Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Candidates for the Upcoming General Election Vow to Listen to Citizens

On Nov. 7, Walla Walla County will hold its 2023 General Election. Walla Walla county is a vote-by-mail county with approximately 37,000 voters

The Walla Walla City Council is composed of seven members who are elected for four-year terms. They are the legislative governing body for the city, responsible for setting policy, managing the city’s budget, approving ordinances and resolutions, appointing city advisory boards, committees, the city manager and city attorney. They also hear and attend to citizen issues, requests and needs.

Steve Moss, the Walla Walla City Council incumbent for position seven, is currently running unopposed. In addition to serving eight years on the Washington State Finance Commission and serving as president of the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless, Moss worked at the Blue Mountain Action Council for over 37 years.

“I bristle at the word ‘politician’ just a little bit,” Moss said. “Only because I see myself as in a community service role.”

Moss has understood the importance and responsibility of voting from a young age.

“I came of age during the Vietnam War, and so voting was very important to me. You couldn’t vote then until you were 21. And so, the day that I turned 21 … I registered to vote,” Moss said. “I think part of it is just [a] belief in the system of government that we have … I think it’s important to voice your opinion, and that’s the primary way that we can do that.”

Most Whitman students hail from places outside of Walla Walla county, and therefore have a decision about where to register to vote. U.S. citizens may only be registered and vote in one location. The Campus Vote Project states that students have a right to register to vote at the address they consider the place where they live, whether that is their family’s home or the place where they attend school. Local government offices have a direct impact on students’ everyday lives.

According to the Campus Vote Project, “Local offices and issues have a direct impact on a student’s home and college community. Officials make decisions on topics like student debt, funding for higher education and the economy.”

Jeff Robinson is running for City Council position five, which represents Walla Walla’s West Ward. He would like to secure affordable housing in the community, especially for students, first-time home buyers, minorities, adults with disabilities, single parents and the elderly.

“I’m a very proud millennial,” Robinson said. “I’m a first time home buyer. I’m from the generation that had to live through the Great Recession … I’m from the generation that was told, ‘you have to go to college [and] you have to take out student loans’ in order to have a degree or something that will build a living … I understand what it’s like to struggle in an economy that doesn’t seem like it was made for you.”

In addition to ensuring the cost of living is more accessible for community members such as students and minorities, Robinson seeks to develop the city’s medical infrastructure. 

“Students are the future of this community,” Robinson said. “But we can’t keep you here if healthcare drives you out of home ownership […] and you don’t have a living wage job that makes it so you can live your American dream and reach your full potential. [Without that], we’re failing you.”

More specifically, Robinson would like to see the city gain a hospital without any religious affiliation. Currently, Walla Walla has one hospital that is owned by Providence, a healthcare company affiliated with the Catholic church. The Church is opposed to abortion.

“We have a lot of women in this community … and frankly, we should prioritize the idea that women have control over their own healthcare and give them options,” Robinson said. “I’m a firm believer in that because I really do believe that regardless of what an individual’s personal opinion may be, we’re all entitled to have the choice to pursue the medical care that we need. We should be building a community where everyone feels welcome to get the care they need and has that opportunity.” 

Topics such as reproductive healthcare are highly controversial, but Robinson says he’s excited to have these conversations and is not afraid to breach difficult topics. He feels that the community’s diversity is its strength. 

“I think most people, no matter what their political opinions may be, I think we actually agree at least 70% of the time,” Robinson said. “We’re just trying to negotiate how we get there. And so there’s always, in my opinion, room for a compromise. And so the first step really … is [to] listen to the other side so that you understand who they are, where they’re coming from, why they feel that the things they’re fighting for are important.”

Mayor Tom Scribner, an incumbent who is running for City Council position six, also expressed his willingness to listen. 

“I am opinionated and have strong feelings about a number of issues. However, I am willing to listen and will try to decide my vote based on what is in the best interests of WW [Walla Walla], not just me,” Scribner wrote in an email to The Wire.

The Wire contacted all candidates running for City Council seats; Brian Cariveau, Monte Willis and Susan Nakoniecny did not respond to request for comment.

If you are a student planning to vote, you are in good company. According to recent data, the 2020 national student voting rate was 66 percent, an increase by 14 percent from 2016. You can check Washington State voting registration information here.

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