CEDAR CITY – Guests flocked into the Southern Utah University Ballroom well into the evening Thursday to catch an earful of political discussion about the direction of the Cedar City community as envisioned by six candidates seeking positions on the Cedar City Council.
The one-hour debate, preceded by a 1/2-hour meet and greet, was coordinated and moderated by SUU students and employees of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service.
Each candidate was given the opportunity to introduce themselves to their constituents before diving into the many questions asked of them by the two moderators, Miranda Jones and Bailey Bowthorpe, who kept the evening flowing in a timely fashion.
Incumbents John Black, Paul Cozzens and Don Marchant faced off against competitors Kip Hansen, Terri Hartley and Craig Isom. Each was given anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes to answer questions.
Jones dove straight into questions that would drive to the core of each candidate’s position in regards to the council’s role in enacting new legislation.
“What will be the first piece of legislation you will sponsor if elected?” she asked the panel, beginning with Black and moving down the table one by one. The answers varied but many agreed that enacting new legislation is only one small facet of the job and not highest on the “To Do” list.
Hansen focused on the importance of making sure the ordinances that are already on the books are both enforceable and make sense for the community. He suggested the possibility of working to repeal those that do not serve Cedar City residents in a productive way.
Hartley discussed the importance of taking care of city employees, if possible, through the legislative process to ensure that their needs are not ignored again in the future.
Although Marchant disagreed with using the legislative process to achieve Hartley’s goal, he said he shares her opinion that city employees are a valuable asset to the community and need to be managed in a way that encourages them to stay in Cedar City and help it grow.
“I don’t know how you enact that in legislation, because we’ve gone through a very rigorous study on compensation for our people,” he said. “And we’ve come up with some great ideas, but it isn’t paying them what they need to live and we’ve got to come up with a way of providing for our people in various departments.”
Reminding attendees of some of the ordinances he has already worked to pass regarding the allocation of funds from Cedar City’s RAP tax – which generates revenue to benefit recreation, arts and parks – for future maintenance of projects that have been built by the city, Cozzens said his biggest agenda item for his upcoming term would revolve heavily around water issues residents are facing.
Isom said he maintains the importance of taking care of city employees, but added that he would work to help take the city’s strategic plan to the next level through the legislative process.
“I believe it should be taken to the next level in planning for the growth that is coming,” Isom said. “I believe that we can look forward and with some vision (we can) plan properly for cash management and asset management.”
Black responded by strongly urging the public to speak up and become more involved with the process. It is impossible to know, he said, what to do next without a public voice participating. The best way for him to represent the public, he said, is to hear from them what are their needs and visions.
Additional questions asked of the candidates included how they would go about: continuing to foster a positive relationship between the university and the community, tackling current and ongoing water security issues for residents, handling budget priorities and retaining crucial city employees despite competitive markets that threaten to draw them elsewhere.
As the evening came to a close there were a few mixed reviews from residents about the tenaciousness of each candidate’s position established during the debate. Some said the candidates were too nice and agreeable with each other, and that they had hoped for a bit more nail-biting drama and passionate discussion. Others said they believed the candidates presented themselves with respect and integrity.
All shared that they were excited to be a part of the electoral process and couldn’t wait to see the results of the upcoming election Nov. 4.
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