New Yakima council member votes to keep Cawley as mayor

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima City Council swears in its newest member Tuesday night. The selection of Thomas Dittmar means there is still no minority representative on council. Pending legal action for a more diverse city government didn't change things.

"It's a process," said Dittmar. "It takes several years to change the attitude and of the inner core of Yakima."

Thomas Dittmar believes cutting crime in Yakima is the first step to attract growth. That belief came after years as a police officer in both Seattle and Los Angeles. And, it helped him gain the unanimous support of the current council for the job.

"His background as a crime fighter in a town that continues to need to fight crime seems to be a perfect match," said Dave Ettl, Yakima Councilmember.

Dittmar will be tested early. One of his first votes will be whether to ban legal pot businesses in Yakima. He seems to support the ban.

"A lot of times you'll have a rise in street crime you know because you're going to have people with marijuana, they're going to go buy marijuana, you need money to buy it, you're going to have maybe street robbing situations come up with people after the money or after the marijuana," said Dittmar.

As far as downtown development, Dittmar says he's open to different options when it comes to the plaza proposal.

Adding Dittmar to City Council doesn't address ongoing concerns about diversity in the local government. The city is 41 percent Latino, but none serves on the council. Council member Dave Ettl says Dittmar's ideology is more important than reflecting the physical makeup of Yakima.

"I think the council felt by its vote that clearly the characteristics, experience and the approach that Mr. Dittmar seems to represent was more important of the time than to, how do I say this, than to give a demonstration of diversity," said Ettl.

It will now be up to Dittmar to demonstrate he's qualified with every vote.

Dittmar voted to give Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley another term as the city's ceremonial leader. The council had been split between him and Rick Ensey.

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