Candidates tackle citizens’ questions

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Moderator Grant McGee gives the candidates the format for Tuesday’s debate sponsored by KTQM and KWKA.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis candidates tackled alcohol sales, business recruitment and YouTube on Tuesday night.
In a forum aired on radio station KTQM, City Commission and mayoral candidates took strong stances on issues brought forth by citizen phone calls, e-mails and faxes, and guarded approaches on others.

The radio station has been hosting the forums in every city election for the last 28 years, moderator Grant McGee said, and said call volume was higher Tuesday night than for any other forum.

The six mayoral candidates and seven Commission candidates present had criticisms regarding a YouTube video titled, “Boycott Clovis New Mexico.” The video is a slideshow of run-down buildings in Clovis, set to The Animals’ song, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place,” and is introduced by its poster as a warning to military personnel being assigned to Cannon Air Force Base.

Some took the video as a sign change is needed. City Commission District 1 candidate Rosalie Riley said the video was “disheartening” and shows a “strong need of code enforcement,” while mayoral candidate Rudy Kumar thanked the video’s creators in his closing comments for creating a “wake-up call.”

Others attacked the process of the video. Mayoral candidate Gayla Brumfield felt the video’s creators gave a disproportionate view of Clovis and she “could go to Hurlburt (Air Force Base) … (or) Santa Barbara, Calif. … and make the same kind of video.”

City Commission District 2 candidate Fred Van Soelen noted the video showed no city property, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for government to tell private landowners what to do with their property.

Other mayoral candidate comments included those from Rube Render, who attributed the video to military men possibly frustrated by an assignment that pulled them away from a city with a heavier population; Gloria Wicker said the video’s creators were welcome to leave; and Mario Martinez said military personnel can always ask for a transfer and “Iraq’s always open.”

Some questions were specific to districts or candidates, while others were placed on incumbents. In a question regarding potential construction west of Main Street and south of Seventh Street, District 3 incumbent Robert Sandoval said an application is in for a Community Development Block Grant for $500,000. The money is for that area, and would require Clovis match 10 percent of the grant amount.

“Any time we can get something for 10 cents on the dollar,” Sandoval said, “we have to find a way to do it.”

Other questions asked and issues raised in the middle of the forum included:
• Clovis’ alleged lack of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. A caller said a majority of the city was not in compliance with the act. Render said in all of the city meetings he’s attended, the issue has never been brought up, but said, “If the city is not in compliance, Clovis needs to get in compliance.”

Sandoval said ADA has only come up twice in his five years on the Commission, and both were taken care of quickly.

• Incumbents’ positions on voting on industrial plants in respect to water usage:
Candidates said the Southwest Cheese plant was a net water producer, and a proposed Clovis Ethanol plant would have used effluent water. Sandoval said he voted against an ethanol plant for reasons of water usage and proximity to residential areas.

• Options for youth activity centers:
Kumar said he has many ideas, including a sports arena and youth centers, which could be paid for by a tax revenue initiative. Wicker said young people should be surveyed because previous centers without youth input have failed.

• How to combat drugs in Clovis:
Most candidates pointed to the Meth Watch program from the District Attorney’s office as a success. Mayoral candidate Tim Ashley said, “We have to realize this is an epidemic,” while Riley said more education was needed so kids are “afraid” of drugs before they have a chance to try them.

District 4 candidate Chris Bryant said education about drugs starts at home. His opponent, David Briseno, could not make the forum due to an out-of-town commitment.

Van Soelen, a deputy district attorney, said neighborhood involvement was also needed, and he’s currently prosecuting a case based on a citizen reporting a purchase of chemicals to make methamphetamine.

The final question of the night regarded another March 4 choice — whether to allow alcohol sales in restaurants on Sundays.

Render said he does not drink, but keeps alcohol on hand when he throws holiday parties. In that vein, he said the measure wouldn’t impact him, and he doubts it would impact restaurant sales either way.

District 1 incumbent Randy Crowder said he voted early, and voted against the measure because he thinks one day a week can be different — a stance also taken by Martinez. Riley said she would vote “No” to set an example for her family.

Kumar was in favor of the measure to give incoming military personnel the option, and Van Soelen chose to keep his choice secret, but lauded the issue as a perfect example of direct democracy.

Excerpts from candidates’ opening and closing statements during Tuesday’s KTQM forum:

Mayoral
Tim Ashley: A current Curry County Commissioner, Ashley highlighted his experience as an elected official and a family business owner.
“I know firsthand the challenges that lay ahead,” Ashley said in opening statements.

Gayla Brumfield: The Realtor, a 1971 Clovis High graduate, said she grew up in Clovis and was committed to its future.
“Being a business owner, I know about bills and budgets,” she said, “and I know how important it is to promote Clovis.”

Rudy Kumar: The medical entrepreneur highlighted being relatively new to Clovis, and credited his ideas for the city to citizens he interviewed door-to-door.

“I’m a mayor for change and progress,” Kumar said. “If that is the mayor you’d like to have, I’d be happy to serve.”

Mario Martinez: He feels the mayor position is not much of a governance, but is one of promoting Clovis. “An elected mayor has only a certain part to do with (lawmaking) itself.”

He said if elected, he would check alleys and streets to make sure things were running smoothly, and update the city Web site periodically to tell citizens what he did that day or week.

Rube Render: A retired program manager for Lockheed Martin, Render said the mayoral position takes dedication, and he has the time to attend every function with his cell phone turned off because he has no other business to attend to.

“Because I was not born and raised in Clovis,” Render said, “I have worked very hard to establish a rapport with the City Commission, the County Commission and municipal schools.”

Gloria Wicker: She describes herself as a Clovis pioneer, retired from the Santa Fe railroad. She thought beautifying the city was important, and “I don’t think about the city going forward until we can make Clovis look better.”

City Commission
District 1
Randy Crowder: As mayor pro-tem, he said he was asked why he didn’t seek the mayor position.

“I examined the position,” Crowder said. “I found my comfort zone for social events is very small. My comfort zone for a project is huge.”
Crowder highlighted proposed effluent water and wind power projects as examples.

Rosalie Riley: The Clovis floral shop owner said she decided to get involved with Clovis Pride a few years ago when she asked herself how she was benefiting the community, and took a similar stance in running for the commission.

“Clovis has a huge crime problem,” Riley said. “We’re plagued with drugs, we’re plagued with gangs.”

District 2
Ben McDaniel: A Clovis business owner, McDaniel said Main Street is an important point of attraction and it shouldn’t be ignored in development.

“I feel we should work to improve the things we already have before we work toward other things,” McDaniel said.

Fred Van Soelen: The incumbent, the deputy district attorney for the 9th Judicial District said he feels he’s been accountable to citizens and hopes he’s earned another term.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot, but I think we have more to do,” he said.

District 3
Robert Sandoval: The incumbent, a retired postal carrier, said he has been happy to see the city and county governments working together and highlighted his current status as a commissioner for both.

“I try to be a city commissioner that goes out to talk to people,” he said, “and listens to what they have to say.”

Fidel Madrid: A parcel delivery employee, Madrid said improvements are needed on the overpass for Hull Street, and an overpass is needed for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He also wants to take a look at the budget because, “We need to make sure our city workers make a decent living.”

District 4
Chris Bryant: He has owned Foxy Drive-In for 34 years, but said his son does most of the work at the business and he wants to use his spare time for the betterment of Clovis.

“I always have the time and the want to serve,” he said.

David Briseno: Briseno is the federal programs director for the Clovis Municipal School District. He had out-of-town commitments and could not attend.