ENTIAT — Candidates for mayor and council discussed growth and accountability at a Thursday forum sponsored by the Entiat Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Wenatchee resident Rick Acosta, with the Wenatchee Valley Dispute Resolution Center, asked questions submitted by audience members. About 60 people attended the event at the Entiat Grange.
Michael Buckingham is challenging incumbent Mayor John Alt II, and Richard Crump and Kelly Krueger are running for Position 2 on the City Council. Councilmen Paul Moore and Dave Swearingen are unopposed for Positions 1 and 4, respectively.
Yuliya Manad announced at the forum she was withdrawing her candidacy for Position 5 on the council, leaving Jackie Shelton unopposed. Shelton was out of town and didn’t attend the event.
Here are some of the candidates’ responses. A full video of the forum is available on the Entiat Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.
How would you manage growth? What’s your vision of Entiat in the next five to 10 years?
John Alt II: “If we stop growing completely, there’s only two options: either we have to start to cut services or we have to raise taxes. I don’t know about you, but raising taxes is the worst option I can think of. Your council and I have stopped the increase on your sewer and water rates the last three years. I don’t think there’s any intention of raising them again this year. They were being raised 3% every year before. That revenue is extremely stable, but the rest of the services for the town is going to need a small amount of continued growth to grow ourselves out of the budget shortfall we have right now. ... In ‘19 we have the first balanced budget that the city’s had in several years, and that’s the goal is to keep it that way. We can’t spend more money than we bring in; that’s just not sustainable.”
Michael Buckingham: “I think we need more businesses moving in that complement the businesses that already exist, helping Entiat grow with a real consideration of what and who we are.”
How do you plan to keep the mayor accountable and involved in the community?
Richard Crump: “We really need more of the public at these City Council meetings, but unfortunately, some of these meetings are scheduled at such a time where not all of the general public can attend. ... You can as a resident bring up something in the public comment section, and you’re basically cut off and shut down. I’m not at every City Council meeting because of that reason. It’s very frustrating. You walk away going, ‘Well, what are they really trying to accomplish?’ I really urge a lot of our residents to please come to these meetings so you can really see what’s actually going on.”
Kelly Krueger: “I would absolutely encourage people to continue to come to the meetings because, especially if you are concerned with which direction the mayor or the council or the town is going in, the only way that anyone’s minds could ever change or change the way that they’re thinking or the way that they’re going is to hear people. Honestly, the overwhelming loud voices have been much more impactful than not. When the town has come in and said, ‘This is what we want,’ then that is the way to open up the opportunity to get the things that you want.”
Paul Moore: “One of the jobs of the council, and something that’s coming up here soon, is we’re going to be working on the budget. That’s something that the council controls. Through that budget process, we direct what the mayor can do. If there’s certain things that we feel we don’t want more money spent on, we can limit that. That’s one of the controls and one of the checks and balances that we have between the council-mayor system.”
Dave Swearingen: “The mayor is really restricted by the policies and regulations that the council puts in place. The council’s not the boss of the mayor. We can’t storm in and tell him what to do. If he’s acting legally and within the bounds, he runs the city. ... It’s got to be driven by the community. We love to have an audience at our meetings.”