Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Downtown Steering Committee deliberates member representation amid business complaints

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LEAVENWORTH – The Downtown Steering Committee considered expanding its members to allow more community representation during its meeting on Feb. 27.

At prior meetings, City Administrator Matthew “Selby” proposed the idea of adding two new community members to the committee, due to complaints of oversight from businesses on 8th, 9th, and Commercial Streets. While the complaints were directed to the City and Chamber, Selby said, representation on the steering committee could give them more agency.

“I've been hearing from business owners on Commercial who feel like they're not being listened to, so I would like to honor that by adding two additional numbers. I'm not specifying here that they would come from those locations geographically downtown, but we would recruit to try to get representation from those side streets and commercial businesses,” said Selby.

Currently, the steering committee is made up of three City Council members, two members from Chamber of Commerce, a Mayor’s designee appointed staff member, and two at-large community members with a skillset of benefit, such as experience in urban design, event planning, tourism promotion. The two additions would be defined as “members at-large owning property or operating a business in downtown Leavenworth.” 

With the committee’s composition, as well as the current focus on Front Street as the last leg of the master plan, some members pushed back on the idea, including Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and committee member Troy Campbell.

“These two new people are just there to advocate for their street or their block and so they've been selected for a very specific advocacy purpose, where everyone else is sort of bringing something to the table with their skill set or providing representation for a larger group,” said Campbell. “Complaints I've heard coming out of Commercial Street and those other streets are not something that this committee would solve.”

Campbell listed some of the complaints were things like wanting more lights or events, which was out of the steering committee’s control. Others pointed out that the committee meetings were public, and the businesses in question hadn’t attempted to make their voices heard as guests. However, many committee members agreed on the importance of representation.

“I see value in that. I don't think this committee has failed these guys, but it would just be allowing a voice if they so choose to. You know, if they wanted to be here, then they could,” said City Council and committee member Zeke Reister. 

The committee also brought up concerns of committee members doing double duty with both chamber and community representation, without clear designation of which role they were occupying, such as Kevin Reike, who owns the Wood Shop / Hat Shop, and is the current Chamber of Commerce President.

“Since I am one of any one of those, I’ve been appointed as each, so it does make sense to kind of start a better record keeping system so we know who's up for appointment and under what designation moving forward,” said Reike.

Unable to come to a consensus, the group tabled the matter and agreed to revisit it in a couple of months. The next Downtown Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for March 26.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

Publisher's note: This article has been edited to reflect a date change in the last paragraph.  The original version incorrectly stated, "The next Downtown Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for Apr. 23."

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