Kennewick City Council recently passed a resolution calling for the immediate cessation of all ordinances within the city limits. These new laws will take effect immediately and will affect every citizen who lives or works in Kennewick. This is in spite of pleas from citizens that have lived in the community for over one hundred years. What is the reason these people are upset?
Well, a group of Kennewick residents have filed a complaint with the Kennewick City Council stating that the new council resolution violates both the state and federal constitutions and can potentially render the entire city helpless. Specifically they are upset because of the way the ethics policy was changed.
In March of 2017 the city council voted overwhelmingly to offer 100% coverage and insurance for all city employees and the mandatory percentage of the premium in the affordable health care plan. In June they voted to modify this policy by only offering the full policy to full-time city employees.
Now, this makes sense. If a large corporation has a large number of part-time employees, the city cannot discriminate against them based solely on their position within the company. Also, part-time city workers are not nearly as lucrative as their full-time counterparts and so a blanket exclusivity policy would do nothing but hurt the entire city of Kennewick. The people behind the change however see things a little differently and believe this is a reasonable request.
The city must provide equal opportunity to everyone regardless of their background or economic status. Full-time city residents and their families may not be able to afford the premiums of the affordable health care plan provided through the council. The current policy clearly states that council members and their family will have access to it. However, a second, smaller council is now working to draw up a compromise agreement between the two camps.
What exactly are these negotiations about? On the surface, the problems seem to center around the conflicts between two different council members. One council member wants to expand the affordable health care initiative he is spearheading while another tries to keep the initiative limited to only low-income families. A third city business owner tries to undermine the efforts of the other council members altogether. Let’s take a look at the situation in more detail.
This all began when one council member made an unethical suggestion to extend the affordable health care initiative to everyone in the city. It is a common sense decision. Low-income families can’t afford to pay high premiums for insurance. Kennewick has a reputation of being a very socially conscious community. A proposal to extend this initiative to everyone in the city, in light of this, was met with a handful of complaints coming from some residents.
A few residents tried to get the issue out of the news by filing a formal ethics complaint to the Kennewick City Council. The current ward 2 council member made the same suggestion to residents of Ward 1. They were apparently unaware that the proposal had already been made public information online. They brought this to the attention of other Kennewick residents, and the whole story has since spread like wildfire. Residents in Ward 1 filed similar complaints to the Kennewick City Council, and a handful of those complaints have been forwarded to the city manager.
The outcome of this conflict appears to be purely political. The Kennewick City Council has been criticized for not releasing the complete details of the compromise agreement. They are mum because it is at their discretion whether or not to release this information. Only weeks before the election, the Kennewick City Councilman who voted to extend the affordable health care initiative, Tim Stuart, is being challenged by Steve Knight for his seat on the council.