A word of cau­tion to our new Tri-City leg­is­la­tor

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE TRI-CITY HER­ALD ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

Matt Boehnke has yet to de­cide whether he will give up his seat on the Kennewick City Coun­cil now that he has been elected to the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Try­ing to hold this par­tic­u­lar job com­bi­na­tion is ex­tremely am­bi­tious and un­usual, and Boehnke is work­ing with the city man­ager and city at­tor­ney to fig­ure out his op­tions.

Ap­par­ently there is no state law that re­quires Boehnke give up the city coun­cil.

The dis­cus­sion, how­ever, must be not only about what he can do, but also what he should do.

We ap­pre­ci­ate Boehnke’s drive and his devo­tion to pub­lic ser­vice, and if he de­cides to go for it we know he will put all his en­ergy into ful­fill­ing his com­mit­ment to his con­stituents — both in Kennewick and in the 8th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict.

But good in­ten­tions may not be enough to make such a de­mand­ing en­deavor work well.

If he were in Rich­land, he wouldn’t be in this sit­u­a­tion. Rich­land Mayor Bob Thomp­son told a Her­ald re­porter the Rich­land char­ter does not al­low city coun­cil mem­bers to hold dual of­fices.

Per­haps Kennewick of­fi­cials should con­sider some­day adopt­ing a sim­i­lar pol­icy — at least it would elim­i­nate un­cer­tainty and con­fu­sion in the fu­ture. If Boehnke did give up his city coun­cil seat, his re­place­ment would be ap­pointed. Kennewick res­i­dents would vote for can­di­dates in the next elec­tion.

Though in the mean­time, while Boehnke is mak­ing up his mind, we have some thoughts on the is­sue.

For starters, Boehnke will be a fresh­man leg­is­la­tor and he will have a tremen­dous amount to learn when he is work­ing in Olympia. We can’t imag­ine he will have much spare time as he tries to make po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, re­spond to ci­ti­zens and lob­by­ists, re­search leg­is­la­tion and nav­i­gate through the state Capi­tol bu­reau­cracy. That means he won’t be as free to fo­cus on Kennewick is­sues.

In ad­di­tion to con­sid­er­ing keep­ing his city coun­cil seat, Boehnke also is try­ing to find a way to con­tinue his job at Columbia Basin Col­lege as the direc­tor and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of the cy­ber­se­cu­rity di­vi­sion. Vet­eran law­mak­ers have a tough time man­ag­ing just one side job dur­ing the leg­isla­tive ses­sion — two seems un­re­al­is­tic.

An­other con­cern is how Boehnke will at­tend city coun­cil meet­ings dur­ing the leg­isla­tive ses­sion. If he can’t, then is­sues are more likely to end in a dead­lock vote. There is a rea­son Kennewick has seven city coun­cil mem­bers.

Also, there could be con­flicts if Boehnke finds him­self hav­ing to vote at the state level on is­sues that af­fect city gov­ern­ment. Would he find him­self hav­ing to ab­stain from votes that would ben­e­fit the Tri-City com­mu­nity? We think it’s pos­si­ble.

The next leg­isla­tive ses­sion is a bud­get ses­sion sched­uled to run 105 days, but two years ago law­mak­ers went into triple over­time and barely pre­vented a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down on July 1. Ex­tended ses­sions seem to be the norm, and Boehnke could end up away from home for more months than he thinks. That would be hard on him and his Kennewick con­stituents.

With his term on the city coun­cil end­ing in De­cem­ber of next year, we un­der­stand Boehnke’s de­sire to try and ride it out. He is a go-get­ter, af­ter all.

With his back­ground in tech­nol­ogy, he wants to find out if it is pos­si­ble for him to at­tend city coun­cil meet­ings us­ing dif­fer­ent tools avail­able through the In­ter­net. It might be that his de­ter­mi­na­tion to make it all work will lead to some in­no­va­tions in city gov­ern­ment, and that would be great.

But he also might burn him­self out.

The best de­ci­sion he can make is one that en­sures no one suf­fers be­cause he is try­ing to do too much -— not his con­stituents, not his fam­ily and not him.

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