Three political newcomers are running for Yakima City Council’s District 1 seat.

First-time candidates Kenton Gartrell, Eliana Macias and Matthew Sagen are seeking to replace Dulcé Gutierrez, who is not seeking re-election. The district represents the northeast corner of the city.

Among the issues the candidates see in the race are improving public safety, repairing streets and sidewalks within the district, and providing recreation and other activities for youths to combat gang violence.

Council members are paid $1,075 a month for their service, unless they have been appointed as mayor or assistant mayor, which increases the salary to $1,375 and $1,175 respectively. Under Yakima’s form of government, the mayor serves as the presiding officer of the council.

The candidates were asked the same four questions.

Kenton Gartrell

What is the biggest challenge Yakima faces, and how will you address it?

The biggest challenges Yakima faces are safety issues and budgeting. Safety can be include proper infrastructure on the roadway, from fixing potholes to simple stop signs. Our infrastructure is decaying. We also have to worry about budgeting issues. Budgeting has been neglected or improperly delegated. Our parks are not properly maintained, particularly in District 1. We need a standard as a whole, and then concentrate on that. The other thing about safety is our crime rate. We‘re supposed to have 200 officers. We need to get to what is budgeted. I would like to see bicycle cops, as they bring a positive image.

What can the city do to further address gang violence?

Be more proactive within the community, such as with the bicycle cops. They are very visible. We also need to put in LED street lights, which we are doing in the district. This has a proven track record. It gets rid of 30 percent of nuisance activities. The police need to be proactive. A lot of people have called in issues and say it takes two to six hours for police to respond. That is not being proactive.

What would be your budget priorities in terms of spending? Where should cuts be made?

I think we spend too much money on surveys. On the plaza issue, they said they would do $1.3-1.7 million worth of surveys. That is too much. We need to cut frivolous lawsuits. We can cooperate. There are a lot more grant opportunities in arts. If you look at our district as a whole, there are places that haven’t seen a road improvement in the past six or seven years. Instead of concentrating $70 million on a single stretch of road, spread it around.

What will you do as a council member to foster community cohesion and cooperation?

We need to sit down and talk with people. Know what they’re thinking, how they are thinking. Even if it is as simple as communicating with them. If we want to be relevant to the community, we need to get out and meet with people and shake hands and talk, and not just do it over a City Council meeting.

Eliana Macias

What is the biggest challenge Yakima faces, and how will you address it?

Yakima has a large number of domestic violence calls. We have a lot of gangs. I feel that our police department works with the community to clean up the streets. We need to use engagement through community centers. I would definitely invest in gang prevention and youth involvement, and expand the YPAL community center.

What can the city do to further address gang violence?

It starts with prevention and patrolling our streets more often. I have been canvassing a few weekends already, and while there is a lot of graffiti and gang violence, I did not see one patrol unit in the area. It would be an improvement if we could have more patrols. Involving the youth in their community at an early age is also important. Usually gang members start young, their early teens. If we can connect the kids to the community and the police department and have a good relationship from day one, we can address it.

What would be your budget priorities in terms of spending? Where should cuts be made?

Definitely public safety. I know they have started the safe routes to school program. We need to increase outreach opportunities in the community, working with nonprofits. We also need to be helping our vulnerable communities engage. As for cuts, I haven’t really looked into the budget for the year.

What will you do as a council member to foster community cohesion and cooperation?

Working at community events would be great. It would be good to have groups unite together. I definitely think we need more outreach in areas where we can have more engagement in the summer and pair up with the YMCA to have more camps for the kids and more recreational and wholesome family fun.

Matthew Sagen

What is the biggest challenge Yakima faces, and how will you address it?

We need to invest in our community to have better infrastructure, safer streets. In the case of District 1, there is a lack of green community spaces. Going through with the pool project is one of those things we need. I think also outreach for the city government, including the police department and the fire department. But we should not do it at a coffee shop but at a school.

What can the city do to further address gang violence?

Invest in after-school programming, such as creating a tiered program where kids start at a young age and move through it. YPAL has shown how to do that. We need to invest in kids and have them do arts and music. People need to participate in something greater than themselves.

What would be your budget priorities in terms of spending? Where should cuts be made?

I don’t have a full picture of where to make cuts. In terms of spending, we should be investing more in infrastructure; prioritizing streets that are overlooked would help District 1. We also need to prioritize improving our revenue stream by facilitating more businesses to come to the community and looking for grants.

What will you do as a council member to foster community cohesion and cooperation?

I think having more community events and more outreach from the police department will further cohesion among people and foster the cooperation that you are asking about. That would be a priority for me, seeing what we do for outreach, and what can we do within the community to create a cohesive sense of community, something that is organic.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: donaldwmeyers, or https://www.facebook.com/donaldwmeyersjournalist/