Filing For a City Council Position
On February 17, 2015, the Honorable Thomas O. Rice of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an Order pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requiring Yakima to implement a new seven, single-member district plan for electing City Council members. The Order is available here (pdf) with the map of the districts that is attached as “Exhibit A” to the Court’s Order. Additionally, an interactive map which displays the seven City Council districts referred to in the Court’s Order of February 17, 2015 and which details the boundaries of each single-member district. View Map
I. FORM OF GOVERNMENT
Yakima is a First Class, Charter city operating under a Council/Manager form of government since June 1, 1959. The city manager is appointed by the City Council. There are seven members serving on the Council. Each of the seven members of the City Council is elected from a single-member district. Each Council member must reside in his or her district, and only registered voters of a given district may vote for the Council member position for that district in both the primary election and the general election. The mayor is elected by the Council members every two years at the first meeting in January. The mayor serves in that role at the will of the Council.
II. COUNCIL MEMBER TERMS
In order to preserve the staggered election plan for members of the City Council, in elections held for the City Council in 2015, odd-numbered district positions (1, 3, 5 and 7) were set for a four-year election cycle and even-numbered district positions (2, 4 and 6) were set initially for a two-year term. As of 2017, even-numbered district positions will also be set thereafter for a four-year election cycle. The next elections for the City Council positions in Districts 2, 4 and 6 will be held in 2017, and the elections for the City Council positions in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 will be held in 2019.
III. COUNCIL LEGISLATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES
The City Council acts as the official legislative and policy making body of the City of Yakima, adopting all laws, ordinances, and resolutions and approving contracts required by the City. The Council analyzes proposals to meet community needs, initiates action for new programs, and determines the ability of the City to provide financing for City operations. The Council also reviews, modifies, and approves the annual municipal budget presented by the city manager. Additionally, the City Council performs other miscellaneous duties, including making appointments to various boards and commissions, acting as liaison with other governmental bodies, and responding to community groups and individual constituents. The Council has established various subcommittees and shares assignments on many other local boards and commissions. Each Council member is expected to serve on these boards and commissions so as not to unduly burden any Council member.
How Much Time Does It Take To Be A Council Member?
The City Council meetings are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 5:30 p.m. Duration of meetings vary from one hour to four hours, usually averaging three hours. Other special and adjourned meetings and study sessions are called as needed. Generally in November and December, extra meetings are called to review the next fiscal year’s proposed budget. On Thursdays prior to the Council business meeting, a Council packet containing the agenda for the upcoming meeting, staff reports and other general information is prepared for each Council member, and the packet for the meetings is posted on the City website.
In addition to these meetings, Council members fulfill other duties, such as attending out-of-town meetings and speaking engagements, conversing with community members, and taking part in ceremonial events such as welcoming conventions to Yakima and groundbreaking events.
Council members can expect to spend 15-20 hours per week on Council-related work. The mayor spends approximately twice that amount of time.
IV. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
Pursuant to Washington State law (RCW 42.17A.700), candidates for public office and incumbent elected officials are required to file public disclosure records of their personal financial status. Within two weeks of becoming a candidate, a Personal Financial Affairs Statement (Form F-1) must be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) listing all income, compensation, real estate, other assets, financial holdings, and creditors. These reports are required to be filed annually by elected officials. The purpose of the report is to give the public tangible proof that officials are acting in the public interest and not for their private gain.
Candidates may also be required to submit campaign finance reports with the PDC.
V. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND THE APPEARANCE OF FAIRNESS DOCTRINE
RCW 42.23.070 provides a code of ethics for city officials. Members of the City Council are required by law to comply with certain standards of conduct involving potential conflicts of interest and the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine. A Council member may not vote on any matter whose outcome would result in that Council member being specially benefited. A Council member voting in such an instance would create a conflict of interest. The principal statutes directly governing the private interests of municipal officers are contained in Chapter 42.23 RCW, which is entitled “Code of Ethics for Municipal Officers – Contract Interests”, including RCW 42.23.030. State law and Article VI, Section 5 of the Yakima City Charter, strictly forbid City officials from having any personal financial interest in City employment or other City contracts, regardless of whether or not they vote on the matter. Public officials may not, directly or indirectly, give or receive any compensation, gift, or gratuity from a non-City source for any matter connected with or related to City business. In addition, the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine applies to quasi-judicial actions of the City Council when hearing matters involving individual or property rights. For additional information on the Appearance of Fairness doctrine, see the Municipal Research and Services Center (“MRSC”) publication entitled “The Appearance of Fairness Doctrine in Washington State” at http://www.mrsc.org. The MRSC publication entitled “Knowing the Territory” also contains a chapter on potential conflicts and ethical guidelines for city officials at http://www.mrsc.org.
Article II, Section l.A. of the City of Yakima Charter states the City Council members of the City of Yakima shall be residents of the City and of the district from which they are elected. Members of the Council shall be qualified electors of the city. Any Council member ceasing to possess any of the qualifications specified in general law or in the City Charter, or who is convicted of crime involving moral turpitude while in office, shall immediately forfeit his or her office.
VII. SALARY AND FRINGE BENEFITS
The salary for Council members is established by ordinance passed by the Council. No Council member may vote himself/herself an increase in salary. Therefore, increases for Council members are effective only after a Council member has been re-elected for another term of office.
Current monthly salaries in effect for Council positions are:
(1) Council members $1,075.00
(2) Assistant mayor $1,175.00
(3) Mayor $1,375.00
The fringe benefits include:
- Reimbursement for expenditures as provided by Section 2.20.086 of the Yakima Municipal Code.
- $5,000 life insurance policy; premium fully paid by the City.
- Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage (self-insured).
- Professional liability insurance covering Council members in their official capacity through a risk pool.
- Payment by the City of its portion of Social Security payroll tax.
- Deferred Compensation Plan (no matching funds by City).
- Medical insurance offered (premium paid in full by Council member).
VIII. ELECTION PROCESS
All elections, whether special or general, shall be conducted by the County Auditor (RCW 29A.04.216).
Filing For Candidacy:
All candidates shall file declarations of candidacy with the County Auditor according to the filing schedule set by state law (RCW 29A.24.070). A filing fee equal to one percent of the annual salary shall accompany the declaration of candidacy for any office with an annual salary of more than one thousand dollars per annum (RCW 29A.24.091). State law makes provisions for candidates who lack sufficient assets or income to pay the filing fee to submit with his or her candidacy a filing fee petition. Information on the filing date and the fee is available from the Yakima County Auditor’s website at http://www.yakimacounty.us/170/Elections.
A primary election is only necessary when more than two candidates have filed for the same position. The primary election shall be conducted in the manner provided by the laws of the State of Washington, according to Article III, Section 1 of the City Charter. Primary elections for general elections to be held in November are held on the first Tuesday of the preceding August (RCW 29A.04.311).
All city general elections shall be held throughout the State of Washington on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November in the odd-numbered years (RCW 29A.04.330).
IX. HOW A VACANCY ON THE COUNCIL IS FILLED
If any Council member elected or appointed to a district position moves outside his or her district, then that Council member shall thereby forfeit the office of Council member and that position shall be deemed vacant.
In the event a vacancy occurs for any reason, the vacancy shall be filled by the appointment of some qualified person who resides in the district in which the vacancy occurs by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Council.
Such appointee shall hold office only until the next regular municipal election to fill the unexpired term of that position. If the vacancy occurs in a position held by a Council member originally nominated or elected from a district, then the appointee shall be a resident of that district and so shall the member who is elected to serve the remainder of that term.
Generally, the Council opens up a filing period for the vacancy and requests each candidate to complete an application form. The candidates are then interviewed during a public Council meeting. Council may deliberate on the qualifications of the candidates in a closed session and then vote on the appointment in an open meeting.
X. ELECTION INFORMATION
Current election information is available on the Yakima County Auditor’s election website at http://www.yakimacounty.us/170/Elections.
XI. POLITICAL ADVERTISING
The County Election Department provides information regarding political advertising, addressed under State law. The City, in Section 15.08.040 of the Municipal Code, regulates political yard signs. Political signs which, during a campaign, advertise a candidate or candidates for public elective office, a political party, or promote a position on a public issue are exempt from the application, permit and fee requirement of Title 15. The political signs should be removed within fifteen days following the election.
XII. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Additional election information is available on the Yakima County Auditor’s website: http://www.yakimacounty.us/170/Elections.
The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (“PDC”) website contains information for candidates on what reports have to be filed with the PDC and when they are required to be filed. The PDC website is at http://www.pdc.gov.
For more information about the Yakima City Council election process, contact the Yakima City Clerk’s office by phone at 575-6037 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.