McArthur-Pike’s ‘good ole’ debate shows contrasts in style, views on city issues

L-R Mayoral candidates Dan McArthur, incumbent, Jon Pike, City Councilman, St. George Mayor Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – If one thing was clear at Tuesday night’s St. George mayoral debate in the Gardner Center ballroom at Dixie State University, it was that the two men standing on the stage genuinely like and respect one another. After nearly six years of working side-by-side at City Hall, Mayor Dan McArthur and Councilman Jon Pike see eye-to-eye on many – but certainly not all – of the issues brought up. As the debate went on, pronounced differences of character were apparent, and a few tense moments revealed a stark contrast in leadership and communication styles.

During the debate, Pike, an executive with SelectHealth, used facts and data to illustrate his points; whereas McArthur, the incumbent and local business owner, often answered questions narratively with stories and examples.

When speaking about concerns that the city’s code enforcement division is sometimes overbearing or biased in the enforcement of zoning codes, Pike began by analyzing the problem and discussing his plan to correct it.

“We have good reasons to have city codes,” Pike said, “but sometimes we get overzealous and the way we communicate things is a little troubling to me.”

He has already asked City Council members Jimmie Hughes and Gil Almquist to head a commission, Pike said, to take a close look at how codes are enforced in St. George.

“This wouldn’t just be us,” Pike said, “it would be bringing in business leaders and members of the general public to really look at what things we could do to refine, eliminate, and massage … our existing codes.”

Mayor  and candidate Dan McArthur, St. George Mayoral Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News
Mayor and candidate Dan McArthur, St. George Mayoral Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

McArthur, on the other hand, communicated his views with a story. He told the audience about a weed-ridden empty lot he had purchased years ago.

“I was going to build a home on it and every year I got a note from code enforcement saying ‘we’re going to put some teeth into that and we’re going to fine you if you don’t take care of those weeds.'”

McArthur said that each year he would take his tractor out to clean the lot up.

“And next thing you know,” he said, “somebody was building a house next door, and they would go put cement on it. And who had to take care of it? It had to be me. There are some rules and things we need to do within our community. I think we do those pretty good.”

The conversation soon turned to what the term “good ole boy” means. The phrase references a perceived  group of Washington County “insiders” who hold many county and municipal offices, and whose families were among the first to settle the area. The phrase has become increasingly contentious ever since City Council candidate Tara Dunn adopted “Definitely NOT a Good Ol’ Boy,” as her campaign slogan, featured prominently on campaign signs throughout the city.

“To me, our community has been built by good ole boys in the past,” McArthur said, and suggested that the person to plow the first furrow in St. George was probably a good ole boy. “And so was Brigham Young,” he said, “so was Erastus Snow; so was Mayor Brooks who was mayor before myself.”

The term good ole boy describes anybody who wants to make a difference in their community, McArthur said.

“I think we owe a lot to the good ole boys and, at some point in time,” he said, “I hope I’m considered one of them.”

Pike joked to McArthur that, while he considers McArthur a good boy, he wouldn’t say that he’s old. Although Pike said he that shares McArthur’s sentiments about the people who built the community, he understands that when people use the term, they often are talking about something different. He said:

I think that what some people get nervous about – and I understand it – is: what are we doing with today’s good ole boys? Are we doing business appropriately? Are we getting bids appropriately? Are we making sure that we are being fair in that way?

The debate then moved on to questions about the St. George Animal Shelter. Some residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the findings of an internal investigation by the St. George Police which found no evidence that city or police employees had broken any laws. The candidates were asked if they support calls from the community for an independent third-party investigation into allegations of mismanagement and potential abuse and neglect at the shelter.

Pike said he had requested an independent investigation from the beginning.

“We’re not having our state Attorney General John Swallow investigate himself, Pike said.”

While he said that he has confidence in the integrity of the individuals who conducted the investigation, Pike said he feels the investigation left certain questions unanswered.

“While I think they did a reasonable job, there were some holes in it. I would have liked to see more data,” Pike said, “I would have liked to have seen all of the questions and answers released to the public.”

However, Pike said he doesn’t believe that  an independent investigation would have had a different outcome. He said he is ready to move forward and is now focusing on creating a permanent citizen advisory board to oversee operations of the animal shelter.

McArthur said that when the allegations about the situation at the shelter were first brought to the public’s attention, people said that he should have known. He said:

I can tell you I did not know. But when it was pointed out to us, and we did that internal investigation … if they would have found anything criminal, it would have been turned over to another organization; but there was nothing criminal found in that investigation.

St. George City Councilman and candidate Jon Pike, St. George Mayoral Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News
St. George City Councilman and candidate Jon Pike, St. George Mayoral Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

Pike then said he regrets that, as a sitting City Council member, he didn’t know what was happening at the shelter.

“I should have gone up there,” Pike said. “It will cause me to do a better job in the future to pay attention to the budget, for example. They were surviving on literally just pennies up there.”

There was some contention between the candidates when the future of the Dixie Sunbowl was brought up.

McArthur said that whatever happens to the Sunbowl, it should come down to what the St. George Lions Club wants. He said that no decision had been reached about the fate of the Sunbowl and that no official discussions have even taken place.

“There has not been a proposal to put anything on the Sunbowl,” McArthur said. “I’ve heard lots of people talk about it. I’ve heard kids say the teachers at East Elementary have said ‘it’s going to be right there.’ No.”

Pike took exception to this statement when it was his turn to speak. He said:

To be completely honest, I don’t think his answer is entirely accurate. There is a proposal and there has been a fair amount of discussion between the college, the school district, the city and the Lions – well, the Lions a little less so – about the Sunbowl being the location for a new East Elementary. I think it’s fair that you know that.

Pike said that the discussions had largely taken place between City Manager Gary Esplin, and the leadership at DSU and the Washington County School District.

In his rebuttal, McArthur re-emphasized that, while conversations had taken place about the fate of East Elementary, they had never discussed moving it to the Sunbowl.

Pike, however, insisted that, not only had there been discussions about purchasing East Elementary, but the money for the purchase has already been allocated.

Ask the state legislature where the $500,000 towards purchasing East Elementary is,” Pike said, “that’s a down-payment for the purchase of that property. That’s public record, but it just hasn’t been talked about much.”

Pike said that there have been discussions about both Elks Field and the Sunbowl as places where East Elementary might move to.

In closing, Pike talked about what he’s learned in his six years on the City Council. “St. George has no defined mission,” he said, “we need one.” Too many people feel like they aren’t being listened to, Pike said, “we need to.”

His goal as mayor, Pike said, will be to develop a culture that really understands business and places a huge priority on education.

McArthur talked about his love of St. George. “Many people may say of St. George that they might love it as much as I do, but nobody loves it more,” he said. “I eat, sleep, and drink Dixie. I am the greatest cheerleader that Dixie has had.”

“You get one vote, – and if you vote for me, you get us both,” McArthur said. “If you vote for Jon, I’m gone.” As the audience laughed, Pike said: “Just remember, vote for me and there will be an open City Council seat.”

The St. George mayoral election will be held on November 5.

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Email: mflynn@stgnews.com

Twitter: @mflynnSTGN

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

L-R Mayoral candidates Dan McArthur, incumbent, Jon Pike, City Councilman, St. George Mayor Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News
L-R Mayoral candidates Dan McArthur, incumbent, Jon Pike, City Councilman, St. George Mayor Candidates Debate, Gardner Center Ballroom, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

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10 Comments

  • Brian October 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Please vote Mayor McArthur out. He’s a good person and started out as a good mayor. But he is a big government guy, definitely a good old boy, and doesn’t respect the citizens he is there to serve. On top of that, for the last 3 or 4 elections he’s promised that he just needs “one more term” to finish things up. Hey Dan, are you and Orrin Hatch cousins, by chance?

    As a citizen and tax payer my esophagus is sore from having things like the Powell Pipeline and that stupid, ugly, multi-million dollar model of the Virgin River jammed down my throat.

    The taxes on the Powell Pipeline would easily be over $100,000 for my family (and yours), but Dan doesn’t think we’re smart enough to help make that decision.

    The Virgin River model is a complete waste of tax payer dollars. But Dan says if just one person uses it as a back drop for their wedding photos it was all worth it! Like we don’t have a thousand other places to take wedding photos in Southern Utah. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth! God already has it covered, Dan, you don’t need to spend tax payer dollars to build photo opportunities.

    No more lies (you sound like an addict: I need “just one more” term). No more stories. No more songs.

    And for the record, I’m not a Pike supporter. Far from it. I think he’s a big government guy, too. Vote in someones pet hamster if that’s the only way to clean house. At least the hamster would spend less money and wouldn’t be for growth at all costs. We can survive 2 years with a hamster as Mayor.

    • DoubleTap October 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Brian:
      Very well stated. McArthur needs to go. And you are correct about Pike as well….big government type.
      Pike is climbing the stepping stone going north eventually. And who know where from there.

  • Ken October 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I for one am done with the incumbents in this city. Do people not realize how many majors projects are done with the public knowing? Mr Esplin seems to be the major party involved in these secret dealings. Why does he feel the need to hide or is it the need to be all controlling? I think the mayor has served well but needs to move on and Esplin without a doubt needs to be gone.

    • Brian October 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      I couldn’t agree more.
      .
      Politicians are like diapers: They need to be changed frequently, and for the same reason (they’re full of crap).

  • Ken October 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    without* the public knowing?

  • Paul Jensen October 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    BUT!!! Can Pike sing and does he know all the words to, “Are You From Dixie?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYlh-2C09Ss

  • Kim October 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Does Mayor MacArthur really not understand the meaning of good ole boys? Good ole boys oppress every outsider of the “good ole boys'” group by ensuring that the “good ole boys” get extra benefits and get their way. Good ole boys are typically, by nature, blind to the fact that they’re doing this. Evidence is fairly clear that this is true with Mayor MacArthur.

  • Big Bob October 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Dan McArthur, go run for a little town like Enterprise or Beaver. You’re flat out silly.

  • Tyler October 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    We need someone from an outside urban area to be mayor of this city – someone who knows how an urban center works and what the vital needs are. These good ol boys don’t know how to run a city, they are acclimated to running a small town like St George was back in the early 90s, the design of streets in the area and lack of general things to do is perfect example. I hope Pike is more updated and with the current times than Dan…

  • Chuck October 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    The last thing St. George and southern Utah needs is to import more urban culture. A cursory analysis of Bloomberg’s N.Y city, the Daley’s Chicago, Philadelphia, et al quickly demonstrate high taxes, high crime, people treating people nastily, crowded conditions and big, big government. While St. George may need a change in leadership, we don’t need to import the “good ole boy” network created by the Bloombergs and Daleys of this country.

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