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Benton City Of West Richland Council Pos. 2

The City Council is the legislative body for the City. The Council adopts local laws (ordinances) to secure the safety and assist the well-being of the city residents, the city's physical environment and amenities, and the city economy. The Council is responsible for approving financial expenditures and adopting the city budget as well as establishing policies and regulations in order to guide the city's future. The elected mayor serves as chief administrative officer for the city.
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    Rich Buel (NP) Public Relations

  • Merle N Johnson (NP)

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Biographical Information

What are the issues surrounding your city/town's infrastucture?

How do you think your city/town could best respond to homelessness?

What is your commitment to senior citizens?

How do you think your city/town should approach legal and illegal immigration issues?

What are other major issues facing your city or town?

Of those listed above, which one is the most urgent?

What methods will you use to work with the mayor (if you have an elected mayor) or the city manager or administrator(if you have an chief administrator hired by the council)?

Address 4786 Thrush Ln.
Phone (509) 967-9362
Town where you live West Richland
Experience (300 characters max) 16 years as a West Richland City Councilmember, with the last 10 years as the Council's Mayor Pro-Tem.
West Richland has been one of the fastest growing cities in Washington for years, bringing a need for new roads, more capacity in the sewage system, new electrical and utility connections, and more options and sources for water, while still providing reliable service to existing residents. But, being awarded grants and establishing partnerships between the city and other agencies, using low-interest loans and state programs to fund projects, and avoiding frivolous spending and stretching every dollar that we can use on infrastructure have resulted in our community being positioned very nicely. We are now proactive, not reactive. Water and sewer capacities have been expanded. We have a regular maintenance program to keep streets in good condition, to avoid more expensive costs associated with tearing them out. Where new residents are, new roads are there too. We have been able to provide these services to all residents with tax rates being kept mostly flat for a number of years.
The issue of homelessness is a challenging one for any community, but more so for a city with limited resources, staff, and experience to address it. West Richland may not seem to have many homeless people, nor have we seen as many homeless people in our town as we have in some neighboring communities. At the same time, homelessness cannot be ignored. Through our efforts to develop relationships and partnerships with other area agencies, especially those whose employees are familiar with programs and locations where homeless individuals may receive support, it would be my hope that we could seek out the advice and aid from these groups to assist homeless people in our community. Be it through financial support or introducing us to successful programs that have been implemented or other means, I would believe there are resources available that we could tap into to help build a program to address homelessness in West Richland.
As an individual with relatives who are considered senior citizens, I am familiar with the challenges that our elderly residents face. From being on limited incomes to maintaining a home to even getting a ride to buy groceries, our senior citizens are dealing with challenges that younger residents do not have to. As a city councilmember, I have always been an advocate for older West Richlanders. I have worked to ensure that certain tax increases would not be applicable to senior citizens who qualify. I support city's efforts in maintaining the Senior Center. I am always seeking transportation options to help provide seniors with a way to do get around, and have represented the city as a board member at some Ben Franklin Transit board meetings. I believe community projects where volunteers help to provide services to seniors should be a priority and they should be supported. Senior citizens worked to help make our community a great place to live, and they should not be forgotten.
The West Richland Police Department (WRPD) does not have the authority to enforce federal laws. However, under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 10.31.100), WRPD does have obligations to assist other officers with their efforts in their enforcement activities including federal law enforcement agencies. WRPD frequently works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Agency, and on occasion, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department. If any of these agencies request assistance, WRPD makes every effort to respond. With this being said, WRPD would require the necessary warrants, court orders or judicial orders to aid in response. In addition, WRPD does, and will continue to enforce all of the local and state laws where they have jurisdiction.
West Richland has been characterized as a “bedroom community”, where residents leave town for jobs in other cities during the day, and then return home at night. When much of the population is gone between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., it results in business owners struggling to draw customers to their stores during the hours when most companies are open. Restaurants may not be able to open for lunch without hungry consumers in town; shoppers needing to pick up a few things will probably get them in the community where they work instead of heading back to West Richland; and service oriented companies may find clients hard to get without scheduling early morning or evening hours, or without offering transportation to take customers back to where they have their daytime job. Our community could certainly benefit from the arrival of new commercial businesses, so that our dollars are being spent in our town thereby generating sales tax revenue for West Richland instead of other communities.
Infrastructure issues affect all segments of the community. It is essential that residents have reliable water, sewer, and power, as well as good roads, traffic signals, and signs. West Richland has used methods like grants, low-interest loans, partnerships, and state programs to provide infrastructure funds. Sadly, funding sources are being eliminated, especially at the state level. The Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF) was a loan with an interest rate of less than 0.50% over 20 years. State lawmakers voted this year to use PWTF money to help fund education instead of infrastructure. Without the PWTF, the city has looked at the federal State Revolving Fund (SRF) for water and sewer capital projects. The interest rate is higher for the SRF than the PWTF, and it has an administrative fee. Plus, lawmakers didn't pass a capital budget this year, limiting SRF fund availability. For our infrastructure needs, we must find new revenue sources to continue to serve residents effectively.
My seat on the West Richland City Council is on the same election cycle as our community’s election for mayor. Since taking office in 2002, I have ended up working with a different mayor every four years. My first term was spent with Jerry Peltier as mayor; my second term with Dale Jackson as mayor; my third term with Donna Noski as mayor; and the last four years I have worked alongside Mayor Brent Gerry. Mayor Gerry and former Mayor Peltier are on the ballot this year in West Richland, and I have had a good working relationship with both of them as a result of being on the council during their mayoral terms. Keep in mind that in West Richland’s “strong mayor” form of government, the mayor is the person who presents our budget every two years, but the mayor only votes on issues when there is a tie vote among the city councilmembers. In only a few instances since I have been in office has the mayor had to break a tie.
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