Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Candidates square off on crime at forum

Crime is on the mind of area residents and political candidates. That was the primary takeaway from the political forum hosted Monday by radio station KTQM.

Greg Southard and David Lansford hosted the two-hour event, which featured 12 of the 13 candidates seeking municipal positions in the March 5 election.

The only candidate missing from the forum was Mayoral Candidate Misty Bertrand.

Candidates pulled questions at random, while also given the option to answer other candidates’ questions with 60 seconds allotted to speak. The questions came from community members, with most pertaining to public safety and crime rates in Clovis.

Southard asked candidates how serious the crime problem is and what should Clovis’ elected officials do to tackle the issue.

Responses included:

Running unopposed, District 1 city commission candidate George Jones said crime is an important subject and highlighted ways city commissioners have advocated for the cause by approving license plate recognition software in street cameras.

“Crime … is serious, but it’s also serious in all small towns, in all communities,” he said. “There is something we definitely need to get after. … We need to continue to seek new ways to combat crime,” Jones said.

District 2 Commission candidate Victoria Robeldo said crime is a symptom to greater issues that include infrastructure, water and youth representation.

“Crime is a symptom and not the actual disease. The disease is the unmet needs of the community. I’m very community focused and I want to make sure our residents get their needs met so that we can reduce that crime limit,” Robledo said.

The number one problem within the Clovis community is crime, said District 2 candidate Gail Tarson.

“Why I think crime is such an issue is that our criminals themselves are not facing harsh enough penalties. … We need to be working strongly with our DA’s office …” Tarson said.

Helen Casaus, District 3 incumbent, said crime is one of her highest priorities if she’s elected to another term.

“There are a lot of priorities that I can pick. I’m going to say probably the crime issues that we have … our roads and street lighting. … But there’s a lot of priorities. We just have to take them one by one,” Casaus said.

District 4 candidate Josefita Griego said one of the biggest ways to deter crime is to provide activities for local youth and beginning a crime watch committee.

“I always felt that we need to come up with a plan for lower income children with sports. I think if we get more children invested with sports it will also help our crime. … We need to come up with a big neighborhood program to really fight the crime and let the citizens feel like they’re not scared to speak up about the crime,” Griego said.

Advocating for technological advancement to lower crime rates, District 3 candidate Paul Nelson offered support for the license plate recognition cameras recently approved by the city.

“I see it as another tool box for our public safety. Very few people know that about 15 years ago we also had license plate recognition installed in two police cars. … It is only one tool, you have to have a bunch of tools in that tool box to solve the problem,” Nelson said.

Other topics of Monday’s forum ranged from the exploration of economic growth and quality of life for Clovis residents.

District 4 incumbent Chris Bryant said the city is already making great strides in improving the quality of life for senior residents.

“We are in the process of being able to hopefully open a senior center. … They (senior citizens) have given back so much to the community, we want to be assured that they have a nice facility to attend to with recreational benefits, meal sites and just overall a good senior center to be able to go to on a daily basis,” Bryant said.

When answering what would be the next economic step for Clovis, District 3 candidate Doug Pettigrew said he is for some business variety.

“I think we need to bring manufacturing into Clovis. There was a lot of emphasis to bring in restaurants and that’s all well and good. But I think we need to do some venturing and see how we can grow Clovis,” Pettigrew said.

The biggest quality of life issue is the lack of activities for youth, said District 3 candidate Bryan Davis.

“We need a plethora of options, because whenever you have youth involved in general activities it encourages them to stay away from things that they shouldn’t be involved in. Our Commission is already working with our local schools to solve this problem, but we can always continue that work and make it better,” Davis said.

When asked whether the Open Meetings Act is a deterrent or advantage in making public policy, Incumbent Mayor Mike Morris said it provides an opportunity for the Commission to be transparent with the public.

“I agree with the Open Meetings Act and I think it facilitates and fosters an environment for the public, where everyone can be heard and the public has the opportunity to know what’s going to be discussed ahead of time,” Morris said.

District 4 candidate Dean Hardage was asked about the quality of the city’s graffiti removal program. He said there is always room for improvement.

“From my personal experience it works, but it needs a little more work. Maybe get some volunteers, I know we have a big trash pickup day, why not have a big graffiti knock-out day?” Hardage said.

To better promote agricultural business owners, District 3 candidate Debbie Zamora suggested the city look into promoting more farmer markets.

“So maybe farmer markets that grow smaller crops, you know, vegetables and what not. But if there’s no farm then there is no food,” Zamora said.