Juneteenth Celebration

Some Richland city councilmembers believe that celebrating the end of slavery is too partisan for a city proclamation recognizing Juneteenth.

Councilmember Bob Thompson worried that the city could be sued for commemorating an event that 45 states recognize as a holiday or observance. It became a paid state holiday in Washington earlier this month.

“Council needs to look at controversial proclamations,” he said.

Juneteenth, a combination of June and nineteenth, also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, was the day in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and residents learned that slavery had been abolished. The former slaves celebrated their freedom, and the date has been commemorated ever since.

The long-serving members of the current council have a history of dismissing minority concerns. In 2017, the city council spent a year refusing to approve a statement that Richland was “a community that celebrates people from all quarters and rejects hate, bigotry, homophobia and antisemitism.” The city finally agreed to a resolution that stated that the city “welcomes all people.”

During the debate, Councilmember Terry Christiansen famously said that in the 1940s and 1950s, black people who worked at Hanford preferred living in Pasco.

Christensen, along with Councilmember Sandra Kent, failed to appear at the council meeting when the “welcomes all people” resolution passed 5-0.

Public Safety Facilities Planning

Police Chief John Bruce would like to move the police station from central Richland to property the city owns on Queensgate. He and Fire Chief Tom Huntington asked the council to approve a feasibility study for combining fire and police space and adding additional facilities.

Bruce said that the police department building had become overcrowded and he needed more space.

Thompson responded “Most crime is in N. Richland between the bypass highway and central Richland. Presence resonates for citizen in high crime areas.”

Thompson didn’t ask how long it would take for police to travel from Queensgate to the crime area around his home near Meadow Springs Country Club. In 2018, his girlfriend called Richland police to his address after an altercation with Thompson. She was charged with hitting him. Domestic disputes are one of the largest categories of police calls.

Thompson was arrested not far from his home in 2019 for drunk driving.

Bruce said that police have mobile offices and could use the fire stations in their patrol areas for paperwork. He added that moving the police department to Queensgate would free the land next to the old city hall site for development.

Councilmember Marianne Boring noted that that would make the central Richland property more desirable. She supported the feasibility study.

Some Richland residents have noted that with the razor wire around the wall protecting police vehicles, the police department building looks like a prison in the middle of the downtown area.

Fire Chief Tom Huntington discussed the need for two new fire stations, one near Horn Rapids and another in the Badger Mountain South area.

Dwelling Unit Size

A developer wants to turn the Days Inn on Jadwin Ave. into an apartment building. The developer, who was never named, called each of the members of the council to lobby for a zoning change to allow dwelling units smaller than 500 square feet.

Hotel conversions have become a new thing.

The Richland Planning Commission has approved the change but Councilmembers were skeptical. Thompson argued that just because people live in small apartments in Portland doesn’t mean that people will live in them here.  

Park Place Apartments, a luxury complex on George Washington Way about a block from the Days Inn, has studio units that are less than 500 square feet. According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson in an email to the Observer, “On February 13, 2018, The Crown Group applied for and was granted an Administrative Variance by former Development Services Manager Rick Simon.”

Public Art Survey Discussed

Over 300 Richland residents and a few from outside of Richland were surveyed about their support for public art. While most enjoy the public art, some did not appreciate the art at the Queensgate roundabout.

Boring suggested funding be dedicated to the Richland Arts Commission for projects. Christensen said that he believed that it was better to fund projects as they come up. In the past he said, there was a pot of money for public art but it wasn’t used.