lived in the Yakima Valley for two decades. They said public reaction has been effusive, and folks are actually writing their own mini manifestos on the manifesto itself.

Nonetheless, Russel, who is a communications consultant, said she thinks Yakima citizens are by nature humble. “They’re not used to beating their chests,” she said. But, she added, this gives them permission to boast a little.

The next phase also includes rolling out a marketing campaign and I Heart Yakima swag, like T-shirts, bumper stickers and window clings.

Moskwa said the manifesto — and the movement — “gives people a really easy way to participate.” And they’re hoping folks will do just that. “I think it’s an exciting time for our town,” Russel said. “I feel like we’re about ready to tip.”

Iheartyakima.com Limited edition letterpress posters available for $35 at Gilbert Cellars or Mighty Tieton; The manifesto’s design is by Kevin Hill. It was printed by Paper Hammer at Mighty Tieton. The manifesto’s words are by Bridget Russel, Jessica Moskwa and Laura Rankin • opposite: Laura Rankin, Bridget Russel and Jessica Moskwa. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAURA RANKIN