Mayoral candidates sound off on issues
KINGMAN – The Kingman Daily Miner recently sat down with each of the three candidates vying to be Kingman’s next mayor.
All three, current Mayor Monica Gates, Les Byram and Terry Thompson answered the same questions concerning the future of Kingman and what they would do as mayor to shape it.
1. What qualifications do you possess that would make you a good mayor for Kingman?
GATES: I think the best quality to have right now as mayor of Kingman is to have a vision for the future and to be able to work with the other leaders, be it the City Council, the community leaders, to realize that vision, to look ahead and get more statewide perspective, future perspective and a global perspective of where we’re going.
I think another quality that is very essential is to be a very good communicator.
Certainly, I’m not afraid to go down to the state and let them know Kingman is on the map.
We’re certainly on the radar screen and we want to represent Kingman in a positive light.
I have done and will continue to do a professional job.
BYRAM: I have 12 years experience as a councilman, two years as a councilman, two years as vice-mayor, eight years as mayor, which enabled me to meet lots of people, to get a good understanding of city government, of the Kingman city government, of the financing of city government, working with a variety of people both in and out of city government, working with the citizens of this community, responding to some of their wishes.
I have a good education, was a college graduate. I was a teacher and administrator in the Kingman school system for 36 years, and I’ve been a resident of Kingman for 50 years, so I’ve seen Kingman grow from 3,200 people to the 40,000 in the immediate Kingman area today. So I think I know the community and understand the community very well.
THOMPSON: I believe a mayor doesn’t need any more qualifications than common sense. Common sense is a big issue. My qualifications, however, I’m a leader – I’m a self-proclaimed man. I do everything by the book, the way I run my businesses and whatnot.
I think age doesn’t matter as far as the position I’m running for. I’m out to show people that we don’t need a middle-age person being the mayor. I think that anyone that can achieve their goals, they can run for such a position. So, that’s pretty much where I come from.
I believe I can do the job to the fullest of my ability. My idea is to help Kingman. I’m not out for any publicity stunts. I’m here for the citizens of Kingman and to really get the community involved. A lot of community inclusion is what this town needs. I plan on living here the rest of my life. I would like to see more voters turn out to the polls. Twelve percent of the voters is ridiculous. The people that have anything to say about the town, they need to get involved. I’m more qualified than the people that don’t want to say anything.
2. What do you believe should be the top priorities of the next Kingman City Council?
THOMPSON: My main objective is to stick to three points. We’re going to go with transportation as No. 1. You’re not going to bring any new people to town the minute they see backup on Stockton Hill Road the first five days in our town. They’re going to think there’s obviously nothing there, so we need to go transportation.
Community inclusion is a big one. We need to stick to voicing our opinion on our roadways. We need to listen to our professionals, that’s why we pay them the money the city pays them. We pay them the dollars to listen to new ideas. I don’t care if Lorin comes to me and says “Hey, I got a great idea, I know how to get all the traffic off Stockton Hill Road.” Well, we need to listen to him, and we need to bring it up to more than just one person. Inclusion is a big deal, and my main goal is transportation right now.
GATES: I think the most important thing is to keep the direction, keep the energy going. The direction being we have accepted that growth is manageable, that it is here. We have now learned to embrace it. We recognize an opportunity to direct it and to shape Kingman for the future. We need to just stay on course. We absolutely need to stay positive, understand that this growth is positive for our community.
BYRAM: I think the top priorities are developing the infrastructure and the quality of life we need for this community. We made great progress the 10 years, the last two years Carol Anderson was mayor and my eight years. We improved some roads and streets. You may not remember, but Stockton Hill Road had no sidewalks, streetlights, it was a two-lane road. Harrison, Willow, different places around town. We have the neighborhood parks of Cecil Davis, Walleck Ranch, Canyon Shadows, the skateboard park, even a dog park.
We’ve made a quality of life with downtown, the museums, transforming an eyesore into a visitor’s center and museum, then working with the other museum to create a wonderful area for holding public events downtown.
But the infrastructure, the community is going to grow. I think it’s growing too fast the last couple of years. It’s outstripping the ability of Kingman to provide the infrastructure. Regardless of who is mayor, it will be a difficult time these next few years if growth is anywhere as it’s been projected to meet the demands of this growing city.
3. What would you say to residents here who are afraid that Kingman is growing too fast?
THOMPSON: I don’t think that Kingman is growing too fast. I think it’s growing unmanaged. It’s not growing too fast.
We’ve seen Kingman growing, the way the developments have been growing and what not. They used to build 10 houses. Now they’re building 30, 40, 90 houses. C’mon, we’ve seen it growing. The traffic has been growing.
You talk to anyone from out of town and you say, “Oh, I’m from Kingman.” Ninety percent of people will say “Oh, I stopped there going to here or there.” We’re the main valve. We can go from Vegas, here to California, up to the mountains, anywhere. This is the path to take. And people like that path.
And with the new bypass for the dam, you’re going to see even more growth in Kingman. So, if we can catch it now, we can probably manage it. I would say to the citizens of Kingman, “Don’t be afraid of growth. Let’s manage our growth. Let’s grow as a town. Let’s have all the new restaurants that the people complain about not having and that kind of stuff. Let’s let them grow into Kingman.”
So, I would say “don’t be afraid to grow.” Let’s grow managed, planned, intelligent – let’s take care of it. Put it on the line. Let’s not deal with these issues and draw this stuff out.
Like we’re talking about Louise, it’s done. Don’t look back. Let’s look ahead. We need a new vision. I have a vision 2025 Kingman, and it includes plans like that – parks, bicycle paths and that kind of stuff.
Let’s get excited to live in Kingman and not have to talk about all the bad things. Let’s talk about the good things that Kingman has to offer us.
MINER: Are we going to see this plan? Are you going to bring us this plan at some point?
THOMPSON: We’re in the process right now, me and my campaign directors, of developing just an idea, a rough plan. But if I do get elected to the office, it’s something that I want available to the citizens. I’d like them to see a Kingman vision, so we can follow up on our roadways. So we’re not getting a million questions like “how come Gordon’s not paved. Is Gordon part of the county?” Well, if we don’t know – do you know if we own Gordon? Do you know what side we’re on? OK, so we own that side over, so, I sat down with (Mohave County Supervisor) Pete Byers, and he’s talking about paving Gordon for the city, help us out a little bit. Get it paved, and that kind of stuff. People should know that kind of stuff. And on that plan, it will lay out projects like that. So, if you have any questions, you can go to the city Web site, and you can see the Kingman vision 2025 plan.
And we’re going to have achievable goals. We’re not going to put goals in mind that say “we want to make Gordon 10 lanes this year, and we want Main Street 10 lanes.”
We want to have achievable goals with the money we’re working with. I don’t want to give anyone false hope or anything like that.
I’m here to lay it on the line and tell you “hey, we can’t get this done because of this reason.” So, I don’t want to lead people to believe that if I’m going to push open up something that’s already going to get shut down anyway. It’s not worth my time.
So, we just need to lay it on the line for our citizens. I think if you do that, you’re going to have more inclusion, people will be more likely to speak up the minute you tell them what’s happening instead of beating around the bush.
GATES: I agree wholeheartedly. And some of it is merely perception. When we talk about all of these new subdivisions and master-plan communities, we’re looking at a 50-year plan. I just had some developers in the office, and they’re actually from Canada. They’ve been hearing these wonderful, wonderful things about Kingman. But they too, are looking at a 50-year plan. Which as a city council is what we need to be dealing with. We are policy-makers. We are to look to the future and ask, “what do we want to leave to the next generation? What is our legacy going to be?”
As far as growth, it isn’t just happening here in Kingman. I’d like to use this to really drive this home: a new person is moving to Kingman every five hours. Or I can take you to five cities in Arizona that can top that. So it really is entirely in the Southwest. So what are we doing as a council and a city to prepare for this? How do we achieve, how do we strike that balance of rooftops and economic development. Those are just really critical issues.
This is an off-hand comment: we do have an infrastructure deficit with the previous “pay-as-you-go” policy. We’re looking today and in the future, “how do we get those $50 million of capital improvements for today.” These are not growth related. What we’re doing as far as growth-related improvement is that we talk to these developers today and other developers. They have to contribute to infrastructure. We’ve been working on this with the new city manager for over a year now. Kind of what the governor’s very clear message was yesterday: “Hey, you guys are growing cities all over this state. Make sure you’re addressing infrastructure needs,” and they’re actually looking at a statewide panel to make sure that this is in place. They cited specifically Anthem, a community that kind of grew up in the desert but has turned I-17 into a parking lot.
MINER: Was this kind of a directive toward ADOT to work with the cities as much as they can?
GATES:That’s the message. There’s no formalized plan yet, but certainly we need to recognize, and this City Council does recognize that we have to get ahead of this. We can’t continue to allow development without adequate ingress and egress. And one of the things we’re doing making sure we have that mechanism in place is by restructuring of, revising and revisiting all of our subdivision standards and ordinances which have never been done holistically. That will take a lot of that “wiggle room,” for lack of a better word, now that that’s for developers. But, the people that are coming in here are national. They’re international, and they understand. They’re not building homes, they’re building a community.
You know, there was a comment made: “Gee, are we going to go back on the agreements on some of the current subdivisions?” Well, I would like to think that there is an opportunity to go back and kind of correct the mistakes of the past, and especially, I cited specifically, there is a gas station on Stockton Hill Road that has three driveways. Well, that shouldn’t happen. So, is there a possibility down the road? Absolutely. We know everybody wants to be good neighbors. We’re looking ahead, and still we’ve got 19 miles of unpaved roads in the city limits. That’s deplorable. So, we’re working to take care of that. We are also looking, anybody looking for water service now has to sign a pre-annexation agreement and they have to build to city standards, so this way we’ll never have to deal with those unpaved roads. We additionally only have 60 percent of our residents on city sewer. So, we’re looking to clean that up, looking in the future and addressing ADEQ concerns. It will be a concern eventually.
BYRAM: I think in many ways it is growing too fast. Faster than we’d like. The seven or eight years that I was mayor it grew about four or five percent, we we’re able to control that. I think it’s growing too fast for the city of Kingman to cope with the growth without help from the land developers. I think the areas where we’re stretching the city limits, the land developers should be helping more to pay for those improvements. I saw in the paper that the city was going to build a $750,000 water tank on the other side of the freeway where it would have to be years before the city would have to extend that. So if we’re going to extend those limits, we certainly need the private sector to pay for those things. I think one of the things that we really need to do is continually work with the infield within the city of what we have. I think we badly need to get the state section on that side of town into the government and private hands. I think we need school sites there, possibly a high school, certainly an elementary school, maybe a junior high, neighborhood parks over there, a fire station. We need some of the open space that people desire but also the development of homes and businesses. We need to continually upgrade what we have before we worry about expanding our city limits.
MINER: Do you believe that if you were mayor, or the next mayor could put the brakes on some of these projects that have already been approved?
BYRAM: I don’t know that you could or if you want to put brakes on what has actually approved. I think you’ve got to look at those things, are they beneficial to the city? Does the city have a right to curb something that’s already been in place or has gone through zoning or been approved?
I think that we can control some of that by being careful how we change the zoning and more closely follow the General Plan we worked on for over two years and was approved by the voters of this community.
4. Do you believe the city is adequately prepared to handle infrastructure demands now and in the future?
THOMPSON: I don’t think we’re exactly ready for infrastructure. We are preparing for it. That’s part of our management and our growth.
In the past we weren’t ready for the infrastructure and the growth. We are ready to start pushing it with this new Airway Underpass. You’re going to see a change in the town.
I think you’ll start to lose some of your traffic off Stockton Hill Road. In the future, yes, we are going to be managing it. We’re going to be ready for infrastructure.
GATES: Yes, I think we’re prepared as far as we know what needs to be done. We are prepared as far as we have found developers to be most willing to contribute their fair share. We are currently not prepared to deal with maintenance, ongoing existing needs and expansion needs just because our system currently, our wastewater system is inadequate. We need to upgrade that. That is an existing need. It has nothing to do with the growth.
We are not prepared financially. We know that, and that’s what we’re looking at right now, as far as looking at the growth paying for growth.
But aside from that policy, we have to find diversified sources of revenue. Like we looked at the half-percent sales tax, we’re going to look at other vehicles to diversify, because we’ve got to have the funds to take care of these concerns.
BYRAM: Kingman has the worst financing for a city you could possibly have. The sales tax is another share of revenue which is subject to the volatility of the economy. I think you have to be very, very careful of what you commit yourself to in use of the sales tax, particularly, I think they made a mistake in committing sales tax revenues, a good share, close to $300,000, for the underpass for an extended period of time. The sales tax, however, is for the operation of this city and small projects that can be done in one year, or in one year and a carryover to the next fiscal year. And this is what we did with all the infrastructure lists I gave you and things we accomplished in that period of time, that we live within available revenues and that we are able to do those things.
If there was a dip in the economy three years ago, Havasu had an E-coli scare down there and they had to fire 40 people when the revenues dropped. I don’t think we want to get into that, but the financing, the sales tax revenues are up 17 percent this year over last year. That should provide plenty for the operation of the city. Financing for large items will be difficult for this city. Before, we gave an opportunity for the people to support a property tax, they said no. We have to listen to what the voters say. Quite a number of people said “Les, if you had come with a bond issue, with the projects in priority order, where we’d know how long these would be, the cost, and that the money would go to those actual projects, we’re not going to approve a property tax where the Council or future Council could do whatever they want to. So it is a problem for financing the large items for infrastructure looking to the future of this city. No matter who’s mayor, it does present a problem.
MINER: So bonds would be an option, right?
BYRAM: If I’d been elected mayor, I would’ve come back and offered, that the people had a voice, and list just what I said, the projects in priority order, and ask the people to approve it. If they said no, then we’d have to wait until many people that feel that there is a need are willing to buy those things.
5. How do you see Kingman in five or 10 years?
THOMPSON: I would like to see a steady 3-percent growth in Kingman yearly would be fair to say. You do have people coming in and out of town. The only problem I see, I don’t want people to think of Kingman as a retirement town, because we are a growing city. I want to make sure there are enough jobs and that people are well taken care of. As far as the citizens, I don’t want people to think that they’re moving to a retirement village or anything like that.
Kingman’s primarily composed of sole proprietors. Most of your electricians, your plumbers, you know them on a first name basis. You go to a big city, you don’t know who the plumber is. You don’t know them on a first name basis. You just know big companies and that kind of stuff. We need to get the community included. I really want to push community inclusion. Getting people to vote at the polls is going to be huge this year. I’m not involved in the politics or anything. I’m just here to lay it on the line.
In the past, as far as I understand, we used to pay for it, then build. Well, we’re growing out of that. Right now, all of our roadways are supplied through auto lieu taxes and HURF taxes, which is the Highway User Revenue Fund. They supply us anywhere from $700- to $800,000 a year to maintain our growth. Rock-sealing and rock chip account for, like, $700,000 of that. This city is living off of its sales tax right now.
Well, Bullhead City charges their residents $3 per-thousand dollars on their house. They don’t have a primary property tax or anything like that. They have their sales tax, plus they have that, and their able to fund all of their projects, and that gets them bonds and that kind of stuff. But if we’re going to grow this town, we need to bond-and-build. Get the money up for the bond. We need to bond it, and build it and push ahead. Right now, Kingman’s in the black. By all means, we’re not in debt or anything. We’re not the next town going under. We need to bond it and build it, and the growth will come with it.
I just want to really urge if you’re a new citizen of Kingman, if you’ve lived here a couple of years and you’re not happy with the administration, and you’d like to voice your opinion, include yourself, it doesn’t take anything. That’s all I’m doing. I’m not, by all means, a politician. I’m just including myself as a citizen. I’m speaking up for the citizens of Kingman. That’s why I’ve entered this race. They just need a fresh, young mind. They need someone that’s over the politics, that’s not in the buddy system with people. I’m not saying that anybody is, but I don’t know everybody in town. I’m just here to voice my opinion, and I’d like to see my son or daughter grow up in a controlled environment so they can call Kingman their home when they grow up, and the same for your kids. We don’t want our kids growing up in “Oh, you’re from Kingman?” We want them to say “Wow, you’re from Kingman? That place grew quick.”
GATES: I would like to think that some of our connectivity issues and transportation issues are resolved. We all see that the underpass is coming, should be open in six months.
We are looking at master-planning another interchange, which, the traffic engineer said the other night, would solve a lot of problems, and additionally that would open a second commercial corridor so that we would have a broader base.
We are meeting regularly with the school board. We’re going to start having regular meetings so that we are partnering, working with the developers to make sure that we have the adequate open space and anticipating need for new schools.
Just as we were talking about with these developers. We’re not just looking for open space, we’re looking for parks, looking for the schools, were looking for the fire station, all co-located. It’s really about planning for the future.
There’s been some discussion that we’re turning, that the community is aging. We’re really not. We’re looking at the new numbers, and we are seeing a balance between families and older. So, we want to make sure that we have that balance for the community. I think what we’ll see is a lot more retail. The bigger names are coming in because we’re getting ready to hit that 50,000 threshold for this area. I see more diversity in our housing.
Like Paul (City Manager Paul Beecher) and I talked about this morning, when we’re looking at our ordinances, we need to be talking about conservation, so if we’re going to have golf courses, they’re going to be using the effluent.
We’re going to be looking to change our drainage and flooding requirements geared toward conservation, which is retention, rather than sending it on down the road. Mandating residential landscaping. I think in five years we’re going to see better subdivisions and developments coming in because that’s what we’re approving now.
I think this city is going in a very positive direction.
I think we’ve made incredible strides in the last 18 to 20 months and I hope we have the opportunity to continue in this direction.
I was trying to get my notes together – one of the things our interim city manager said to do, because you know, you’re talking about significant changes to a city, and sometimes that’s difficult, and you have to make some decisions that are not popular. He said “start keeping a log of things you’ve accomplished,” and I did that. And then I went back and looked at what I talked about three years ago, when I decided to run for mayor. And I found a lot of parallel, and I thought, “well, this is good.”
So, I think I was elected on what my vision was, and the voters agreed then. We’ve accomplished that, so we’ll see if that’s truly the direction the public wants to continue.
BYRAM: I hope that Kingman will be a clean, safe, prosperous community. I think we all look for that, with a good mix of retirees and working people. We’re getting retirees from Southern California, from San Diego, they’ve discovered Kingman, I think they’re going to continue to come.
I think we’re very fortunate that we have an airport authority that has 71 industries and 2,100 workers, and others are looking at that all the time. And when the Wal-Mart Distribution Center comes, it will be 500 to 700 workers.
I think we’ve got a possible problem that the Ford proving ground, either this one here or the one in Michigan, will be closed. So, and with the power plant, it will hurt. But I see the future of Kingman as being very bright. I think we’ve done a lot to clean up some of the eyesores around town. I think we’ll continue to meet with the code enforcement officers in looking at that, but I think we’ve made tremendous progress in the last 10, 15 years, coming from a small town with poor infrastructure, really to an attractive place to live, to retire with good schools, good recreational facilities.
So Kingman has a lot to offer. We need to continue to try to keep those things offered to all people. I see the future of Kingman as being very bright.
MINER: You say the city has a very poor system of financing. Do you think the city needs another revenue source?
BYRAM: Not for the actual operation of the city. The sales taxes and shared revenues are adequate. They’re up 17 percent. But I think the city has got to have another revenue source to pay for large infrastructure items. Money only goes so far. You know the big infrastructure items, you’re talking about millions of dollars, and somehow we’ve got to find other means. We have used city revenues, we have used grants, things from WACOG, ADOT, the state airport deal which was used for various things, that was a combination of things for the underpass at the airport that was done eight or 10 years ago.
Anytime you’re going to have something under the freeway or under the railroad, you’re talking about big bucks. So yes, not the operation of the city, but for big capital improvements, we’ll have to have another source of revenue.
I think the people need a voice in what’s going to be done. I still believe that if you go to the people and inform them “here’s the need, this is what it will cost, we ask for your support in doing this, and the longer we wait, the more expensive it will become,” a majority of people will support those ideas.