The two candidates running for North Bend City Council Position #5 – incumbent Brenden Elwood & Jason Ritchey submitted answers to three questions we asked.
The answers below are in candidate alphabetical order. They were asked to keep answers under 300 words. After the Q&A, you will find a short bio for each candidate and a link to their websites.
The summer primary was held on August 1st. Ballots were mailed out today, and November 7th will be the general election.
Question 1: How do you plan on addressing affordable housing for seniors and our local workforce if elected?
Brenden: This is a key priority of mine, especially among seniors and fixed/low-income households (especially if they currently work in NB). Greater continued collaboration between ALL stakeholders is needed. My actions for this movement are well documented in the public record, however we need to pick up the momentum.
Here’s what I’ve initiated and/or championed during my tenure:
- Establish alignment among the council with public support on our vision, establish clear goals and criteria to maintain policy focus.
- Keep focus on affordable, not “market rate” housing.
- Continue to grow the affordable housing fund we set up 2 years ago, which presently has $1.05M, to create rental/housing subsidy measures (King County tried to take this from us, but we acted quick to secure it!).
- It takes subsidies to incentivize developers, continue to generate them with existing tax revenues and grant opportunities (like we did with Habitat for Humanity)
- Continue to make our voice heard about realistic growth mandates imposed by King County and the State (read our “Preamble”).
- Doing more of what we did with developments like Traverse (by Chinook), require that 20% of the units to be affordability, make sure these requirements run with the land, so the developer could not sell their way out of them, and make units blend in with the rest of the complex so the residents won’t be discriminated against.
- Continue to explore mixed-use developments AS LONG AS THEY ALIGN WITH THE CHARACTER of our community and neighborhoods while meeting our criteria.
- Establish a coalition of communities like ours to push responsible policies from our state legislature that do not risk defacing our town.
- Work with local property and business owners to develop innovative partnerships.
This policy framework provides a comprehensive approach to addressing affordable housing needs in our community while protecting our community’s character.
Jason: Tackling our housing affordability crisis demands a multifaceted approach. Firstly, we must revisit our zoning regulations to encourage suitable housing development, including mixed-use and higher-density residential projects. Unchecked single-family growth won’t solve this problem. I continue to see timidness in council on pushing for strong language and posturing on this issue.
The city should proactively incentivize developers to prioritize affordability. Making affordable housing a top priority within city leadership is crucial.
Furthermore, we must engage with state legislators to advocate for policies that support affordable housing initiatives. Collaborating with state lawmakers to create a comprehensive strategy is essential, as current state planning forgets the so called “missing middle”, folks that make more than poverty levels, but cannot afford our housing costs in the region. By addressing zoning, incentivizing affordability (and potentially disincentivizing non-affordable projects), and partnering with the state, we can work towards making housing in our community more accessible for everyone.
Question 2: What do you feel are the city’s biggest challenges, and how do you plan to address them?
- Slowing the push for rapid high density residential growth. If re-elected, here’s what I’ll do:
- Establish a clear focus on affordable housing.
- Establish alignment for the city vision among council and the next mayor, e.g., enhance and preserve our smalltown character.
- Re-write our codes and design standards to close gaps that allow our vision to be bypassed by the administration/developers.
- Get the council to re-prioritize economic over residential growth.
- Maintain our resource reserves (e.g., sewer, water capacity) for economic (not residential) purposes, to make sure small and neighborhood businesses, retail shops, dining, arts and entertainment have what they need to succeed here.
- Be thoughtful and judicious about sewer expansion and how it will impact existing neighborhoods and residents – this is the gateway drug to residential development.
- Work more with our state legislators to allow us to keep a greater portion of the property and sales taxes for affordability. Presently, we get pennies on the dollars.
- Get the State to adjust housing growth mandates to gain control over our homes and community.
- Develop a coalition with other neighboring communities to take a stand. It is already starting (read “Introduction”).
- Quota swaps – some towns that want more growth, so let’s give them our numbers.
- Kick off more strategic legal analyses to help us navigate these laws.
- Increasing transparency and accountability to build stronger trust between residents and the city.
- In my first term, I was able to get the council to approve a staff communications role, and she’s doing great!
- I will push for more town halls and community engagement to increase the opportunity for public input.
- More council working sessions to make it more visible to how issues are being handled.
- Housing Affordability: It’s imperative to tackle our affordability crisis head-on. I’ll push for significant incentives to encourage housing projects that cater to our local workforce while discouraging those that don’t. Additionally, I’ll work at the state level to advocate changes to the Growth Management Act (GMA) standards for “Affordable Housing.”
- Safety: We must reassess our policing strategy/arrangements, especially our contract with SnoPo. Policing is a major budget item, yet we lack control over this critical public safety service. With issues from larger communities starting to affect North Bend, safeguarding our community’s safety is paramount.
- Planning: To shape the future we desire, proactive planning is essential. This means turning community input into action swiftly and efficiently. Our planning processes must align with a shared vision for North Bend’s future, and I’m dedicated to driving that vision and taking the necessary steps to realize it.
Soon, North Bend’s primary challenge won’t just be these; it’ll be effective communication and relationship-building. We must make it easier for citizens to engage with their city leadership and strengthen ties with neighboring communities and organizations, like Snoqualmie, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and the SnoValley Chamber to foster better collaboration in the Valley. My unique qualifications lie in my background in consulting and my decades of experience in relationship building, both within my own organization and with my customers. I’m committed to listening to residents, translating their ideas into action, and forming a robust coalition of our residents and neighbors. To tackle the challenges ahead, we must improve in these areas. I’m ready to lead the way.
Question 3: What issue(s) made you decide to run (or run again) for the city council?
Brenden: My commitments to North Bend will continue to be transparency, accountability, preserving and enhancing our smalltown community charm, increasing small businesses, retail, dining, and art and entertainment opportunities for our residents to experience.
As more people look to migrate to North Bend, rapid “market-rate” (not affordable) housing growth is being forced upon us, creating an imbalance that is threatening the desirability of what we have, creating a sea of sameness.
I am running for re-election to protect and enhance our community’s charm and character. North Bend needs a councilmember with my experience and commitments.
- Experience will keep the council focused on economic growth through neighborhood small businesses, retail shops, and restaurants. This additional revenue will help us improve our community and finance affordable housing for our current residents.
- With nearly an all-new council coming on board, experience counts. It takes time to get up to speed with all the legal procedures and precedents, understanding of how our city works, who the major players are, the responsibilities you signed up for, how to navigate the hidden agendas of the administration and its leadership, while adjusting to an entirely different schedule and commitment. It can take the full 4 years to learn how to do your job effectively and efficiently.
Having seasoned council makes this process easier and quicker. Our term limits are designed to have at least half of the council up for re-election every two years to keep the government moving, but that is not the case with this election.
- My track record demonstrates my commitment. Keeping our brand and vision statement in front of the policy choices we make is vital if we are to preserve and enhance our town. I have been the most vocal opponent of rapid residential growth on the council to date.
Jason: When my wife and I decided where to raise our two children, we deliberately chose North Bend. It’s a place that embodies the values we cherish, and we want to ensure it remains a vibrant mountain town for generations to come.
My decision to run for City Council is rooted in a deep-seated desire to protect the North Bend we love and to forge a promising future for both our own and our neighbors’ children. I envision a North Bend where our local businesses flourish, our residents enjoy an expanded array of amenities, and our housing market provides an array of affordable options for our hardworking neighbors. I firmly believe we can realize these aspirations while safeguarding our heritage, preserving our natural resources, and preserving the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds us. Regrettably, our current city direction isn’t well-suited for achieving these goals, and that’s precisely why I’ve chosen to run for City Council. I’m deeply committed to finding that balance, and it’s the main reason for my candidacy. It’s important that we establish a clear path forward and work on a carefully thought-out plan together for our town’s future.
By strategically designating areas for mixed-use buildings, dense residential zones (apartments and condos), restaurants, and small businesses, we can maintain control over development parameters, including height restrictions that may impede views. This approach ensures that long term economic growth aligns harmoniously with our collective vision, preventing the gradual erosion of our community’s distinct identity. Other valley communities are doing this well; we are not.
A stronger commitment to proactive and strategic planning empowers us to steer economic development within the framework we establish, safeguarding the essence of our small-town while nurturing sustainability and the growth of small businesses in North Bend. While the council should be thoughtful on behalf of our residents, that does not mean it must move slowly. Council members should listen to residents, understand the position they will take and then be decisive and move objectives forward. This is an area where our city can make significant strides toward improvement.
Candidate Bios with websites (if available) linked are linked to their names below.
Brenden Bio: We moved to North Bend 16 years ago to raise our family in a community that reminded us of our small-town upbringing — and once we settled in, I got involved.
Within a year or so after proudly calling North Bend home, I was elected to Si View Park Commission, where I served 6 years and played a leading role in our park renovation, which is what you see today. I also served 4 years on the North Bend Planning Commission studying and shaping codes and ordinances for North Bend to keep with our small-town charm prior to running and winning a seat on council.
I am also involved with our local art scene, specifically with our community theater, Valley Center Stage, where I serve as Treasurer on the Board of Directors. I also produce and direct plays (some of your kids were likely in our adaptations of A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, or A Midsummer Nights’ Dream). In addition to this, I am an active member of the Sallal Grange, working with a fine group of volunteers to bring added value to our community with vibrant non-profits.
I share this to let you know how involved I am in our community and to say that ALL of these experiences have helped shape me into the Council Member I am today. So, I can say confidently, with all the change upon us, it is critical we embrace our city’s charm and character to be a driving force behind every decision we make. This is how we control rapid residential development and urbanization.
I am an energetic, action-oriented council member with no bias or conflict of interest in how North Bend develops other than I care deeply for what we have. Our city’s vision is “preservation and enhancement” at a small-town scale. We resolve to be the premium outdoor recreation destination in the Puget Sound Region.
This does not equate to overcrowded high density urban zones, packed with people, crowded with cars, and tall buildings squeezed in every nook and cranny that the State is now pushing on us.
In my first term, we implemented strategies to make sure every policy decision was aligned with our vision and brand statement, and it was working. Now those strategies are being pushed aside by residential developers and the administration (click here to learn the difference between “administration” and “council”).
This is why I am running again. North Bend needs experienced council members like me to continue to champion what’s right for our community. So ALL families, like mine, can continue to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us…and, when called upon, ensure that any one of you can step to be a goofy grumpy caterpillar for a kid’s play in our awesome Si View park.
Jason Bio: I was born and raised in Kansas but made Washington State my home as my business prospered. For the past 17 years, I’ve been happily married to my high school sweetheart, Erin, and together, we are proud parents of two children, aged 8 and 6.
Professionally, my background uniquely qualifies me to contribute to the City Council. I serve as a Partner in a company with over 450 employees, where I oversee a team of 65 and hold responsibility for the entire business.
Over the last 12 years, I’ve worked in consulting, gaining valuable experience managing significant client relationships and consulting projects. I’ve also led a competitive business with a focus on employee growth. Building relationships has consistently been a key strength throughout my career.
While my government experience is limited, I possess a deep understanding of project dynamics and believe I can effectively communicate with residents and I understand the value of listening before solving problems. I’m dedicated to applying my skills to address North Bend’s challenges and bringing a fresh perspective to the Council.