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Fri, Feb. 28

Candidates speak to Miner Ed Board

Ron Bahre

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

and what sets you apart from the other candidates?

As far as being a Council member, probably none. I'm retired military, so I've worked for the government before. I teach U.S. history. I teach government. I have a degree in history, a degree in education.

So I've had that kind of experience where some of my counterparts haven't, where I've had to go to school for it.

Board: What's your motivation for running?

Actually, the mayor kind of ticked me off when he told people to sit down and be quiet, he'd heard enough from them. You don't tell your constituents that as a political official. I liken it to going in and telling the boss to shut up, "I don't want to do what you want me to do," and then wonder why you got fired.

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

First off, we need to cut sales tax. We need to keep business in this community, keep the shopping here so they're not running away from us.

Cut at least one penny off the sales tax. And of course, to do that we have to cut the city budget somehow. And there's plenty of places to cut it and get rid of fat.

Board: Have you identified any specific areas to get rid of fat?

I'd start first eliminating the city manager position. There's $150,000 right there. We live in a town of only 28,000 people. If we're electing a quality mayor that is supposed to be able to lead this community and a quality City Council that can lead this community, then they better be able to lead the downtown City Hall.

There's no reason we need to hire somebody else to keep an eye on downtown and keep an eye on the City Council when that's the mayor and Council's job. That's what we elect them for. We don't elect them to babysit the city manager, because that's what we're doing right now. We're paying them to watch the city manager run the city. And it doesn't take eight people to watch the city manager.

We can obviously eliminate somebody in that role someplace. You either get rid of the babysitters or you get rid of the one that's in between and make the mayor lead the city.

Board: Do you have any idea of how much of a deficit would be created by cutting the sales tax by a penny?

Les (Byram) said in one of the meetings that to add a half-cent would equal $2.5 million. So I'm going to go back that if you cut it by a penny, we're talking $5 million if he was right.

Also, you take into account Home Rule. There are places where Home Rule can come into effect here. Planning and Zoning has a $2.5 million budget, yet this is a department that's wholly organized for the builders and the developers in the community. Why are the city taxpayers paying almost half that department's budget?

Board: What are your other priorities?

Freeze the current city pay. There's no reason, no excuse for 340 people to be making more, and I hate to sound like this all the time, but there's no excuse for a city of 370 people, 340 of them make more than a starting teacher, yet well under half of them have a college degree. So why do they make almost $10,000 more than a starting teacher does?

And yet, we hear every year from the city that we need to have them to keep quality people working, yet the district doesn't think nothing of it when they only give a 1.2 percent pay raise and say that's more than adequate.

We don't accept that downtown to give them only a 1.2 percent pay raise. We got to give them a 10 and 20, 40, and - over the last two years - 50 percent pay raise. Nobody else in the city makes that sort of money.

Third priority is probably going to be to get a grip on the capital improvements. Instead of lopping everything into one huge bond issue, one at a time, show the people that we can, as a Council, as a city, we can manage what we say we're going to do and not spend it. Come out and say, "We need $53 million, but we can't guarantee we're going to spend it here because some other priority might come up." No, that's not how a bond works.

If that's the case, the school district should be able to spend that $80 million wherever they darn well feel like it, because obviously a priority could come up. We wouldn't accept that with the school district, yet why do we accept that Les Byram's answer is, "If another project comes up that's more important, we would use that money from the bond to pay for that other project"? That isn't the way it works. You vote for a specific project a specific way, period. So we need to be honest and up front with the people and show them that we can manage the money they give us.

Board: What are your views on impact fees?

Level playing field. Developers should not be paying any more for residential than commercial, and we should be basing it on square footage. It's the same thing with building permits. It should all be based on square footage. I come from a community where, if you were going to say we're going to charge you more for commercial, you would say, "What's the difference here? A thousand square feet is a 1,000 square feet. Why should I pay different prices because of it being different?"

Board: What are your views on annexation?

We need to start looking where people want to come in first - where it isn't going to have that large of an impact on the city's budget. Developments that are already in compliance with the codes and everything like that, we've got plenty of them up north of town.

The idea that you're going to incorporate Golden Valley is out. They just had a vote. They didn't want to have their own incorporation. They didn't want to be run by their own city council. Why should we pretend that this should be an option that should even be discussed? Golden Valley has made it clear. They want nothing to do with local control. They want to continue to have the county control them, so let them.

Board: What about Butler and the airport?

Same thing. The airport - we're spending our money, our tax dollars to support the airport, so that should already be ours.

Board: What are your views on the proposed traffic interchanges at Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake Wash?

We don't take and fire the first people we hired. We do it the direct opposite - last hired, first hired. Yet the city's taking the perspective of Rattlesnake Wash would take place after Kingman Crossing. That's not how it works. It's just like anything else. Which one is going to aid us the most here?

Rattlesnake Wash is going to connect to 66, it's going to open up that area, open development up north of town out by the airport and provide us a link around this city. Kingman Crossing is going to provide us a link to Airway Avenue to jam it up even more with traffic and jam up Louise Avenue. Why are we worried about cramming more people on city streets where we already can't handle the traffic on those streets?

Board: How do you feel about sales tax reimbursements?

Not happening as far as I'm concerned.

Board: Do you have an idea of how to plan Rattlesnake Wash?

We're going to have to spend sales tax dollars. The reality is it's going to have to become part of a capital improvement plan. But it's already on the capital improvement plan that we're supposed to be discussing, yet Kingman Crossing was put ahead of it. How did Kingman Crossing jump to 2008 that it was going to be funded and Rattlesnake Wash jumped five years down the line? ... Kingman Crossing doesn't take priority. It should be way down on the totem pole.

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

This is the first community I've ever been in where the city council is reactive. They wait 'til a problem comes to them. And usually when it comes, it's already on an agenda, which means somebody in a city department already decided they want to talk about it, they want it brought up, they want it passed. Most other cities, the city council is already part of these staff agencies. They sit on Parks and Rec, so they have a meeting that's Parks and Rec.

Some of these topics come up and they're not standing there, "Uh, can you tell us what we're talking about?" They already know ahead of time and the council is already well aware of what's going on instead of relying on one person from the department to tell them what's going on. ...

It's also the first community I've lived in in 47 years that we bring a project and it's the final say that night. Usually it's talked about two other times before it gets to that final discussion, so we've already taken input and we're not sitting there at that final meeting going, "Alright, now let's take public input this one and only time," and we're sitting there wondering, scratching our heads going, "Well why didn't anybody say no?"

It's going back to the way it's supposed to be. The Council and mayor run the city. The city doesn't run the Council and mayor. That's totally opposite. They're not elected officials down at City Hall. The Council and mayor are. They're the ones responsible to the people. Everybody else is paid. If we're going to be elected to Council or mayor, we need to stand up there and have that ability to tell the department what to do.

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

The public's role is to keep us going straight. Let us know what you want.

Board: How do you think that you can accomplish lowering the sales tax, cutting costs in City Hall and funding Rattlesnake Wash?

Funding Rattlesnake Wash or any other funding improvement is going to have to go to the people, but not in a property tax. It is not the job of the people that own property only in this community. Why is it that we ask the homeowners to front the bill for this city?

What I propose is, if you want to have a bond issue, the bond has nothing to do with a property tax. You put it before the people. If you want this project, I propose you raise your sales tax by a half a cent and let everybody foot the bill. Because if I'm an apartment dweller, it's real easy for me to say, "Heck yeah. Let the property owner pay for that project. I have no quarrels with that."

It's up to the people in the community to raise their own sales tax. If they want that project to go, let everybody pay that. That includes anyone who comes to our city or visits or spends money here. Period. It's all of us, not just the property owners. ... You're saying that at the end of that project, your sales tax will go right back to what it was.

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