Saturday, May 18, 2024

Letter to the Editor,


    In last week’s Echo, the community groups who came together to host the Candidate Forum received harsh criticism from Celeste Peterson in her editorial letter, “Listening Not Whistling in   Leavenworth for All”. Peterson claimed that those who worked hard to develop the Candidate Forum should be discredited for their selfish disregard for workforce housing. This is incorrect.  We, the sponsors of the Forum, support the creation of workforce housing. Our goal in hosting the forum was  to help people in Leavenworth feel informed about the complex  problems and how the next mayor will deal with them. It was clear that the community craves information and cares about the election. The Fire Hall was packed out with 120+ attendees. We feel confident that every person who left the Forum had a much stronger sense of the three individuals who want to serve as mayor of Leavenworth.  Those who organized included representatives from the Whistle  Team and the Residents Coalition of Chelan County (RC3). (The  Whistle editor, Rhona Baron, who is running for council position  #4, recused herself months ago and was not part of developing the  forum questions or format.) We spent many hours planning  questions and fashioning the event to facilitate a clear understanding of where candidates stood. Some of the questions were hard, but none were planned with a particular candidate in  mind. Indeed, the yes or no questions were challenging to answer and brought on some audience laughter. But in the end, we believe  attendees got direct responses from the candidates, which several  people afterwards told us they appreciated. The Forum organizers do agree that providing more context would  have been helpful.  It was challenging to get as many different  questions out in the limited time of 90 minutes.  Peterson opined that the candidates didn’t have time to respond with more detail.  We believe this is largely untrue.  In fact, the Forum was designed to ask definitive questions, but also provided time for candidates to give more depth to responses later.  At the end, each candidate was given three minutes to summarize their  positions.  One thing that struck us from Peterson's letter was the criticism  that there were not more young people at the meeting. This was an open, advertised public meeting with announcements on social  media and in places where locals hang out.  We wonder why the  organizers were vilified that so few younger people showed up?  Perhaps another question to consider is why after several years  of pushing density and housing have so very few people under 5 shown up to City Council meetings as well as our forums?  Something we all heard in the Candidate Forum from ALL three  candidates: The upzoning and density increases undertaken during  the last four years have NOT created more affordable housing, NOR have they increased housing for the local workforce or for people  of any age.  Indeed, housing for the local workforce is  incredibly important, yet like other tourist-centric towns, data has not shown increased affordability for workforce housing in  small tourist towns through solely increasing density.  And the  locals who have been around here know quite well that people  leave Leavenworth for far more reasons than housing affordability  in Leavenworth.  Facts matter to the folks here, and our group is willing to ask sometimes hard questions to understand our government better. Decisions are being made by appointed and elected officials that are shaping the future of our community. We believe the forums are a vital tool to illuminate issues, communicate factual  information, as well as to provide residents with a chance to hear from the candidates for elected office.  

Respectfully,  The Planning Committee for the Mayoral Candidates Forum


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