Kingman's mayor faces<BR>two challengers

EDITOR's NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles about the candidates running for Kingman mayor and City Council seats and their stands on issues.

The primary election is March 9.

Mayor Les Byram is facing his first challengers since winning a three-candidate race in 1996, when he defeated Richard Glancy and Joe Torres in the primary.

This year, challengers Monica Gates and Frank McVey said part of their reasons for running is to give Kingman voters a choice in candidates and policy.

Gates and McVey are completing four-year terms on the Kingman City Council and chose to give up their seats to run for mayor.

McVey ran for mayor in 1990 and 1992 in an attempt to unseat Carol Anderson.

This is the first mayoral run for Gates, who entered city politics in 2000, when she and McVey won their council seats.

Byram cites his accomplishments during four terms as mayor as a good reason for keeping him in office.

"Kingman is the most stable and financially sound city in Arizona," he said.

"The city has little debt, maintains a 5 percent growth rate and has excellent city services and a good quality of life."

Gates said she acknowledges the good condition of Kingman government and recognizes the contributions of Byram but has a different view of Kingman's growth.

"Looking to the future, I see 8 percent growth and a critical need to move more quickly to meet the challenges of change and growth," Gates said.

"The current budget spends 14 percent for infrastructure.

That is not enough."

McVey said voters have had too little input because only one side of the story has been considered in the past.

"There are always two sides to an issue and good reasons for both sides," McVey said.

"I am not sure we considered both sides of the Wal-Mart issue, for example."

He said he does not oppose the city's rezoning for a Wal-Mart Supercenter but that traffic problems must be solved first.

McVey and Byram see money as the limiting factor to providing services and infrastructure to meet the challenge of increased growth.

Gates said the city must find ways to move ahead quickly and not stay in a holding pattern waiting for things to happen.

"We should have moved quickly to 'Plan B' when the property tax was defeated last year," Gates said.

"The street and underpass needs get more critical as we wait."

Gates said she would first look within the current budget for money and then consider borrowing because interest rates are low and put a bond issue for streets and railroad underpasses before the voters soon.

Byram said the mayor and council could do only what Kingman voters are willing to pay for.

"The street and underpasses still need to be built and a bond issue could go to the voters next fall or in the spring of 2005," Byram said.

McVey said money – or lack of it – is the root problem and that lack delays solving a lot of the city needs.

He said he would educate voters about the needs and suggested bonding as one way to finance streets and underpasses.

Airway Avenue was the most recent street project funded with revenue bonds, which are paid from a secondary property tax approved by the voters.

The three candidates for mayor and seven candidates for three council seats will face a primary election March 9.

A referendum on the Wal-Mart rezoning also is on the March 9 ballot.

Any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast will be elected.

If necessary, a run-off election will be held May 20.