Olson for Mayor Platform
“Respecting the Past – Embracing the Future”
The purpose of any city mayor campaign platform is to outline the candidate’s position on the issues facing their community, with complete honesty, candor, transparency, and avoidance of self-serving. The roll of city government is to provide facilities and services that are common to all. The role of the mayor is to provide leadership in those efforts. After 4 years of a self-imposed ad hoc council position and 4 years of an official council position, including as mayor pro tem, I offer my positions on the following issues, with only the briefest of comments on each – listed alphabetically for reference ease and not in order of importance:
State of the City: So just what is the state, or condition, of the City of Chelan? The City of Chelan was incorporated in 1905 to provide services and facilities to the residents at the foot of Lake Chelan. Little of the original public infrastructure (the hundreds of services and facilities that are common to all of us) remains today, of course, but the current infrastructure, which was built to meet the needs of far fewer people than are here today and will be here in the near future, is in need of significant updating, expansion and improvement. According to the WA Office of Fiscal Management 2020 census tracking, Chelan has a permanent population of about 4800. The Manson area, which utilizes significant portions of the Chelan infrastructure, has a WA/OFM population of about 4600. And the Chelan County south shore population, beyond the Lakeside city limits, likely has a population of many thousands. These three areas, then, have a permanent population of up-to 15,000. Yet, recent local real estate reports are that upwards of 50% of our residences are second homes; those residents are not included in our population counts yet utilize city services. Today, the lower Lake Chelan valley is on the verge of the addition of thousands more permanent residents (2500 at Apple Blossom Center alone) and even more second homes and short-term rentals (which alone account for about 12% of our homes). Additionally the Lake Chelan valley has some 2 million visitors every year, according to the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, who also use the city’s public facilities.
Affordable Housing – The City of Port Angeles has added a Housing Coordinator to their city staff as they are also desperate for affordable housing. I’d like to follow their model. The Chelan Valley Housing Trust is working on affordable homes to purchase and the Chelan County Housing Authority is adding subsidized rental housing. A city housing coordinator could bring together all of the various aspects needed to fill the “missing middle”. For example, Port Angeles and others are providing assistance in modularized pre-approved low-cost accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for senior homeowners to receive rental income to stay in their homes, to provide workforce housing for local businesses, and to increase density. After years of discussion, the local marketplace is still failing to provide missing middle housing.
Airport redevelopment & expansion – I fully support the airport redevelopment that is in progress. Chelan needs to provide only 2.5% of the funding for this $27M project; with an additional $8M waterline coming from the State. Additionally there may be opportunities for more affordable housing.
Chelan Butte Development – The Chelan Butte is an icon for both residents and visitors. Every effort should be made to retain as much of this area in open space for both recreational and aesthetic purposes as possible. Additionally, providing city services to that fire-prone area will be a real challenge for the city. The Chelan Butte is the last large undeveloped area in the lower Chelan Valley.
Complete Streets – Portions of Chelan have complete streets: curbs, gutters, storm drains, parking strips, and sidewalks, but much of Chelan is without these safety and convenient amenities. I would support a long-range plan to year-by-year improve the safety and efficiency of our city streets.
Downtown redevelopment – With the leadership of the Historic Downtown Chelan Association a downtown redevelopment planning process is underway. I endorse those efforts.
Economic Diversity – Chelan’s economy was originally based on mining and forestry, then came the fruit industry followed quickly by tourism. Today Chelan is very much a retirement, vacation home, remote worker and tourist destination. Chelan needs to keep open options for future opportunities to broaden and stabilize its economy. Consider the old adage: “Never put all your eggs in one basket.”
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations – I would look forward to and would support establishing electric vehicle charging stations throughout our city.
Fire suppression – Fire has always been a part of the local ecology and nature will undoubtedly continue that. A strong fire department is imperative for the safety of all. I will continue to encourage the city to assist the fire district as much as possible in their efforts. For the sake of efficiency and cost effectiveness I would look forward to discussions on consolidating the two fire districts in the Chelan Valley.
Funding Office – Cities across the state are all clamoring and competing for limited federal, state, and county funds to support their infrastructure. With state-imposed restrictions on increasing property taxes, jurisdictions are all having difficulty with funding. City-wide cumulative property tax revenues are limited to 1% growth while expenditures are running at 10%. How does anyone run a business with revenue grow capped at 1% while expenditures are at 10%? Chelan has recently contracted a grant writer to assist in competing in these complex funding sources. I would encourage the city to continue along these lines and to even consider having an in-house staff grant writer.
Growth – Growth is the key issue in the Chelan Valley. When a child grows they just get bigger clothes. When a city grows it normally expands outwards. It is not possible to expand the Chelan Valley; the city is hemmed in between the lake and the mountains. Therefore affordable growth can only occur with density increases. With the freedom of movement that all Americans enjoy, growth is inevitable. We just have to arrange for growth in as smart, efficient, and equitable means as possible. I am supportive of and closely follow the efforts of our Planning Department.
Impact Fees – Chelan does not have impact fee legislation in place as required by state law in order to implement it. I am not opposed to growth paying for growth, but it must be done in an equitable and fair manner without curtailing growth and risking state intervention and legal challenges.
Lake access – With the development of The Three Fingers, the last of the large shoreline spaces in the lower valley is no longer available for public lake access opportunities. There are a number of street ends that abut the lake providing future opportunities. These all come with specific challenges and large costs. I would encourage our Parks Department to continue with the plan in process.
Lake Water Quality and Quantity – I have been participating in the Chelan County DNR’s Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit meetings for many years. Lake Chelan is a federally controlled body of water with some 65,000 acre/feet of water available for all users. The last report was that just 6,500 acre/feet remain available for new users and that means that just 10-15 years of expanded use remain. The next CCDNR water availability report will be out in September 2023 as to the remaining supply. The city-supported Lake Chelan Research Institute has been monitoring lake quality and the threat of invasive aquatic species. I fully endorse the efforts of the CCDNR and the LCRI.
Manson incorporation or annexation – Manson has a current growth rate equal to or greater than Chelan. Soon it will be larger than Chelan but depends solely on Chelan for sewer services and supply of traffic, as discussed next. Chelan County is heavily involved with the massive growth taking place in the Wenatchee Valley from Malaga to Lake Wenatchee. Manson is at the far end of Chelan County from the county offices in Wenatchee and, according to the Manson Community Council, does not get sufficient attention from the County. Manson incorporation has been under discussion for decades in order to achieve home rule, but the process is complicated, difficult and expensive. If Manson cannot or will not self-incorporate then I would encourage an investigation into annexing Manson, with citizen approval, of course. With nearly equal populations, the joint city council could go to a district format, like Wenatchee, and give the two areas equal representation. Consider that Lakeside was once its own city and Chelan city limits were near Pederson’s on the south shore, Darnells on the north shore and Les Schwab Tires on the east end. Now the Chelan city limits (including the Urban Growth Areas) have been expanded to Pat & Mikes, Rocky Point, and the airport, respectively.
North Shore By-Pass – Chelan has 4 highways into town; Manson has just one and that is through the middle of downtown Chelan. The majority of developable land in the Lower Valley is in the Manson area and we are seeing orchards converting frequently from agriculture to homes. This is very understandable considering the vast value differences between orchard lands and housing developments & between orchard water and domestic water. Chelan, the County, and the State are all looking at adding a north shore trail system from Chelan to Manson cluttering this busy corridor even further. Most of the summer and especially on holiday weekends, the traffic today is heavy and will continue to increase as Manson develops. The only way to alleviate this is to add a north shore by pass as just about every other city in north central Washington has done. The Chelan City Council added a small amount of funding to the 2023 budget to begin addressing this issue but no actions have been taken yet. I would fully endorse pursuing an investigation of this issue.
Pedestrian and Bicycle improvements – Smart Growth America, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, DC, defines complete streets as “an approach to planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining streets that enable safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.” Tourist towns have an inordinate percentage of pedestrians among users and natural amenity (i.e., lakes and seashores) also have larger numbers of bicyclists. Chelan needs to include these users in our planning processes.
Police protection & Marine Patrol – The biggest thing I noticed in my return to my home town upon retirement was the low crime incident, and I am very grateful for that. Chelan is blessed to avoid the management, costs, and risks associated with having its own police force and to have available a county police force for that service. Summer 2023 will have an increased marine patrol on the lake to provide service for vacationers who sometimes become forgetful of the dangers on the water.
Public Art – For a number of years, I have been participating in the efforts of the Lake Chelan Arts Council in bringing public art to our community. I support and endorse their efforts.
Public Service Non-profits – Chelan has been providing limited funding for public service non-profits for a number of years. The need for those services and requests for public funding have been increasing year by year. This is another service where a city in-house grant writer could be of assistance.
Public Transportation & Parking – The most efficient and effective way in reducing traffic congestion is through public transportation which in Chelan County means our Link bus system. Link is currently searching for additional Park-n-Ride locations in the Chelan Valley. I will support those efforts. Upwards of half of each year downtown parking is at a premium. Fortunately, we have several downtown public parking areas but growth is showing those to soon be insufficient. It is time to start discussing a downtown parking garage. This will be a very expensive project as parking garage costs easily run in the $15,000 per stall range! But looking towards the future and a long development time, this discussion needs to start now. A good model might be the community parking garage underway in Mt Vernon, WA.
Schools – To my knowledge, Chelan is the only public school system with ALL of its schools – primary, middle, and high – all located on state highways. The Chelan school district has purchased land above Walmart and has run one failed bond attempt for construction to resolve this and other issues. Undoubtedly another bond attempt will be coming in the future. For the safety of all our children, and grandchildren, the city needs to support these issues – and I do.
Senior living facilities – Chelan’s Heritage Heights, an assisted living facility, made an effort several years ago to develop a senior living facility with services from independent living thru hospice. For a variety of reasons, those efforts failed. Since Chelan has high second home, retirement and elderly populations, the City needs to be as supportive as possible.
Small town feel preservation – Having grown up here in the 1950s and 60s and having a great personal interest in local history, I chose “Remembering the Past” as half of my campaign logo. With the growth that the Chelan Valley has been experiencing and will continue to do so, preserving the small town feel will be a challenge. We need to keep an eye on those communities who have failed … and learn from them. Our HDCA is working on that front and deserves the support of the city government.
Tourism balance – Tourism can be a wonderful source of revenue for a small town. Afterall, consider that Chelan is one of the few cities that does not have park levies; instead tourism funds our park system for all to enjoy. This is exactly why I challenged the Chamber of Commerce to slow down their advertising (over $1M per year) while Chelan tries to catch up on tourist public services. State law allows for tourist lodging tax dollars to be not only used for advertising, but to be used for tourist support facilities. At my insistence, the city’s contract for lodging tax dollars to the Chamber was limited to just one year instead of 5 years with the intent to negotiate a new contract for 2024. To date no action has yet taken place.
Water and Sewer Systems – Chelan’s water system has been front and center in recent months with the City’s plan to install a major water storage facility north of Sun Crest, add distribution lines from the golf course across the northern tier of the city to the apple sheds with impacts on reliability and water pressures beyond this area as far as Rocky Point on the west and the airport on the east. Financing is being planned using a complicated and controversial Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The city has had either a water line or a sewer line break in each of the last 4 summers, making the entire aged system suspect. Compound this with $14M upgrades needed at both the water and sewer treatment plants, and the Council has a full agenda on their hands. In support of the TIF, one of our City Council recently stated that he was not going to pass these problems on to his children and grandchildren as the city has been doing for many decades.
There are other issues facing the Chelan Valley, of course, and there will certainly be other issues that will appear with the passage of time. So why did I draft this Platform? First to demonstrate that I know the issues facing the city. Then to openly, honestly, and transparently to disclose my positions on these issues. Chelan has a wonderful history; the future can be even better if we will only embrace it:
“Respecting the Past – Embracing the Future”
File: Olson For Mayor Platform