City council denies extra RPZ; will further discuss pollution accountability act


Colt Sweetland, Online Editor

City council members voted down a request from Ellensburg residents to create a third residential parking zone (RPZ) near N Alder and 14 Ave.

The council also decided to hold off on the exemption  for cities with a population 50,000 or less from participating in Gov. Inslee’s cap and trade program, which would create a 6.25 percent tax for Ellensburg residents.

Grappling with Ellensburg parking

Angie Wing, the wife of Torrey Wing who spoke on his behalf, said that it is difficult for her to find parking near her home for visitors to use.

“The issue we have as part of zone one; you can see that even if four or five people from [parking] zone one decide to park in our area because maybe it’s more convenient, it makes it extremely difficult for us to have any on street parking,” Wing said.

City council member Mary Morgan said that there should be no need to create a third RPZ in this area.

“We already have large blocks of town that if you don’t even have an RPZ permit, you can’t even park there, Morgan said. “I think that the RPZ serves a purpose for the people who live there; there is an area provided and I don’t think we have to make a special third area.”

Collectively, the city council decided against the additional RPZ.

Money first, environment second.

Gov. Jay Inslee recently proposed a cap and trade program, formerly called the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, that would require the state’s largest polluters to pay for each ton of carbon released. The Environmental Commission recommended an amendment should be pursued to exempt cities with a population under 50,000, which would include Ellensburg, from having to pay ensuing taxes. Ellensburg residents would pay a 6.25 percent tax next year that would rise each year thereafter, if the program were implemented.

David Miller, city council member, said he wished there was more integration of citizen comments to find common ground on the issue, as well as the lack of discussion of the broader issue of pollution.

“I am disappointed in the guidance provided by the Environmental commission on this issue, because their recommendation to sign on to the exemption is a purely economic position” Miller said. “The [commission] simply missed an opportunity to weigh in on an issue of significant environmental discussion…I think it’s a swing and a miss.”

City council members Jill Scheffer, Nancy Lillquist and David Miller decided to draft a letter to Gov. Inslee regarding the pollution accountability act.

Mental health demands attention

Dale Miller, chief of police, said there are encouraging statistics in the 2014 Annual Report – the main ones being  a reduction in overall crime in Ellensburg, as well a relatively static number of reported violent crimes.

Of more significance in the report was the drastic increase in mental health crises, which has more than doubled since 2006.

“There is no amount of training that we can give anybody that can provide them with the words and the expertise to deal with some of these crises,” Miller said.  “My point in the agenda was to align the community’s expectations with what we are capable of doing.”

Elliott said Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue has responded to double the amount of mental health related crises in the last four years. He also said due to some of the changes in the health care system, mental health services previously provided separately are now only offered at the Ellensburg’s Kittitas Valley Healthcare Hospital.

“If you’ve ever been to an emergency room—I worked for two years at Harborview Hospital where the psych board and the ER are the same entry point, that is not where you want to treat mental health issues,” Elliott said.