Candidates debate personal politics, dual commission service

KTQM candidate forum moderator Grant McGee, right, goes over ground rules Monday evening at the KTQM studio south of Clovis. McGee has moderated the forums, held for city, county and state elections, since 2000.

Debate from the Monday night KTQM candidate forum ranged on roles — the role of personal politics in elected office, of a member in dual commissions, and of the roles of city government and families in a city's betterment.

The two-hour forum, which drew all nine candidates for five city races, is the first in a back-to-back-to-back for forums. Forums are planned for 6 p.m. today at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library and 6 p.m. Wednesday at La Casa Senior Center.

The election is March 6, with early voting available through Friday at city hall.

Moderator Grant McGee gave two basic instructions to candidates — respond to a charge if you need to, and practice brevity.

"The longer you drone on, the more you lose people," McGee said. "So keep it succinct and to the point; that's the key about radio."

Questions at the forum included:

Views on President Obama: Former Clovis Mayor David Lansford, running for his old position, was asked about his views on President Barack Obama. Articles written by Lansford on the ATLAH Media Network in June and November called Obama an illegitimate president under the Constitution and "the carnal manifestation of evil," and said his election is part of a CIA conspiracy. He said in a Sunday CNJ article that he stands by what he wrote.

"I think my own personal views are my privilege and my right," Lansford said. "My focus will be on the people of Clovis. My views on President Obama aren't going to change."

Current Mayor Gayla Brumfield, who was elected in 2008 after Lansford declined to run for a fourth term, didn't think an "extreme" opinion like that could be separated when you have Cannon Air Force Base and the city needs a water project heavily dependent on federal funding.

"You can have a personal opinion," Brumfield said. "But as an elected official, you have a responsibility to your citizens, and that's not to put your personal agenda out there."

Lansford responded that he respects the office of the president, and "at no time in my time as an elected official have I put my personal agenda ahead of the community, period."

Dual commission service: A question on the ballot, if approved, would amend the city charter to bar dual service on the Clovis City and Curry County commissions.

All but Bobby Sandoval — running unopposed for District 3, and serving his second term as a Curry County Commissioner — would be in favor of such a ban.

"I believe there are innate conflicts," said R.L. "Rube" Render, a District 1 candidate who actually brought the issue to the charter review commission. "The conflict is going to be in things like the jail (run by the county, but used to house city residents accused or convicted of crimes). No man can serve two masters."

District 1 candidates Jan Elliott and Randy Crowder opposed dual service, with Crowder noting that "it's very difficult to be on both sides."

This was the only question that drew a response from Crowder, who will miss both of the upcoming forums due to prior commitments.

Sandoval said through serving both commissions, he has helped facilitate partnerships that save both entities money and headaches.

"All you have to do is do what's right," Sandoval said. "You can't do what's right for the city and not do what's right for the county. The people who vote for me for the city side are the same people who vote for me on the county side."

Render responded that it's a fine argument as to whether to have a dual commission, but that's not the issue at hand.

Lansford said dual service was unfair to county voters who lived outside of the city.

Clovis Area Transit Service: A question dealt with the possibility of fixed routes. All three who answered — Brumfield, incumbent District 4 Commissioner Chris Bryant and District 2 candidate Sandra Taylor-Sawyer — were in favor.

"I'm a supporter of the fixed routes," Brumfield said. "In my next term, we will make that happen."

Taylor-Sawyer said her car broke down once, and she couldn't use CATS because the pick-up service requires 24-hour advance notice. Bryant said fixed routes would be a good service, though there are issues to work out with daycares and schools.

Landing a Target, or other franchises: Brumfield said Target and other companies were speaking of a move to Clovis, but Cannon's inclusion in the base closure list in 2005, followed by an economic downturn, have put such talks on hold.

Taylor-Sawyer noted that many franchises have requirements — including population and requiring multiple locations — that cities and private investors often can't meet, but noted Clovis is closing in on population requirements.

Elliott said she'd like to see more economic development south of 14th Street, while District 2 candidate John Jones think it's important to remember "mom and pop" businesses.

Combating gangs and drugs: Sandoval, in a point echoed by other candidates, said change has to come from individual families.

"Mothers and dads aren't taking care of kids; I don't know what the answer is," Sandoval said. "The mother says, 'My little angel wouldn't do that.' Well, your little angel is sitting there with a tire jack in their hands, and they can't tell you what they're doing with it."

Brumfield agreed, but used the point to discuss benefits of "quality of life" initiatives.

"It's also important that as a community, there are activities for children," Brumfield said. "Kids are going to find things to do. At Hillcrest Park, there wasn't much activity, except for bad activity."

She said the park is improved with the dog park and other recreational activities.

Lansford said most problems he sees usually trace back to a "breakdown of the family," and noted that the man of the house has to be an example.

Elliott, who was raised by her grandparents, took umbrage to the remark, and said "there are some single parents raising their kids and doing a wonderful job."

Lansford said he meant no offense, and was simply making the point that one-parent families have more challenges than two-parent families.

Jones, who agreed with Lansford's point, said his daughter is a single parent, and said help is often available through friends, family members and programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Jones also said that penalties need to be tougher for first-time drug selling offenses.

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