The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Darrell Smith

Guest Commentary

The untold stories behind the big meeting


Last Thursday, a special meeting of the Goldendale City Council was called to discuss the wisdom of allowing a retail marijuana store in Goldendale. It is interesting to note that this very necessary meeting wasn’t announced until after The Goldendale Sentinel had published a related story Wednesday, the day before. Hmm. Nor did it occur when it should have, late last fall in 2013, apparently. After having attended this meeting and observing the actions, reactions, and veracity of the various players, I perceive many flags thrown on the field.

According to the mayor, it is “inevitable” to have such a store and Goldendale will “get sued” if we don’t allow it. According to the mayor, the city will receive revenue from the sales and possible funding of more police or perhaps school programs. These claims are baseless straw dogs. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The sting of rebuke is the truth.” Well, here it is: Selah, Yakima, Wapato, Grandview, Richland, and Pasco have all prohibited retail sales in their communities. Toppenish, Zillah Sunnyside, Prosser, Benton, West Richland and Kennewick all have moratoriums on sales (meaning they have chosen to not decide at this time, which has the effect of “No, not now”). Many other cities in Washington have already either chosen “No” or “No, not now” actively as well. Therefore, Goldendale will not “go it alone” but rather have a growing cohort of other cities and communities to link arms with, to inform and enforce our community’s decision. (Note to mayor: standing together as a string and ever-growing list of communities would mitigate legal costs individually, and as I said in the meeting, there are many foundations and organizations that can be turned to for pro bono or reduced costs. Doing the right thing is worth it; doing something for the lining of one or several person’s pockets is not right and is selling out the community once again.)

A total of 1 percent of the (legal) sales of marijuana would be refunded to the city, based on sales at the store. (Wow, is Goldendale going to cash in!) News today: both Washington and Colorado are “disappointed” at the sales tax on legal marijuana sales collected so far, as revenues are 60 percent below projections. Who knew? Well, it seems that more pot smokers would rather buy from the local black Market or grow their own than pay for the more expensive legal grass. However, many jurisdictions have seen an upswing in vagrancy and petty crime with pot-tourists. That’s all Goldendale needs to add to our own current set of problems. Couple that with the “wisdom” of locating the store at the most dangerous intersection in Klickitat County: Broadway and US 97.

And why would we drive out legitimate business after legitimate business seeking to locate here over the years as “unsuitable” for the Goldendale culture—but inordinately support a dubious, at best, pot shop? If revenue is what we are after, this isn’t the way to go about it. More to the point, it would be a final good reason for worthwhile businesses and industry to not locate hereinafter in Goldendale.

I found it disturbingly unprofessional and alarming of the mayor to voice (generally mumbled and often inaudible) his opinion prior to hearing from the rest of the council. That is the mayor “poisoning the well” of input from the council, with the net effect of pressure not to contradict him. It was curious to see his reaction to my question about council openness and the incumbent obligation of his office and necessity of informing the citizens on matters of urgency as duties of our “city fathers.” His forward and angry response was disproportionate to my question. I have been involved in negotiations and communications my entire working career and have come to be a fairly good judge of body language and other nuances of individual’s reactions. Typically, a disproportionate reaction indicates a hiddenness of motives. Why such a reaction Thursday night?

Another truism I have learned to be generally true is: “follow the money” to get to the truth of a matter. It isn’t just a local ”mom and pop” wanting to open a store here; there is either other money or influence involved. Local citizens took the campaign promises of city officials to be open and accountable as truth; they expect the entire council and city leadership to become informed and then inform the community on important matters. That should not mean we all have to pore over the minutes or attend each and every council meeting to determine when an “important” event or decision is in the offing. That is why you were elected. A vote that fundamentally changes the culture of a city is an important matter and shouldn’t have to be discovered by forensic readings of the minutes. It is bureaucracy in the highest degree to force the citizens to watch every move and read between the lines and performing undue oversight to keep informed. Rather, this should have been brought before the public when it first came up, with a special meeting then.

Don’t hide behind bureaucracy. Make local government and leadership work for the citizens of Goldendale.

Finally, for all of Goldendale to remember afresh, one of the most beloved uniformed officers of the Goldendale area was Sheriff’s Officer Sgt. Peter Garland, who was killed on US 97 in a head-on collision with the other driver being under the influence of marijuana and in the wrong lane.


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