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Candidates for Change Blaine Tamaki

September 12, 2014

The absolute domination of conservative Republicans politically at our city level, without Latino participation, has been exposed by our own federal court as discriminatory and in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

After spending nearly $800,000 on its own attorneys to defend a discriminatory election system, which has resulted in the systematic exclusion of Latinos, the city of Yakima may now have the additional indignity and pain of paying the total ACLU attorney bill. The city is now debating whether to extend the fight on appeal, exposing itself to even more attorneys fees on both sides.

Why did the City Council defend the lawsuit instead of complying with the Voting Rights Act to give Latino candidates a greater opportunity to become elected? The unfortunate reality is that our City Council suffers from a clear conflict of interest. Our council members are already beneficiaries of the system that elected them. They lack perspective.

Dissent is nonexistent because dissenting voices on such issues do not exist among the all-conservative Republican council. Since they are not Latino, and since protection of their power base is paramount, our City Council members have not supported an equitable system that would fairly treat Latino candidates. We as taxpayers wind up footing the bill for these bad decisions, which punish our city and stigmatize our community.

The face of America has changed over the last few decades, including our own community. Allowing more opportunity for Latinos to govern, when they compose a near majority, clearly makes sense. Even if our community is traditionally slow to change, for our city to be one of the first in the nation to be targeted for discriminatory voting practices reminds me of the struggle for civil rights and voting rights in the Deep South, South Africa, or even Ferguson, Mo.

The complete shutout of Latino candidates from governing should be an embarrassment to our community. When the federal courts are compelled to announce to the world that our own beloved city is racially discriminatory against Latino candidates running for City Council, it is time for all of us to take notice, and even more importantly, it is time that we embrace some change.

 – Published in the Yakima Herald Republic on September 6, 2014; click here to see publication.

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