Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of three articles featuring candidates for mayor of Brookings.
BROOKINGS – Bradley Walker thinks the Brookings City Council isn’t listening to the residents about the COVID restrictions, so he’s running for mayor.
“Usually, I’m just a mind-my-own-business kind of guy; just easygoing, but this is getting way out of hand and the city council refuses to listen to anything that any of the citizens say to them and they don’t consider their opinions, they just go off on their own thing and they don’t offer any proof of what they say is right. They don’t accept the facts that multiple citizens like myself have given them, proving that they’re, showing that their policies are not working,” Walker said.
The election is set for April 13. The mayor’s seat and two council seats are up for grabs. Mayor Keith Corbett is not running; candidates for the mayor’s seat are Walker, current councilor Ope Niemeyer, and Jeff Miller.
Walker grew up in Portland, Oregon.
“I graduated from high school in ’77 and I took a couple years of college,” he said, studying computer programming and science.
Walker worked in a friend’s bakery for 35 years.
“I did a little bit of everything there,” he said. “Mostly, I was in the shipping department, filling orders and loading trucks and driving trucks and doing whatever they needed me to do.”
He has three children, and his wife Dawn has three children.
Now retired, they moved to Brookings in 2017.
“I just came here to retire, just live life and get away from all the big city stuff,” Walker said.
He doesn’t like what he’s seen on the Brookings City Council.
“Anyone that doesn’t agree with their policies, they just completely ignore or dismiss,” Walker said.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people … and there’s a lot of people that are really disgusted about having their businesses closed down and the way that the whole city council is managing this whole thing,” he said.
“My thoughts on the COVID situation are that people need to be able to make their own choice. The government is not responsible for people’s health care. The government is responsible for providing services, so people can get the health care they need, but the government is not responsible for telling you what to do and how to do it, and that’s the one thing that they’ve been doing wrong on this whole situation is telling people to stay at home and wear a mask instead of telling them to go out and get the sunshine. And when you’re wearing a mask, you’re breathing in your own carbon dioxide, which weakens your immune system. … You need to build up your immune system with Vitamin D from the sun,” Walker said.
(Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people, to protect themselves and others to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to the American Lung Association and the Mayo Clinic Health System, there is no evidence that cloth masks cause low oxygen levels or increase the amount of carbon dioxide people breathe.)
“The whole business restrictions thing and closing business down and telling people that they’re not essential and you can’t go to work, that’s just wrong,” Walker said.
“It’s lasted way too long. It never should’ve gone into this new year,” he said, adding the number of cases and deaths are dropping.
He said his life experience and common sense are his qualifications.
“I have no governmental experience, but I’m learning as I’m going about this initiation process, and how ordinances are passed and set up,” Walker said.
“I’ve been looking at the budget, and I am concerned about the amount of debt that the city carries. I would be more towards the fiscal conservative point of view,” Walker said. “If you really don’t have the money to spend, don’t go into debt to do something – don’t start a project if you don’t have the money to complete it.”
Walker said the council does acknowledge the financial shortfall due to loss of sales tax revenue and are “pushing things down the road.”
“They’re doing a pretty good job on the budget,” he said, “but I would like, instead of spending it, just right off the bat, I would like to see it put into savings to pay off the debt.”
One thing he’d like to spend money on is the Brookings Police Department.
“They are definitely underfunded,” Walker said, adding he knows they need expensive remodeling done, but he’s also concerning about staffing. “They could do with a few more officers and another dispatcher.”
“Instead of putting money towards parks and stuff, I would like to see more infrastructure. There’s a ton of street repairs that need to be done,” Walker said, mentioning that the 20th Street South interchange is “a big deal.”
“I would rather see money spent on Brookings infrastructure instead of just amenities like the electric vehicle charging station,” he said, claiming that the charging station is “just sitting there, it’s like a big rock sitting there doing nothing.”
He objects to the money the city gave to South Dakota State University for the Performing Arts Center expansion.
“I feel right now, the council is heavily favored towards SDSU more than the Brookings community,” Walker said. He wants the city to concentrate on city things like infrastructure, street repairs and affordable housing.
“(SDSU is) only here half a year, so when all the students leave, we’re back to just Brookings the way it is, so if we can just work on improving our own situations instead of, you know, trying to cater to the wants and needs of the SDSU, that, I think, that’s the way we should go,” Walker said.
He wants to make it more affordable to attend college.
“Something I would like to support is a discount from SDSU, maybe a 25% discount if you were a resident of Brookings that enrolled in SDSU,” Walker said. “If they got a little discount for staying home, then maybe that would help retain them when they graduate.”
On his list of priorities is wages. He says Brookings has job openings, but they don’t pay enough.
“We need to raise wages here, raise the standard of living,” he said. The city has manufacturing jobs, but Walker feels “we need to bring in some other high-paying jobs so we can retain the graduates from SDSU.”
He said the city needs to bring in new industries because “they’re not paying enough to support a family that wants to own their own home.”
Better wages help solve the housing problem, he feels.
“We need to have more affordable housing available to the younger people who are just starting out in life and want to buy a home but obviously don’t have the savings and don’t have the down payment to purchase a $200,000 home,” Walker said.
He wants to get developers to build smaller single-family starter homes, instead of those with three and four bedrooms.
“I would like to see Brookings retain the small-town atmosphere. There’s a big rush to just build and expand, and I would like to see them take a step back on that and just maintain the small-town college atmosphere,” Walker said.
He pointed out that Brookings will run out of land in about 15 years, unless the city increases density, which will put a strain on things like roads and lead to congestion.
“I would like to see Brookings grow slowly and not just rush, rush, rush trying to overbuild, and to maintain the small-town lifestyle,” Walker said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]