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Sun, Jan. 19

Candidates speak to Miner Ed Board
EDITOR’S NOTE: All nine Council candidates and three mayoral candidates sat down with the Kingman Daily Miner’s Editorial Board which included two members of the public on Jan. 29 and 30. All nine Cou

Keith Walker

Board: What experiences and qualifications do you have to be a Council member,

and what sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have been a business owner here in the community for 15 years. I've watched the community grow. I've seen the community battle, and I'm ready to go down and help iron out all the fires.

As for qualifications, I've never served on a city board or council. I have been a member of the Kingman JCs. I believe I was there for two-and-a-half, three years. I'm active in the Northern Arizona Building Association; I'm a member of the Elks; I get involved in some of these committees they have, but I'm not a politician and I don't want to be a politician. I'm not looking to be a career politician, either. I'm looking to go down there for four years, maybe eight, but I'm not a politician. I don't claim to be.

I don't have any agendas. I'm financing my own campaign. I won't want any contributions. I don't want anybody thinking I owe them anything if I do make it. I've heard rumors that everyone thinks just because you're running, somebody's pushing you. Nobody's pushing me. I'm pushing myself. I'm looking to give back to the community. The community has been very good to me and my family, and this is just my way of stepping up.

Board: Upon being elected, what would be your top three priorities and how would you accomplish them?

My No. 1 deal is the impact fees. I'm not sure we need to abolish them. I don't think we need to. They're there for a reason, but I think they're ridiculous as in the rate we're on. I think it's strangling the growth of Kingman. I do believe that growth needs to pay for growth. I don't think we deserve a free ride, but at the rate they're at, I feel they're just strangling us. The big corporations, they can afford to come to Kingman. This isn't that big of a fee to them. But to the local guy like me, let's say I want to go build a new 8,000-square building. I can't afford to pay the city $40,000 impact fees; that's my concrete for my building, and for me to pay the city that, that puts me where my competitors are going to be stealing all my business.

It's going to kill the ma and pa shops. I hear we have CVX Pharmacy coming. To them it's probably not a big fee. But try and get a small-town restaurant or even a construction firm. Unless they're trading on the NASDAQ, it's expensive. If this was 15 years ago, I know I couldn't have gotten going with all this stuff in place. I don't know how some of my younger competitors are going to make it. They're always going to be working out of their house, out of their briefcase with a cell phone and a truck. They're never going to have an established business with an address on Stockton Hill or in an industry area.

Other priorities

Downtown needs a shot in the arm. I don't have the answer, but we need to find it. We need to get tourist dollars off that freeway. People don't spend money going 70 miles an hour through our freeway system. We need to get them to our downtown. I know we give the Chamber some money, but I feel we need to advertise our city before you get right here to this off-ramp. We have a billboard right there but by then you've made up your mind if you're stopping or not. We need to hit Williams, and we need to hit right as you come into Arizona, the Havasu turnoff - "Stop in Kingman." We've got to slow the traffic and get them off the freeway.

Traffic's a concern of mine. Everyone asks you, "What are you going to do with Stockton Hill?" Like I told Earl Hamlyn, "Punt. I don't know." We need to look at North Glen. We need to pull out that KAT Study (Kingman Area Transportation). I pulled that out from the city yesterday, and there was talk of Anson Smith and White Hills, and there's talk of Slaughterhouse Canyon. I guess we still do have an open agreement with the Arizona Corporation Commission that we could have an above-ground crossing. But Santa Fe is going to kill us on that deal, but another option to get traffic from uptown to downtown would be Slaughterhouse. We just need to pull those studies they've done off the shelf and look at them. They're not junk. They're still sitting down at City Hall, so apparently they're ... I feel they're something we need to look at.

Board: What role do you think a Council member plays in the city?

My role would be to listen, to have an avenue open to the citizens to take their thoughts downtown. I feel there's not a lot of that right now. I have a couple phone calls into some of our existing Council members right now that I haven't heard back yet. I think we need to be accessible. I think we need to tell people it's OK to call us. "Call me, I want to hear from you." I'm sure there's going to be certain people that are going to keep buggin' you and buggin' you, but you have that in everything. I have that in my job, and I'm sure you have that, the same old squeaky wheel calling you, but you've got to talk to them. I would say, let's tell the people, "Call us. Don't be afraid to call us." We need to communicate through the water bills. You know, they put the surveys in there a couple times last year. I think we need to do a lot more of that. That's a cheap way of communicating with the people, if the people know it's there. We need to maybe have you guys help us.

Board: We've urged mayors and Council members to write for the newspaper, maybe once a week or once every other week to tell the people what's going on. Would you support that idea?

I think that'd be great. That's my biggest deal; I want to be approachable. I want people to know they can call me. Here's my e-mail, call my office. I do have things going on, but I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Board: Would you be in favor of a fireside chat?

Oh yea. That's what we'll have to do with Kingman Crossing. (Mayor Les) Byram told them, "Put it in writing. Keep it simple. I want to be able understand it. The Council needs to be able to understand it. The people of Kingman need to be able to understand it without having attorneys involved." Everyone's saying sales tax dollars, do we want to give them away? Well, no. That's our main deal. But at the same time, we don't know everything that's out there. If you bring us something, we need to look at it. We need the people of Kingman to come down and look at it; say "What do you think?"

I'm not for giving sales tax dollars away, but if somebody could prove to me how this could work and it would work, I would consider it. I mean, I'll look at anything. We could always tell them no, get out of here, we don't like it. But if we start thinking it's something good, we need the community to come down and give the input.

Board: What role do you think the public plays in the city?

A lot of the public needs to get involved more. We have some people involved. You guys see it every day, the same people that write the letters and call and complain. I was totally surprised how many people are not registered to vote and didn't want to register to vote. I want to see the community get involved more. We had 4,000 people vote last year, and we have 27,000 people. I don't know how many are of voting age and could be registered, but that's a sad number if you ask me. I want residents to be able to come up and say what they want and what they expect and give us direction, because I don't know all the answers.

Board: How would you engage the public? How would you get them involved?

By having open forums. I don't know; I've never done it before, so we just have to advertise it. "We're going to have a meeting on Kingman Crossing. Come on down, get involved, tell us what you think. Or if you can't make it to the meeting, here's our e-mail addresses." We need to push that we're accessible; we do return phone calls. I don't know how many e-mails you guys get a day, but I get a ton. Even if I can't give it my full attention, I'm just writing thank you, thanks for sending this, and I'm sending it back so they know I'm reading this. It might take us a day or two, or three or four, but we will get back with you. That's the biggest thing.

People have asked me how much time I'll be giving. Well I don't know. At this point, is 10 hours a week going to be enough for a Council member? I don't know. I'll do whatever it takes. In my business I have a manager and an office manager in there; my business can run without me. They do need me from time to time, but I can give it as much time as I need to.

Board: Do you have any plans on fixing the budget shortfall?

I think every department could cut 1-1/2, 2 percent easy. There's fat down there. They just started down there with the building department. That department was so fat from the boom; we needed those inspectors. Here in the last six months, we're doing the (omitted) project, and the superintendent was laughing. He says, "I make the phone call, the inspector's here in a half hour if he's not already here." He goes, "I've never had this anywhere in the country." We're pretty fat in that department, we've had 10 inspectors, plus the building official, plan checkers, and they just started cutting last week. It should have been a while back.

So there's fat in the city, we can find that fat. With seven of us on the Council with the mayor, there's no reason we all can't go through the budget and find some fat, but the department heads need to help us. They need to say, "We've got guys sitting here doing nothing." Do we need to lay them off? Maybe not. Could we transfer them to another department? Maybe.

We need an economic development director or an economic department. And how are we going to pay for that? Maybe we can pay from the bed tax, because if you ask me, that falls in that area. We need somebody out there 40 hours a week pushing our city for growth. The Chamber can only do so much. Maybe if we had a city manager with an economic development background, he could take a couple people underneath him. I'd be up for anything on that. We do need to have that department back.

Board: Being someone with a business background, do you have experience with budgets?

It's pretty much me and my wife. I started 15 years ago, just me and a truck. Then I added employees and now we're probably running 20 people in the field, and it's me in the office, my office manager, my operations manager and my wife just comes in when needed.

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