Q & A: Richard Brinkman, Candidate for Leavenworth Mayor
Richard Brinkman is running for Mayor of Leavenworth, WA. He discussed issues facing the community and his campaign on a recent segment of KPQ's Agenda program.
KPQ: Richard, explain a little about your relevant background and qualifications to hold this office if elected.
Richard Brinkman: Well, just real briefly, I moved out to the Wenatchee Valley in the year 2000 to become the Director of Administrative Services at the city of Wenatchee. And you were actually my first interview at K PQ. I had three mayor's in my first month of office so it was a very tumultuous time we survived. I served in that capacity and was involved invited to apply for the administrator position in Leavenworth and was hired there in January of 2005 so I do know the city well. I was with the city of Leavenworth for about five years. Then a full time teaching position finally came through at Wenatchee Valley College so I left city hall but my replacement did not work out. The City brought me back to serve as an interim city administrator. So I was actually doing both jobs for eight months until we could find a permanent replacement. I also served on the Leavenworth City Council in 2016, 2017 as a temporary replacement for Michael Molhan who stepped down and moved to, of all places, Bavaria. So I do know the city very well and I have a wealth of experience to serve in this capacity as Mayor.
KPQ: Is Leavenworth serving residential and business community concerns in a responsive manner and please share some examples of of your thoughts on that.
Richard Brinkman: First of all, the answer to that is absolutely not on both counts. When I'm downtown talking with business owners, we have quite a few business owners that are struggling and that's really something new to Leavenworth. As a current city council member said a few months ago, we've lost our shine. If you look at Front Street and the condition that it's in, that's our welcome man to our visitors and it's alligator ring cracks all over the place, pavers missing. It really doesn't look good. And you know, it's one thing to advertise and bring people to Leavenworth which is what we run on, what we survive on. But it's quite another to want them to come back and visit again. And that's my concern long term for the city. Is that, yeah, things might be going okay now, right? But if we're not doing enough, beautifying enough then I don't think people are going to want to come back as much and that's a threat to our long term future.
KPQ: Do you have an example of responsiveness to residential concerns?
Richard Brinkman: Yes, thank you. You know, we've got a real problem. Well, I got several problems in the city, but one of them is the excessive speeding, especially in school zones, and I think all of your listeners would agree with me that speeding in school zones is not acceptable. And this is happening not just on my street, East Pine Street, although it's arguably the most egregious example. But Ski Hill Drive, Burke Street and Birch Street. When I'm out knocking on doors and asking people what they see as a real concerns facing the city, that's the issue that's come up the most, it hasn't been affordable housing. It's been we need to crack down on the excessive speeding, especially in school zones. So I've written four letters to the mayor about this issue two of those letters were signed by multiple neighbors of mine who share the same concern. And the bottom line is that the mayor has not done anything. I mean, not lifted a finger to try and resolve this issue. It's been very, very frustrating.
KPQ: What would you do if you won office, how would you tackle that?
Richard Brinkman: Well, I would definitely be working with the sheriff's office. We don't have our own police department. And I think the ultimate solution here and the technology is available now is to put cameras on utility poles. In the school zones especially. And the technology allows them to detect if they're going over the speed limit, and also take a photo of their license plate and issue the ticket right which would not even engage the sheriff's department. So that's something that we would definitely be looking at as well, but simply ignoring it has been really frustrating.
KPQ: What are your priorities if elected mayor of Leavenworth?
Richard Brinkman: Okay, well, we just spoke of one, really cracking down on the excessive speeding, especially in school zones. I'm sure you have the same issue down here with these altered unmuffled vehicles that make the most obnoxious noise and go through terrorizing our neighborhoods. Would like to really crack down on that. Our streets, residential streets and even some of the downtown streets are ranked fourth worst in the entire state of Washington. So that would certainly be a priority as well. You know, some snow some winters have heavier snow than others. But I think we really need to do an evaluation of how the snow removal process works in Leavenworth, especially with the elderly, if you have a heavy snowfall overnight, and the plows come through and then how is someone going out to their car to get to work, and they've got this three or four foot berm at the end of their driveway. You know, we've I just feel we have to do a better job and reevaluate how we remove snow during the winter months. responsiveness to local needs and concerns. You know, my opponents in this race have expressed, you know, being anti growth. I don't know that that's reasonable. I mean, if people want to come to Leavenworth and buy property and develop it, how do you the one thing that you can do, to manage thoughtful growth, right, do we have the water capacity do we have the sewer capacity? How is this going to impact traffic flow? But just being anti growth, I think is a myopic way of looking at things.
KPQ: What is your vision for more workforce housing opportunities? Now you did mention that people tend to want to talk more about speeding then workforce or affordable housing. But nonetheless, I think that's an issue every community in our region faces, being able to afford to to live in the community in which you work.
Richard Brinkman: Yeah, it's definitely an issue. And it's not just Leavenworth or North Central Washington, it's across the entire country. I will say, who's not for affordable housing. I mean, if there are ways that we can facilitate that, in fact, when I first became city administrator in 2005, the current mayor's affordable housing project of Aldea Village went way over budget. And as city administrator, I was the one that went out and got the grant money to complete the utility extension to that project. Okay, and so, no one can say that I don't support affordable housing, who doesn't? Right, but you know, former Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, had a great analogy. He said, if you put all of your resources into the building of a roof, the roof becomes too massive and too weighty and actually ends up collapsing. And harming its inhabitants rather than protecting them. And that's my real concern here is that if you're putting all of your resources into affordable housing, and ignoring things like parking as an example, which is another major issue. There's a proposal on the table right now to add 350 additional parking spaces downtown, and it's not going anywhere. If I'm fortunate enough to be elected. I'm really going to work to get that development through because we need the parking especially now that front street is closed. So if there are opportunities for facilitating affordable housing, yes, I would be supportive of that. But again, I think we have other areas of real concern in the city that need to be addressed immediately.
KPQ: As you say, who's against affordable housing?. It's a rhetorical question, except there's always the not in my backyard, not in my neighborhood concerns. So people do have those issues as you try and solve that problem balancing those two dynamics.
Richard Brinkman: Yeah, true. There's a proposal that the current mayor is looking at in terms of putting affordable housing in one of the parking areas of the city. It's that sub level parking area that's by the fest Hall if you can follow me and putting affordable housing downtown, I don't know if that's a very good idea. You know, if on holidays, people want to come and visit those families, I mean, where are they going to park right? So I don't know that downtown is the ultimate place for that. And then again, you have the issue of securing grant money, right. And there are other expenses associated with it as well. But again, for me personally, if opportunities present themselves that we could help facilitate workforce, affordable housing, I would certainly be supportive of that.
KPQ: For people that want to operate a short term rental or a bed and breakfast or construct an adu (accessory dwelling unit). Is there an equitable solution for people wanting to maintain their neighborhood integrity?
Richard Brinkman: Well, I see the ADU issue as being quite separate from the short term rentals and the B & B's. I was actually on the city council in 2017 when we banned overnight rentals and I led the charge on that because I was very concerned as you mentioned, of losing the character of our of our neighborhoods and people swooping in and buying properties to not live there but to rent them out to make make money. The ADU, as I understand it, current code allows them within the city of Leavenworth. And so if you have someone as you mentioned that wants to live in Leavenworth, and maybe it's tough to meet, financially, buying a single family residence, but if it has an outbuilding, right or a big garage that's unattached and they're buying the property with the intent of following current code which allows for ADU's. We would have to let that happen. But short term rentals no. You know we have enough problems trying to keep our neighborhoods somewhat cohesive. And short term rentals would be a real disturbance to that. The B & B issue. I know we have a few and there's been a moratorium in place over the years on bed and breakfasts and it's it's kind of a complicated issue on one end because you say you're not a short term rental but you're a bed and breakfast and the breakfast that you're giving your guests is a bagel in the morning and they call it a B & B. Right? And so I think that's a bit disingenuous. And I'm not saying that the seven or 10 B & B's in Leavenworth are doing that. I'm certainly not saying that. But I do think we need to be careful.
KPQ: How would your administration serve the Leavenworth community better than your opponent?
Richard Brinkman: It would be much more responsive to local needs and concerns. . We talked about my four years of effort to try and get the speeding issue resolved. And there's basically been no response to that at all. You know, if the mayor and the administration aren't going to do anything, than at least be in contact with me, right? And I think that's that's a big problem when residents and businesses are being ignored. You know, that front streets been closed since COVID hit. And you've got people on the other side, that would be the the east, the southeast side after the closure, as you're going towards the Fest Hall, and you've got some restaurants there that wanted to go into the street area as well. And the city has said no, or put major restrictions on that kind of operations such as in the evenings having to remove them, right. Whereas the the restaurants that are on the closed section of Front Street, don't have those kinds of restrictions. And anybody who knows me knows that I am 100% for fairness, and I'm able to build consensus and reach decisions that are going to be beneficial to the majority of the people. And that is simply not happening right now in Leavenworth where all the resources are being put into one issue, when we have all these other things that really need to be addressed immediately.
KPQ: What are you most concerned about for the future of Leavenworth?
Richard Brinkman: I think the future is a bit questionable for Leavenworth right now, because we're not putting the resources into bringing our visitors back. You know, we got crumbling streets. And as I mentioned,n Front Street is the welcome man for our visitors and it does not look healthy. And as I mentioned, one council member a few months ago said we were losing our shine. You can spend a lot of money on advertising to bring people to Leavenworth and that's what we've been doing for years and years and years. But we're losing what made us miracle town to begin with. And that's why one of my missions here is to bring Leavenworth back, restore Leavenworth pride because we're losing it. And if we start losing visitors, you're gonna see the residents property taxes go up, right because sales tax hotel motel tax are gonna go down. And the reason that Leavenworth has the lowest property tax rate in the entire North Central Washington region, is because of the tourism industry. We live off that. And so if we start jeopardizing what made Leavenworth successful to begin with, that's, speaking of keeping me up at night. That would certainly be one of them.
KPQ: Why should the voters in Leavenworth elect you as Mayor?
Richard Brinkman: Well, I've run the city before and I was very fortunate to be very successful with it. And you know, that's why the city brought me back when my replacement didn't work out. I've got a wealth of experience and considerable success and I'm not trying to pat myself on the back here but I've done it and I know the city well. And I know what the city needs as we've been discussing here. So yeah, support the person that has the experience and who has performed successfully
Ballots in the General Election must be postmarked Nov. 7th or deposited by 8pm in a ballot drop box on Election Day.