Randy’s Roundup, June 1 Richland Council Agenda Explained – Juneteenth Proclamation tops the agenda, small apartments considered

Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance.

Instructions on how to comment on public hearings and during the public comment period as well as the various ways to watch the meeting are on the agenda. Page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet information included with the agenda.

1.Apparently, at least four city councilmembers believe that the Juneteeth Celebration on June 19th deserves a Proclamation because it tops the agenda. At the May 25 council workshop only Councilmember Sandra Kent said that she supported the proclamation. Pg. 4-5.

Public hearing: You have three minutes to comment on a hearing item.

2. The city is considering eliminating the 500 sq. ft. minimum for apartments in the central business district. A developer wants to convert the Days Inn Hotel on Jadwin into apartments. The Park Place Apartments on George Washington Way, about a block from the Days Inn on Jadwin, has studio apartments smaller than 500 sq. ft. The builder of Park Place received a variance. Pg. 92-139

3. This approves additional $1,076,530 in appropriations for two new fire stations, traffic signal improvements, fiber infrastructure and to prepare surplus property for sale.  Pg. 17-20.

Public Comments: You have 2 minutes to talk about anything.

Consent Calendar – These will receive no discussion and one vote.

4. Approval of the May 18, 2021, City Council regular meeting minutes and the May 25, 2021 City Council Workshop meeting minutes. The three-hour council workshop on May 25 is summed up in two and a half pages. If you want the real story, go to Richland City View and watch it. Pg. 8-16

5. The council will vote on the additional appropriations that were the subject of the public hearing in item 3. Pg. 17-20.

6. The council will authorize an amended and restated Tri-Cities HOME consortium agreement to add Tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA). HOME is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Program.  Pg. 21-33      

7. This approves the sale of a 3-acre lot at the entrance of the Horn Rapids development at Kingsgate to AK’s Investments, LLC for $436,621. The developer will build a gas station, convenience store, coffee stand and car wash on the property. The developer has 18 months to get the development described underway or the property reverts to the city. Pg. 34-50.

8. Five property owners wish to have their property’s zoning changed. This item establishes a schedule for considering those changes. The final vote by the council on these changes would be in September.  Pg. 51-55, the schedule is on Pg. 55.

9. The City of Richland had been the operating agency for the Hanford Communities but the city has turned it over to Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC). The purpose of Hanford Communities is to review, evaluate and monitor conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the policies, programs and operations of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and others in regard to Hanford. Benton and Franklin and the cities of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland (the “Participating Jurisdictions”). This authorizes Richland to be the pass-through agency for the $100,000 provided to it by the Washington Department of Ecology. Pg. 55-68

10. Area law enforcement agencies cooperate on sharing records. The summary in the agenda packet includes this information: “The records management system relied upon for many years, I/Leads, is being sunsetted in favor of a Tyler Technologies product, which will launch in the near future. At this time, the counties of Benton and Franklin and the cities of Connell, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland, and Prosser, through their respective law enforcement departments, desire to jointly utilize this upgraded and expanded law enforcement records management system which will be operated by the City of Kennewick’s Information Technology Division.”  Richland pays a base fee of $10,000 with the rest of the cost based on useage. Pg. 69-85

11. ESF Development LLC of Walla Walla doing business as ESF Solutions was the low bidder for the construction of the Thayer/Van Giesen Roundabout. ESF will be awarded the contract for $639,311.82. Pg.  86-91

Items of Business – This item will receive discussion and a vote.

12. Reducing the allowed dwelling size in the central business district. See Item 2 above.

City manager and councilmembers now blah, blah, blah.

The council will adjourn into secret executive session to discuss potential litigation with the city attorney.

Randy’s Recap, May 18 Richland council: utility pre-payment plan aimed at troubled accounts, National Night Out to become a neighborhood event, secret meeting

The Richland City Council approved a contract with Exceleron for use of their software program, MyUsagePrePay at their May 18 meeting. The program aims at reducing delinquent utility accounts by giving consumers a pay-as-you-go-plan.

At the April 27 council meeting, Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch said that in 2019, 400 consumers had delinquent accounts amounting to approximately $200,000. The contract that has been approved is for 500 consumers.

My UsagePrePay will cost at least $41,000 a year. The city has signed a three-year contract and will pay $15,000 for configuration and a minimum fee of $3000 a month to use the program with service provided by Exceleron.

Councilmember Marianne Boring asked to pull the utility pre-payment plan off the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote.

Borings first concern was the termination part of the agreement which requires the city to pay all of fees for the rest of the contract should it wish to cancel.

Energy Services Director Clint Whitney said that Exceleron had been great to work with and he really saw no downside to the contract.

Boring also pointed out the houses without utilities were considered uninhabitable.

Whitney responded that electricity was usually the first utility cut off and that customers usually paid their bills before water and sewer were disconnected as well. Whitney referred to it as an “escalation process.”

Whitney did not provide any figures to indicate how many customers were disconnected from electricity in 2019 and how many were disconnected from all utilities. Due to COVID there has been a disconnection moratorium since early 2020 and 4000 accounts are now delinquent for a total of $2 million.

Whitney noted that the plan would work well not only for people who wanted to pay as they used the electricity but also for people who could not afford deposits.

National Night Out

Police Chief John Bruce wants the National Night Out to be held in the neighborhoods rather that at John Dam Plaza. According to the Night Out organization, the yearly event, held on the first Tuesday in August, is to promote police and community partnerships.  The council agreed to have their August 4 meeting on another day so they could participate in the neighborhood programs.

Secret Meeting

Richland City Council secret meetings (also known as Executive Sessions) have become more secret. The one held Tuesday was not even listed on the agenda. Interim City Manager Jon Amundson announced at the end of the Tuesday night city council meeting that there would be a “closed session” after the public meeting to discuss labor negotiations.

Escape Covid with a tiny town tour

“Wild Life” sculpture by Tom Otterness

Although Covid may have dashed your dreams of a cruise or some other bucket-list trip you had planned, you can still travel. In less than an hour, you can be in Connell.

The Observer highly recommends a walking tour of this tiny town of about 5,600.

In a telephone conversation Connell City Administrator Maria Pena told the Observer, “We are proud of Connell and particularly the art that you will find on our streets and trails.” She recommended the map from the town’s website.

So, grab your map and take highway 395 to northern Franklin County. 

You can stop at Country Mercantile about midway. The Mercantile has produce, both fresh and preserved, as well as a public restroom.

Exit at State Route 260, turn right at Columbia Ave., Connell’s main street. Start your tour at Franklin St. and N. Columbia Ave. 

In addition to the art, Columbia Ave. has a mix of historic, brick buildings constructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1905 and newer, mid-century buildings.

Four of Tom Otterness’s six bronze and cast concrete sculptures, “Wild Life” sit along the two blocks between Franklin St. and Borah St. As you walk, you will also see murals depicting local history painted by Pat Boyer.

An Otterness “Wild Life” sculpture. The duck has an ace behind his back.

One of Connell’s largest employers, the Washington Department of Corrections Coyote Ridge Corrections Center working with the State Arts Commission funded the statutes. Local businesses contributed to the Boyer murals.

Coyote Ridge, north of Connell, houses 2100 inmates and employs many of the local residents.

For lunch, both the Pizza Station at 238 N. Columbia Ave. and Papa Ray’s across the street at 245 N. Columbia have carry-out. 

Husband Bob and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and fries from Papa Ray’s at the table with the Otterness train sculpture next to Connell City Hall and Police Department. According to Pena, “The table and sculpture sit just outside my office window.”

Pena encouraged visitors to have lunch at any of the tables with the sculptures.

Walk about five blocks south on Columbia Ave. to see the other two Otterness sculptures between Elm St. and Gum St.  

On the way to the sculptures, take a short side trip up W. Adams St. to see the 1904 Presbyterian Church which now houses the Connell Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed.

Pena pointed out that along Highway 395, the city has installed a one-mile walking path that connects Gum Street and Clark Street. Tall steel flowers by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle sit along the path. Coyote Ridge and the State Arts Commission also funded these.

Connell’s impressive public school complex fills several blocks on W. Clark.

Connell grew from sheep and cattle country to a railroad town after the golden spike joined the western branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the eastern branch at Gold Creek, Montana in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant and other luminaries traveled to Montana to celebrate the achievement.

Wells provided the town with water but growth has always strained the supply. Dry land wheat has been the most important product through most of Connell’s history. 

My Hat is in the Ring

I am pleased to announce that I have applied to fill the vacancy on the Richland City Council, where, if appointed, I would focus on improving residents’ access to the Council. We need more opportunity for people to have their questions answered and their opinions heard. If you agree, please contact the Richland City Council to support my appointment: citycouncil@ci.richland.wa.us

As you know, I ran for Richland City Council in 2019 and received 7126 votes, 48%. Councilmember Brad Anderson recently resigned leaving an opening that the six remaining members of the council will vote to fill.  

The council intends to appoint someone to the job by October 6.  If appointed, my plan would be to put the TriCities Observer on hiatus to minimize distractions and focus on the council.  Rest assured, I would be doing my part to keep you all informed of what the city is doing, whether it is on this blog or not. 

Last year, the Tri-City Herald as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Laborers’ Local 348, the UA Local 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters and the Teamsters Local 839 endorsed me.

In the city’s 60+ year history only 13 out of 72 city council members have been women. Only one serves now. I would work hard to bring the change that the city council needs.

In the meantime, for all blog posts related to the city of Richland until the selection is made, I will include a reference to my status as having applied for the council job, for purpose of full disclosure.

An Update on the Dante Jones Shooting Investigation from Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant

Email below received on June 23, 2020

Thank you for your correspondence. I am still awaiting evidence to be evaluated and returned from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. I will not be able to complete my findings until I have ALL available evidence for review and consideration. These are serious cases of public importance. Every time a life is lost, we will look closely at those cases, especially when law enforcement officers use deadly force. I continue to review this case and anticipate completion only after all reports and any additional follow up information we may request, is provided. 

Please follow up with me in about 3-4 weeks to see where we are in the process.

Thank you,


Shawn P. Sant, Prosecutor

Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office

1016 N. 4th Ave.

Pasco, WA 99301

(509) 545-3543


Dante Jones, One More Unarmed Black Man Shot Dead by Police

Dante Redmond Jones traveling 82 mph down a Franklin County back road was pursued by three Franklin County Deputies who shot and killed the unarmed Jones.

The Special Investigative Units (cops investigating cops) Summary follows:

Event — On 11/18/19 at 0308hrs, a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed passed Sgt Thomasson. As the vehicle passed Sgt Thomasson, it honked at him. Sgt Thomasson was able to get a radar reading on the vehicle showing that the car was speeding at 82MPH. Sgt Thomasson called Deputy Quantrell on the radio and asked him if he saw the same vehicle. Deputy Quantrell said that he did see the vehicle and that it honked at him as they passed as well. Sgt Thomasson then began to try to catch up to the vehicle, but Sgt Thomasson stated that he could not see the vehicle anymore due to the speed of the vehicle and the fog. Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner began heading toward Sgt Thomasson’s location to assist him. At this point Sgt Thomasson did not activate his emergency lights because he was not sure where the vehicle was. Sgt Thomasson knew that there was a T intersection at Taylor Flats and Ringold so at this point he thought that it was a good possibility that the driver might not be able to navigate the 0004 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 4 of 10 intersection at the speeds he was driving. As Sgt Thomasson approached the intersection, he saw that the vehicle had slowed down and appeared to be waiting for the police vehicle to catch up to him. As Sgt Thomasson approached and when both vehicles were within view of each other the suspect vehicle took off again, heading west on Ringold. Sgt Thomasson followed the vehicle, still not activating his emergency lights because of the distance between their vehicles. He estimated that the closest he was able to get to the vehicle was about 200 yards and at times would pull away to 400-500 yards. When Sgt Thomasson passed R-170 and Davis Lane, he could see Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner’s vehicle lights behind him. At one point, Sgt Thomasson said on the radio, “He just went dark”. I took this to mean that the driver of the suspect vehicle turned his vehicle lights off, although Sgt Thomasson did not mention this in his interview. At 0313hrs, Sgt Thomasson advised Dispatch that he was trying to catch a vehicle that was driving 80+ miles per hour in the fog and that so far he had been unable to catch up to the vehicle. He asked Dispatch to advise Adams County. He also advised Dispatch that he was not in pursuit because so far he was unable to get close enough to the vehicle to even turn on his emergency lights. Deputy Quantrell advised that he and Deputy Gardner were also trying to catch up to the vehicle. According to Sgt Thomasson, at about the intersection of R-170 and Sheffield he told them that their vehicles were faster than his vehicle and he told them to pass him so that they could get closer to the suspect vehicle. This happened at 0318hrs according to the radio call records. At 0319hrs, Deputy Quantrell advised Dispatch of the suspect vehicle’s plate number and stated that the driver was failing to yield. According to Deputy Quantrell during his interview, just prior to this radio transmission, he was able to catch up to the vehicle because it had stopped in the road at an intersection and was waiting for him (Deputy Quantrell) to catch up. Deputy Quantrell stated that after calling out the plate, the vehicle took off. Deputy Quantrell stated that his lights were on and after the vehicle took off from the stop, he turned his siren on as well and pursued the vehicle. According to Deputy Gardner’s statement, he was right behind Deputy Quantrell and saw the suspect vehicle stopped in the middle of an intersection waiting for them to catch up. DeputyGardner said that he and Deputy Quantrell came up behind the vehicle and actually came to a stop behind the vehicle prior to it leaving the scene of the attempted stop, at a high rate of speed. Deputy Gardner said that prior to the vehicle taking off he activated his emergency lights as if he was attempting to make a traffic stop. At 0319hrs, Deputy Quantrell advised Dispatch that the driver of the vehicle had tried to brake check him. In their interviews, Deputy Quantrell described this as the driver of the vehicle slammed on his brakes hard and that when he had done that Deputy Quantrell almost rearended the suspect’s vehicle. Deputy Quantrell said that the only way that he was able to avoid hitting the suspect’s vehicle was because he steered his vehicle into the opposite lane of travel, thus avoiding the collision. Deputy Gardner described the incident similarly and stated that he believed that the suspect was trying to initiate a collision between their vehicles and his. 0005 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 5 of 10 Deputy Gardner only described one near collision due to a brake check type incident in his statement until the terminate pursuit command was given by Sgt Thomasson. Deputy Quantrell talked about two near collisions prior to the terminate pursuit command in his statement, but they seem to describe the second near collision the same and it would appear that one of them is confused about the timeline of events. During this second event, both Deputies say that when Deputy Quantrell narrowly avoided colliding with the suspect vehicle he had to veer to the right of the suspect’s vehicle. When Deputy Quantrell did this, the suspect intentionally steered his vehicle to the right as well, in what appeared to be an attempt to ram or collide with the Deputy’s vehicle. At 0323hrs, a Deputy (the Deputy does not identify himself by a call sign, but it sounds like Deputy Quantrell) tells Dispatch that the suspect had just tried to hit his car and that he had an Assault 1. He then stated, “Frank 10 just be advised he’s trying to hit us at this point”. Deputy Quantrell in his interview goes on to describe what happened next in the following manner; He stated that after the terminate pursuit command was given by Sgt Thomasson, they both (Deputy Quantrell and Deputy Gardner) turned their emergency lights off and he (Deputy Quantrell) could see that the vehicle had again come to a stop in the middle of the road. He is again approaching the vehicle as he continued driving after turning his emergency lights off. As he got close to the car, Deputy Quantrell stated that he saw the suspect vehicle’s reverse light come on. The vehicle then began backing at a high rate of speed towards Deputy Quantrell’s patrol car. Deputy Quantrell stated that the suspect was in the middle of the road at this point and that the suspect backed up until he was just parallel to the driver’s side of Deputy Quantrell’s patrol car and came to a stop. Deputy Quantrell stated that after the vehicle backed up next to him and came to a stop he (Deputy Quantrell) exited his vehicle and drew his weapon. Because of where the vehicles were positioned, the suspect’s passenger door was right where Deputy Quantrell was standing as he exited his patrol vehicle. He said that he tried the door handle of the front passenger door and it was unlocked. He opened the vehicle door and started giving commands to the driver. Deputy Quantrell described these commands as “let me see your hands” and “you’re under arrest”. Deputy Quantrell said that the driver looked at him but did not say anything. As this was happening, Deputy Quantrell said that he started to move into the car with the intention of using his left hand to grab the key and turn the car off. Deputy Quantrell was halfway into the car when he (the driver) looked at him and shifted the gearshift into drive and began accelerating with Deputy Quantrell halfway in the car. When the car began to accelerate, Deputy Quantrell said that the passenger door closed on him and he became pinned between the seat and the car door. Deputy Quantrell said that when the driver accelerated and he became pinned half in and half out of the car, he feared that he would be drug under the car or ran over. Fearing that he would be gravely injured or killed, he discharged his handgun at the driver in an attempt to stop him. Deputy Quantrell stated that he then fell out of the car and landed face down on the pavement as the car continued to accelerate and drive off. Deputy Gardner describes the event as follows. He was behind Deputy Quantrell and the suspect vehicle when the suspect vehicle came to a stop parallel to Deputy Quantrell’s vehicle.

Deputy Gardner said that he was about 75 feet behind their vehicles. Deputy Gardner said that by the time he had exited his vehicle, he observed that Deputy Quantrell was already inside the suspect’s vehicle. Deputy Gardner said that he heard Deputy Quantrell giving verbal commands to the suspect. He said that he could not hear everything Deputy Quantrell was saying but remembered hearing “Franklin County” and “hands”. Deputy Gardner described Deputy Quantrell as having his entire torso in the suspect’s car. Deputy Gardner said that the vehicle then recklessly continued northbound with Deputy Quantrell still inside the vehicle. He stated that he saw Deputy Quantrell being dragged while half his body was still inside and he then heard gunshots and saw flashes coming from inside the car. At that point, he did not know who was shooting. Deputy Quantrell then fell out of the car as it continued northbound. Deputy Gardner said that he ran up to Deputy Quantrell to find out if he was okay. When Deputy Quantrell stated that he was okay, he ran back to his patrol vehicle and continued the pursuit. According to the radio traffic, the above descriptions of the incident happened in a very short amount of time as illustrated below by the radio traffic: 03:22:43AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “copy, do you care if we still follow from a distance, he’s stopping in the road now at this point” 03:23:16AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “he just tried to hit my car, I have assault 1”. 03:23:24AM – Deputy Quantrell states, “F10 just be advised, he’s trying to hit us at this point” 03:23:55AM – Deputy Quantrell states, F37 dispatch, shots fired, suspects been hit. He’s still continuing northbound. After Deputy Quantrell fell out of the suspect vehicle, Sgt Thomasson, Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell continued their pursuit of the suspect. The suspect drove approximately 1.5 more miles before veering off the road into a field of tree saplings. Sgt Thomasson, who was the first vehicle behind the suspect, paralleled the suspect while remaining on the road as it went into the field. As the vehicle slowed, Sgt Thomasson drove into the field down a row that separated the fields and did not contain metal T-Posts. He was able to intercept the suspect vehicle as it slowed and came to a stop. Sgt Thomasson drove his vehicle up and pinned the passenger side door with the front of his vehicle, preventing anyone from being able to open or exit the vehicle from that side. Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell were close behind and approached the vehicle around the front while Sgt Thomasson covered the vehicle from the rear passenger side. In order to get a better visual inside the car Sgt Thomasson broke the back passenger window out of the car. Deputy Gardner and Deputy Quantrell approached the driver’s door and opened the door. The driver, later identified as Dante Jones, was conscious but was not responding to any of the officer’s commands. They extricated him from the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs. They then began looking for gunshot wounds and providing first aid. Jones remained conscious but non-verbal until the ambulance arrived at around 0415hrs. Once the ambulance arrived, they loaded him and shortly after loading him, he stopped breathing and they started CPR. Around 0420hrs, the volunteer ambulance met a Pasco Fire Ambulance so that he could be transferred to their care for the remainder of the trip. At that 0007 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Investigation Summary FCSO 19-05347 Page 7 of 10 point Pasco Fire Medics called the hospital and spoke to a doctor who told gave them permission to “call it”. They stopped all care at that point and notified Dispatch. The Ambulance moved to a nearby fire station and Captain Huber with FCSO responded to where the Ambulance was and stood by with the body until SIU arrived.

Videos Demonstrate that Law Enforcement is Not the Answer to Every Problem

Recently, Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond spoke to the Franklin County Commission and the Pasco City Council promoting the idea of re-purposing the former Kennewick Hospital into an in-patient treatment and recovery center. 

Sheriff Raymond pointed out that the jails should not be used as a warehouse for mentally ill people, drug addicts, and the homeless. The Tri-Cities is the only major metropolitan area in Eastern Washington with no de-tox center

 Who can forget the video of the horrible treatment of Marc A. Moreno who died in the Benton County jail in 2016.     Moreno was bi-polar and schizophrenic.

While Benton County Commissioners quickly approved funds for a feasibility study for the proposed project, only Commissioner Clint Didier voted to approve the Franklin County share, $12,500.   However, funding was found and the study has commenced.

In 2017, I filmed this video  of police responding to an apparent drug overdose case.  As several friends and I left a city council meeting that fall, we found a lightly dressed young man who appeared to be in drug crisis lying on the steps muttering and obviously hallucinating.  He made no threatening gestures but was obviously a danger to himself if he either ran into the street or remained outside without adequate clothing.  For lack of anywhere else to turn, someone called the police who were just next door.  Within minutes six police appeared on the scene.  The situation quickly escalated.  Four of the police surrounded the man.  As the he struggled, police commanded “Calm down” and “You are resisting arrest.” Needless to say, this had no effect.  Then two paramedics arrive.   After a few minutes in the grass with the man’s head held down, four of the police managed to place him in the patrol car and he could be heard kicking and screaming inside.  I was never able to determine where they took the man but I assumed to jail.  If he was treated like Moreno there, at least he survived it. 

Much has been made about calls to “defund” police, but what we really need to do is “reorganize” police and re-think their job.   Hopefully, our counties will move swiftly in that direction.

Killed by Police — Dante Redmond Jones

In case you think that our area is immune from questionable police shootings of black men, please spend some time reading about the November, 2019 case of former Marine Dante Redmond Jones.     The Franklin County deputies who killed Jones took several questionable actions and you can only wonder if the incident would have ended the same way had Dante been white.  There are no witnesses and no videos.

I have been notified by the Franklin County Prosecutors Office via a Public Record Request that they have the Special Investigation Units (SIU) report on the shooting of Dante Redmond Jones.  Members of the Richland Police Department ran the investigation. However, the Prosecutor, Shawn Sant, doesn’t plan to release the report until it has 45 days of redaction.  What are they redacting? 

“We estimate a response in 45 days to allow time to compile the documents and make the required statutory redactions. Please advise if you are also requesting any CD’s. If so, please be advised there will be a $10 charge per CD. We will let you know how many CDs are releasable and the charge before you have to make a final decision.

Very truly yours,

Civil Division”

I have requested all of the material and I will keep you informed.  Meanwhile, another case involving the shooting of a black man is also being investigated.  Gordon Whitaker was killed in February by Kennewick Police under odd circumstances.  Again, there were no witnesses and no videos

Richland City Council Cancels Its Regular Meeting and has an Urgent Special Meeting 19 Hours Later….public comment falls by the wayside

Duportail Bridge

May 20, 2020, Richland City Council cancelled their regular 6:00 p.m. Tuesday Council meeting and instead announced a Special Meeting for the next day, Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. for an “urgent” matter.  The agenda that was submitted at 1:15 on Tuesday, with no clear mechanism for citizen comment, included a contract for $4,321,784.65 awarded to Apollo, Inc. of Kennewick to complete the Duportail Bridge. This was the purpose for the meeting according to Mayor Ryan Lukson on Tuesday. But the agenda also included a motion to  join the City of Kennewick in buying a quarter of an acre of railroad right-of-way in the City of Kennewick for $300,000 and a council discussion of Covid-19.  The contract and the railroad purchase were passed on the consent agenda in the time it took to read the motions.  For the next hour, longer than many regular meetings last, the Council discussed how to change the state Covid-19 shutdown status for Richland.

The $300,000 quarter acre purchase is for an extension of Columbia Center Blvd to Tapteal Drive.  However, there are at least two other privately held properties in the line of the planned roadway extension.  If the property at 8236 W. Gage is paid $300,000 per ¼ of an acre, then that .81 acres is worth $1,200,000.  The property behind it at 8301 W.Yellowstone is 1.41 acres and would therefore be worth $1,800,000.   Had I been able to make a comment, I would have mused (you’re not allowed to ask a question) about what the projected cost would be to the City of Richland for this roadway which is in Kennewick city limits?

The council meeting agenda had a link to a form that residents were to fill out in order to be allowed to comment but when you went to the link, it said “Form has expired”.  The agenda gave phone numbers that connected to Zoom but resident observers were blocked from being heard or seen.  City Manager Cindy Reents said after the meeting that there was a 9:00 a.m. deadline for signing up for commenting but no mention was made of that on the agenda nor on the agenda page.  See the agenda and the “Form has expired page” below.  As someone who follows the Richland City Council more closely than most, I can only imagine how opaque this system would be for everybody else. 

All of this took less than 10 minutes since Council had no 2-minute citizen comments. The Council then followed with an hour-long discussion about changing Richland’s status under state guidelines for opening businesses.

Mayor Lukson believes our Covid-19 infection rate is higher than other areas of Washington because the Tyson Plant and the nursing homes are “anomalies”.  He suggested that the City join with the other area jurisdictions to write the governor to ask that the area be considered for Level 2 opening.   Councilmember Bob Thompson went on a self-described “rant” in which he referred to some of the state shutdown enforcement as “fascist tactics”.  Councilmember Terry Christensen noted that many Richland residents are government workers and have received pay throughout the shutdown while businesspeople cannot make money to support their families.    Councilmember Sandra Kent wanted communication with the governor to include a request for more testing.  Councilmember Michael Alvarez said that everyone has choices and no one is forced to go back to work. Councilmember Phil Lemley also commented on testing. Councilmember Brad Anderson was absent.

The Council voted to join with other jurisdictions to ask the governor to move the area to Phase 2 opening based on the two “anomalies”, the Tysons plant and the nursing homes.  

Meet the 5 Longest Serving Members of Richland’s Boards and Commissions

Updated April 29, 2020 to reflect a new response from David Larkin of the Utility Advisory Committee

Recently, the Richland City Council temporarily tabled a proposal to eliminate the 12-year term limit for Boards and Commissions in Richland. Of the 70 current members of the Boards and Commissions, a request to the city showed that five have served more than 12 years.

I reached out to all five public servants with phone calls, emails, letters and personal messages to see if they would share some thoughts with the public.  Three of them, Gus Sako, Daniel Porter and David Larkin responded; the other two did not.

Gus Sako, a 14-year member of the Economic Development who owns the Octopus Garden and Luna Fish in the Uptown Shopping Center, is one of the two who did.  In an email, he described why he serves: 

The glamour, the glory, the free parking space, the cookies.  What?  We don’t get any of those?  Okay, apparently, I am just very slow and gullible.

On the other hand – Serving on advisory committees has been a great way to help effect positive change and growth in the City.  City staff has been universally dedicated, positive and a pleasure to work with.  I also very much enjoy meeting and working with other committee members who come from diverse fields and bring sharp intelligence and insight to the table.  Oh, and once every couple of years – there are cookies.

But Sako is not the longest serving member of the Boards and Commissions. That honor goes to Marianne Boring who will have served 20 years when she completes her current term on the Board of Adjustment. During the same period, she has been on the Planning Board for 14 years with 4 more to go on her most recent appointment. Her husband Michael Boring is a plans examiner in the City of Richland Development Office.

Both of those boards had some of their authority stripped in 2014 when the City hired a Hearing Examiner who decides on cases that these two had previously considered. Consequently, the Board of Adjustment has only met about 10 times since 2014 mostly regarding variances for garages, carports and sheds being placed in required setbacks. In each case, the board approved staff recommendations. 

The Planning Commission advises on planning and development and makes recommendations about grant applications. It meets twice a month. In the last few years, it has made recommendations about zoning on parcels like Columbia Point South. Both the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment have had members who were short of 12 years but were not re-appointed.

The Utility Advisory Committee has two long-serving members David Larkin and Daniel Porter. Larkin will have 15 years when his current term ends in September.  Porter will have 14 in 2022. The committee meets every other month starting each January.

All of the members of this committee have experience in the electric power industry and the majority are retirees.   As to why he serves, Daniel Porter wrote:

I spent my career in the electric power industry, gaining a lot of knowledge and experience pertinent to the mission of the UAC in advising the City Council on some pretty involved technical and financial issues, knowledge and experience that Council members may not otherwise have access to.  So serving on the UAC is an ideal way to give back to the community I live in.  Plus as a retiree it keeps me sharp.

I am most proud of being able to apply my technical and financial knowledge and experience to provide good input and guidance to the staff and advice to the Council in order to keep utility rates low and fair to each customer, and help avoid reliability issues.  Richland’s rates continue to be some of the best in the region.

David Larkin also wanted to offer his experience:

When I retired from my career as an engineering manager at Columbia Generating Station I had built up decades of experience with working with BPA on long range planning for electrical generation and was in charge of recommending and spending some $60-million a year for nuclear fuel. I had served on committees with the national Electric Power Research Institute and as chairman of a national users’ group of spent fuel storage canisters. So I felt that I had useful expertise and wanted an outlet to continue to provide some advice in the utility area. I also had the time as I was retired.

Maria Gutierrez chairs the Parks and Recreation Commission. She will have served 14 years when her term is up in 2021. The committee meets once a month. According to the city website, the purpose of the commission is to advise the City Council about facilities, beautification, preservation and recreation. According to other members of the committee, the amount of time required varies from month to month. The commission is responsible for recommending grants for recreation groups and that activity is more time consuming for members than others. In the last 5 years, among other actions, the commission created Richland Walks, a very successful program that is run by volunteers.

As for the term limits, the members believe that it is a double-edged sword.  According to Gus Sako:

Term limits is an interesting beast.  They can prevent the accumulation of power and force organizations to bring in new blood.  They can also keep someone like me from staying on so long that we become the old guy who says things like, “We already tried that back in ’84.”, “I remember when that area was the sewage plant.” and “Didn’t we used to have cookies at these meetings?  Where are the cookies?”

On the other hand; term limits are a factor in losing some institutional memory.  There might actually be an occasion  wherein knowing that something didn’t work when it was tried in ’84 might be relevant.  And the longer one is working at anything the deeper a body of knowledge they bring to the table.

So, apparently I am ambivalent on the subject of term limits.

Dan Porter adds an additional point about volunteers:

Another factor is that it has been a real challenge some times to get qualified folks to apply.  So when you get a knowledgeable and willing member that the Council is happy with, why not keep them instead of losing them to term limits?

David Larkin commented on the advantages and disadvantages of term limits:

The advantage of term limits is the continual refreshing of an organization with people with new ideas and different perspectives. The disadvantage is the loss of experience and knowledge of city issues gained over a substantial period of time. I was not aware of the Council consideration of removing term limits.

Mayor Ryan Lukson has said that the Council plans to bring up the term limit elimination proposal again when citizens can attend the city council meeting.

I Can’t Believe it Has Come to This….the Trials and Tribulations of a Mask Maker

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I could not believe that Covid-19 has reduced the United States of America to homemade medical masks. But when my friend the hospice doctor started making them, I knew the need was real. 

So out came husband Bob’s first gift to me after we married, the Made in the USA 1970 Singer that weighs about a 1,000 pounds. Even with a meager three zigzag stitches, it was the Mercedes of its day. For 50 years I have used it to make everything from pillows for the living room to old-lady-style, elastic-in-the-waist pants. With that machine and those skills under my belt (or elastic), I set about to make masks. 

Grabbing yards of cotton that had been left over from other projects, I began cutting and sewing the pieces from a pattern described on a local Facebook page,  “Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers.” Making the fabric ties was slow and the whole process took all day, but finally I had a mask that looked okay.  SUCCESS!!

The next day I was determined to do this job faster, so I looked for an easier pattern.  A friend sent a text with the video of a woman making a mask that she said took 15 to 20 minutes to make, maybe 20 minutes for a beginner. Yippee, just what I was looking for. I cut out the fabric rectangle pieces and two elastic 7-inch elastic strips from the meager leftovers in my sewing stash. Quickly I sewed those together. Hey, I’ve got this. I can whip them out now. Healthcare workers, help is on the way!

Then it was time to put the pleats in the mask. They looked so easy on the video. Rip, rip, sew, sew, rip, rip @#$%, $#@% (expletives deleted).  Finally, a finished product that looked like s— and it took all day!!!

So on Day 3 of mask making it was back to fabric ties. So at least I’ve settled on a pattern that I can accomplish. I’m not even going to look at the beautiful masks on the Facebook page or compare the dozens of masks per day to my one.  No, I’m just going to keep plugging along.  After all, nobody knows Rosie’s rivet count.

Richland City Council Member Robert Thompson’s DUI Case Kicked Down the Road for a Fourth Time

Note:  This hearing and all previous hearings were held at the Benton County District Court with a judge and prosecutors from Yakima. A hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., May 19, 2020, at the Benton County District Court.  However, on May 18, 2020 the Benton County District Court announced that future hearings would be held in the Yakima District Court. To date, no hearings have been scheduled in Yakima.

Robert Thompson’s DUI Case will tentatively go to court on July 6, 2020 at a location to be announced later. The Case is being handled by Yakima prosecutor Joseph Brusic and Yakima Judge Brian Sanderson because Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller recused his court from the case. In July it will be over a year since Washington State Trooper James Stairet stopped Thompson for speeding in Kennewick and ultimately charged him with a DUI.

Today both Thompson and Stairet testified as the court reviewed the film from Stairet’s patrol car taken June 29, 2019, the night of the stop. At one point the defense attorney Kevin L. Holt demanded that this observer erase a cellphone picture taken of a portion of the patrol car video. Judge Sanderson responded that the hearing was public and the patrol car recording was a public document.

Thompson’s attorney had filed a motion in January to declare the arrest illegal and the breathalyzer results and the case thrown out. However, at today’s hearing the defense and the state agreed to a time of arrest and to breathalyzer results being admissible. According to the prosecutor, Thompson’s requested blood test showed higher numbers than the breathalyzer results.

Other arguments from the defense included a motion to recuse the Yakima prosecutors for “retaliatory prosecution” due to past cases that Thompson as a defense attorney had tried in Yakima. The judge dismissed that motion pointing out that Yakima had nothing to do with bringing charges.

The defense plans to have a toxicologist testify about retrograde extrapolation –how the body processes alcohol. This and other issues will be discussed at a Status Conference tentatively scheduled for Thursday April 14 at a location to be announced.

Benton County Steaming Ahead with Ballot Processing, as of Today 32,756 Returned

Here I am at the Benton County Election Office in Prosser. This machine photographs ballot envelopes and kicks out unsigned ballots.

Employees of the Benton County Election Office in Prosser have geared up again and are processing ballots for the 2020 presidential primary election. As of Sunday March 8, Benton County voters had returned 32,756 ballots.

Amanda Hatfield, Manager of the Benton Council Election Office, recently walked me through each step between the time that the first ballots are received and the time that the election is certified.

  1. Upon arrival primary ballots are separated by hand into Democratic Party and Republican Party based on the box checked on the envelope. As of Sunday, 753 ballots did not have a checked box that declared a party. Those voters will receive a letter and will have a chance to correct the omission so their votes can count.
  2. Ballots are then run through a machine ( pictured above) that takes a picture of the front of the envelopes and kicks out ballots that are not signed. Voters who fail to sign their ballots receive a letter and have an opportunity to correct the problem.
  3. Pictures of the signature side of the ballot envelopes go into a computer program.
  4. An election department employee goes through the ballot envelope pictures four at a time on a computer to make sure that signatures match those on file. Voters with signature match issues receive a letter and a chance to prove the signature is theirs..
  5. An election department employee takes approved ballots and removes the cover envelope with the signature and party declaration. On election day, March 10, votes are removed from the inside sleeve and votes received through Saturday are counted.
  6. On Wednesday votes that arrived by mail or were placed in ballot boxes after Saturday are processed and counted.
  7. Votes that are postmarked by the deadline 8:00 p.m. Tuesday continue to be counted. Votes with corrected signatures or party designations are counted.
  8. A trickle of votes continue to be corrected and counted until certification.
  9. The Board of Elections meets on March 19, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. to address any outstanding issues and certifies the election the next day, March 20.

May 24, 2016, 34,991, votes were cast in Benton County in the presidential primary, 34.37% of registered voters. However, the Democrats had already chosen delegates in caucuses that were held on March 26. Based on early returns for the 2020 primary, officials at the election office predict that participation this year may reach 50%.

Richland’s New Mayor Ryan Lukson Brings Change to City Council

Tuesday night Richland City Council will vote to change their meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and eliminate the pre-meeting format. See email from Lukson below.

When Richland City Council Candidate Ryan Lukson interviewed with the Tri-City Herald editorial board prior to the 2017 election, he admitted that he had a problem with the way the pre-meetings were held:

“Lukson also takes issue with the council’s pre-meeting before the regular city council session. He questions why — since it is open to the public — it can’t be held in the large council meeting room. Instead, council members meet in a cramped chamber that limits the number of people who can attend.

It’s a question we have as well. With Lukson’s experience in county government, perhaps he could persuade his fellow city council members to be more transparent and more obliging in their dealings with citizens.”

Although the pre-meetings were moved to the new council chamber in the new city hall, they were not televised or taped and many people still thought the meetings weren’t opened to the public. Issues discussed in pre-meetings included the budget, the lodging tax, the marijuana petition, and locations and plans for proposed new parks among other topics.

Richland Mayor Ryan Lukson.

Attorney for Richland City Council Member Robert Thompson Throws Everything but the Kitchen Sink at DUI Charges

Trooper’s Wife Drawn into the Case

Councilmember Robert Thompson’s attorney, Kevin L. Holt, has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the court attempting to have Thompson’s DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges dismissed. In his briefs, Holt has questioned the reliability of breathalyzers. He also argues that Thompson’s blood alcohol level at time of testing could be higher than at time of driving due to “involuntary intoxication” caused by dehydration; that there was no probable cause to stop Thompson; and the arresting trooper’s wife who was driving along with her husband was Thompson’s “adversary”.

Holt writes:

‘The trooper was accompanied that evening by his wife Michele [sic], who was doing a ride along. Michelle was or had been an Assistant Kennewick City Attorney. I believe this was her last night of employment with the city, as she had submitted her resignation previously and had informed this attorney her last day was to be June 30, 2019. Michele [sic] was a cougar football fan and alumni of WSU. As a local prosecuting attorney and a Tri City Cougar alumni she would have been aware that the Cougar vanity plate, KANANI 1, was her adversary Robert Thompson. She knew Mr. Thompson very well, she often exchanged WSU information with Mr. Thompson, who was a regular in her court, in fact she had recently been on the losing side of a criminal case with Mr. Thompson. It is not unreasonable to speculate that she informed her husband Trooper J. Stairet that he was about to stop the Mayor of Richland, her adversary Robert Thompson.”

Holt’s discovery requests include email, texts and electronic data transmitted by both Officer James Stairet and his wife Michelle Dorsett Stairet for “29 June 2019 at 2300 PDST thru 30 June 2019 at 1000 PDST and the following 10 days.” In addition, he has asked for the personnel files of both Officer Stairet and his wife. Holt also wants the National Highway Traffic Association and the Washington State Patrol policies on “ride along”.

For the same time period he requests all communication between the WSP [Washington State Police] employee to Benton County Prosecuting Attorney, City of Kennewick, or the Tri City Herald or any other news agency.

A judge and prosecutor from Yakima County are handling the case. A hearing is scheduled for March 10, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the Benton County Court House.