Council rejects district changes

Community outreach approved

— City Council districts will not be changed.

That was the council’s decision Monday night during a workshop meeting on the re-districting issue.

Councilman Francisco Guerrero motioned for the city to have six districts and one at-large seat instead of the current four district/three at-large arrangement.

Councilman Ron Stremler seconded the motion.

Stremler later rescinded the second because he thought the proposal was only to “explore” adding districts. Guerrero’s motion died due to lack of a second.

It was the culmination of Guerrero’s nearly year-long effort to add districts due to lack of Latino representation.

“Every time someone runs with a Latino surname in a council race there’s a loss,” he said Monday.

Guerrero has also bristled at the fact three of the council’s seven members live within a few blocks of each other.

He believes more geographic voting districts would lead to more opportunities for Latinos.

Deputy Mayor Dean Broersma is one of those council members who lives in a neighborhood with two other members. He questioned whether there was even an issue at all.

“I don’t see myself as representing my district, I feel like I represent the city of Sunnyside,” Broersma said. “When I’m here I’m not thinking about the people who live down the street from me... I think about the town.”

And council members living in close proximity to each other “... can easily change in any given election,” Broersma said. “It’s not something that’s guaranteed to be permanent.”

As for his two neighbors, he noted both ran unopposed.

Broersma himself is unopposed in this November’s general election.

“That makes me question the urgency,” he said of expanding district seats. “When I see no names running at all, I’m concerned about the validity of an argument. Is this a solution that’s actually looking for a problem.”

Broersma was originally elected to office when he defeated his neighbor, Sam Ramirez.

“My point exactly,” Guerrero said of Ramirez’s Latino surname.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock claimed the whole issue of surnames is misleading. She described co-workers with Latino surnames who aren’t Latino and others who are Latino but with non-Latino names.

“I feel like we’re a blended community,” she said.

The council found unanimous agreement on creating a community outreach committee to educate the public on getting involved in city council elections.

“We do need to get information out to people,” Broersma said.

And they agreed the redistricting issue will need to be revisited in the future.

“This isn’t a question that’s going to go away,” Broersma said. “We may need to look at it again or redo district boundaries.”


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