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Efforts underway to improve quality of life in Yakima Valley

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Immediate Past Chairman of Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities Dave Edler addresses Grandview City Council members at last night's council meeting.

GRANDVIEW - At last night's Grandview City Council meeting Dave Edler and Ken Marble of Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities addressed issues their group seeks to resolve within Yakima Valley.

Edler, currently the mayor of Yakima, said the group began in 2006 after he and a few friends gathered and began discussing crime statistics facing the valley.

"The crime rate was on the decline until it peaked in 2005," said Edler, stating the group was concerned about the changes it had been seeing in Yakima Valley communities.

Following the discussion with his friends, Edler said the group spearheaded a county-wide forum, which obtained the interest of more than 300 business and civic leaders throughout Yakima Valley.

At the forum, a list of community members interested in lowering crime rates and creating positive changes within the communities of the valley was gathered.

Edler said the forum was held with the cooperation of Michael Moore of Heritage University, and more than 30 projects that would lead to a safer community were identified at that forum.

The group also created a mission statement and a vision for Yakima Valley.

Edler said those at the forum recognized the purpose of the group was to build upon the resources already available within the valley, creating a collaboration between existing groups and organizations.

One of the primary goals of the group is to battle meth and drug addiction due to the overwhelming number of people in the Yakima County Jail for meth or drug addiction. Therefore, one of the teams developed is a group specifically designed to combat the use of meth.

Another of the teams developed through Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities is one which looks at ways in which youth can be provided jobs throughout the valley, according to Marble.

"Youth are educated on the realities of the job force," said Edler, explaining the youth are instructed on conduct and dress requirements. He added the youngsters are also educated regarding drug testing requirements because some youth do not realize many employers screen for drug usage.

He said Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities wants to conduct county-wide forums involving youth from a variety of schools. "Not the ASB presidents and the successful students, but those who are struggling," he explained, stating Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities wants to provide a forum that engages the youngsters in creating ideas to solve issues within the valley.

Edler said the group also has a belief that the state legislature can help fund the county, not just cities alone. Therefore, the group is seeking to develop legislation that will benefit Yakima Valley as a whole.

Marble said Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities is also releasing an advertising campaign to educate community members regarding meth usage and the meth task force. One such campaign, he said, will begin this coming fall with funding from the attorney general.

"We want the trends in crime to be below the U.S. average," said Marble, stating the trends are once again on the decline.

He said he feels collaborative efforts will help bring crime rates down further.

The duo invited Grandview City Council members to attend meetings of Citizens for Safe Yakima Valley Communities. They said they have hopes that leaders from Grandview will become involved with the group.

Mayor Norm Childress and several of the council members expressed interest in what the group is seeking to achieve. Childress said he sees how the group could benefit the city's efforts at stemming property crimes, such as graffiti and its removal.

"I would love to make a dent in the cost of graffiti removal, which is roughly $30,000," said Childress, expressing his dismay that the cost affects programs benefiting the community's children.

He went on to express his appreciation for any collaborative effort among communities of the Yakima Valley utilizing police collaborations as a positive example of combating crime.

City Councilwoman Joan Souders said she felt the group could help Lower Yakima Valley youth, providing an avenue for youngsters to take advantage of programs available to those in Yakima.

Edler and Marble both agreed the group could benefit Grandview and other communities of the Yakima Valley and expressed a hope in being able to do so in the future.

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