Mayoral candidate Bill Nugent returned to the campaign trail Monday after a brief absence, picking up right where he left off by making promises to pull back spending on what he describes as an already inflated local government.
During the hour-long forum, Nugent made several comments about his fiscally conservative ideology, his "fanatical" mission to annex the airport and his promise to abolish development impact fees on new construction.
"I am a strict fiscal conservative Republican," he said, drawing out each word and drawing in a round of applause from Republican Men's Club forum attendees.
"I think a smaller, more efficient government is what we should have. I think that animal is growing ... Government growth is a real issue, and that is one of the reasons I'm running," he said.
The city budget in recent years has increased 300 percent compared to a population surge of approximately 80 percent, according to Nugent, but growth isn't in Kingman - it's taking place outside the city limits.
All three mayoral candidates have promised to balance the budget and make cuts if necessary, but Nugent is the only one to call for a return to the spending levels of the 2004 fiscal year - before the local building boom and the department head salary increases.
"I'm not preaching doom and gloom," Nugent said, noting that the employees in working in cubicles and carrying shovels "are fine people."
But he did continue to attack department head salaries and excessive spending habits, and he again promised that as mayor he would demand that the highest paid officials earn their wages and be held accountable.
"We need a conservative mayor to weave through that budget and live within our means," he said.
He vowed to exercise real fiscal responsibility by using locally collected sales tax revenue to expand the community rather than "that little white building down there," he said, referring to City Hall.
Nugent is the only mayoral candidate to propose abolishing impact fees, calling them "absolutely unnecessary and punitive."
And he is the only one dead set on annexing the airport, a move that would allow the city to collect permit fees, taxes on land sales and sales taxes from the non-wholesale businesses there.
Contrasting his own experiences on the campaign with those of candidate John Salem, who said Monday he's very much enjoying himself, Nugent said, "I have not had fun on this campaign like John. It's hard, difficult to be so exposed," Nugent said. "I think the paper is doing the same thing they did the last election, just a different Op-Ed writer," he said, calling some of the content "silliness" that's published in an effort "to basically turn our political system inside out.
"They have a right to free speech, but they also have some obligation to check their sources. The letters the editor - some of those letters are not real people. They're just ghost writers for other groups. That's enough for me," he said, sitting down to a round of applause.
Gates on growth
Candidate Monica Gates, Kingman's mayor from 2004 to 2006, started her speech by stating, "It's not about winning. It's about leadership." She said she will be open to all residents' questions and would be honest about what she will and will not be able to accomplish as mayor.
Outlining her platform, Gates said Kingman needs to become a business-friendly community; to focus on the "neglected youth"; to devote time and energy to revitalizing downtown; to address the infrastructure deficit and attract retail and bring in better paying jobs.
"I'm confident, with the right city manager and the right Council, we can make these things happen," she said.
With an expected shortfall in city revenues, balancing the budget will be a top priority for all candidates, and Gates said she would make sure that growth is seen in the community, not in the city departments. If jobs are temporary, she would support outsourcing those, as it is well known, she said, that government positions never go away.
Addressing impact fees, Gates recalled her administration's decision to implement the additional charges on new developments, saying it was the city's policy that "growth shall pay for growth." The intention wasn't to slow down growth, but as it has "hurt some of the small developers" since the fees were implemented, Gates vowed to research an adjustment if she were elected.
In general, speaking about utilities and development fees, Gates said, "I think we need to study rates on a regular basis so we don't get too far behind." When she was mayor before, Gates increased water rates for the first time in 11 years to keep up with the service costs, she said.
Candidate John Salem, a business owner and long-time resident of Kingman, expressed his excitement for being involved in the campaign process in words and mannerisms to the 50-strong crowd Monday.
"It has been such a wonderful opportunity that I've had here recently, that I've been able to campaign for mayor. It's a wonderful experience and I'm having a lot of fun doing it," he said. As a sign that his energy would follow him into office, Salem said, "I just have to express to you how excited I am, if you elected me, to be mayor. I am ready and willing to serve this community."
The self-proclaimed "average Joe" of the three mayoral candidates, Salem has promised to be the "liaison between elected leaders and the people."
"If you elect John Salem as mayor, you are going to get a leader who will be able to work well with others," he said. "... You're going to get somebody that, before a decision is made, I will be very informed on the issue that passes before me; I will not make hasty decisions."
Salem is an optimist, he said, confident that he and the incoming City Council can balance the budget and restore confidence in City Hall, but he's also a skeptic who will look at data collected and ensure that all decisions are good for the residents.
As for the "wolves" he had referenced at a previous column, Salem identified them as anyone who comes into Kingman and utilizes its resources without regard for the community. Kingman right now needs a mayor and Council that will pay attention and protect the citizens from infringement of rights and litigation, he said.
"Status quo and mediocrity will not be accepted," he said.
On the issue of economic development, Salem noted that business looking to move here are looking to make a profit. Because of the interstate system going through the city, Kingman has not been as affected by the national economic woes, but there is more to re-location than the location itself.
"Outside entities will not come here if we don't have it all together downtown," he said. "They're looking at political stability." As mayor, Salem said he would be able to achieve that.
Salem can be reached at 757-1191 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Gates at email@example.com; and Nugent at 753-6011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.