by Richard Uhlhorn
Ballots for the November 5 election will be in the mail on Friday, October 18. In anticipation of the election, the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce hosted a Candidate’s Forum on Tuesday evening, October 15, for candidates who were opposed.
The Tuesday evening’s local Candidate’s Forum hosted by the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce was a lightly attended affair. An estimated 60 people attended.
The positions being challenged include the Mayor’s race between incumbent Mike Cooney and ex-mayor Bob Goedde; City Council race between John Olson and Jon Higgins; and the Fire Commissioner race between Karyl Oules and Bill Bassett.
Chamber manager Michael Steele opened the Candidate’s Forum on Tuesday evening. The evening’s moderator was Jay Witherbee.
Jay Witherbee, who resigned his position from the Fire Commission, moderated the event.
Each candidate was given two minutes for an opening statement, one minute to answer each written question from the audience, and a ending statement.
First up was William (Bill) Bassett, who is running for Fire Commissioner at District 7 against long time resident Karyl Oules who was out of town and unable to attend the Forum.
William Bassett is running for Fire Commissioner at District 7 against local Karyl Oules who was on the road and unable to attend the forum.
Bassett and his family purchased their house in the Valley four years ago. He is the CEO and President of his own health care software company and works with clients around the world.
He is a Rotarian and says he has the conviction to serve on the board. In an interview following the forum, Bassett said, “When I take on a position, I do it the best I possibly can.”
Asked if he sees a conflict of interest serving as a commissioner while his son is employed as a career firefighter at the District, Bassett said, “I don’t see any problem with it. My son started as a volunteer and has moved into a full time position.”
He has also heard about the alleged strife between full-time firefighters and volunteers. “I don’t know what drives it, but I would be willing to sit down and bridge that gap,” said Bassett.
Bassett says he has the right skill sets to help the District in figuring out how to solve issues. “Let’s stop the name calling and start doing,” said Bassett at the end of his interview.
On stage at the Forum, Bassett said he was sorry that his challenger wasn’t able to make it.In his opening statement, Bassett stated that he has never called for a levy lid lift.
“We need to look outside the box and find how to do things,” stated Bassett. “I want to clear the air. There have been untruthful things said about me… one being that I’m in favor of a levy lid lift. I never said anything public or private suggesting that. She (Oules) doesn’t know what my position is.”
He went on to say he feels it is important to look at how the District is funding and planning its budget. “There is no need for new funding for two years,” says Bassett. “That gives us time to generate and add resources.”
Bassett says the District needs to be more transparent. With regards to his son being a career firefighter at the District, Bassett said he had a long discussion with his son and others at the District. “There are specific regulations that prohibit me from working with my son.” He added in his closing statement that if there was ever a potential conflice, he would step down.
In his closing statement, Bassett said he was asking for the community’s vote. He reiterated that he is not in favor of raising taxes and says he has the skill set and experience to serve as a commissioner.
Karyl Oules was unable to attend the forum but is noted as a long time resident of Chelan and a fiscally conservative individual who is worried that the District is seeking a huge levy lift. In my interview Oules, she says she wants to hear from the community about their concerns and issues and would represent the District honestly and directly.
John Olson, a retired businessman who moved back to Chelan refers to himself as the older Goat to Jon Higgins who is also a Chelan High School graduate.
Jon Higgins (left) and John Olson are facing each other for a City Council position that Council member Kelly Allen is vacating.
Olson told the estimated 60 valley residents attending the forum that he got a free ticket to Vietnam out of high school; that he worked on the oil pipeline construction in Alaska and, since moving back to Chelan, has attended City Council meetings, Chelan County Commission meetings, the Planning Commission meetings and other meetings like the Lake Chelan Water Planning Committee meetings.
Jon Higgins, a real estate broker at Chelan Realty, said he doesn’t always agree with the vision for Chelan. “I’m not afraid to speak up,” he said. “Kelly Allen’s seat is a tough seat to fill.” He says his roots in Chelan run deep and feels that the City needs to have a vision for the community that bridges the gap between investors and local community.
Probably the biggest question relates to the City’s decision to turn Woodin Avenue into a one-way across the old bridge and what can be done about it. Some want the bridge returned to two-way traffic.
John Olson stated that in an issue poll he has been running in front of the Post Office, the bridge always seems to come to the surface.
“It was the best of choices we could do,” said Olson.
Higgins added that the bridge was a situation that was dangerous and it needed fixing. “I would have preferred a suspension bridge,” said Higgins. He stated that turning the bridge into a one way into town created other issues, basically traffic flow issues.
Olson stated that the traffic flows are very difficult issues for the community. “Growth has had a major impact on traffic,” said Olson.
Another question related to the City’s role in economic development. Higgins said the City has to help those people who work and live here. “The City has to help those people have jobs and purchase (affordable) homes. “It’s very hard for minimum wage people to find affordable housing.”
Olson agrees that affordable housing is an issue. “Jon’s point is well taken.”
Olson finished by saying he hopes to work towards a community that keeps residents in the Valley.
Higgins said he wants to work towards sustainable growth and said his door is always open.
Both current incumbent Mike Cooney and past mayor Bob Goedde bring a lot of experience to the table. The question facing voters is which individual will be the best at driving Chelan into the future.
Bob Goedde (right) is running against current mayor Mike Cooney. Both are qualified candidates with the mayor’s office. Goedde served as Chelan mayor for eight years and Cooney is running for his second term in the office.
Cooney moved to Chelan 15 years ago, opening The Vogue. He served on City Council before running for mayor and said in his opening statement, “I don’t view Bob as my opponent.”
Goedde stated that he didn’t have a prepared statement, but read from his campaign brochure telling those in attendance that he served as a council member for eight years of which four years were as mayor pro-tem and as the mayor for another eight years.
Goedde, a Chelan native, spent 21 months in Vietnam and continues to work with veterans locally. “I value the dollar and started working when I was 12 years old,” said Goedde.
Both were asked how they have accomplished the job of mayor differently.
Cooney replied that he doesn’t see it as that paradigm. He says he has worked at rebuilding relationships he feels were sagging with the county, fire department and others. He also stated that he has attended every pre-application meeting for development at the planning department to back up his Planning Director.
Goedde stated that as mayor he probably put more input into Council business than he should have. Goedde worked hard as mayor to make sure that WalMart was successful in opening in Chelan and gathered thousands of signatures to make it happen.
The first question to the two candidates was whether the old bridge could be returned to a two-way from its current configuration?
Goedde said he questions the whole operation of the one-way. “We had $3.5 million from the state that was taken back and given elsewhere. The new street scape is difficult and will be hell on snow removal.”
Cooney stated that the bridge needed restoring because it was unsafe and was changed for public safety. Goedde replied that the bridge had no accidents as a two-way corridor. “It was a terrible injustice to the people on the North Shore,” said Goedde.
Neither one gave any indication of what could be done to change the bridge back.
How to fix the traffic problems was also a major question put to the candidates.
Goedde said that he thinks the City created the problem by changing the corridor at the bridge.
Cooney admitted that it might have been a mistake to change the bridge to one-way, but stated that the City is working hard on traffic mitigation. “We have fixed the light timing and are doing a traffic study.” Cooney said they have received $900,000 in grants and will be looking at a long term vision for traffic.
Goedde stated that Manson could become larger than Chelan because it has more buildable property which will add to the traffic issue now facing the community.
Goedde said his first action at the City if elected as Mayor would be to make himself aware of the changes in city government, get a feel of how the staff works and let them know how he works.
Cooney stated that growth, traffic and housing are on his mind and said he would continue to work on those issues.
Voters are encouraged to do their research, reach out to each of the candidates and make educated choices for whom they feel will best represent them.