The Wenatchee City Council voted to change the way the city elects its council members. The city will have five council members elected by newly drawn districts and two members elected at-large or city wide. Currently, all council positions are elected on an at-large basis. Mayor Frank Kuntz says, “The council chose five districts and two at-large. I think trying to figure out a way to step their toe in it a little bit and also trying to be cognizant of the fact that they want some city council members who are elected citywide.”
The council voted 6-1 for the new system, with the lone dissenting vote coming from councilwoman Ruth Esparza.
“We take power together. We don’t divide power up and we don’t weaken one group to strengthen another. That, to me, is bad policy and it’s not a very good approach to try to get more diversity on council.”
The change was motivated by a 2014 federal court ruling against the city of Yakima, which ordered the drawing of districts to better represent the city’s 45 percent Hispanic population. Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz said he hoped to avoid similar legal action against Wenatchee, where the population is roughly 30-percent Hispanic. In 2016, a committee recommended the city replace the current system to better represent minority neighborhoods. The passage of the Washington Voting Rights Act of 2018 allows cities to change to district voting in general elections whereas previously, district voting was used solely in primary elections and candidates had to be elected citywide in the General Election.
The City will work out details on which council members are assigned a district to represent for the remainder of the terms.