Our approach

We put a call out to our community and asked what questions you had for these candidates. Questionnaires were sent out July 19 with responses expected by July 23. Candidates were either contacted by email, tagged via social media, called, or contacted using multiple methods whenever information was available. We also offered to extend the deadline or troubleshoot any problems if they had an interest in completing the questionnaire.

Candidates who elected not to respond:

  • Rocky Mullen
  • Cliff MacHugh
  • Terry Ryan Cissne

What are the top 5 issues which you think are facing this position? How do you differ from others running on these issues?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
The issues which I think are the five most important in this campaign are:

  1. Addressing the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the inexplicable unwillingness of the Franklin County Commissioners to collaboratively work with the Health District and see that it has the funding necessary to combat this pandemic.
  2. Making our county government accountable to its residents. Accountable government in my view is one that is transparent. Franklin County has taken a positive step by livestreaming its meetings but more must be done. Meeting space is too small and they are too early in the day to effectively connect with the public. Additionally, meetings need interpretive services including in multiple languages and more needs to be done to connect with marginalized communities.
  3. Smart growth policies to address the continued growth of Franklin County. Smart Growth means putting forward policies that acknowledge growth is happening within the county, and manage it in such a way that it strengthens the county in the long term. For example, affordable housing including balancing residential and commercial growth so that long-time Franklin County residents do not feel overlooked or left behind. This should include buy-in from the labor and business communities.
  4. Economic development is always crucially important but especially during the economic struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means working on diversifying our county’s economy including encouraging the development of consumer services, technology, and advanced manufacturing. Most importantly, through our zoning and tax authority, our commissioners need to focus on bringing companies to Franklin County that pay family supporting wage jobs, so that workers can afford to live and thrive in our wonderful community.
  5. Bringing civility back to our county government is important. I believe that civility is absolutely necessary in building trust between constituents and their government. My leadership style focuses on cooperation, pragmatism,  consensus-driven policy making, and setting the county’s strategic priorities. Bringing civility to the Franklin County Commission is achievable for someone like myself because of my work bringing people together on things like the friendship agreement between the City of Pasco and State of Colima.

As a member of the Board of Health, what would you change in order to better meet the following challenges? 1.) The current pandemic; 2.) challenges in the area of Behavioral Health (Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health); and 3.) future epidemics?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
I believe that a great deal has to change with regards to the working relationship between the Benton-Franklin County Health District and the Franklin County Commission.

  1. As a commissioner, I would listen to the subject matter health experts, learning about the issues presented by them, and supporting the Health District staff. The Health District needs to be adequately funded NOW in order to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. Some of the CARES Act funding should go directly to the Health District to pay for additional testing, contact tracing, and other supportive public health services that our residents need. There are 6 board members on the Health District Board (the commissioners from both counties) and they all should be working collaboratively together.  Finally, the commissioners can use their voice and lead by example in encouraging Franklin County residents to wear face masks in public and practice social distancing at all times. Simply encouraging different behavior can help to significantly reduce the number of cases and ease the burden on our health care system.
  2. There currently is no detox center in the Tri Cities. People experiencing substance abuse have to drive long distances to get the care that they need. As a commissioner, I will work with my colleagues on both the Benton and Franklin County Commissions to establish a detox center in the Tri Cities. I think Franklin County should also continue to collaborate with non-profit health organizations such as Kennewick Hospital District, Tri Cities Community Health, Kadlec, and Trios Health in expanding mental health and substance abuse services for Franklin County residents.
  3. There will undoubtedly be future epidemics. Government at all levels need to take COVID-19 as a warning that we need to be better prepared for future virus outbreaks in order to save lives and our economy. As a Franklin County Commissioner, I will work closely with the Health District experts and staff as well as commissioners from both counties to devise a county-wide strategy for facing the next pandemic, so we can avoid the tragic loss of life and economic disruption we are experiencing during COVID-19.

In your newly elected position, would you consider supporting legislation to create a larger, more representative County Commission of five or seven members instead of three? Please explain your reasoning.

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
There is a problem with representation on the Franklin County Commission and it stems from the gerrymandered districts. These districts were drawn to dilute the voting power of the Hispanic community in Franklin County and they are unbalanced in terms of population. Some districts have more people than others which means that some Commissioners have to represent more constituents than other Commissioners and that is unfair to those residents. If the county does not redraw the current districts, then it is likely that the county will be mired in an expensive lawsuit and be forced to redraw. It is far better to redraw the districts before a potential lawsuit can happen and save our limited tax dollars. I will work to redraw the district lines next year to make sure each district is evenly balanced in terms of population and our historically marginalized communities are fairly represented by our county commission.

The availability and level of care concerning mental health services and substance abuse treatment in Benton and Franklin Counties is significantly lower than in communities of similar size in the state. How will you work to improve this?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
We absolutely need a detox center in the Tri Cities and I will work with my fellow Benton and Franklin County Commissioners on this important priority. There is a feasibility study that is currently being completed and I will continue to support the feasibility study process. Commissioners must listen to experts as to the best way to establish the Detox Center and act accordingly. I will do that.

As a member of the Board of Health, do you feel the board should only be made up of commissioners? Or are you open/willing to add additional members who come from medical professions?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
I absolutely believe that the Health District Board should comprise additional voting members beyond the Commissioners from both counties. Public Health experts should have a voice about the decisions of the Health District that are based on science and not politics or ideology.

Do you support Black Lives Matter? (yes/no)

Ana Ruiz Peralta:

Do you believe that there is systemic racism in Benton/Franklin counties? Thinking about actions you could take from this elected position, what do you think the top priorities of our community should be in response—particularly in our law enforcement and justice system?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
It is important for our locally elected officials to publicly acknowledge that systematic racism is a problem in our community and that they encourage all county residents to come together in order to address it. The Tri Cities has a long history of racial discrimination. During the early and mid-20th century, Kennewick was a Sundown Town and the African American population was largely confined to a specific area of Pasco. So, there is a history of systematic discrimination in the Tri Cities that we all have to recognize and seek solutions to address these historical inequities. Franklin County Commissioner should not shy from saying that Black Lives Matter and work to resolve these long standing issues related to equity, justice, and fairness.

I think the Franklin County Commissioners should create a diversity and inclusion committee that can provide training and guidance about how the county can best dismantle the legacies of racial inequalities and lack of opportunity. This committee can also help educate county officials and staff for combating informal and casual representations of racism both within the county government and with our residents. Franklin County Commissioners should value and respect the presence and views of the diversity and inclusion committee members. Secondly, we need to make sure our county juvenile justice system is not a pipeline for entering the general criminal justice system. Our bi-county juvenile system center should prioritize rehabilitation so that we can help our young people be productive adults. This will require adequate funding from the county. Finally, the county Sheriff's office has a role to play in decreasing racial tensions and making sure bias does not factor into the enforcement of the law and resolving disputes. All county law enforcement officers should continually receive training in racial bias and de-escalation as the Pasco Police Department has done.

Black and Latinx community members are twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as white community members. What are your thoughts on the reasons for this? And what would you propose to do at a policy level to address the disparity?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
The reasons for the higher rates of COVID-19 infection in African American and Latinx stems from racism and historical inequities. Housing, employment, and access to health services all impact whether an individual can avoid exposure to COVID. For example, farm workers (comprising a large proportion of Hispanics) are highly susceptible to exposure to COVID because of the nature of their jobs because they are essential workers and have to be working. Daily interactions with fellow workers increases likelihood of exposures. Additionally, having an underlying health condition, such as Diabetes and high blood pressure, increases their risk that they may end up at the hospital.

Franklin County Commissioners can start with providing the resources to the Health District that it requires to combat the effects of the pandemic. Second, with Ag being such an important part of Franklin County’s economy, Commissioners should be working with our Ag workers and farmers in devising ways to reduce the spread of COVID and protect workers as much as possible. Finally, Commissioners need to be encouraging the wearing of masks and social distancing as much as possible to reduce the cases and strain on our health care system. Fewer cases means that our public health professionals can effectively treat the individuals who are exposed to COVID. Commissioners should and can call for people to not disregard the social distancing guidelines issued by the Governor.

How will you improve the relationships between Benton and Franklin counties to increase the effectiveness of bi-County organizations? Do you support separating traditionally shared functions between Benton and Franklin County, such as the Courts and the Public Health system?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
The most effective way to improve the relationship between Benton and Franklin Counties is by focusing on civility, collaboration, and respect. Relationships between elected officials and county staff matter. I will be a commissioner who will reach out to my colleagues in Benton County in good faith and forge a productive working relationship with them and support the work that county staff does with their counterparts in Benton County . That is what I have been doing for years in my work in organizing the Pasco Taco Crawl, leading the team that negotiated the Colima-Pasco Cooperation and Friendship Agreement, and on the Tri Cities Community Health Board. I am a bridge builder and have built coalitions to get stuff done. I will do this as commissioner. In areas that affect residents in both counties such as with public health and criminal justice, both county commissioners must work together productively and civilly. We can’t build a wall between our two counties. Franklin County Commissioners must be able to work constructively with their counterparts in Benton County. I will do that.

What are your thoughts on pushing forward legislation to move our state/district/county/city to Ranked Choice Voting?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
Ranked Choice Voting is the voting system in the state of Maine but it was only in 2018 when this system was fully implemented. I think we need to take a wait and see approach about deciding whether we want to implement that system in our state. Ranked Choice Voting is a bit complicated and more time is needed to observe how this system works and whether it is practical to implement in Washington.

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
We need to fully reopen our economy but we need to do so in a safe way that prioritizes the health and lives of our county’s residents. I don’t support opening indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters until we significantly reduce our cases of COVID and flatten the curve. If we open our indoor business establishments before we are on a consistent downward trend in cases, then we will end up right where we all started back in April. New cases will increase exponentially and exhaust our public health system. We will return to stay at home orders and the businesses that have opened up will be closed once again. Our business owners have survived the initial shutdown. Many may not survive a second shutdown. The best way to protect our economy is to first focus our energies in reducing COVID cases and use CARES Act funding as a lifeline for our businesses until we have flattened our curve.

What metrics should be met before schools reopen? And what precautions should be taken once they’re open to limit COVID-19 spread?

Ana Ruiz Peralta:
I think we should use the same metric we are using for business re-openings. If our county’s COVID cases are not on a downward trajectory, then we risk the health and lives of students, faculty, staff, and families by reopening our schools prematurely. We need to also recognize, however, that some families experience a serious burden because both parents have to work and there isn’t anyone to watch their children (who otherwise would be in school) and the costs of child care make this option out of reach for many families. For some households, the only hot meal of the day that children receive is at school. Additionally, students benefit far more from person-to-person interactions with their teachers in the classroom as compared to online instruction. So, it’s important that students return to the classroom as long as they implement strong social distancing and mask wearing protocols to reduce the likelihood of increasing our county’s COVID cases. Some possible ways to do this is for students to go to school 2-3 days per week and spend the rest of the time working online, reducing class sizes, and/or offering the option for students to remain home and use fully online instruction.