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Electoral districts, city council salaries eyed in Sunnyside

Whether to split the city of Sunnyside into council electoral districts was the focus of discussion at a special city council meeting held last night.

Also discussed were city council salaries.

Last February the council authorized an ad hoc commission to study these issues and make recommendations to the council.

The Sunnyside Electoral Districting Commission was made up of council members Jim Restucci, Paul Garcia and Theresa Hancock, along with citizens Jesse Hernandez Jr., Max Saldana and Mona Tovar.

The commission looked at mayor and council salaries for Washington cities with a population of 15,000 to 29,999 people. The report stated that the Sunnyside City Council salaries have lagged significantly since last adjusted in 1991.

As it stands right now, council members earn $40 per meeting with the mayor receiving an additional $200 a month and the mayor pro-tem getting an extra $50 a month.

The newly formed commission noted a lack of participation in seeking election to the city council and recommended a higher salary might serve as an incentive.

It was suggested that the mayor make $600 per month, the mayor pro-tem $500 and each council member should make $400 a month.

Since the salaries would not take effect until each council member were re-elected, it was decided to form a salary commission at the Aug. 27 council meeting.

Council also decided to form a commission to draw up electoral districts in Sunnyside. The U.S. Department of Justice would like to see seven seats in Sunnyside but the council decided to go with four electoral districts and three at-large positions.

The council directed the city manager, Bob Stockwell, to work with the Yakima County Auditors office to initiate the process for establishing four single member council districts and three at-large council districts. Final decisions on the single member districts will be made by the city council at a later date. The four single member districts are expected to be in place by the 2009 elections.

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