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Yakima Valley College's new West Campus ready for grand opening
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As a new quarter kicks off at Yakima Valley College, the school is ready to reveal the new and much- anticipated West Campus in Yakima to the community.

The property on the southwest corner of 16th Avenue and Nob Hill Boulevard features a new and improved Larson Gallery; a tasting room run by the college’s Vineyard & Winery Technology Program; and the Allied Health Building and Conference Center.

It’s the culmination of a $22.7 million, 49,000-square-foot project more than three years in the making, and is expected to improve services for the community. It was finished on time.

Said college communications director Dustin Wunderlich: “One of the things that’s really exciting about West Campus is just the overall impact that it’s going to be making for the entire Yakima Valley community, from educating the next generation of outstanding health care professionals to enhancing the Yakima Valley arts scene through the new Larson Gallery space, to showcasing Yakima Valley College’s teaching winery — Yakima Valley Vintners — as well as providing a premier location for conferences for our community.”

On Thursday, Yakima Valley College will host a virtual grand opening at 4 p.m. to introduce the community to the new space. Community members can tune in through the college’s YouTube channel, Facebook page or on the West Campus website.

The project’s development

In 2017, the college bought the property across the street from its Yakima campus for $3.7 million.

BORArchitecture and G.H. Moen Construction have since worked to transform the former retail plaza once made up of Koi Asian Bistro restaurant and two adjacent structures into the Yakima Valley College West Campus.

In the revamp, the westernmost building and the middle building on the plot of land were joined to become one structure, the Allied Health Building & Conference Center.

The new Larson Gallery and Tasting Room stand in the place of the former Koi Asian Bistro alongside 16th Avenue. An outside courtyard could play host to outdoor seating and events in the future.

The campus also features significant additional parking in response to community requests, Wunderlich said.

“One of the things we’re really proud of with this project … is that in the construction we used all local contractors, again elevating the local impact of this project even more,” he said.

He said the West Campus is also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certified, a worldwide-respected recognition for environmentally friendly construction.

Allied Health and conferences

The new Allied Health facility has designated space for each of its programs, such as a pharmacy technician lab and surgical technology.

Before, those programs shared one space and had to stagger class times, Wunderlich said.

Libby McRae, an instructor and coordinator of the college’s surgical technology program, played a significant role in the new facility’s planning. She said the new space is reflective of professional work settings in the medical field. Alongside the architects for the facility, McRae toured colleges, medical clinics and surgery centers in the state to develop a dream space for the program.

The surgical tech program has three operating rooms to practice in, while the pharmacy program now has a full lab for preparing prescriptions and a retail pharmacy like one might see at a Walgreens so students can practice real-world customer scenarios.

The new facility also offers space for collaboration across programs and responds to the considerable growth that the Allied Health programs have seen since they moved into their previous space on campus roughly 17 years ago, McRae said. The surgical technology program has grown more than threefold, for example. Moving forward, the facility has space to grow as demand for health care workers in the community does.

Students will be training with state-of-the-art simulation equipment. A new medical assistant program mannequin, for example, can simulate vital signs or sounds patients would make. It can be programmed with a scenario for a student to assess and can even speak to the student. Students would have the ability to do things like run an EKG to test heart condition, McRae said.

Because health care workers are essential, the program is able to continue conducting labs in person and is beginning courses in the new facility this term, following COVID-19 safety protocol, she said.

Event booking at the adjacent conference center, meanwhile, is on hold amid increasing COVID-19 trends in the community, Wunderlich said. But when the time comes to host events, it will have the capacity to hold up to 500 people, or to have the main ballroom divided into smaller rooms to accommodate multiple events, he said.

Larson Gallery and wine tasting

Next door at the new Larson Gallery, finishing touches like flooring and furnishing are underway before gallery and viticulture program staff move in. But there’s much to look forward to.

The former home of the Larson Gallery since 1949 — a rectangular red brick building known as the A.E and Rose Parker Larson Art Gallery — was at one point just a large room, with bathrooms and offices added later, said David Lynx, the gallery’s director. That building will now be used for classes and offices.

The new building will be tailored to a museum or gallery’s needs, and will meet standards of excellence for museums outlined by the American Alliance of Museums. Lynx hopes to see the gallery accredited by the alliance within the year, with the support of the Larson Gallery Guild.

One of those standards is having a light- and humidity-controlled space to protect works of art. Lynch said the changes will enable the gallery to bring in more exhibits and introduce the Yakima community to more works in a welcoming environment.

The more expansive gallery will also allow for two exhibits to be on display at once, and allow more space on the walls between pieces. The space will have a dedicated gift shop, reception desk and public bathrooms, Lynx said.

A tasting room run by Yakima Valley Vintners, the college’s teaching winery, will live in the corner of the gallery.

The Vineyard and Winery Technology program teaches students at the Yakima and Grandview YVC campuses. The Yakima program has about 30 full- and part-time students in a given quarter. Each year, student winemakers develop new red and white wines, with many winning awards.

The Grandview campus has a tasting room where students’ wines are available to taste or purchase. The new space in the Larson Gallery will be the program’s first community-facing space in Yakima, said Trent Ball, a program instructor. That means Yakima-based students can soon get experiential learning in the tasting room without traveling to Grandview.

Ball said he expects to have eight to 10 wines of all varieties — from big reds to dry whites or sweet wines — available at the tasting room at a given time. In the long-term, a courtyard and sculpture garden adjacent to the tasting room will offer outdoor seating and entertainment, such as music in the spring, summer and fall. But amid COVID-19, the community will still have access to the tasting room’s wines through online ordering and curbside pickup, he said. Soon, he hopes limited outdoor seating will also be feasible.

Meanwhile, Lynx said he is working on two exhibits that he will hang in the new space: one of prints by Columbian artist Victor Ospina, and another showing the works of previous Larson Gallery directors, many of whom “went on to become very well-known artists.” A quilt exhibition is scheduled in March.

All of these exhibits will be available to view online, but like Ball, Lynx hopes that COVID-19 trends will decline, allowing for free viewings by appointment in the near future.

Local health care system officially becomes Yakima Valley Memorial
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Yakima’s only hospital has changed its name, but the signs might not be updated for a little while yet.

Virginia Mason Memorial has reverted to its previous name — Yakima Valley Memorial — reflecting its transition to an independent, local health care system. That includes the Yakima hospital, which opened for business June 20, 1950, when the first patient was admitted.

The hospital signs have been ordered and are in process, said Rebecca Teagarden, director of communications and marketing at Yakima Valley Memorial. “It will take time to replace the signs,” she said.

A full-page ad in Friday’s Yakima Herald-Republic placed by Yakima Valley Memorial’s board of directors showed the name and logo change. The board, along with its community health partners, “will ensure long-lasting health care for the Valley,” the ad said.

Board members voted Oct. 28 to end the hospital’s four-year affiliation with Seattle-based Virginia Mason Health System. The vote came after concerns about some aspects of local care in light of an expected merger between Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan, a Catholic nonprofit health system.

Officials said then they expected the process of removing affiliation would take one to three months. They said Memorial would continue its relationship with Virginia Mason for referrals and other health-related matters but would officially be independent.

Carole Peet, CEO and president of Yakima Valley Memorial, had said in a previous interview that from a patient care perspective, “there really is no change.” Signs and branding would be the changes most obvious to the public.

Memorial is Yakima’s only hospital after the closure of Astria Regional Medical Center in January 2020. Astria Health filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019. It continues to operate hospitals in Sunnyside and Toppenish.

Biden, Trump warn of high stakes of Georgia Senate runoffs

ATLANTA, Ga. — President-elect Joe Biden on Monday told Georgia Democrats they had the power to “chart the course” for a generation as President Donald Trump urged Republican voters to “swamp” the polls ahead of runoff elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Trump made his final-hours pitch to voters at a nighttime rally in north Georgia, where Republicans were banking on strong voter turnout Tuesday to reelect Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and hold control of the chamber.

Biden campaigned with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta, hoping he could recreate the coalition that secured him a narrow victory in the presidential race in November.

“Folks, this is it. This is it. It’s a new year, and tomorrow can be a new day for Atlanta, for Georgia and for America,” Biden said at a drive-in rally. “Unlike any time in my career, one state — one state — can chart the course, not just for the four years but for the next generation.”

The stakes have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground. Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast in November, though Trump continues to push false assertions of widespread fraud that even his now-former attorney general and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state — along with a litany of state and federal judges — have said did not happen.

The president’s trip Monday came a day after disclosure of a remarkable telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state over the weekend. Trump pressured Republican Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Georgia’s election results ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress that will certify Biden’s Electoral College victory. The call highlighted how Trump has used the Georgia campaign to make clear his continued hold on Republican politics.

Angry after the Raffensperger call, Trump floated the idea of pulling out of the rally but was persuaded to go ahead with it so he would have a chance to reiterate his claims of election fraud. Republicans were wary as to whether Trump would focus only on himself and fail to promote the two GOP candidates.

A top Georgia election official said hours before Trump’s rally that he “wanted to scream” after hearing audio of the president’s call with Raffensperger.

“Do not self-suppress your own vote,” said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager.

But Trump, at the rally in Dalton, Ga., spent much of his address on message, making an impassioned case that Loeffler’s and Perdue’s races were among the most important Georgia voters would ever face, saying “the fate of our country is at stake.”

To be sure, he also spent a fair amount of time rehashing false claims that the November election was “rigged.” He fumed that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp was “incompetent” and replayed many of the same debunked claims that he raised days ago in his call with Raffensperger.

“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them,” Trump said. “You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can’t let it happen.”

Biden on Monday took aim at Trump’s scheme by declaring that “politicians cannot assert, take or seize power” by undermining legitimate elections.

Biden said he needs a Senate majority to pass legislation to combat the coronavirus, and he blasted Perdue and Loeffler as obstructionist Trump loyalists. Loeffler says she will join other Republican lawmakers in objecting to the Electoral College certification of Biden’s victory by Congress on Wednesday.

“You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not the United States Constitution,” Biden said.

Earlier Monday, Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd of conservative Christian voters at a campaign event in Milner, Ga., to stop a Democratic takeover in Washington. “We’re going to keep Georgia, and we’re going to save America,” Pence said at Rock Springs Church in Milner.

Perdue addressed the church crowd in Milner by telephone while quarantining over coronavirus exposure, claiming that “the very future of our republic is on the line” and declaring the duty to vote “a calling from God.”

Trump amplified the sentiment, warning that Ossoff and Warnock wins would lead to a sharp leftward swing in American policy-making.

“These Senate seats are truly the last line of defense,” Trump said. He added, “It’s really fight for our country, not a fight for Trump.”

Republicans need just one victory to maintain Senate control and force Biden to contend with divided government. Democrats need a sweep for a 50-50 split, giving the tiebreaking vote to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will succeed Pence as the Senate’s presiding officer. That would give Democrats a Senate majority to go along with their control of the House and executive branch.

Pence, who will preside over Wednesday’s congressional joint session, sidestepped Trump’s denials Monday until a man yelled out that he must “do the right thing on Jan. 6.” Pence promised that “we’ll have our day in Congress,” though he offered no details about what that might mean. Scores of Republicans in Congress have pledged to protest the Electoral College count, but Pence has no legal authority to override Biden’s win.

Facing those passions from the Republican base, Perdue, whose first Senate term expired Sunday, and Loeffler, an appointed senator trying to win her first election, have run as unabashed Trump Republicans and spent the two-month runoff blitz warning of a “radical” and “dangerous” lurch to the left.

Ossoff and Warnock have countered with warnings that a Republican Senate will stymie Biden’s administration, especially on pandemic relief.

Warnock pushed back at the deluge of Loeffler television ads casting him as a socialist. “Have you noticed she hasn’t even bothered to make a case, Georgia, for why you should keep her in that seat?” Warnock said, speaking ahead of Biden. “That’s because she has no case to make.”

A closely divided Senate — with the rules still requiring 60 votes to advance major bills — lessens the prospects of sweeping legislation regardless. But a Democratic Senate would at least assure Biden an easier path for top appointees, including judges, and legitimate consideration of his legislative agenda. A Senate led by McConnell would almost certainly deny even an up-or-down vote on Biden’s most ambitious plans.

More than 3 million Georgians already have voted. Monday’s push focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Democrats ran up a wide margin among 3.6 million early votes in the fall, but Republicans countered with an Election Day surge, especially in small towns and rural areas.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse says he will confirm Electoral College vote
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U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse said Monday he will vote to certify the Electoral College results.

In a tweet posted Monday, Newhouse, a Republican from Sunnyside, voiced support for a statement from several House Republicans saying Congress “must count the electoral votes submitted by the states.”

A joint session of Congress on Wednesday is scheduled to count and certify the Electoral College vote. More than a dozen Republican senators and 100 House Republicans have indicated they will oppose the results.

Newhouse spokeswoman Elizabeth Daniels referred to the tweet in response to the Yakima Herald-Republic’s request for comment. Newhouse is expected to make an additional comment in the coming days, she said.

Newhouse said he was joining his “fellow constitutional conservatives” — U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Kelley Armstrong of North Dakota, Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Tom McClintock of California and Chip Roy of Texas — to certify the electoral votes.

“States select electors. Congress does not,” the group said in a statement Sunday. “We must respect the states’ authority here. Though doing so may frustrate our immediate political objectives, we have sworn an oath to promote the Constitution above our policy goals.”

The letter still references unsubstantiated concerns regarding the election, including the “significant abuses” that resulted from mail-in voting and that there were insufficient safeguards to ensure “legitimate votes” were counted. President Donald Trump and his allies have yet to present evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The president and his supporters have filed more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results, nearly all which have been dismissed or dropped.

The letter also admits that the Electoral College has been the path to victory for Republican presidential candidates, noting that only one has won the popular vote in the last eight presidential elections. The letter acknowledges that disregarding certified electoral votes would delegitimize the system that provided victory to Trump in 2016 and could be a path to victory for a Republican presidential candidate in 2024.

Last month, Newhouse was one of more than 100 Republicans who signed an amicus brief supporting Texas’ lawsuit to challenge the presidential election results. Newhouse said he was not looking to overturn the results but to address the underlying issue with states using entities outside their respective Legislatures to select electors and establish election systems.

After the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the lawsuit, Newhouse issued a statement referring to Joe Biden as president-elect but repeating unspecified concerns regarding the election’s legitimacy.

Newhouse’s office did not respond to a question about Trump’s phone call Saturday with Georgia’s secretary of state in which the president pressured the Republican state official to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state.