The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Housing, breweries among topics at KTQM forum

 

February 23, 2020

Mathew Brock

Candidates, friends and family crowded into the front room of the KTQM studio on Tuesday night.

CLOVIS - Most municipal election candidates seem focused on encouraging economic growth and many are determined to learn from the city's past mistakes.

Candidates on Tuesday crowded into a small room at the KTQM studio for two hours, answering questions submitted by listeners in a free-for-all open forum.

Mayoral candidates are Raymond Mondragon, Michael A. Morris, Stephen B. North, R.L. Rube Render and Sandra Taylor-Sawyer.

District 1 city commission candidates are George Jones, Kenneth Lindsey, Leo Lovett, Marcus Smith, Matthew Whittington, Rhonda Bargman and Eric Collings.

District 2 city commission candidates are Lauren Rowley and Jamaal Williams.

Municipal judge candidates are Vicki Kelley and Paul Nelson.

Some of the highlights:

What is your position on the city's economic development strategies, taking into consideration past failures with the Beauty, Health and Science deal, its controversial purchase of the golf course and the hostile takeover of Blue Sky Aviation at the Clovis Municipal Airport?

Taylor-Sawyer said she chaired the Economic Development ad hoc committee and helped put in place the new economic development ordinance. She said the new ordinance had new procedures and leadership roles to regulate how the city's economic development fund is used and would prevent past mistakes from happening again.

She added that if a business is going to be supported by the city, it will be required to perform on its own first and send the city an invoice for reimbursement.

Mondragon reiterated that a new ordinance is in place to prevent future problems and talked about his experience representing District 4 on the Economic Incentive Board. He also stated he had been elected president of the New Mexico Industrial Developers Association.

Smith and Morris both said it's important to go out and gather information and consult the right people before making any big economic decisions in the future.

Whittington said the city needs to learn from the past and added that the city is still paying for the bonds for the golf course, which is being subsidized by the city.

Lovett said the private sector is usually the best choice to manage in most situations and said it's important to take advantage of bonds and partner with entities like the Chamber of Commerce and the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation to help the city grow.

How would you advocate for affordable housing and rent?

Collings spoke first and said it isn't necessarily part of the city commission's job to try and regulate rent. He added that the state has programs to help with affordable housing, but it would be out of the city commission's hands.

Williams disagreed and said he thought it would be within the city commission's responsibilities to help provide affordable housing and said he would advocate for it.

Mondragon said the city has an affordable housing ordinance written, which he would take off the shelf, reevaluate and bring to the commission if elected.

"We have citizens in our community that need affordable housing and it's vital and we need to think about them as well," Mondragon said.

How do you envision the Community Development Block Grant program supporting our city in the future?

Mondragon said he and the Eastern Plains Council of Governments works directly with the CDBG and talked about the importance of the program.

Render and Taylor-Sawyer said the biggest issue is that no one shows up to the CDBG meetings, which are held annually and open to the public. Taylor-Sawyer added that one of the most common suggestions for CDBG projects is to work on roads.

There seems to be a number of people at high risk for suicide in Clovis. How would you be an advocate for the young LGBTQ community, especially since they're at a high risk for suicide?

Smith said everyone needs to look at the situation of suicide as a whole, stressing that it's the community's responsibility and everyone should contribute to improving mental health.

Lindsey said mental health waxes and wanes and when you put money into the problem it's hard to see the improvement until you take it away. He added that in his opinion, the best thing to do would be to work to educate more people about the problem, adding that senior citizens are another high-risk suicide population.

North said it's important to consider every person in the community and listen to each group and make sure they're represented. He added that the state as a whole needs to invest more into mental health.

Mondragon said the state is working to reinstate many mental health programs that were previously canceled and stressed that people should be more considerate of the LGBTQ community, adding that even if some don't agree with them, they're still people and taxpayers.

Jones said he has dealt with suicide often during his active duty service and that more people need to be educated to watch out for the signs of suicide, whether that is with young people or senior citizens.

Where do you stand on more breweries opening in Clovis?

North said he'd encourage any new business that came to Clovis and would do what he could to help them set roots in the community.

Mondragon talked about his experiences visiting different breweries in the area and the economic development they've brought to downtown Clovis already.

Morris said he thought it was a great idea and would encourage any business that would want to come to Clovis. As a downtown business owner, he would welcome any new businesses in the area.

Taylor-Sawyer brought up that she has supported all three breweries that have been approved so far and would welcome more. She added that it would be a big economic boon to help those businesses export their goods outside of Clovis to bring in more money from outside the community.

Lindsey said he didn't think there was a lack of breweries in town and didn't think Clovis necessarily needs more, but said it wouldn't hurt with the added tax revenue and the city making sure they don't cause any problems.

Jones said he wasn't opposed because many people complain there's nothing to do in Clovis and this would help keep them in Clovis to spend their money rather than going out of town.

Smith added breweries bring festivals and festivals bring in people and money.

Render said he isn't opposed to any new business in Clovis, so long as they didn't come to the commission asking for money.

What are your thoughts on the enforcement of Senate Bill 5, the red-flag gun bill? Have you considered making Clovis a Second Amendment sanctuary city?

Render said he is pro-gun, but could not support any kind of sanctuary city.

"When we start picking and choosing what laws we're going to enforce or not, we're in big trouble," Render said. "I'm against abortion, but I am still opposed to abortion sanctuary city."

Williams took a neutral stance, but asked everyone to keep the state's mental health issues in mind and said he does not think it would be a good idea to take any tools away from law enforcement.

Lindsey and Lovett were against the bill, but did not offer support to the idea of a sanctuary city.

Morris was also against the legislation, saying it put law enforcement in a terrible position and that it is against people's constitutional rights. He said if it came to it, he would consider pushing to make Clovis a Second Amendment sanctuary city.

Judge candidates, what is your educational background in law?

Kelley said she didn't have a degree in law, but instead had 38 years of experience working in the courts and has attended annual training since starting. Kelley said she also trains new clerks, judges and staff.

Nelson said he also had no background in law, but was well versed in reading and understanding laws, state statutes and city ordinances working for the police department.

Where do you stand on stronger laws to fight juvenile crime?

Collings said he had been a schoolteacher for four years before becoming a victim to a juvenile crime and believes the state would benefit from stronger laws.

North said that in his experience at the District Attorney's Office that he sees room for improvement but isn't sure if tougher laws are the solution. He said he's seen better results in anti-truancy programs and other proactive measures. Smith agreed that it's not a matter of making harsher laws and instead finding other programs for juveniles.

Mondragon said there is currently state legislation looking at crime reform and said the current system needs change, alluding to an incident in Albuquerque where a juvenile killed another juvenile and was released in only two years.

Morris said he doesn't think the mayor could influence juvenile crime laws, but said he would focus on community developments that would help with any issues, such as getting the police department fully staffed. Mondragon and Whittington agreed that making sure the police department is operating at full strength would be a better route.

Taylor-Sawyer and Lovett said it would be important to be proactive and identify and get at-risk juveniles into programs to help get them on a good path.

 
 

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