With three seats up for election this year on Mesquite’s city council, the Chamber of Commerce held a candidate forum at its October luncheon for the six people running.
Adam Anderson, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, served as moderator asking the same question of the two opponents for each seat.
Vying for Seat 1, incumbent Geno Withelder and Sandra Ramaker began with the question of why they were running for city council. Withelder pointed out that he is now serving his 10th year on council and wants to continue serving the public. “I’ve made significant contributions to the city and I’ve taken a middle-of-the-road approach to issues,” he said.
Ramaker said “I’m running because I don’t do anything that isn’t important. I’m running because I think it’s important and Mesquite is important to me. What happens here is important. I care about you. I think I can make a difference and you need a difference.”
Turning to the candidates for Seat 3, incumbent David Ballweg and George Gault, the question was about their vision for economic development in the city and making it easier for businesses to open. Gault said, “My vision is to have a diverse economy. We must be more than golf, gaming and retirement. We have to create more jobs that will keep our young people here. I think we can continue to improve our licensing procedures and work on our incentives.”
Ballweg said that as a current councilman “I introduced a completely new concept with the conditional business license. If there isn’t a current category for a license, a business can come before council more quickly and get their license. I’ve also done three separate rounds of revamping the city license codes. We’ve also reduced fees for home businesses. I’ve worked hard to support businesses and get them open.”
Annie Black and Karen Fielding, who are running for Seat 4 on the council, answered the question about where they stand on the state-wide Question 3 that would force competition in the energy markets.
Fielding said “I wasn’t sure until our city lobbyist said two things. This affects bigger towns than it does smaller towns. They are not sure what will happen if it passes. Without any concrete evidence to see how this will affects us, I’m going to vote no. No one can tell us how this will affect the city of Mesquite.”
Black answered that “The first time this initiative was up for a vote, I voted yes. I am a free-market capitalist so on its face, this initiative sounds great. I like the idea of destroying monopolies and creating competition. It does concern me that we will rely on the legislature to create the open markets. I’m still researching it but I will vote yes again for it.”
When Ramaker was asked about the recent closure of the obstetrics unit at the hospital, she said, “This is a tough question because I believe we all need medical attention provided to everyone of all ages. I’m a volunteer at the hospital. I understand it’s difficult for them to give proper care for delivery of babies right now. We don’t deliver high-risk babies because it’s not safe. I know it’s a great loss to have that service taken away. There’s a lot of things that we don’t know on both sides.”
Withelder said that he, the city attorney and another councilman recently “initiated talks with the Mesa View Hospital CEO. We attempted to understand why we could not attract more medical help. It turned into a discussion about closing the OB/Gyn unit. The CEO presents a convincing argument that it’s not financially viable. But, I think they are breaking the development agreement because they are bound to hold open the unit until 2022. It may come down to the legality of it as determined by the courts. I do want to keep it open.”
Going on to a question about making Mesquite Boulevard more attractive, Ballweg said, “This has been a challenging issue. The properties are 99 percent privately held and we’re at their discretion on what they want to do. It’s difficult to force someone to do something with their property. I have brought up code enforcement on the properties. We have RDA funds for improvements if the owners want to take advantage of it.”
Gault said, “The view of the Redevelopment Agency has been extremely limited and we’re suffering because of it. The primary purpose is for affordable housing. There’s a lot we can do, and we don’t need to condemn property or use eminent domain. Someone here made up the rules and we can change them. We haven’t been very creative with it.” Gault added that the city could enhance parks and trails with the RDA funds.
Black and Fielding took a question about Mesquite’s future in five years.
Black said “I see Mesquite continue to grow and flourish and progress the way we have been. I would get there with five steps. Figure out who we are and aren’t. Build a brand around that. Then start pursuing companies that we want to come here. [Holding up two thick binders of city codes] I would like to make Mesquite more business friendly by simplifying our rules, regulations, and red tape. Make Mesquite a place businesses want to come to.”
Fielding said “In five years, we’re going to have positive growth. It’s already proven that our businesses are increasing. We have increased building. We’re going to continue that. Mesquite needs a positive reputation. People are going to continue to move here. I want to be a positive influence for the city. I’ve been in business and I know what it takes to streamline the development aspect at city hall. Streamlining business licensing and moving forward is all going to be positive.”