WASHINGTON CITY – All nine of Washington City’s municipal candidates were present at a public forum at the Staheli Family Farm Monday to answer questions and state their stance on particular issues. About 40 people from the community attended.
“Locally is where things happen,” said Kate Dalley, local radio personality and Washington resident. She gave a short speech outlining the importance of municipal elections, and said they can have a more direct and immediate impact on the community than state and national elections.
Local political blogger William Way organized the event and asked the mayor and council candidates a number of questions.
Way started off with the city’s three mayoral candidates: current city councilman Ron Truman, incumbent Mayor Ken Neilson, and Sherri Lou Reeder who has worked a great deal with the Washington City Youth Council. He asked them: If the candidates could change how the city operated, what would they change?
Truman said he would like to put a two-term limit in place for the mayor and city council. He also said the city needs to be “more of a public servant and not a public master” in how it conducts business with the citizenry. As well, he said he would like to see more citizen input and involvement in planning the city’s future.
“I’m not a fan of change,” Neilson said. He wants to see more economic development in Washington so sales tax revenues can grow. The more sales taxes there are, the less the residents have to pay overall, he said.
Things can change, Reeder said. She specifically spoke concerning the overall morale of Washington, saying that residents do not believe their city government is listening to them. In response to this Reeder said she wants to have the city become a much more open and better listener.
The city council candidates were asked their view on the city council’s approval of an indoor gun range next to a home being converted into a shelter by the Erin Kimball Foundation – a home for women fleeing abusive relationships. Opponents of the gun range said its presence could potentially cause home residents emotional and mental trauma.
The majority of the candidates supported the council’s decision.
Incumbent councilman Thad Seegmiller said it was a “privilege” to have been involved in the process and was proud to have voted for the gun range.
Pat Ena didn’t throw his support behind either side. Instead, as long as people were engaged in the process and not simply complaining about it, “whatever happens, happens,” he said.
Incumbent Bill Hudson said he voted against the indoor gun range, as the city had originally placed its support behind the Erin Kimball Foundation before the matter of the gun range came up. It had even given the Foundation grant money to help it complete renovations on the home.
“We made a choice to support them,” Hudson said, and that he found the approval of the gun range to be “disingenuous” on the part of the city.
“What is the proper role of government?” was one of the a general questions asked by forum attendees.
“The role of government is to provide essential services, not to redistribute wealth,” Truman said.
Government’s role is also to administrate the law, Nisson said.
“Sometimes we need oversight to protect the little guy from the big corporation,” Ena said, “and then get the heck out of the way so I can live my life the way I’d like to pursue it.”
Many of the candidates said government should be limited. Some also said it was a citizen’s duty to participate in the governmental process.
“’Self-government won’t work without self-discipline,’” Neilson said, quoting Paul Harvey. “It’s you and me.”
“The government is us,” Reeder said. “We are to govern ourselves and work with local government.”
Ure said: “It’s the role of government to keep things simple. Sometimes we try to make things too difficult.”
Along with limited government, Lang said people sometimes need someone to help them help themselves. However, he said, that “doesn’t need to be shoved down our throats.”
The issue of water come up next. One in the audience asked the candidates if they would commit to taking greater control of the city’s water.
Most of the candidates readily committed to the idea. Ena and Lang withheld their commitment, both said that they needed to learn more about the subject first.
Seegmiller said many of the cities in Washington County rely on water from the Washington County Water Conservancy District. However, Washington is in a unique position because it has wells and springs within it borders that haven’t been developed yet.
“We can do a better job on that,” he said.
Truman was more vocal in his commitment than the rest. “We need to look at alternatives,” he said. “I’m open to any idea to take back control of our valuable resources versus leaving them to the empire building of the water conservancy district.”
- William Way’s Political Blog: featuring biographies and interviews with area candidates in St. George and Washington City. William Way is also an opinion columnist with St. George News: “The WAY I see it” publishes weekly.
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