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Sunnyside City Council race focuses on public safety

Sunnyside City Councilman Paul Garcia and challenger Jason Raines agree that public safety is a key for the city.

Both know that cuts will be needed to help balance the city's budget.

Neither wants to see the city impose a $20 car tab fee on city residents. If a fee is proposed, both agree it needs to be voted on by the citizens, with specific projects spelled out.

Where they disagree heading into the November general election is on some budgeting issues and perspective on recent additions to the police budget.

Garcia, a management employee for Areva, has served on council since 2004 and says his focus is to "make Sunnyside a safe, secure community for all citizens."

While safety is a prime concern, Garcia also wants to make sure "our policies we put in place are economically viable."

Given the city's financial struggles, including a large budget amendment earlier this year that included $500,000 in additional law enforcement costs, Garcia says Sunnyside needs a "long term vision of our police needs."

A long term perspective, he adds, means that the items listed in the amendment, which included new police personnel and vehicles, should be brought to council earlier during budget discussions.

"Public safety is my number one concern," says Raines, a middle school math teacher.

Raines says public safety should be pursued at all costs. "If nothing else, government should provide public safety," he said, adding that includes fire and EMS responders.

As for the additional police expenses in this year's budget amendment, Raines claims police tried to bring the items forward during earlier budget discussions, but were turned down by city hall staff.

"Police cars are expensive and need to be replaced on a certain schedule," said Raines. "It's not a big mystery."

The Sunnyside Police Officers Guild has endorsed Raines for council.

He notes that besides public safety, a benefit to focusing on police is that it will encourage economic development in Sunnyside.

"I want kids to have an opportunity to get good jobs in this area," Raines said, noting Sunnyside has good selling points with freeway access and land available at reasonable prices.

Garcia also has hopes for the city's economy, especially the downtown area. He says it starts with changing the perception of Sunnyside.

"In that process we have to capture a vision of what we want Sunnyside to be," he said. "There is so much potential."

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