Yakima

Washington lawmakers today renewed a push to reform local elections and ensure minorities are represented.

The Washington Voting Rights Act is a state version of the federal law. It would allow minority groups to challenge their representation in city, country and school district elections.

The bill stalled in both the state House and Senate after opposition from lawmakers who worry the law would lead to expensive lawsuits.

Critics still say the bill would cost the state millions in legal fees.

liz west / Flickr

 

A federal judge ruled against the City of Yakima in a voting rights challenge Tuesday, setting the stage for a new era in Central Washington politics. The ruling calls for an overhaul of Yakima’s City Council elections to better represent the will of Latino voters.

Judge Thomas Rice’s order followed his ruling last August that Yakima’s at-large City Council races suffocated the Latino vote. The city’s Latino population is over 40 percent and growing, yet no Latino has ever been elected to City Council.

Flickr

A judge today ruled that dairies are contaminating drinking water in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by two environmental groups after an EPA study linked the dairies to high nitrate levels in residential drinking wells.

Northwest Public Radio
Rowan Moore Gerety

December 12 is the biggest day of the year for St. Joseph’s church in Yakima. It’s standing room only as more than 1000 people gather to celebrate Mexico’s Patron Saint, la Virgen de Guadalupe.

After the service, a mariachi band serenades the congregation. Volunteers serve up Menudo and Mexican hot chocolate. There’s only one thing missing: parishioners who attend the English mass.

Though the Catholic Church has long been known as a haven for immigrants, many parishes remain divided along ethnic lines even after decades of demographic change.

Mel Green / Flickr

Last month, a federal judge ruled that Yakima’s City Council elections stifle the voice of Latino voters in the city. But that verdict doesn’t apply to dozens of other places in Eastern Washington where Latinos are just as underrepresented in elected office.

In communities like Othello, leaders are grappling with broader problems of civic education and participation in local government.

In Central Washington, two public radio stations, Northwest Public Radio (NWPR) and KDNA, have started a new initiative to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps between communities. The motivation is straightforward: public radio station NWPR has partnered with Spanish-language radio station KDNA to create and share content for broadcast. Combining reporting and digital services teams between stations, this partnership is tackling the issues of their respective communities, bilingually.

Yakima Election Change May Effect Entire Northwest

Aug 25, 2014
Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

A recent federal court ruling that orders the city of Yakima to change the way it elects its city council could have wide reaching effects in the Northwest.

A federal judge has ruled that the way city council members are elected in Yakima disenfranchises Latino voters. That surprise ruling Friday comes exactly two years after the ACLU filed a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the city. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this update.

Matt Martin

Immigration activists in the Northwest are pushing for Congress to get beyond the government shutdown fight and return to the issue of undocumented workers. Immigrant rights groups rallied in Yakima, Washington Saturday as part of a national protest.

Vaughn Bullfinch

For decades, rural parts of the Northwest have found it difficult to lure doctors to small towns. Community leaders in Yakima, WA went so far as to found a small medical school to train doctors to practice in these underserved areas. The Pacific Northwest University opened in 2006. But there is a problem. Small towns throughout the region just don’t have enough residency programs. And that means many of these doctors-in-training may move away. 

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