The six candidates vying for the three open seats on the Kingman City Council answered questions from the Miner Editorial Board Feb. 4 and 5. Each candidate was asked the same three questions, followed by a question each from members of the community who were asked to participate. They were Bill Delmar and Kathleen Murray. The candidates' responses to the three questions are below, edited for space. Their full responses will appear as videos at kdminer.com over the next few weeks. The candidates' responses to the questions asked by Murray and Delmar will appear in next week's Sunday Miner. The election is March 9.
Can you name any one decision this Council has made in the last 21 months that you emphatically disagree with, and would rather have seen done differently or not done at all?
RAY LYONS: I'm pretty much in sync with this Council, I can't think of anything right now of items of importance that I disagree with that they've done. I really can't. Well, one small thing they did that I did not agree with was for the Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange. The city had agreed, like five years ago, to pay up to $332,000 to complete the preliminary study and design for that interchange. Then about a year ago, ADOT came back and said, "That's not what we meant, we meant, that was our estimate." The "up to" part shouldn't have been in there, they said. They didn't mean to have that in there, "up to." So that was just an estimate. So the Council, they wanted that taken out so that it could go, there was no limit. So the Council voted to agree with ADOT and take that wording out, and I voted against it because who knows what the total amount could end up being? We're still a long ways from doing that project, and the price just keeps escalating, year after year. So that's one thing I can remember that I disagreed. Otherwise I'd have to look back through the minutes.
JASON MARINO: That's a good one. I have at times been in disagreement with the impact fee issue. My feelings on impact fees are, although they can be helpful at times, they generally, in this economy especially, can deter growth. And by doing that, you're actually stalling the progress of the town, and I think that the progress - the jobs created, the money being spent by these new businesses that were able to come here and move here and grow - actually far outweighs the impact on the community that the impact fees are there to offset. If you are going to have them, at the very least, they should be in line with cities of a similar size and demographic overall. I've always felt that they really do deter growth, which is needed to help bolster the local economy.
RICHARD ANDERSON: It's tough to say since I haven't been here for 21 months, I'm a relative newcomer, but I will say from what I have seen, what the City Council tries to undertake or has brought before it is primarily zoning issues. And, whereas I believe they try to discuss and make a decision on what they think is best for the city, I don't believe they really have the input of the city. And I will tell you this: I asked the City Council "What are your goals and objectives? What is your plan? When is the last time that you did a survey on the city asking what residents believe are the needs and requirements of the city?" I believe it was the 1990s they last did it, I think the papers may have done something recently. I believe they're out of touch. I think they're making decisions based on what those seven believe, and what little coordination they have done with the community. I like the open forum, or the opportunity for people to get up and speak, I think that is a very useful tool. But if people don't come and talk to the Council, they don't get that input.
ERIN COCHRAN: I don't know if it was the last 21 months, but I very much disagree with the way they laid out the impact fees, because now they've set up a precedent, what you do to commercial has to be done to residential. I don't think we should be necessarily charging commercial companies to come in because we eventually will be receiving back from them, but not as much residential. So now, if we try to lower commercial, we have to lower residential. Telling businesses that they have to pay to move into our city is more of a deterrent than it is an incentive. I would rather see us get rid of them and have more growth, because in the end, we're going to get more money from sales tax, and it would be better to see more companies wanting to move into town and creating more jobs, giving people a different place to shop, more opportunities, than charging them and having them not want to move here at all.
JANET WATSON: Well, there've been a lot of things that happened and a lot of them tend to blend together. I guess my main position is, in anything that comes before us, I try to read all the material I have, maybe ask follow-up questions of staff, or ask some people in the community that a decision might affect, and then go in with an open mind at the meeting to hear all the presentations and then vote. And, sometimes I'm in the majority, and sometimes I'm not, and sometimes I stand alone. All seven of us come from different backgrounds and different experiences, so we bring different ideas to the table as far as what we think should be done. But truly, I feel as a member of seven, that when a decision is made and we walk away, we should say the Council decided to do whatever it was, whether I was on the winning side or the losing side.
ALLEN MOSSBERG: I think if we all agree on something 100 percent, there's something wrong. There are two things that, I'm over it, it's not a big deal, but I do feel that the old health issue in downtown over on the south side, I was in favor of that, where they'd already bought the homes. The people were only going to be there from 9 till 2 in the afternoon. I thought that was very fair, I didn't think it was a burden on the existing homeowners that were down there. I think that would have possibly stimulated some growth on that side, on the south side, which it desperately needs. It's a part of the old downtown, it needs to be revitalized, and I think that could've started some of it if we could've gotten someone in there to get it going. This is going to take some work on some people's parts, but I'm not real thrilled to death with the impact fees. I do feel you need impact - when Red Oak started this back in 2005 and brought it to the Council, basically, it was supposed to be looked at once a year, whether the fees were fine, the economy was doing great, whatever the case may be. At the end of that five years, we're supposed to really take a healthy look at it and see what it is we're supposed to do. And I think since the economy has tanked, it's put a stress on all of us whether we're retired or still working. Those fees need to be readdressed. If I was reopening my business today, it would cost me just around $42,000 to open up the old Coca-Cola building and build that building under the impact fees. That's a ridiculous amount of money right now.
How active of a role do you feel the City Council should take towards tackling unemployment and underemployment?
ALLEN MOSSBERG: Well, it's something that's part of our future. The economy affects our budget most definitely. This'll be my second time I've gone through the city's budget, looking to see what's in there. I believe staff has so far done a fantastic job in the last year. They recognized it long before some of the other people started looking at it and figuring out what things were going on. We need to bring in quality jobs for all of us here in Kingman and Mohave County. We need things that'll pay decently, not minimum-wage jobs. I think the City Council can sell Kingman. I think it's up to the Airport Authority, the new EDMC, and the existing EDTC and the Chamber. That's more their job to bring in and talk to people than it is the Council, but it is up to the Council and everyone in this room to sell Kingman.
JANET WATSON: I think the City Council has to focus on its primary responsibilities. And what we are charged to do, what our direction has to be, are the basics of providing public safety - our fire department, our police department, our streets, our water, our wastewater, our parks - and to keep our focus on our responsibilities. I'm not saying that economic development is not important or trying to address unemployment is not important, but we have to try to look at our budget, stay within our guidelines and do the things that we're charged to take responsibility of. When I ran for the City Council four years ago, I took a great deal of time to go visit with the city manager and then visit with every single department head and try to have an overall view of what our responsibilities were. If we can do other things, that's great. I don't mean to sound cold-hearted or uncaring, but addressing the unemployment rate in the city is not one of the major responsibilities of the city of Kingman. I'm not saying that our council can't try to help with economic development or do something, but I'm personally more concerned about helping our businesses who are here in town already and that may be struggling.
ERIN COCHRAN: I don't know that it's necessarily the city's job to find you a job. We do have Job Services and it's always good if we can help bring people together and have job fairs, something like that, but I don't think it's necessarily the city's job to find you a job. It's the city's job to promote our city and bring more businesses in that are going to create more jobs. But I don't think it's our job to find you a job. I think it really depends on what you personally want to do as a Council person. I mean, you have the choice to either be the Council person that just comes to the meetings, or you have the option to be the Council person that joins all the non-profit groups, wants to know everything that's going on in town, wants to help with everything. So I think it's really a personal feeling. I do a lot of non-profit, I think that, like I said, community is the most important thing. Our children are important, if we don't find more jobs, people are going to move and we're going to have fewer jobs because they're going to have to close. But by the same token, if you don't feel it's your job to go out there, outside of your City Council hours, then that's your choice.
RICHARD ANDERSON: The City Council's supposed to be a leader. They're supposed to be giving directions. They don't manage the budget day to day, they have professionals that they hired to do that. I believe the City Council's role is to work with the people, help get them employed, help get business in here, and I'd love to see base industries - had a long talk with Doris Goodale on that - we have a lot of that out at the airport. We need more. We need to stimulate that, because when you have an industry that's here, that's selling products that go out, that means the money is coming into the city. Yes, we have businesses within the city that pay wages and all that, base industries would do more, but we'd have the money coming in rather than going out and paying for everything they need to run their businesses. The City Council needs to be active in the direction that the city should be going based on input from the residents, and it should be supporting and helping the residents and businesses get jobs.
JASON MARINO: I'm definitely not a fan of a lot of government being involved in everybody's day-to-day lives, but I think the city definitely could get involved with some of the local attempts that people are making to create jobs here, such as the nice fellows that are working to do the job fair at the bowling alley. I think that the city could get involved in a way that it could help these people promote these ideas out to the community and actually take an active role in the building of ideas and the releasing of information to the community. I don't really see my current councilpersons running out doing things, and they're often not in my mind. I think just speaking from your average citizen's viewpoint, I don't find that on a day-to-day basis I'm going "You know, I'd like to talk to my councilperson" and they're there for me. I don't see them, for me, really reaching out on a neighborhood basis or anything like that to where they're approachable for me to go up and just have a chat with them and discuss my feelings and needs.
RAY LYONS: I don't know that the City Council actually has a role in making sure people don't lose their jobs. We can probably make concessions to industries if it was necessary, tax concessions or something to keep them operating. As far as creating employment, we are always welcoming other businesses to come to Kingman. We have an industrial park and parcels out there for sale, and we also have an economic development director at the Airport Authority who is supposed to be bringing new businesses out there, which brings new jobs. On a 10-acre parcel, we need them to bring in businesses and industries that employ 100, 200 people. For example, my hometown back in Iowa - which is no way to judge what we should do - but IBM just moved in there with 1,400 people. 1,400 jobs, overnight, just like that. IBM opened an office building. We need something like that here, and we're not getting it.
What do you think the City Council's role is in tackling downtown revitalization efforts?
RICHARD ANDERSON: The city government is the heart and soul of the city. I don't think supporting downtown or our local businesses outside the beltway should be any different. It should be supportive of what's going on. Yes, I've driven downtown and seen empty stores there. It disappoints me. I'd like to see them built, I'd like to see them open during the day. But you can't give them special preference. I'd love to see the downtown grow like a lot of the communities have done in their old downtown areas - Fresno, Alexandria's starting to build up its downtown - so that you have a draw there. The Chamber of Commerce, to me, should be one of the first places you go to find out about the city. Well, they really don't go out and try to make themselves known. Other than going out and going to a mixer, what do they do? I believe all the businesses and the government have a responsibility to the community they serve to help make it grow. By grow, I mean get our people back to work.
ERIN COCHRAN: I know that they wanted to do the sidewalk project, and when staff was asked to poll the local business owners about going in, only one business - one business - agreed to going in. As long as the business owners refuse to do their part in helping keep their businesses nice, I can't necessarily say that our city should spend money. If they want the businesses down there to succeed, everybody has to work together. And when only one owner of the property along that entire strip has agreed to helping, that's not enough. One percent is not enough. Downtown has a lot of really good potential, but like I said, I think if the owners of the businesses or the owners of the property aren't willing to do their part, it's not the City Council's job or the city's job or the taxpayers' job to pay for it when the property owners aren't interested in helping.
ALLEN MOSSBERG: I'm an advocate for downtown just like (Councilwoman) Robin Gordon is. I'm starting to think that maybe the downtown needs to start grabbing their own bootstraps and picking themselves up a little bit instead of waiting for somebody to come in from the outside and just go, "Here." There should be some major town hall meetings set with them, or go with Chris Durkin and the Merchants Association to see where they really want to go, what do they want to do? I think we're on the right course right at the moment with what we've done with city hall is versus down where the city attorney's office is now, we're starting to get a complex for the future that we can build and expand on, and I think when that starts to happen, the merchants downtown are going to find out that they want to be part of that, whether it's selling the properties off, or whether we get one big hotel chain coming in that would be willing to build somewhere near downtown that has a convention center. I think it's a little premature, but I do love downtown, and I'd love to see it grow.
JASON MARINO: As an individual, I have extensive business contacts in the region and a lot of the country through all my years of travels in business I've been in. I think we need to think outside of the box and really start to woo these business owners in other places to want to come here and show them that, hey, if you have a clean, respectable business and you want to move here with your family, we want you here, open arms, we would love to have you. Let's work together to have a singular message of that, as a Council. I feel that that's probably the No. 1 most important thing we could possibly do, to revitalize downtown and turn it into this thriving arts and music and entertainment, food - just a wonderful destination for the locals as well as for tourism. Being at the heart of Route 66 and with our proximity to Interstate 40, tens upon thousands of cars are coming through here daily. A lot of them just pop right off the highway, get gas and keep on going. We should have things that people notice as they're pulling off the highway.
RAY LYONS: If we had a historic downtown that people knew about all over the country and said, "Let's stay in Kingman and check out their historic downtown," there would be other things they would need to buy while they were here, as long as they stay overnight. They'd probably end up going to Wal-Mart or Walgreen's or somewhere for things that they need to continue their trip. So I think it would help the whole town, uptown and downtown, if we had a better draw to historic downtown. That improvement district was the big thing, and that would be great. I've seen other cities that have the same setup downtown - landscaping, flowers, and things like that sticking out into the street and making it more pedestrian-friendly. I think that was a great idea. I think the problem here is only one downtown business wanted to go along with that improvement district, and I think the problem is all the buildings are absentee owners - people that have businesses there are renting or leasing, so they don't have any say, and the people who own the building, they don't want to invest any money, they just want income. So we're kind of up against a rock and a hard place.
JANET WATSON: That's been an ongoing concern for our community for a long time. As you know, I've lived here over 20 years, and I've seen the ups and downs, and I've seen the main street program come in and different things come along. And if anybody had a magic wand, I think we'd love for downtown to be revitalized. And I think the city has a role in part of that. I think what the city has already done has helped. You probably know that there was a major grant we received, and Bill Schilling was kind of responsible for putting it together, but basically it was for the revitalization of what we call the old Central Commercial Building. And the owner of that building committed the same amount of money to revitalize the inside, and I think that's now kind of the hub of downtown. So there are ways that we can help by doing those kinds of things, but the most important thing is that the property owners and the business owners are going to have to make a commitment to improve their sites, and I know there's the Downtown Merchants Association, and they work very hard putting together activities to bring people downtown. And I really think it's been more active in the last couple of years than it probably was maybe five years previous to that.