Kingman mayoral candidates traded sharp words about Wal-Mart, traffic, the pace of growth and leadership style during their debate Wednesday.
"Where have you two been the past four years on the council," incumbent mayor Les Byram said during his closing remarks at Mohave Community College to challengers Monica Gates and Frank McVey.
"And how would you pay for all these good ideas?"
Gates compared city government to running a business that moves ahead and changes to meet new situations.
"A successful business cannot stand still or it takes the first step backward," Gates said.
"A city has to look to the future and find creative new solutions
The mayor must actively lead, set priorities and address issues now."
She said management style and the future direction of Kingman are major issues in the election
McVey said challenges change every day and that he would be the pacesetter.
"We need to take care of safety issues and retain our trained police," McVey said.
"We should deal intelligently with the challenges and get consensus with the citizens and the council."
The City Council terms of McVey and Gates expire in May.
They decided not to run for re-election in order to run for mayor.
McVey took issue with Byram about the city's rezoning for a Wal-Mart super center, insisting that he voted against the site but not the company.
"Wal-Mart will not go away," McVey said.
"They have at least three other good locations and could choose one of them.
The referendum, if defeated, would only delay them."
Byram insists that Wal-Mart is the most important issue facing Kingman today.
"If we reject Wal-Mart and they go outside the city, it would devastate Kingman," Byram said.
"It is good democracy to have the people make the decision at the March 9 election.
I do not see how any council member could ignore the signatures of 17,000 citizens and vote against Wal-Mart."
McVey also took a jab at council candidate Tom Spear, who was setting in the audience.
"I resented his efforts to recall me because I took a stand on Wal-Mart's proposed location," McVey said.
The candidates fielded the opening question of what their plans B and C would be for the financing of railroad underpasses after the defeat of a primary property tax by voters in May.
Byram said plans B and C were just campaign rhetoric and that he had continued planning every day of his eight years as mayor of Kingman.
Gates said that alternative planning for the infrastructure needs was more than rhetoric.
"I asked that question at the council strategy session when it was decided to put the property tax on the ballot," Gates said.
"We still have no consensus on priorities so we can move ahead on any single project."
McVey said he had been asking for consideration of a railroad underpass in the Harrison Street/Louise Avenue area for the four years he has been on the council.
Traffic turning off Andy Devine Avenue onto Louise Avenue, a main route to east Kingman, waits at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing.
Not far away, traffic from central Kingman spills onto Andy Devine Avenue from Harrison Street.
McVey said a railroad siding next to the two-track main line should not be a problem.
"We still have no feasibility study," McVey said.
"I called the railroad two days ago and they would move the siding if we ask.
That should not be a delay."
The candidates exchanged sharp words about the issue of the annexation of North Kingman, although they agreed that a lawsuit by Waste Management must be settled before a major move.
The company has sued the city because of it lost trash-hauling business in another annexed area.
"I ran for mayor against Carol Anderson in 1992 promoting annexation," McVey said.
"I ran in 2000 in strong support of annexation when the mayor was opposed.
He changed his mind after the election."
Byram insisted annexation is important for Kingman to become one community.
"We have to get the Waste Management suit through the Arizona Supreme Court first," Byram said.
"Then, if the 51 percent of the people of Butler sign petitions to be in the city, the council must find a way to finance $3.5 million in annual cost."
Gates did not accept either the numbers on cost of annexation or the need for delay.
"Let's be consistent," she said.
"We have a request before the council to annex the square mile where the high school is located.
There are no conflicts with Waste management.
Why no go ahead?"
Gates said too may excuses have delayed annexation and that the cost increases with delay.
A crowd of about 100 applauded the candidates as each expressed stands on the 10 questions asked.
Wal-Mart supporters were the loudest.
The Mohave Community College Student government Association organized and hosted the event in the Student Center.
"The candidates were not pulling any punches with their answers and I really appreciated that," student government president Jodi Gonzalez said.
"It was a level playing field for each of the candidates.
Gonzalez said the organization's goal was to get more students involved in local government issues.