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Sunnyside City Council candidates offer different views on future growth

It's a tale of two cities, as Sunnyside City Council incumbent Bruce Ricks and challenger Carol Stone see it.

Vying for Ricks' Position #3 seat this November, Stone emphasizes looking after what Sunnyside already has before any expansion.

"It's like building a house," she muses. "You don't start with walls and a roof before you've laid the foundation."

More to the point, Stone would like to see Sunnyside take care of what she considers first things first, such as tending to aging water lines and increasing fire and police coverage.

"We've done so much annexation and we're doing things on the outskirts of town which look good to tourists passing through," she contends. "Yet in three years we haven't settled on a single element in our Comprehensive Plan and I'm frustrated."

But Ricks says some of the city's most important achievements in recent years have taken place in what some may term as the "outskirts" of town.

Of a new roundabout planned for the Midvale Road area - and renaming part of the road to Ronald Reagan Boulevard - Ricks says, "I couldn't be more pleased with that improvement."

The biggest achievement during his time in office, according to Ricks, is Sunnyside's $2.5 million purchase of the 150-acre Monson Feedlot just outside of town.

"I think that will be the biggest venture," he says of the lot. "The next step is to get it annexed next year."

He also says the three exits connecting Sunnyside to I-82 should be embraced for future commerce and development.

"It's an exciting time," he notes. "Having three freeway exits creates the possibility of realizing growth." Ricks says that, in turn, can complement Sunnyside's wine and agricultural industries, as well as its diverse labor force.

Ricks' wider vision of Sunnyside encompasses, "...the attraction of small town agriculture yet, with the advent of technology, keeping a quality of life that is unique."

Quality of life and expansion is great, Stone would counter, but don't forget downtown.

"Our downtown has been left behind," she says. "We haven't come up with a vision to promote what we have here."

She pointed, for example, to her downtown promotional idea of "travel the world in our valley," which she would like to see the city implement. "The reality is that we have a Hispanic population and culture that could be a treasure."

Ricks figures downtown store owners are living in a situation they've created. "The downtown merchants need to take care of downtown," he suggests.

Further, he chided some downtown area business owners who he says park in front of their own storefronts and let planter boxes deteriorate to the point dirt spills out onto the sidewalk.

At the same time, he expressed support for keeping Safeway in the downtown area since an apartment complex is being built a block away.

Though they have differing views on issues of concern to the city, both Ricks and Stone are running for office because they want to help shape Sunnyside's future.

Stone, a retired homemaker, is a regular at city council and planning commission meetings. "I want to make city government more open and accountable to its residents," she says.

Further, Stone says she is specifically campaigning against Ricks because of his opposition to the city sponsoring July 4 fireworks.

"The council voted 6-1 to help sponsor July 4 fireworks and he was the only one who voted against it," she recalled.

Stone also wants to see Sunnyside's sewer system upgraded and for the city to do a better job of keeping its finances in check.

"I'm a flat lander," she says. "I know what it's like to live with common sense, be a hard worker and pay your bills."

Ricks, meanwhile, points to ongoing efforts to pass new city sign and parking ordinances, as well as attempts to expand the availability of curb, gutter and sidewalks in Sunnyside.

"There's some momentum built up and I'd like to see things move forward," says Ricks, an insurance agent.

Stay tuned as this tale of two cities concludes Nov. 8 when voters decide which vision of Sunnyside they prefer.

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