By Jack King
Infrastructure issues topped the concerns about which callers quizzed mayoral and city commission candidates in a broadcast election forum on radio stations KTQM/KWKA Tuesday — raises for city workers ran a close second.
Unopposed incumbent City Commissioner Robert Sandoval didn’t attend the forum because he was recovering from heart surgery. He sent a recorded statement.
All but one of the candidates — mayoral candidate Raymond Atchley — said they support the proposed 1/4 percent gross receipts tax increase as a way to fund infrastructure improvements and free up city money to provide raises.
Asked by one caller why he disapproves of the tax increase, Atchley said at least 6,000 local residents — those who reside on Cannon Air Force Base — would not have to pay it and that the best alternative is to look more closely at the city budget. Atchley said he and other members of his campaign have found the budget hard to read.
Asked what the candidates think is the most important issue Clovis faces, Mayor David Lansford said a city’s first duty is to protect the public safety, but water, managing growth, creating jobs and “adding value” to city services also are important. Stephen Muscato, another mayoral candidate, said raises for city workers is first on his list, but Atchley said trust is the most important issue.
“How much can we trust our leaders? Who do we believe?” he asked.
District 1 candidate Randy Crowder answered water is most important for him. All residents need to “get behind” and understand the Ute Water Project, he said.
District 2 candidate Fred Van Soelen agreed that water and the Ute Water Project are important, but said the most important issue for him is pay raises for police officers and firefighters. Incumbent Gloria Wicker said, besides water, passing the 1/4 percent gross receipts tax is the most important issue, because it will free up money that can be used for pay raises. Len Vohs, another candidate in District 2, agreed the 1/4 percent tax raise is essential.
In District 4, candidate Jack Twite said a pay raise for police officers is important, because a city can outgrow its police force and Clovis is growing. Incumbent Lunell Winton said all city employees should get a pay raise.
Asked what the most important issues are in specific districts, Crowder said traffic and drainage are important in District 1.
In District 2, Van Soelen listed water, police, fire protection, parks and business growth for District 2, but added he would work to get some dirt streets in the district paved. Vohs said water is a communitywide issue, as well as traffic and the need to pass the 1/4 percent tax increase. Wicker said entrances to the city are unsightly — trash should be picked up and medians improved.
In District 3, Twite said several residents have told him school zones are too short and that he would work to have them lengthened. Winton noted that District 3 covers a large area, from Prince Street to Clovis High School, but said traffic issues are a major concern.
Among other questions, the candidates were asked why the pay scale is so low for Clovis city employees, including police officers. Atchley said the pay is average compared to Clovis’ cost of living.