Although the general election is still months away, local voters have a very important decision to make in the coming weeks. There are currently three candidates in the running for Sunnyside City Council position two, a race that will be narrowed down to two during the upcoming primary.
The three candidates for the position include incumbent Mike Farmer, as well as Sunnyside residents Ignacio Joe Resendez and Bruce Epps.
Farmer, 57, has served on the council for nearly eight years. Farmer said he decided to run for re-election because he still has a few things he'd like to accomplish as a councilman.
Farmer said he'd like to be involved with the upcoming Yakima Valley Highway reconstruction project, as well as some new ordinances that are being drafted. Farmer said he'd like to have a say in the sign ordinance, and would like to see some of the city's other ordinances strengthened, noting that he wants to help improve the appearance of Sunnyside.
As for the reconstruction of Yakima Valley Highway, Farmer said this is a project that will help improve the overall appearance of the community.
"I want to make our city look like, when people drive into town, that this is a nice town," Farmer said. He added that this is a project the city has been working on for more than three years.
According to Farmer, one of the biggest issues facing the City of Sunnyside is shrinking funds.
"I think we're like every other city," Farmer said. "We're getting less and less federal and state funding."
He added that although funding is decreasing, the city is receiving an increased number of unfunded mandates.
"On the up side, it looks like sales tax revenues are beginning to come back," Farmer said.
He noted that increased sales tax revenue means that when the city begins looking at the 2006 budget there likely won't be the need to make extreme cutbacks.
"I don't think we'll be in such a scale down mode this time," Farmer said.
He added that he's hopeful that the city will have some revenue available for doing some street projects in the community. Farmer said he'd like to see new curb, gutters and sidewalks constructed.
Resendez, 74, has lived in Sunnyside 54 years. He is retired from the Washington State Migrant Education Program.
Over the years, Resendez said he has been involved in a lot of projects at the state and national level, and felt it was time he gave back to his local community. He added that he also had some encouragement to run for the council position from friends in the community.
Resendez said he thinks one of the issues currently facing the council is a lack of communication.
"I think there is a lack of communication between people who live in Sunnyside and the governing body - city council," Resendez said.
He added that he thinks there a lot of needs in the community that are not being addressed. Resendez said he thinks recreation issues are of particular importance. He noted that he would like to see more improvements to the senior center and local baseball fields, as well as more done on the proposed skate park.
Resendez said he'd also like to see the city council focus more on economic development, noting that he would like to see more well paying jobs come into the city.
Resendez said another issue he feels strongly about is affordable housing. He noted that he sees a lot of single family homes being used to house large numbers of people who can't afford to live in houses by themselves.
"That needs to be addressed," Resendez said.
He added that he'd like to see more people get involved in the community. Resendez said people should be asking city leaders questions, and learning where their tax dollars are being spent.
Epps, 46, has lived in Sunnyside for 17 years. Epps is employed as the facilities manager for the Sunnyside Housing Authority.
Epps said he decided to run for city council because he would like to see the council get back to taking a more common sense approach to things.
Epps said one of the big issues he sees facing city council right now is that of the Sunnyside police and fire departments. Epps said he feels that both departments are undermanned.
"Having two (police) officers on a day shift, I feel, is absolutely inadequate in a town this size," Epps said.
He said he'd like to see the city pursue grants that would help fund the needed growth at both departments.
Epps said the Sunnyside Public Works department also needs to work on getting updates made to the city's sewer system.
For Epps, another issue he feels strongly about is bringing new businesses into the community, and offering families affordable housing.
"Without affordable housing we have no place for our kids to start and then progress," Epps said. "We choke the ability of the community to grow."
As for new businesses, Epps said he feels the city council should lean on organizations like the Port of Sunnyside and the Sunnyside Economic Development Association.
"That's what they do best," Epps said of the two organizations.
Overall, Epps said he'd just like to see the city work together as a whole.
"I feel the council needs to represent the community as a whole," Epps said. "We need to get everyone working in the same direction, then we can accomplish things."