Our Voice: Kennewick's ward system provides balance, fairness

Once again, the Kennewick City Council is discussing the idea of replacing its ward system with more at-large positions.

And once again, we would like to remind city council members they need to do what is best for the community and not what is politically advantageous for a couple of long-term councilmen.

We can't help but wonder if the issue would even come up if next year's election didn't pit Bob Olson against Paul Parish.

The situation, admittedly, is regrettable.

Olson started serving on the council in 1988 and Parish was first elected in 1996.

That's a long combined history and it would be a shame to lose one of these experienced public servants over boundary issues.

But changing an established election system that has helped assure fairness on the city council should not be eliminated so current politicians can keep their jobs.

Olson represents Ward 1 and Parish represents Ward 2. But after the 2010 census, district lines changed to better balance Kennewick's population and Olson's home is now in Ward 2.

Currently there are two representatives from Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3 and one at-large position on the Kennewick City Council.

The proposal under consideration would keep one representative from each ward, but all the rest would be at-large.

Parish has said more at-large positions would lead to more people being able to run for office and that he has always tried to do what is best for the city as a whole, not just his home neighborhood.

However, the ward system is in place because not all of Kennewick is the same.

Different parts of the city share unique qualities and the ward system assures a balanced representation on the city council.

If there is a majority of at-large positions, then the majority of council members could be from one general neighborhood, which has the potential of special interests in one part of town getting more attention than other areas.

In Kennewick, residents vote for candidates from the ward they live in during the primary election.

Then, during the general election, all Kennewick voters get a chance to vote on all open positions.

The proposed change for more at-large positions opens the door to a potentially lopsided city council where one part of Kennewick could end up severely under-represented.

That would be unjust and wrong.

Changing the current system should happen only if it truly benefits the entire city.

It is unfortunate new boundary lines have put Olson and Parish in the same ward, but that can't be the reason to change an election system that works well and assures even representation on the city council.