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2009 General Election Snapshots

Sunnyside Council Position 1...Hancock vs. Raines

Safer streets and a more friendly, customer service geared city hall are just two issues being touted by candidates for the District 1 seat on the Sunnyside City Council.

The race is pitting incumbent Theresa Hancock against challenger Jason Raines. Hancock was appointed to her seat in July of 2005 and ran unopposed that November. This is her first challenge.

This is also Raines' first foray into public office. According to the father of three, it was when three police officer positions were cut from the 2009 budget that he felt compelled to run for office. He said there were other concerns but that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Since then he has thrown himself into the race and touts public safety as the most important issue. Bottom line, he wants those three police positions back in the budget.

"That's the first priority," he said.

Down the road Raines said he would then like to get other services that were cut from the 2009 budget back online, namely the parks and recreation departments.

"We need to provide some positive things in the community," he said, speaking about opening the community center. "It goes hand and hand with public safety."

Raines takes issue with Hancock over the elimination of the police officers, charging she didn't raise any objections to the cuts. He said her only concern was about code enforcement.

Hancock said she and the council were told by city management that the city would go broke if drastic cuts weren't implemented. She said the officer cuts concerned her and that made her seek assurances from the police chief that adequate service would be provided.

She agreed she was against cuts to code enforcement, which she considers an arm of law enforcement. Hancock said she was against the elimination of the code enforcement department because it meant police officers would have to perform that duty.

"To have police respond to these calls is a waste of money," she said. "We need them on the street."

She went along with the cuts but when she saw the 2009 budget included pay raises for city employees she voted against it.

"You don't cut police officers and services and then give pay increases," she said.

While the city recently found it had approximately $1.7 million more than expected, Hancock wants to be cautious with the money. Although she said she wants the police department fully staffed she would like to look into just how much it will cost for the community center to be re-opened.

"There is a real possibility it could open next year but we haven't looked at the numbers yet," she said.

Hancock said options to partner with other organizations for recreations services should be explored before the city makes any decisions.

Establishing a contingency fund also sounds like a good idea now the city has some extra money, she said.

Raines said besides reinstating the eliminated police positions, he and another candidate for council want the city to purchase police dogs. This would allow Sunnyside police to be more aggressive with the city's drug problem.

He is also advocating all police cars be equipped with cameras, adding that this would help with prosecutions and safety for both the officers and the public.

The increase in police spending would not go unchecked, Raines said. He said periodic reports on criminal activity in the city would be a must.

"We need to keep abreast with it more than the current council has done," he said.

Both candidates support maintaining and upgrading the city's airport but disagree on the current moratorium in place that prevents nearby landowners from developing their property. Raines said he would vote to lift it.

"I support the idea of having an airport and making long-range plans but the heavy-handed dealings by the council are hurting property owners," he said.

He agrees with the planning process for the airport but said the moratorium is preventing all aspects of development while the council considers its options.

Hancock said she wants an end to the moratorium as well, but is listening to the advice of the city's legal counsel. Before any moratorium on development is lifted around the airport an overlay plan must be developed and approved, she said.

The two are at odds over the city's stormwater fees, as well.

Raines acknowledges that Hancock led the charge to repeal the fees but was all for it in the beginning. He claims if Hancock, and the rest of the council, were paying attention it would have never come to what it came to. He said the fees should be minimal and only cover costs for the program.

Hancock agrees that the fees should be kept low and admits she made a mistake when she initially supported the fees. But she blames bad information from former city staff and said as soon as she realized what was going on, she immediately led the charge to repeal the assessments.

Hancock said she is proud of her service on the city council. She said since former Sunnyside City Manager Eric Swansen was fired last June, the culture at city hall has changed. She said she will work hard to ensure city employees and the council become more customer service orientated.

Along with public safety Hancock said she will work on getting the city to put the citizens first.

She is also looking forward to getting personnel, purchasing and internet policies put in place for city employees for the first time in Sunnyside.

She believes since she's been on the council the partnerships with other communities and entities have improved and said she is looking forward to continuing that trend.

She is also proud to have been a part of the ground breaking anti-gang ordinance council came up with. Hancock said this led the state to look into the problem gangs were causing and created a dialogue that resulted in action and legislation. She said there is still more to do.

Hancock said the current council works well together, while not always agreeing with each other. She's looking forward to continuing that relationship for the next four years.

Raines believes it's time for a change. He said the council should have paid more attention to the city's finances and when things blew up, they blamed the city manager and fired him.

He said he wants to create a more open environment with city government, which would include holding labor negotiations in an open session.

He wants a tougher stance on crime and would like the citizens to be given a higher priority.

"We deserve better government," he said.

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