Fuel prices continue to rise. Every trip to the pump feels more and more painful, as the prices seem to be higher each time you pull into the gas station. But what if in addition to battling record high gas prices, our gas stations were completely removed from city limits? Not only are you paying substantially more for gas than before, but now you are having to drive outside city limits to find a gas pump. Can you imagine the inconvenience, the time, and the additional money from your pocket this would cost you? Well, this is what your Yakima City Council members just voted on a couple weeks ago! Yakima citizens are upset. Over the weekend, many let their voice be heard. They protested at gas stations across the valley educating other citizens on what a SAFE city is.
So just what is a SAFE City?
You would think a SAFE city would include adopting policies that protect the citizens of Yakima and lower crime. Since our city is often known for its high crime around the nation, unfortunately, no, that’s not what a safe city is. SAFE stands for Standing Against Fossil Fuel Expansion and on June 2, 2021, the Yakima City Council voted for “a resolution that aligns Yakima with the SAFE cities movement and calls for a non-proliferation treaty.”  What is a “SAFE city”? According to the website stand.earth, a SAFE city “is a movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials working to keep their communities SAFE from fossil fuels.” What does keeping a community safe from fossil fuels entail? “SAFE Cities campaign is connecting local efforts to limit fossil fuels into a global call for action and supporting community leaders to adopt SAFE policies that phase out fossil fuels and fast track clean, more efficient energy solutions for all.” “SAFE policies,” according to the site “can include opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure, affirming a commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and endorsing the complimentary Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to phase out fossil fuel production and accelerate a just energy transition, committing to energy efficiency, committing to a future of electrification and renewable energy, and/or developing financial strategies to ensure that no one’s left behind. As a first step, local governments can pass resolutions that describe their intent to pass SAFE policies, explore fair financing structures, and propose policies to help them reach their climate action goals.” Phase out fossil fuel production. Also found on their site:
“Resolutions/SAFE Cites Commitment/Treaty Endorsement-Explainer. Governments can pass non-binding resolutions that show their commitment to limiting fossil fuel infrastructure and phasing out fossil fuels. These can be a specific SAFE Cities Commitment that includes a deadline for staff presenting options for actionable policies, a Climate Emergency Declaration Plan or Climate Action Plan with an explicit commitment to limiting fossil fuel infrastructure growth or phasing out fossil fuels, or an endorsement of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (the Treaty). All of these are initial SAFE Cities steps. To protect local health and safety and global climate, local governments also need to pass ordinances, bylaws, or other binding and actionable policies that specifically limit fossil fuel infrastructure growth or phase out fossil fuels.”
In essence, “SAFE cities” are an effort by “stand.earth” to enact policies by local elected leaders that will be in lockstep with their agenda: to oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure, affirm a commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement (a progressive move to “clean energy”) and endorse the complimentary Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to phase out fossil fuel production and accelerate a “just energy transition.”
Clean energy sounds great. I, for one, would love to zoom around in my electric car and not feel like I’ve been just assaulted every time I fill up at the gas tank. But I am also unfortunately rooted in reality: electric cars are expensive. And we are hurting at the pumps right now.
Those most hurting from the price of gas are the lower and middle class families, while those who have electric vehicles tend to be mostly male, highly educated, high income-earners. Yakima’s poverty rate is 20.4% (vs 12.8% statewide).  Shouldn’t our own city council be looking out for what’s best for the residents of Yakima rather than an agenda that sounds great on the surface but is going to make life even harder on those already struggling? With Yakima’s median household income being $52,626  many electric vehicles are priced out of reach for the vast majority of Yakima Citizens. Electric car prices in 2022 currently range from $28,000 – $120,000 new.  Yakima Citizens can’t afford these policies, electrification is too costly, and higher gas prices or further away gas stations will put many out of a job or out of their home.
After passing the SAFE cities resolution last year, the Yakima City Council voted a couple weeks ago to rescind the resolution: especially amidst current gas prices that are choking out nearly everyone. This would be a time to shelve any agendas and focus on a more immediate threat-to help those who are barely able to get by as it is. But that’s not what our city council members voted to do. The vote to rescind the resolution failed with a 3-4 vote, with Deccio, Macias, Lund, and Herrera voting to keep the resolution and the committee for SAFE cities has begun to form under a new committee at city hall. The force behind this appears to be SAFE city field organizer: Ingrid Archibald.
Archibald, from Southern California, lives in Seattle and has made it a point to get involved in Yakima politics and to try to ram the SAFE city agenda into our community. And sadly, she seems to be succeeding. Archibald is an activist on other controversial matters, including the defund the police movement and eliminating red meat. She has emailed the council members countless times over the last 2 years and again most recently after the council voted 6-0 to create a resolution to rescind the SAFE cities resolution. (view those emails here)
Our Yakima Herald editorial board, who tends to side with whatever side is against the people of Yakima and for any liberal agenda going forward, of course supports this decision. In their article “Opinion: Council is wise to keep playing it SAFE,” the article praised the council on their decision to keep going with Yakima becoming a SAFE city.  They go on to say, “climate change has the whole planet looking for answers, because there isn’t one square inch of Earth that isn’t affected. Doesn’t it make sense, then, if we’re all working together? Collaborations like the SAFE cities project avoid duplication and bring the best ideas together for everyone’s benefit.”
Who decides which ideas are best? And who’s ideas are they, anyway? Is it people like Archibald, who are against police officers and red meat? Is climate change a more pressing issue for Yakima residents than inflation? People here are drowning, and SAFE cities is more worried about the climate than helping those sinking in water.
What steps are taken in “just energy transitioning”? How does this benefit the poor, working, and middle classes that are already struggling not “years down the road,” but right now? Does Archibald, over in Seattle, really care about the people of Yakima? Or is she just trying to further her agenda to move to clean energy no matter what the cost is to everyday Americans, especially those in Yakima already struggling. Until we can see a plan on how to help those in our community get relief at the pump, we can not get behind this.
To be clear, we are not opposed to clean energy. Washington State has led the way in clean energy for decades with the snake river dams to name one example. We should absolutely care about our environment. But adopting liberal policies that have a history of failing in Seattle and California and adopting them in our own city without a clear plan does not seem to be the right choice for Yakima. Forcing people to stop getting gas by making it too expensive or too hard to get may reduce people’s use of gas, but it also may put them out of work. It will create even more poverty, lower take home median income and increase the price of goods and services even more. When all of us are already struggling significantly with the ever increasing costs of inflation. We can care about the environment but our residents must come first. Forcing poverty on them is not caring.
Disclaimer: As a city councilman, Matt Brown also is a member of our team, it’s important that we state this article does not reflect the majority opinion of the Yakima City Council. It reflects the opinion of it’s author and the owners of Accurate Perspective. Councilman Matt Brown has consistently voted against Safe Cities, and any opinions or references shared here reflect his thoughts in his elected position in District 6 of Yakima and not the majority council opinion.