No matter who wins in the November general election, the Yakima City Council will see at least two new faces come next year.
Of the council’s three seats on the November ballot, only one incumbent is seeking re-election. That’s Avina Gutierrez, who will face four challengers in the August primary.
Meanwhile, a total of nine candidates are seeking to replace Bill Lover and Maureen Adkison, who are not seeking re-election. The most crowded spot on the entire August primary ballot for all of Yakima County will be for the seat held by Lover. Six candidates want to replace Lover, who earlier this year said he would not seek re-election, but then later said he was leaving open the possibility. It wasn’t until the filing period closed on Friday that it was clear he wouldn’t run again.
Lover, who has served 12 years on the council, said he waited until the last day to encourage competition.
He said Friday that he’s excited to see the range of candidates, but added he will wait until the general election to back a candidate,
“District 4 is by far the most diverse,” he said in a statement. It has “most of the sixteen block downtown, the historic district … with three or four large different and diverse neighborhoods. It appears the candidates will be as diverse as the district. It should make for an interesting contest.”
The six candidates reflect a wide span of political views. One hopeful is Latino; another is African-American.
Three candidates are vying for the position held by Adkison, who said it was time to step down after eight years on the council.
“I have family and grandchildren, which my daughter could use some help with,” Adkison said. “My husband is also starting to take more time off to travel, and I’ve always tried to make it to as many council meetings as I can, so if we want to travel I’d have to miss meetings, and I just don’t think that’s fair.”
Next year’s council will have its hands full as the city looks for ways to continue rebuilding a reserve fund that has been whittled down by previous councils.
The reserve fund is one factor determining the city’s bond rating, which fell earlier this year and could decline further if the fund continues to shrink.
Council members will also be challenged to find a long-term solution for the city’s homeless.
Over the past several months, at least three groups have come forward with plans for long-term housing for the homeless. But it’s unclear if these groups will get the funding needed to establish their facilities and whether those facilities would be the answer to the problem.
And there is the city’s gang problem. Since the Gang Free Initiative ran out of funding, the city has seemed to look more toward suppression.
Council members will be expected to look to school districts and other community organizations to partner in gang prevention programs.