Wednesday, April 21, 2004
YAKIMA - Yesterday, in the ballroom of H&H Furniture in Yakima, Yakima resident Mike Leita announced his intentions to seek the Yakima County Commissioner Position #1 vacancy this fall.
Leita, who is the founder and co-owner of Right Hardware in Yakima, said as county commissioner he wants to assure government accountability, promote more jobs with better wages in Yakima County, fight for less government regulation and strive for cost effective crime control.
"I'm running for county commissioner for two primary reasons," Leita said. "First, I care about Yakima County. Having lived here, raised a family here and operating two businesses in our county, it hunts me to see our county struggle with failing leadership. This county has great assets with its people, location and natural beauty and yet it seems to fall short of its potential."
Leita added that he believes he can make a difference drawing on his ability to lead.
"In recent months, I have met with numerous elected county officials and department heads. They are dedicated to their positions and want to make Yakima County better. But, as a whole, they are frustrated by a lack of clear direction and silent county leadership," said Leita.
With reserves down, revenue flat and expenses climbing, the county is at a critical financial point, Leita said. He said the county government needs to live within its means and use existing resources wisely.
He said that the proposed tax increase for the county justice system needs to be clearly defined and show how the new tax revenues will directly impact crime.
"Until this detail is provided I can not endorse this initiative," said Leita of the issue that will go before the voters this fall.
He said rather than finding quick fixes he would rather look at long-range policies to reverse our economic shortfalls.
Although long-range planning needs to be made, Leita said the new jail should not be looked at as a long-term fix for financial problems.
"The Yakima County jail project currently underway, in its original form, had merit," said Leita. "The process by which it has evolved has been flawed," he said. "Today this project has diminished in value to our county. Only good future management will keep this project viable and meet its expectations."
He added that jail rental income shouldn't be viewed as a "...panacea for county revenue shortfalls, but rather as a short-term marginal revenue enhancement."
He said that the port districts of the Lower Valley have been beneficial to the community and the county.
"I think Sunnyside is the anchor for the southern part of the county," said Leita, adding that one of the greatest benefits to the county is the property and open land in the Lower Valley where additional economic development is possible.
"There's future potential for other large sites to be developed," said Leita.
Leita also supports the Black Rock Reservoir project and said he would commit county resources to move the project forward.
"Black Rock stands to be a long term solution for managing our water commitments for all parties within our county," he said.