Yakima mayor says council members are entitled to personal opinions after feud with Yakima Pride

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima Mayor Patricia Byers released a statement Wednesday morning saying posts made by council members on social media are just personal opinions and may not reflect the position held by the city.

The statement was released in response to controversy over a Facebook post made by council member Jason White, which has been the subject of online debate. While the debate initially focused on the content of the council member’s post, others later took issue with White’s reaction to the criticism against him.

After Yakima Pride President Cristina Ortega called his post anti-transgender in a public statement, he fired back at her personally — a reaction some say may violate the council’s principles of conduct.

Principles include avoiding personal comments that could offend others and committing to being seen as acting with integrity and impartiality.

In her statement, Byers said council members are entitled to their opinions, but need to make it clear they’re speaking on behalf of themselves and not the city.

When KAPP-KVEW asked White to comment, he replied: “Christina Ortega is an idiot. That’s all I would like to say.” He later posted that Ortega was “making the entire LGBTQ community look irrational.”

While Ortega was speaking as the president of Yakima Pride, the dispute with White is further complicated by a prior personal connection.

In August, Ortega announced her intention to run against White in the 2022 Yakima City Council race — a fact several supporters of White’s have pointed to as potential evidence of a political motive.

Former Yakima City Council candidate Kenton Gartrell publicly called for Ortega’s resignation Wednesday afternoon, saying that she violated a federal tax law which prohibits political candidates from using a nonprofit for political activity.

If Ortega remains the president of the organization, Gartrell said he plans to file a complaint with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, which oversees campaign activities.

As for the underlying dispute regarding remarks White made regarding his support of a new Idaho law which bans transgender girls from competing in women’s sports, several LGBTQ advocacy organizations have announced their support of Yakima Pride, including Boise Pride Festival, Las Vegas Pride,  Planned Parenthood Advocates of  Greater Washington and North Idaho, and PFLAG Pacific Northwest.