ST. GEORGE — Matters tied to St. George’s continuing growth were discussed among 11 of the 13 St. George City Council candidates during a forum held at the St. George branch of the Washington County Library Monday evening.
The Dixie Republican Forum, which is not affiliated with the Utah Republican Party, sponsored the event, with forum president Larry Meyers moderating.
Candidates present at the forum included incumbent Ed Baca, husband and wife Greg and Carol Aldred, Gregg McArthur, Christopher Call, Doug Solstad, Dannielle Larkin, Shane Wood, Lane Ronnow, Chuck Goode and Bryan Thiriot.
The other two incumbents, Bette Arial and Jimmie Hughes, were unable to attend due to prior engagements.
With multiple questions for the 11 candidates in just a short amount of time, each candidate was limited to one-minute responses.
“So many topics, so little time,” McArthur joked as the forum progressed.
Growth-related topics were at the forefront of discussion among the candidates.
In the area of transportation, Christopher Call, who works as a Uber and Lyft driver, said he wants to increase funding for SunTran.
“I want more stops. I want more stops toward the airport. I want more stops out toward SunRiver,” he said. “I’m for, all-day long, appropriate spending for public transportation.”
Dannielle Larkin advocated for more active transportation like walking, jogging or cycling.
“We need to get people to understand that even if you don’t want to ride a bike or you don’t want to walk, if you’re willing to support your neighbors, do so and drive cautiously so they can,” she said. “It will greatly reduce our traffic.”
Doug Solstad said a lot of the traffic in St. George comes from people from other cities and that St. George needs to continue working with them to find ways to keep traffic moving better. He also supported expanding SunTran bus service, as well as having a traffic study done that would look into creating one-way streets in St. George.
“They’re not always fun when you’re on them, but they really help to relieve congestion,” he said.
Lake Powell Pipeline
A continuing topic of controversy, the Lake Powell Pipeline was another issue that came up at Monday’s forum.
Chuck Goode, a retired aerospace engineer, said the Lake Powell Pipeline isn’t needed, as there are technological answers to the city’s future water needs.
Adapting to current and upcoming technology for the benefit of the city and its residents was a general theme of Goode’s responses Monday.
“Smart homes needs to have recycled water; they need to having energy produced by solar means,” he said. “We are not sustainable in the way we are building homes. There are technological solutions – atmospheric water generators can give you potable water right in your hand, and rainwater collectors can give you all the water you need for washing and flushing.”
On another side of the issue, Bryan Thiriot said he supports the pipeline project.
“I’m always in support of diversifying our water sources, so I support the Lake Powell Pipeline,” he said, referencing how St. George – and Washington County overall – is served through a single source of water: the Virgin River. Most sides of the pipeline argument have found common ground in agreeing that, by itself, the river is not considered a reliable source of water when it comes to meeting future population projections.
Zoning and code enforcement
When it comes to issues of code enforcement, Greg Aldred said he thinks residents have a right to use their property however they want, “as long as it doesn’t impede on others’ safety.”
“I’ve always had a dialogue with my neighbor if there were safety issues,” he said, “and a lot of times those can be resolved instead of calling law enforcement.”
As far as zoning goes, he said that tends to be determined by the market demand.
Incumbent Ed Baca said zoning is very much tied to the area’s affordable housing issues, adding that the state is currently putting pressure on cities to create certain numbers of affordable housing units through regulation.
“An ongoing process is taking place.”
The city is also still in the process of revising its zoning and code enforcement practices, he said.
“Zoning is not going to go away,” Baca said. “It’s something that affects each and everyone one us. It’s how we plan for the future.”
Shane Wood said the city needs to stand by the codes it passes, enforcing them uniformly and not bending them from person to person.
“We need to be consistent with our laws.”
Lane Ronnow agreed with treating others equally under the law.
“The most important thing we can do as City Council people is to treat everybody equally,” he said. “Make sure the laws are just, enforceable and equal across the board.”
Growth in general and other topics
“It’s very important that as we grow, we do have smart planning so we don’t have a big urban sprawl here in St. George,” Gregg McArthur said.
One of McArthur’s remarks on growth was related to the type of businesses that have been brought into the city in the past. Businesses came here because land and labor was cheap, he said, adding that in the last eight years, land prices have gone up, and St. George should no longer be known for cheap labor. To help facilitate this, the types of businesses that come to St. George need to change, he said.
On the topic of federal funding, Carol Aldred said she supported privatizing certain public services and reducing the city’s reliance on federal funding.
“Reducing and eliminating federal funding for our municipal projects, I’m for that,” she said, reiterating her support of privatization efforts at different points during the forum.
The primary election is Aug. 13.
For additional information on each candidate compiled by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, include bios and snapshot views on specific issues, click here.
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