A range of dynamics marks this year’s Union Gap City Council races. In Position 7, the city’s first mayor under its new council/manager system is seeking to keep his council seat in a race with a longtime City Hall observer. In Position 2, a past council candidate is pursuing a vacant seat against a college student who was still in high school during the last Union Gap municipal election.
Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board met with the candidates in face-to-face discussions. In each case, the board gives the edge to civic experience and knowledge of civic affairs.
Position 7: Roger Wentz
Roger Wentz, who is seeking a third term on the council, was the body’s unanimous choice for mayor after the city’s voters last year approved the switch from a strong-mayor to council-manager setup. It’s easy to see why Wentz won the backing of fellow council members.
Wentz exhibits a command of governmental mechanics as he talks about new businesses that have located in Union Gap, road projects like the Main Street renovation and a beltway to redirect truck traffic from Main Street, the decision to operate the city’s municipal court services through Yakima County and the ongoing issue involving mold at City Hall.
His opponent, Tracy Lansden, is a longtime City Hall observer who has had some run-ins with Union Gap officials. The most recent came in June over the number and condition of parked vehicles on Lansden’s property. He also questions the city’s handling on the mold issue, which forced the closure of City Hall in 2011 and whether contracting court services through the county is cost-effective.
Wentz says the city is awaiting a report on the mold issue before taking its next move. We like what he says about moving proactively against possible gang activity and on soliciting citizen input about changes to Main Street. Wentz seems to work well with City Manager Rod Otterness, who has been on the job since March, and deserves a third term on the council.
Position 2: Mark Carney
Mark Carney impressed us when he ran unsuccessfully two years ago against incumbent James Murr. This time he seeks an open seat formerly held by Don Vanouver, who moved out of the area. Carney’s opponent is Don Beddoe, a Yakima Valley Community College student who graduated from Eisenhower High School in 2012.
Carney talks of getting the public more engaged in council activities; he says the city can do this by same-night broadcasts of council meetings either on the airwaves or on the Internet. He can speak with detail about Main Street renovations, the City Hall mold issue, how a gradual increase in water rates keeps the city’s bond rating strong and about use of city equipment.
Beddoe brings some ideas, energy and specific issues to the race. He is a former president of the Union Gap Youth Council, which he says lost its space to city offices when staffers had to move from City Hall. He found the council’s programs useful as an alternative to gangs, and he would work to get it going again. But while he is interested in many Union Gap issues, he would benefit from more depth of knowledge about the city’s government and could use more seasoning to help him assert his priorities in a convincing manner.
Carney has been following Union Gap operations for quite a while, and he looks like someone who would get up to speed quickly on the council. Mark Carney is the better of the candidates for this job.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.