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Posted: Oct 16, 2009  18:06

City Council Candidates Public Forum


The six candidates running for three seats on City Council met at 6:30pm Thursday at Chic-n-Chop. Mike Klaus, Tom Mayo, John Langs, Roger Fraser, Chris Clark (running unopposed for the two-year term) and David Gray each spent an allotted two minutes introducing themselves as the audience wrote questions for the candidates on 3x5 cards. Brett Brown and Mike Sloan, both Chamber of Commerce members, organized and moderated the event.

Each candidate was given one minute to answer the following questions chosen from the crowd.

Question 1: "Without using quotes from a tourist guide or real estate pamphlet, define the city of Bonners Ferry as you see it."

Chris: "This is a wonderful city. I deal with so many people coming into this town and the most frequent thing I hear is how friendly it is here and how easy it is to find services. I agree that we're one of the friendliest cities. We need to be visionary and prepare for the future."

Roger: "We can control the future to our liking and keep it quaint. We need to be careful with the highway along the south end of town."

John: "We all agree that Bonners Ferry is very friendly. I often ask people why they chose to live here instead of anywhere else, and I usually hear, 'because it's not Sandpoint.' It's important that even small town government treats its citizens unlike the crushing big cities often do."

Tom: "This is one of the most beautiful places there is, and I'd like to see it stay that way. I do fear there may be another boom. The city needs to address the future and be better prepared for it.

Mike: "This is a great place to raise kids. We need to change the 14 percent unemployment rate we currently have."

Dave: "This is a safe place to live, with its excellent fire, police and roads departments. Welco is shutting down and the Boundary County Digest is paring back its paper distribution. The economy is important. We had over 10,000 visitors to our Visitor Center this year. We need to continue with our vision."

Question 2: "What is your philosophy on the role city council should play in developing future growth?"

Roger: "I believe in minimalist government. City Council doesn't equate to massive government. I'm concerned with sidewalks and roadways."

John: "I'd like to look upon the development we've already accomplished, like the water development project and our huge sewer challenges. We need to continue to make sure we have the right people under us to help us make good decisions."

Tom: "The Council should be a leader. We need to have a good team on board."

Mike: "We should utilize Mike Sloan in job development and support and foster future events in this town."

Dave: "We're in danger of outgrowing our current infrastructure, such as the sewer, the dump and water."

Chris: "I admire the leadership of those before us. I recognize the new sidewalks and lighting and upgraded infrastructure. Council needs to provide the atmosphere for positive changes."

Question 3: "With our current budget crisis, do you suggest increasing revenue or decreasing spending? How?"

John: "We can't increase revenue. For the first time, you'll see government agencies get smaller. Each department must take the hit equally, and I'd like to be here to maintain that that happens. But no layoffs!"

Tom: "I agree with John. I'm new to this, so my thoughts may not be do-able. Maybe a resort tax? I know that it's hard to get more money from our citizens."

Mike: "I'd like to evaluate each department and see if they each give an equitable level of service. Possibly move manpower around. It's possible we're heavier in some departments than in others."

Dave: "We had to balance the budget, and we cut it to the bare bones. I agree with John that we shouldn't have any layoffs or wage cuts. Interestingly, our state liquor revenue came through on the upside."

Chris: "I was overwhelmed when I first joined the council. $14.2 million is a lot of money to manage. I'll be sharper next year with the entire system. I do know that recovery will come from companies becoming lean and mean."

Roger: "I'm not a fan of raising taxes. I agree with what Dave said."

Question 4: "How do you suggest we prepare city residents to pay for curbside recycling?"

Tom: "I know very little about the recycling issue. I do know that the city has met or is going to meet with the county to work together on it."

Mike: "Education through the newspaper with a plan is a good start. Maybe providing stations on the north and south ends of town with 24-hour access to a recycle bin."

Dave: "The city and county are working very closely on this issue. Frederickson's would be out of a job if the dump exceeds 20 tons a day. Education is key. We need to let people know that $8.25 is the lowest sanitation fee in the northwest."

Chris: "We need help and contribution from the county. The landfill is too full. Usage must be reduced. Trucking garbage south is going to cost a ton of money. It makes sense that the city leads the way, with its density of people being the highest."

Roger: "It seems like we don't have much information. Citizens must be on board. Maybe a print campaign in their bills. I've lived in a county with no dump, and it's no fun."

John: "Folks like Tom are being honest. None of us know exactly what we're going to do. The county is on board. In history, problems tend to be solved during crisis. The cheapest way is in our own homes. A concession from the county to alleviate the extra financial burden on citizens is something we should look at."

Question 5: "What is your opinion of the 37 percent increase in our City Attorney's salary? Especially given that it's a part-time position."

Mike: "I don't know enough about this issue to comment definitively. How many hours on city business are spent by the city attorney? Possibly we could look into utilizing him differently."

Dave: "He has been at $72,000 for several years with no change to his contract. He operates under an open door policy with the city, which has gotten us out of several hot jams, thus saving possibly more money in litigation expenses. He has earned the city roughly $52,000 in court, which offsets his salary cost."

Chris: "I think it's bad policy to spend any money, ever, on legal fees. (laughter throughout audience) You want a person to keep you from spending even more money on legal issues. His contract hadn't been negotiated for several years. He uses his own time vs. a salaried staff to charge us with."

Roger: "I think there's more than meets the eye here with this issue. I just got an education listening to these three explanations. I think we need to get more information out to the public as to why this was decided."

John: "I still have a bad taste in my mouth about the vote, even though I voted yes. I'd like to put the contract out to bid to finally end this debate."

Tom: "It was untimely, to say the least. There've been good points made here. I think an hourly rate for a city attorney's services would have been even more expensive."

The event was brought to a close with a two-minute wrap-up from each candidate. To learn more about their backgrounds, re-visit the September 23 issue of the Boundary County Digest entitled, "Meet your Candidates."


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