Municipal candidates hold similar views

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Clovis City Commission hopeful Dan Stoddard listens as his opponent Furgus Tunnell addresses the issue of blighted properties during a Wednesday candidate forum hosted by the Board of Realtors.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

No new taxes, planning for growth, a need to clean up Clovis and Portales, and respecting property rights are consistent positions held by municipal candidates.

The Clovis Board of Realtors hosted a candidate forum Wednesday to pose real estate-specific questions to candidates from Clovis and Portales.

In attendance were 10 candidates, seven vying for Clovis commission seats and three mayor candidates from Portales.

Clovis Realtor Wes Graham moderated the forum.

Candidates were asked questions about zoning, annexing, local sales taxes on real estate to stimulate affordable housing and energy resources and their effect on real estate.

Clovis District 1 candidates Brenda Miller and Juan Garza were in agreement on the questions they answered, particularly in opposition to new taxes.

“We’re taxed to the limit already,” incumbent Garza said when asked if home buyers should be required to pay a local tax, the money from which would be used to help others obtain affordable housing.

But ultimately, “I think it would be up to the voters to decide,” he said.

Miller, who moved to Clovis in 2005, said she too is opposed to a new tax and doesn’t want to do anything that would impede ownership.

Portales mayoral candidates highlighted the complexity of dealing with abandoned and distressed properties and a definite need for an answer to the issue.

Referring to the issue as a “catch 22,” Gary Watkins said many people may not have the money or resources to clean things up, making enforcement difficult.

“We need to do what we can do to get things cleaned up by working with property owners,” he said.

Watkins is in his third term as a Portales city commissioner.

Sharon King, Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said distressed properties bring down the appeal of properties around them and affect the community.

“We really need to put more emphasis on cleaning those up,” she said. “I just think it’s absurd that we have zoning (that’s not enforced).”

Steven Davis, lifelong Portales resident and business owner, stressed that some residents face challenges in cleaning up their properties and others just don’t want to.

“You have to be very careful how you handle that,” Davis said.

Fidel Madrid and Leo Leal, battling for the Clovis District 3 commission seat, addressed the issue of the city annexing areas of the county in order to expand zoning.

Madrid, a retired UPS worker, said he sees good and bad with annexing for zoning expansion but said ultimately, “The city has to grow, the city’s going to have to expand.”

Leal, a Vietnam veteran, said annexing is a good idea to support community growth. However, he recognized the frustration zoning may cause for some county residents who don’t have it.

“I think a lot of people are going to have to change their way of life,” he said.

Clovis candidates for the District 4 commission seat also weighed in on the issue of abandoned and distressed properties.

Furgus Tunnell, pastor of Westbrook Baptist Church, said he sees it as an issue that should have been addressed years ago.

“We let them go for so long, it’s a touchy situation, but something needs to be done,” he said.

Dan Stoddard, who also serves as a county commissioner, said the issue needs to be addressed, but with an eye for future growth.

“We do need to look ahead to what we’re going to do,” he said.

Randy Rodriguez, a 23-year Clovis resident, said having owners board the properties up doesn’t seem to be enough.

“Maybe we could do something about getting rid of them,” he said.

No other candidates attended.