Numerous issues loom over crowded race for Walla Walla City Council seats

Two of the four positions open on the Walla Walla City Council have three candidates who are squaring off in the primary.

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WALLA WALLA -- Budget cuts, layoffs, an aviary closure, cuts in library hours, even the far reaching tentacles of city hall versus the purple tentacles of a toy store: These are all issues that have candidates running for office in double digits, which hasn't been seen for quite some time when it comes to the Walla Walla City Council.

At one point, 11 candidates had filed for four positions.

The recent withdrawal of Jack Kammer reduced the number to 10.

Of those 10, six are facing off in the August primary.

When it's over, two more candidates will have lost their chance to have their names appear on the November ballot.

Here is a look at what those six candidates consider the main issues they will face, should they win the election in November, along with a few directed comments over money, birds and an octopus.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

Walla Walla City Council Position 4




Jerry Cummins

Walla Walla City Council Position 4 incumbent Jerry Cummins said he will continue to work toward the issue of increasing funding for the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center, as another $9 million is needed to secure Federals funding for further facility expansions.

He also said he felt strongly about getting more of U.S. Highway 12 made into a four-lane highway, as well as working on other transportation issues, including finding funding for local streets.

He also sees economic development as key, but would focus first on helping the businesses already in Walla Walla.

"Everybody talks about recruiting businesses. But basically supporting existing businesses and helping them to expand and then following that with new businesses is my goal," Cummins said.

As for the recent budget cuts and layoffs, Cummins said most people feel police and fire protection are the last areas that should be cut.

"What is important to some people is not necessarily important to others...We need to reinstate services in those programs that are cut when we can afford them, but we do have to prioritize what services are essential," he said.

That policy would also be for the birds.

"If the revenue comes up, then of course we need to look at reinstating those types of services we had to cut. I think the (Pioneer Park) Aviary is an important part of Walla Walla," he said.

Cummins would like to see the library open more hours on the weekend.

When it comes to the octopus mural at Inland Octopus, Cummins said he felt it was an issue of applying the city's ordinances fairly.

AGE: 67

OCCUPATION: Retired public school educator and administrator; retired U.S. Navy Reserve chief petty officer.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: City Council member since 1992. Currently serves on the Valley Transit Board of Directors; Association of Washington Cities; Washington State Public Works Trust Board; chair of Regional Transportation Planning Organization for Franklin, Benton and Walla Walla counties; chair of City of Walla Walla Finance Committee; community task force member for retention of Walla Walla VA services; and volunteer for American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program. Previous appointments include board member of Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and serving 24 years on the Board of Directors for the Walla Walla Valley Federal Credit Union (now Gesa).

EDUCATION: Bachelor's and master's degrees from Eastern Washington State College (now EWU) in business education and marketing.

FAMILY: Married with four daughters.

Jim Hackett

Funding a new aquatics facility, rebuilding the Blue Mountain Mall and improving traffic problems without using roundabouts are some of the issues that Jim Hackett would take on if elected.

He also vehemently opposed passing any type of special ordinance that allows the city to rezone its own property with more authority than the average property owner, which the city is considering.

"I feel that they should have to go through the same procedures as a normal citizen would have to go through for a property decision...they need to follow the same state procedures and same public hearing procedures," he said.

As for layoffs and a tight budget that has threatened the library, aviary and numerous other city services, Hackett said Council members needs to look more prudently at what it is funding in the budget first.

He supports using the general fund to keep the aviary going, but would also look at other options, such as bonds or special taxing districts.

As for the octopus, Hackett feels its time to negotiate and end the lawsuit.

"The fines are over a hundred dollars a day, and I think it is already over $23,000. I think it is ridiculous. I think it is a black eye in Walla Walla," he said.

AGE: 62

OCCUPATION: Public affairs specialist, Umatilla Chemical Depot.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Washington State Horseshoe Pitchers Association member.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in journalism and history from University of Washington.

FAMILY: Married with four children.

John Richard 'Dick' Swenson

Finding better ways to engage the public before deciding budget cuts and layoffs was an issue that Dick Swenson said he would work to improve.

Swenson said he felt too often department cuts are decided without enough public outreach, explanation on the budget process and attempt by city officials to truly find out the priorities of the people.

"Most people don't know about general funds and special funds and how much waste there is," Swenson said, adding that he would like to take the mystery out of the processes by providing understandable reports.

"When the fiscal year starts, there should be something in the hands of the citizens...When I look at my four years here in the city, there just isn't something clear that shows what direction the city is going," Swenson said.

As for the aviary, Swenson said funding shouldn't be all public or all private, but a partnership of both.

A large proponent of parks, Swenson did note that if he had to choose whether to fund birds or books, the library would take priority.

"I love the aviary, but I do think no city can survive without a library," he said, adding that he would not cut library hours.

As for the octopus mural, Swenson agrees it is illegal, but he doesn't agree with how the city handled the situation.

"I think there should have been negotiating and doing a great deal more public discussion before the city came to say you are wrong and I am right...There has got to be some humanity in all of this and I find it really missing in all of this," he said.

AGE: 73

OCCUPATION: Retired computer information technology researcher, developer and instructor for major colleges in U.S. and Canada.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Current board member of the Chamber Music Festival and Senior Center member. Volunteer tutor for Blue Mountain Action Council, past board member of Renton (Wash.) Civic Theater, volunteer for Seattle Chamber Music Festival and Kiwanis of Issaquah (Wash.) member.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, master's in mathematics from New York University.

FAMILY: Married with one daughter.

•••

Walla Walla City Council Position 7




Dominick Elia

"Focusing on the big picture" is a key for incumbent Dominick Elia.

That being said, when asked to narrow down the picture to a few specific issues, finding funding for a new aquatics center and improving streets and infrastructure were three he quickly listed.

As for the recent layoffs and budgets cuts in every city department, including police and fire, Elia said, "Balancing the budget is always a difficulty, but we have succeeded in doing that year after year."

He also said he is a proponent of consolidating services to save money, such as the recent combination of the county and city development departments.

When it comes to making cuts at the library or aviary, Elia said the Council did the best it could while keeping its priorities in place, putting police and fire protection at the top.

"We will try to maintain them as best we can ... when you get to a situation when you reduce staff or hours at the library or laying off police officers or firefighters, well that decision becomes pretty easy for me," Elia said.

As for the Inland Octopus mural, Elia points out it is not the city continuing the fight.

"He has been told his is wrong by two different judges and a hearing examiner. Unfortunately, people think it is the city that is pursing the lawsuit, but we are not the ones continuing to pursue it."

AGE: 54
OCCUPATION: President and general manager of Snyder-Crecelius Paper Company, 33 years; and partner of Dominick's on the Runway restaurant.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: City Council Member since 1992. Serves on the Walla Walla Housing Authority board; Borleske Stadium Association board; Valley Transit board; and chairs Finance Committee for St. Francis Church. Previous appointments include board member of Main Street Walla Walla Foundation (now Downtown Walla Walla Foundation); executive member for the Downtown Local Improvement District; and member of board, finance committee and development committee for Walla walla Catholic Schools.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's in accounting from Central Washington University.
FAMILY: Married with one daughter
AGE: 54

OCCUPATION: President and general manager of Snyder-Crecelius Paper Company, 33 years; and partner of Dominick's on the Runway restaurant.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: City Council Member since 1992. Serves on the Walla Walla Housing Authority board; Borleske Stadium Association board; Valley Transit board; and chairs Finance Committee for St. Francis Church. Previous appointments include board member of Main Street Walla Walla Foundation (now Downtown Walla Walla Foundation); executive member for the Downtown Local Improvement District; and member of board, finance committee and development committee for Walla walla Catholic Schools.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in accounting from Central Washington University.

FAMILY: Married with one daughter

Mary Lou Jenkins

"Our gang problem in the community that seems to be getting out of control -- that would be very top. That would be a high priority for me," Mary Lou Jenkins said, singling out her main issue.

She also would work toward building a new aquatics center.

She felt the Council needs to be a "two-way street" for the public, with Council members being a "conduit for every citizen to get their voice heard."

As for the library hours, the octopus and the aviary, Jenkins was curt and to the point.

"The aviary needs to stay. It has been there for a long time," she said.

The octopus was "a low priority" on her list.

And library hours need to match the greatest demand or when it is being utilized the most.

AGE: 54

OCCUPATION: Program manager for Blue Mountain Action Council

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Member of Governor's Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee; Walla Walla Junior Chamber of Commerce; Exchange Club; Mental Health Program Committee; and Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge No. 26. Past member of two dozen other local committees and focus group, including Friends of Children of Walla Walla, Department of Human Services for the Hispanic Council and Mental Health Program Committee.

EDUCATION: High school equivalency and some college

FAMILY: Married with two daughters

Paul Mobley

Fiscal responsibility and attracting new businesses to complement the already established wine, agriculture and tourism businesses were key for Paul Mobley.

"I am not looking for heavy industry, more high tech industry," Mobley said, adding that his goal would be to add another $25 million to the city's budget through new businesses, which would also go a long way toward solving the city's budget problems.

Mobley criticized the city's cut of its economic development position as a "lack of foresight and leadership."

He also felt that Myra Road doesn't need a $2.8 million grade lowering, even if the state and federal governments are willing to pay for $2.2 million of it.

"I would challenge the Myra Road project. I just drove that stretch of road this morning and it just infuriates me that they want to rebuild that," he said.

Mobley wasn't decided yet on whether he would use more general funds to extend library hours, but he said he recognized the heart of a city, including Walla Walla, is its library.

He also would like to get a more creative when it comes to funding.

"I heard somebody say put a Starbucks in the library and you will get lots of people. I don't know if that is an option. But I think that is thinking outside the box for a solution," he said.

As for the octopus, Mobley likes to point out that tourists don't come to Walla Walla to go to big box stores; they come for unique shops like Inland Octopus.

"How do you support small businesses if you are willing to litigate against small businesses," Mobley said.

So Mobley doesn't feel the city should keep a business owner from creating a unique way to market his store.

"We have unique shopping and dining opportunities for tourists, and that is why they come to Walla Walla. Certainly they come for the wine and weather, but it's that uniqueness that is why they come," he added.

AGE: 49

OCCUPATION: Owner, Aloha Sushi. Past human resources systems design and employment development manager for Intuit; and America West Airlines national de-icing program manager.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Current member of Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Retail Committee. Past Walla Walla Community College associated students president.

EDUCATION: Associate's degree from Walla Walla Community College.

FAMILY: Unmarried with no children.

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