I am writing to address concerns I have about how things are reported and/or presented in the Sunnyside Sun in regards to the current ban on marijuana retail stores.
First, headlines are important, and when headlines or reporting show bias, it can give people the wrong impression.
An example would be the title of an editorial on April 24, 2019: “Marijuana retail business a reality looms near,” and the title of a poll posted online on May 8, 2019: “Do you want a marijuana store in Sunnyside?” Subtitle: “Sunnyside City Council votes to lift ban on marijuana retail sales on Monday.”
Both of these imply the ban will be lifted.
I would like to know why the titles were not “Marijuana retail ban continuation a reality,” or “Do you want a marijuana store in Sunnyside?” Subtitle: “Sunnyside City Council votes to continue ban on marijuana retail sales on Monday.”
Next, the Sunnyside Sun editorial on April 24 indicates that there has not been much concern over the possible lifting of the marijuana ban. It is described as “What was once a contested issue is now waiting for a map from Yakima County GIS.”
This would indicate there is no objection to lifting the ban. I take exception to this.
Over the past several months, there have been numerous comments given to the City Council, objecting to the lifting of the ban on marijuana retail sales. This has been done at City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings and in letters to the editor.
People’s opinions have not changed in a short time, so whether or not they attended the one meeting this editorial is addressing, these opinions should still be considered.
The city Council continues to look at this issue without regard to objections of community members.
Two of the biggest employers in Sunnyside have submitted letters of objection — the Sunnyside School District and Astria Sunnyside Hospital.
The Christian School submitted a letter of objection, as well.
Each of these entities has had members speak at council meetings in the recent past. Public objection has not swayed the City Council from asking the Planning Commission to draft an ordinance for them to look at, should they decide to vote on whether to maintain or lift the ban.
Another area of concern is the online “poll” that the Sunnyside Sun posted on May 8.
From my conversation with the editor, I understand this poll was posted to generate engagement.
First, as mentioned earlier, the misleading title is frustrating.
Secondly, this is a highly contested issue in the community, so when taking this on, a survey should not be able to be answered multiple times by one person and should be presented in a non-bias manner.
People tend to take these things seriously, regardless of whether the results are reliable or valid.
Once again, this can sway public opinion.
I agree with the editorial in the fat that “more municipal government transparency is required” in order for the community to know what is going on. There seems to have been some confusion as of late as to whether the City Council meeting will include a public hearing on the issue of maintaining the ban or if it is just a regular meeting in which people can state their opinions/thoughts during public input at the beginning of the meeting.
Let us move forward with municipal government transparency and accurate and non-bias reporting.
I challenge Sunnyside residents to engage in this issue. Show up at City Council meetings and state your opinion in the public comment time at the beginning of the City Council meeting, email your City Council members… write letters to the editor.
Cathy Kelley, Sunnyside